Nearly all of us have trouble expressing the good news about Jesus. I’m often asked to recommend tools or to teach evangelism technique. There are handy tools (2 Ways to Live, Bridge to Life, Roman Road, etc) and useful techniques (i.e. focus on asking good questions and listening well). But learning the gospel by rote will only get us so far. We need to learn it by heart.
We know the gospel by heart when we are immersed in God’s word and it is working its way through us personally. When we feel the pain of dying to ourselves, the joy of salvation, and know well the long hard road of discipleship. If the gospel isn’t our experience, technique won’t get us far. In fact, discussing and learning evangelism techniques can be a distraction from the hard question “Why aren’t we noticeably different to others?”
Jesus said that those who have been “instructed in the kingdom” are “like the owner of a house who brings out of the storeroom new treasures as well as old.” When you know the gospel by heart, you know not only the old, old stories, but like Jesus are able to tell the gospel in new forms as well. Forms that fit the immediate situation.
A few months ago I was talking with a friend of mine in prison. He was greatly disheartened that his well-meaning letters seeking reconciliation with those he had hurt had been universally and emphatically rejected. “How can I be reconciled with God when I can’t even be reconciled with those I’ve only hurt a bit?” he asked me. I could have drawn 2 Ways to Live. It’s not bad. But from heart I was able to tell him about the God who knows exactly how it feels to have reconciliation thrown back in his face, who even now is “writing” to him, and longs for his response to be different.
By all means collect tools and tips. Learn the gospel well. Know it personally. And never underestimate the power of speaking – if falteringly – from the heart.