Like Paul, we must practice a certain level of cultural literacy; before offering criticism or commentary, we need to understand who we’re speaking to and where they’re coming from. When we do this, we learn how to share truth in a way that others can recognize and relate to.
People respond well to the gospel in relational contexts. While I’m confident that God can and does work through a variety of evangelistic efforts, I know from personal experience that the gospel is best shared between two people who’ve established a certain rapport with one another over a period of time.
When trust is established, people are generally much more willing to open up and share their story.
This is why it’s so important for followers of Christ to enter into community with those who are different from them. When we build relationships with people from other cultures, backgrounds, and belief systems, we build bridges and pave the way for the gospel message to be shared.
It’s also vital to treat people with respect and honor regardless of their beliefs. Paul calls us to be gracious in our speech toward unbelievers (Colossians 4:6), while Peter exhorts believers to live honorably before unbelievers (1 Peter 2:12). These are practical ways to build relationships with those outside the faith.
A relational approach to evangelism requires just as much intentionality as other forms; in many cases, even more. It means being diligent in the development of new friendships, prayer, hospitality, and generosity with our time among other things. It means being the hands and feet of Christ in ways that take us out of our comfort zone and into a place of dependence on God.
Make the Message Relatable
Often when sharing the gospel with people of different cultural contexts, it’s easy to get caught up in ‘Christianese’ speech.
But what would it look like if we made the message of the gospel more relatable and easily understood?
There are certain things we all share as human beings; among them a desire to be known, loved, and valued. But so too there are aspects of Christ’s gospel that speak to each of us in different and personal ways.
For the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at a well, living water served as a powerful image for her. For those living in want, Jesus as the bread and water of life are powerful metaphors. For children who’ve suffered some form of abandonment, the notion of God as a devoted, faithful Father is equally as redemptive.
As we desire to deliver the gospel far and wide, we must learn to show the ways that the message speaks to them specifically. How does it fill the empty space in their heart? How does it challenge their preconceived notions of the divine? How does it speak truth into and transform their life?
The gospel is powerful, but so too are the ways we deliver it to people. Let’s learn to share it with understanding, through relationships, and by making the message relatable.