Live the Message
In today’s world, one thing that has become abundantly clear is that context matters. This is not a new idea, but with today’s technology it has never been easier to remove something from its context. There is no lack of online videos that have been mashed up to portray leaders as contradicting themselves. Even the Bible can be abused in this way, and ultimately it’s the context that leads us to understand meaning.
Context also matters for evangelism. What we say in any situation, and especially when we share the gospel, is embedded within the context of our lives.
Sure, our words can be explained, clarified, or reworded, but the clearest context of our words is what we do. Our actions bring clarity, but not just clarity. Our actions also serve as a trail blazer, going before our words and laying a foundation for them to be heard. Jesus says that Christians are to be salt and light (see Matthew 5:13–16). Verse 16 specifically says,
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
A foundation of good works is a good road for your words to travel on. Here are two key questions to consider:
#1. Does my life affirm what I say and believe?
To put it another way, is there congruency between what I believe, what I say, and how I live? Do my neighbors think I love them, value them, and want to know them? The Bible would affirm these things, and hopefully you would too, but does that belief manifest itself at all? Or are we content to avoid the mailbox or alleyway conversation, because of our busy schedules, or simply because of comfort.
#2. Do my attempts to contextualize the gospel confuse people?
In talking about evangelism, the idea of contextualizing the gospel is thrown around constantly. And yes, we want to contextualize the gospel in a way that is true to the message and understandable to the hearer. We don’t want to put unnecessary barriers between people and the good news of Jesus, but we also don’t want to normalize Christianity in a way that unintentionally strips it of its power. To use more biblical language, sometimes we can try so hard to be “all things” to our neighbors that we lose our saltiness. We may have left behind the very life-change and hope we were seeking to bring. What people see in us are people just like themselves, but sometimes that means people too much like themselves! We’re inadvertently saying that believing in Jesus doesn’t change our lives all that much.
But our lives are different and should look different! That difference should be an attractive difference, even if it may be seen as an odd difference. We don’t want to be unrelatable, but want to live lives that are congruent and consistent between what we believe, say, and do. That difference is the salt and light this world needs.
So let your life be the foundation and context for your words. Let your kind and caring deeds help people have ears to hear the message you bring.