3 great helps for proclaiming the gospel in a hostile culture
As he colorfully told his story, I listened intently. Then—the inevitable came out of his mouth— “G** D***, it was huge! I mean you wouldn’t believe it, (insert the name of our Lord).”
I silently prayed, as he continued talking, “Lord, forgive this guy, he doesn’t know you and doesn’t know what he’s saying.” The Lord quickly responded to my heart, “You tell him.” That wasn’t the response I was seeking. Actually, I wasn’t expecting any reply.
The Apostle Paul avowed, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” (1 Cor. 1:18). While it does reveal God’s abounding love and grace, the reality is it must also bring conviction.
Generally, this will not be accepted in a hostile world—it’s always been this way. Needless to say, believers are commanded to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 28:19).
Here are three ways I’d like to encourage you.
1. The gospel belongs to God
Let’s start from the beginning.
The gospel is a proclamation message of good news and it belongs to God. Paul clarified this many times, labeling it, “…the gospel of God,” (1 Thess. 2:2; 2:8, 9). God owns it—it’s His. Our duty is to be ambassadors of His kingdom (Eph. 6:20).
As ambassadors, we’re offering terms of peace to an enemy of God. And since we were all enemies of God, we are able to relate with those who hear the declaration of God’s glory.
The world is always going to be hostile towards the gospel. The message we are delivering belongs to God and is about God. And because we know what the message declares, we should be persuaded to deliver it more (2 Cor. 5:11). Yet, we present it with and out of love.
2. Think as a loving mother
When I was young, I used to climb up onto my mother’s lap. This is the image Paul paints for the Thessalonians. He affirmed, “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thess. 2:7). The sanctification of a believer’s heart has pulled out anger, envy, and jealousy (Gal. 5:20) and replaced it with love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22).
Paul stated the reason why we share the good news of Christ is not to “please man, but to please God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4). Here’s some advice: whenever I proclaim the gospel to someone, I say to myself, “You are speaking to the former you.”
I try to remember who I was before God forgave me, in Christ. I elicit Paul’s words, “love controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). We proclaim the gospel to feed a malnourished (albeit, rebellious) soul.
We’re all created in the image of God. We’re also commanded to love one another. A loving mother tenderly cares for her children. If you love your neighbor—you must lovingly proclaim the good news.
3. Share yourself
Once again, utilizing Paul’s example, he declared, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).
We must share ourselves. As the old adage says, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” There is a truth to those words and they’re illustrated in Paul’s letter. He stated that pagan Thessalonians had become dear to him—that doesn’t happen without building relationships.
The Apostle, “worked night and day” (1 Thess. 2:9) to provide for himself, so as to not burden others. Paul eagerly desired the Gospel to be presented in the fullness of love. He used and shared himself in the every day rhythms of life.
Our aim as ambassadors is not only proclamation, but to build disciple-making relationships. We should remember that the world hated Christ and was hostile to him and his message. We are not here to win popularity contests, but to “exhort, encourage” and help people “walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls [us] into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12).
Matt Fretwell is married, has three daughters, is an author, revitalization pastor, national director of operations for New Breed Network, and leadership coach. Matt holds a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission reproducible disciple-making strategies. Matt also writes for Church Planter Magazine and interviews well-known evangelical leaders on his discipleship podcast, The Wretched & The Wrecked.
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