It was a round of golf in Mexico at a course that required a caddy. His English was limited and my Spanish is even less but there was enough between us to enable basic communication. As I began to talk with him about spiritual things it was obvious that the words I chose had to be simple and theological concepts had to be carefully explained.
We were talking about the corruption in the government of both of our countries. He asked why I thought people are so corrupt (sometimes people make it too easy to get into a conversation about God). As I launched into a dissertation on anthropology and soteriology it soon became evident that I was talking but not communicating.
“What is sin?” His enquiry was simple and honest. Perhaps it was uncertainty about vocabulary but it was an open door to back up and simplify my sentences and terminology. The conversation continued in the most basic and uncomplicated way I could convey the gospel.
This experience the other day reminded me of the importance of communicating the gospel in terms that people can understand. The gospel message is simple but communication is complex. The listener filters words through a complicated grid that re-defines terms, reinterprets through their culture, hears through a different worldview and settles on meaning that could be quite different from what we intend. That is just as true of your next door neighbor as it is with someone half way around the world. Communication is can be complicated.
The goal in evangelism is not to sound deep, educated or seek to impress people with our Bible knowledge. Evangelism is meant to communicate the gospel message in plain terms. Since the burden of communication is the responsibility of the communicator, we would do well to carefully consider our choice of words as we evangelize.
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