How many details about the gospel should you expect a person to include in their story about how they came to know Christ?
A visit by some new friends taught me the answer and a valuable lesson about judging others.
A New Family Visiting
We enjoy having people come visiting us at our home. There is nothing like fellowshipping with close friends and deepen our relationships, but we also enjoy getting to know new people and broadening our circle of friends.
A while ago, we had a family over that we are just getting to know. I had briefly met the wife before but never her husband and their children. Soon after the family arrived, we were fully engaged in conversation while the BBQ was cooking. We talked about life, church, work, family, education and other things people usually talk about to get to know each other. When the burgers were ready, we all sat down at the table. We thanked God for our food and then the feast began.
We continued to learn more about our new friends during the meal. They told us their story about how they met and ended up in our local area and their current church. I love listening to stories. It never ceases to amaze me how God works in so many awesome and mysterious ways to bring about His perfect and good will in the lives of His chosen people.
Man Sharing His Story
When we have Christian guests over, we like to ask them how they came to know Christ. Today wasn’t any different, so Fabi asked the man to share his story about how he became a believer.
The man shared his story about how he had moved to California to study and found God. But his salvation story wasn’t impressive, according to my “standard.” Don’t get me wrong. It was a blessing to hear how God had been working in his life and given him a desire to know Him through His Word. But as the man shared his story, he didn’t talk about God’s holiness, sin, judgment, hell, Christ, penal substitutionary atonement, faith or repentance. There was no clear structure of his life before knowing Christ, how he came to know Christ (including the Gospel message) and his life after he had come to know Christ. The man merely said that he read His Bible and realized, “Wow, this God is really real.” When that happened, he looked around at his friends, thinking, “Friends! Do you know that God is really real?” That was more or less the end of the story.
My Initial Thoughts and Rebuke
When he was done sharing his story, I was left thinking to myself, “Hmm. Ok. Cool story, but you missed the gospel? Is this guy even saved.”
At this point, you might say, “Ok, Mika. So you pulled out your Preachers Bible and shared the gospel with him, and God saved him?”
Not quite. Instead, something better happened. I was indirectly rebuked for my unloving thinking and judgemental attitude.
“How so,” you ask?
Well, we finished the meal and watched the kids play while I got to know the guy more. It quickly became very evident that the man is a genuine, born-again believer. You know, a John 3 believer. The way he spoke about his Christian life made it clear that he was a man passionate for Christ, the church and the lost. I even learned a thing or two from this dear brother.
Don’t Be Judgemental
Here is the kicker. I guarantee you that the man doesn’t have much official theological training. So he doesn’t know all the big theological terms. I also doubt he has been trained in sharing his testimony in chronological order with the gospel message included. So it makes sense that he didn’t sound like a theologian or a “trained” evangelist. He sounded more like a simple man saved by the grace of God.
I’m all for theological precision in thought and speech. But our expectation of others should be reasonable considering the person, their spiritual maturity and biblical/theological understanding. We wouldn’t expect a 2-year-old baby to speak fluent English with a vocabulary of Charles Spurgeon or William Shakespeare. In the same way, let’s not have unrealistic expectations of others.
If we expect theological precision every time a Christian speaks about Christ, we will often get disappointed, frustrated and judgemental.
I remember how I spent many of my earlier years as a Christian telling people about how awesome God is and how amazing my life was as a believer without adding any of those essential gospel elements to my story. During that time, I didn’t have any theological training and didn’t intentionally preach a “Feel good, gospel message.” No. I was just so excited that God had saved a wretch like me, reconciled me to himself and adopted me into his family. So how could I not tell people how awesome it was to know Him?
I’m sure that I would have had similar thoughts about myself as I had of the guy if we had met ten years ago — shame on me.
Important Lesson Learned
I learned an important lesson today. Not everyone is eloquent in speech and has gone through a “How to Share Your Gospel Training Course.” So the wording and details included in their story might not be according to “the standard.” But it doesn’t mean that they aren’t genuine Christians.
Let’s be patient with people. Let’s get to know someone’s story and ask questions about their Christian life to get to know them better before we make any judgment. You might find out that they don’t know Christ, which will give you the opportunity to lead them to Him. But you may also be pleasantly surprised and get to know another brother or sister in Christ as I did with the man.
Answer to Initial Question
So, back to my initial question. How many details about the gospel should you expect a person to include in their story about how they came to know Christ? The answer is simple: It depends on the person — and even the setting and situation (as my dear wife pointed out).