“Why are spiritual conversations so awkward?”
That’s one of my favorite opening questions when I’m walking around trying to start gospel conversations. People never have a good answer as to why but the majority of people agree that it’s true- spiritual conversations tend to be awkward when people aren’t used to having them with each other. What’s odd is that most people don’t actually think it should be awkward even though they recognize it is. We’re going to explore what we can do to become better gospel conversationalists in a three part series.
In our Part 1 today, we’re going to suggest something counter intuitive for those who are trying to move on from gospel presentations to gospel conversations.
Find & Memorize A Gospel Explanation
Many people who want to become better gospel conversationalists think they should avoid memorizing gospel explanations. They want conversations to flow more naturally than a sales pitch. The logic is we should talk “with” someone not “at” someone. But don’t underestimate the value of knowing a gospel explanation by heart. The gospel doesn’t change which means our explanation of it doesn’t have to change either. Although there isn’t just one right way to explain the gospel, there’s usually one that works well for you and those around you. Finding an explanation that fits your context and memorizing it doesn’t have to bog down a conversation, it often helps one.
Imagine you’re in a conversation about a new show you’ve been binge watching. Someone in the conversation says they’ve never heard of it and asks what it’s about. You’ll explain it the best you can and then continue talking about why you love it. The explanation is necessary for the rest of the conversation. If you’re asked multiple times to catch people up on what the show is about, you’ll probably explain it the same way again and again. Soon you’ll have a short speech prepared covering the major characters and plot lines for all newcomers to the show who quiz you on it. It’s natural to explain things the same way to multiple people when you find an explanation that you’re comfortable delivering and people understand.
A moment can come in our conversations when someone asks for clarity on the gospel maybe without even knowing that’s what they’re asking for. That moment is not the time to try to engineer an explanation, its time to simply give one. The goal of any gospel conversation is clarity of the gospel not ingenuity or innovation in its delivery. “How clearly did that person understand the gospel?” is a more important question than “How creatively did I share the gospel with them?”
My favorite gospel explanation right now is the 3 Circles because it is short, relatable, and visual. Most importantly, people tell me they feel like they understand what Christians believe better than before our conversation. When things start to feel more like a presentation than a conversation, I usually pause and say something like “I know this looks like 3 messy circles on a piece of paper but this is my life on this paper. This happened to me. This is my story.” Personalizing your memorized gospel explanation can make it as powerful as any spontaneous, impassioned plea.
Don’t shy away from being able to tell the same story well through practice. You probably already do it way more than you think.
Below is a video of the 3 circles by our friends at No Place Left.