In Part 1 of this series, I talked about four reasons why we should speak the gospel to one another. In Part 2, I would like to share four practical ways to speak the gospel to one another, as well as provide encouragement to speak the gospel with spontaneity and courage. The first two ways are focused on some of the doctrines and truths we can speak to each other. The last two ways will be focused on specific contexts and situations in which to speak the gospel. My hope is that these tools will be useful to you in your everyday discipleship and disciple-making.
Organic, Not Mechanical
First, please understand that speaking the gospel with each other is not meant to be a mechanical exercise, as if you have to get all the words and definitions correct for it to count. You want it to be genuine, authentic and real. When I’m speaking the gospel, I try to keep it simple, straightforward and as applicable as possible to the moment. I am not worried about getting all the words right, or whether I distinguish accurately between each doctrine. I just want the power of the gospel to speak relevantly, purely, and profoundly in our lives. I believe the Holy Spirit works powerfully when we speak the truth of the gospel in love with each other organically in the midst of the mundane and mess of everyday life.
1) Speak the Essential Doctrines of the Gospel
One way to speak the gospel to one another is to centralize around one or more of the core doctrines of the gospel: Adoption, Justification, Salvation and Regeneration. In this way, we are staying in line with the biblical gospel as we speak it. Here is a paraphrase of each of these doctrines:
Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we…
…are children fully loved and accepted by our Father, adopted into his family. – Adoption
…have been fully pardoned from the punishment of a holy God for our sin, now declared righteous. – Justification
…are completely saved from the clutches of Satan and hell, given eternal life with God. – Salvation
…have been given a whole new life and identity by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. – Regeneration
2) Speak the Implications of the Gospel
Another way to speak the gospel is to connect its truths with life and ministry. This helps to remind us of how the gospel works to change us and send us on the mission to make disciples. Here are implications for the core doctrines mentioned above:
In the gospel we…
…have nothing to prove since we’re already fully loved, approved and valued by our Father in heaven. Therefore we can love and serve all people, even our enemies, with no strings attached. – Adoption
…do not need to defend our rights or control others’ opinions of us since we are no longer condemned in our sin. Therefore we can live with deep humility, yet much confidence and joy. – Justification
…have nothing to fear or worry about since nothing can separate us from our heavenly Father. Therefore we can love and reach our neighbors with great courage and resilience. – Salvation
…do not need to look to anything else for identity and purpose since we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we can re-orient our whole lives around the mission of Jesus to make disciples. – Regeneration
Remember, we’re not going for technicality, but authenticity. Sometimes I speak the gospel to someone with a brief mention of the Father’s love and acceptance for them, or that their sins are completely forgiven at the cross. Other times, I relate the gospel to a particular struggle a person is having, and I might speak a truth about the incarnation of the Son of God. For example, when one of my kids is having a hard time not sharing a toy or a snack with their siblings (and it’s causing a certain amount of unrest in the home), I might remind them of how much God generously shared his best with us, and, therefore, we can share generously with each other.
3) Speak the Gospel Reactively and Proactively
In discipleship environments, or in everyday life, typically we speak the gospel as a response or reaction to sin, rather than as a pro-action. But, there is a need for both. Reactive speaking of the gospel happens when someone reveals an area of unbelief and sin to you, and you call them to repent and renew faith in the gospel, encouraging them in love and grace. You speak the gospel as a reaction to their sin and unbelief. Proactive gospel-speaking is different. It does not wait for the opportunity for sin to be exposed, but assumes the need for the gospel to be spoken and heard regardless of the situation. Proactively speaking the gospel can work as a blessing or encouragement to Christians. This proactive speaking of the gospel is an aspect of my life in which I am still growing, and one in which I believe the body of Christ collectively has much to learn.
