Gospel Connections in Suburbia

 

I may not have the "gift" of evangelism (and there's debate about that concept), but I do share the gospel. Once a person decides the evangescript is not the best way to approach evangelism in their community the question then becomes, “How can I take a natural conversation about common things and connect it to the gospel without it coming off like an abrupt topic change?”

Any time we take the initiative to share the gospel with someone there is always a leap that has to be made to the gospel. Sometimes the leap is short and easy. Suppose you’re discussing the difference between Catholics and Protestants — getting to the gospel is easy. Sometimes the leap is long – very long, like when you try to move from your favorite Starbucks drink (Grande Americano) to the cross of Christ. The longer the jump, the more unnatural the transition, and the more awkward the conversation. So the key is having natural conversations that transition more smoothly to the gospel (smaller leaps).

To state it simply, the better you understand the gospel the easier the transitions become. If you are trying to share the gospel you will still sometimes make huge leaps that do not work. Sometimes the conversation will only connect to the Christian faith in part, without getting directly to the gospel. Sometimes it will all come together the way you imagine. The more you know the gospel (its essence and effects) and the more you practice this discipline the easier making comfortable transitions to the gospel will become. I have been asked a few times what this would look like practically, so here are 8 examples of topics that make for shorter leaps to the gospel or Christian faith.

8 topics that can naturally connect to the Christian faith.

1. Corruption, evil and sin. Conversations about corruption and evil are pretty common in my experience. Murderer’s go unpunished, children are exploited, racism continues on in more polite forms, mayors are busted smoking crack, etc. These conversations can naturally connect to the biblical issues of justice, judgment, forgiveness and redemption.

Transitions examples: “Even when the unrighteous escape justice in the courts, God says he will not let sin go unpunished…”

My personal desire for vengeance is often quited by God’s assurance of justice…”

In the end, I find that though I am guilty of different sins, I am just as guilty as…”

2. Community. This is a great conversation to have in the suburbs. Everyone wants it, but many are at a loss how to build it. Zoning laws have essentially destroyed the development of real, workable, walkable, communities. Conversations about community naturally lend themselves to the reality that we are made for community, that God himself dwells in eternal community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and that a central component of God’s saving work is the establishment of a community, a family, made up of every tribe, tongue and nation.

Transition example: “Part of why I am so passionate about the development of authentic community is because of how the Bible portrays the need for it. We are created by God to live in real community…”

3. Politics. In “my suburbia” it’s 49% Republican and 51% Democrat. We’re split down the middle, and yet I often hear and have political discussions with practical strangers. Political discussions are a great opportunity to relate the second greatest commandment (love for neighbor) to the management of power.

Transition example: “I regret that Christians are often seen as a voting block of the Republican party. The truth is, the command to love God and our neighbors points to a way that is not entirely in line with any political party…”

4. Environment. People around my neighborhood are much more likely to talk about the environment now than 10 years ago. This too is an easy topic to connect to the Christian faith. God as creator and the cultural mandate in Genesis can make the leap shorter.

Transition example: “Our dependence on automobiles, especially in the suburbs, is a concern of mine not only because it only perpetuates the breakdown of localism, but also because of the negative effect it has on the environment, and ultimately because I believe God has given us a wonderful gift (creation) as well as us the responsibility to care for it…”

5. War. At the moment there is a lot of discussion about the War in Iraq, the war on terror, and the potential conflict with other countries. Just-war theory, pacifism and warmongering are topics that all connect with the issues of justice, judgment, sin and the hope we have for true peace. The topic of war can allow for a truly unique voice to be heard when we speak with both conviction and humility.

“War is a terrible thing, but if we are going to seek to the good of others and protect the innocent, sometimes war is an unfortunate necessity. That doesn’t make the issue easy. In fact it makes it more difficult. And my concern for justice is rooted in God’s love of it…

6. Family. We have a lot of families here in Saint Charles, IL. On many levels family, children and marriage are valued, and yet many seem to be looking for answers concerning the very nature of what it means to be a dad, mom, husband and wife. Directing people to move beyond mere cultural expectations of these roles to see the biblical perspective can be a provocative and challenging dialog, but it’s a conversation many are willing to have. It is a shared interest between our church and culture, so this point of connection can serve as an opportunity to move right into the Christian faith – and even the gospel itself as we emphasize grace-based parenting that aims at the heart, not just behavior.

7. Church. We live in a very Catholic area so having conversations about church is not uncommon or unnatural. Anytime I find out someone goes to church we have a great discussion about their faith, the differences between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism, the words of Christ vs church/religion in general. Obviously, once this conversation is underway there is virtually no leap to make.

8. Art/pop-culture Everyone watches television, goes to the movies and listens to music. Many of the forms of art in pop-culture provide excellent entry points to get to the greater themes that the gospel addresses. This is often an easy connecting point that gets to the issues of sin, justice, forgiveness, redemption, etc.

Transition example: “…the protagonist’s search for redemption is reflective of humanity’s serach. The fact that he doesn’t find it is the common frustration of man…”

Evangelism is hard work for me, and while I enjoy it I have to be very intentional about it – or it does not happen. But I am finding that our natural conversations in suburbia can transition to the gospel without coming off like a sales pitch.