4) Speak the Gospel to Your Self, Your Family, Your Community
Your Self: Speak the gospel every day, numerous times daily to yourself. You will not be able to lead other people in this unless you are first leading yourself. This is an aspect of my discipleship which I have been greatly convicted. In morning-prayer, commuting in the car, during breaks between projects, before sleeping, I have been practicing this discipline. It has been powerful for my own discipleship, because I’m constantly reminding myself of how much God loves and accepts me in Christ alone, regardless of how my day is going.
Your Family: Speak the gospel to your spouse and kids (or close friends if you are single). Spouses are the most intimate form of community, and they are called to mutually shepherd each other. As a parent you are called to raise your children up in Christ. Part of that task is teaching them the Christian language of the gospel. If children primarily learn a language from their parents who naturally speak it in the home, then the best way to teach them the language of the gospel is also by speaking it to them often.
Your Community: Speak the gospel actively to your church or small community group, and encourage them to do the same with each other. I have done this with our community, and I believe it has greatly affected their discipleship. I want them to, like Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel Fluency, be able to think and speak fluently with gospel-language and worldview, both for their own growth and the growth of other believers.
Speak the Gospel with Spontaneity and Courage
Why do we often not speak the gospel to Christians? Why do we find it hard to tell another Christian face-to-face, even in a spontaneous moment, that they are so deeply loved by Jesus?
One reason is because we’ve grown accustomed to limiting and marginalizing the gospel to only one sphere of ministry: evangelism and first-time discipleship contexts. In doing so, we strip the gospel of its life-giving power for those who already believe.
Another reason is because we fear the confrontation of speaking the gospel to someone up close. We all are prone to avoid confrontation, and this even applies to speaking the gospel. Those of us who teach and preach in the church enjoy the opportunities to proclaim Jesus to a large group of people. But that is only speaking the gospel to people from a distance, which is less confrontational. It is very different to speak the gospel up close with someone, because we are speaking Jesus to their face, and Jesus gets up close and personal.
Another reason is that we fear our speaking the gospel to them might sound cute or cliché. Have you ever wondered why we often can tell a child face-to-face they are loved by Jesus, but we never speak those words in the same way to adults? Perhaps we fear their opinion of us, because we believe that saying simply, “Jesus loves you” does not sound sophisticated, stimulating or theologically hip. Ironically, we fear the gospel might sound childish to adults.
Lastly, a main reason we do not proactively speak the gospel to Christians is because we ourselves do not yet believe the gospel in such a way that it permeates every aspect of our lives. We still live with insecurity. We lack confidence and courage. We compare and contrast ourselves with other people. We crave others’ approval of us. We’re easily defensive. We find worth and identity in worldly things, and we look to those things for satisfaction and provision. Since we will only speak what we believe to be true in our hearts (Matt. 12:33-35), then it is apparent that there are many things in our hearts we trust, other than the gospel, for our daily salvation. This lack of faith in the gospel inevitably will be displayed in a lack of speaking the gospel to ourselves and people.
However, in the gospel you have nothing to fear. In Jesus you are fully loved and accepted by your heavenly Father, fully reconciled and adopted to him, even while you are still sinful, fearful and weak. You have a Lord who, at great cost to himself, loved you faithfully, laid down his life for you, and covered you from the wrath of a holy God. You are completely saved from the devil and eternal death in hell, and guaranteed life forever with the Creator. You have been given a whole new life by the Holy Spirit who lives and works in you. You have a great King who overcame sin, death and hell for you. You need not fear anyone’s opinion of you since the one true God of the universe thinks highly of his Son, and therefore he thinks highly of you. Have great courage! Speak the gospel boldly to Christians who so desperately need to hear it often. In his Epistles Paul the Apostle will often provide multiple truths of the gospel written as one long sentence, instead of individual sentences or statements distinguishing each doctrine. See Eph 1:3-6 and Titus 3:4-7 for example. For Paul, the gospel is so multi-faceted and overwhelming that he cannot help but combine multiple elements of the gospel in one long thought.