Imagine the scenario:
You and a non-Christian friend are sitting in a Starbucks, talking about life, drinking a cup of coffee.
In a relaxed and safe manner, the talk naturally turns to your faith in Christ.
She looks at you and asks with complete sincerity:
“What is the gospel?”
How would you answer?
How would you explain the gospel in this random moment?
Uh, I don’t know
I tell a similar story in front of hundreds of people in my conferences.
I raise the same question.
Without a warning, I ask the audience to turn to their neighbor and answer the question.
You can audibly hear the air get sucked out of the room with a collective and fearful inhale.
The surprise catches people off guard. They instinctively hold their breath for a moment as the task sudden looms before them.
The tension in the room rises as people try to get their thoughts together.
Eventually, some conversations get started, but most fumble attempts at an answer when put on the spot
“I saw it on TV”
After doing this in dozens of seminars with hundreds of people, I’ve discovered that many people (including pastors) can’t answer this question when put on the spot like that.
You think you know it, after all, you’ve likely heard it hundreds of times. But when you have to put words to what you think you know – you suddenly discover you don’t know.
- You don’t know where to start.
- You don’t know what content to include.
- You don’t know what order to present the claims of the gospel.
You might know all the theology of the gospel, but when given a chance like what happened to me, the reaction is one of disorientation, not one of content.
You can’t deliver an effective Bruce Lee karate chop when needed in an emergency, after only watching him do it on a TV movie.
Being familiar with the gospel from TV or Sunday sermons doesn’t mean you can verbally deliver it on a moment’s notice.
Learn a Script
We need a “Default setting.”
A default setting is one that we have so mastered, that it is second nature to use it.
A default setting enables us to explain a few points of the gospel clearly when its appropriate. A default setting allows us to be diamond clear, rather than muddy clear.
Gospel scripts can serve as a default setting. Over the years, various scripts have been developed, such as
- Four Spiritual Laws
- The Bridge (see How to Use the Bridge Illustration)
- Evangecube (see Evangecube video)
- Way of the Master
- Romans Road
- Do vs. Done (see Do versus Done)
- the Four Rs
- Evangelism Explosion
- Wordless Book and the Bead Bracelet
- The Good Person Test (a setup for the Way of the Master)
Each one of these can provide a script that we can use as a “default setting.”
However, we still need to listen to the person we are talking to and be flexible with the script, adapting it to the context of the conversation.
The Key to Using Gospel Scripts
The key to using gospel scripts is to know ONE “inside out”so that your explanation is crystal clear.
Don’t follow the script like a cake recipe. Gospel scripts are not designed that way. Rather, they provide a foundational outline for your conversation.
Your conversation partner may want to linger on a certain point a little longer.
Knowing the Script inside and out helps you from getting lost.
Take the freedom to go off script to develop a particular theme appropriate in the context, then return to the script outline.
Once you are deeply familiar with one, then add another one to your skill set.
Then, when your friend asks you what is the gospel, you can calmly communicate what you know.
You’ll have a mental outline to help you move forward.
You’ll have an organized order to present your points.
You’ll have greater confidence that removes much of the fear.
Let me ask you this?
Can you calmly and clearly communicate the gospel on a moment’s notice?
What is your personal choice for a script?
Answer the question in the comment box below.
I am wondering if we can truly share the gospel from a script. We can tell the story of a great movie after seeing it only one time. We can give people a blow by blow description of the game we saw last week. Neither of these things require a script. If Jesus has truly changed our lives, do we need a script to guide our conversation about him?
For some of us, talking about what Jesus has done for us, or talking about the elements of the gospel does seem as easy as passing along the plot of a great movie we just saw.
Those visual stories are fresh when we first see them, but give it a year or more, and we forget it, unless we keep retelling those stories.
Yet the more I do evangelism training, the more I realize that most people (at least those that attend my meetings) have a great difficulty talking about their faith and the content of the gospel.
A script gives them an outline to work with and grow comfortable with so they can recall it frequently and quickly.
A script gives a starting point for learning and organizing one’s thoughts.
When one gets familiar with it, there’s lots of liberty to adapt it to the context and conversation.
What have you seen in your settings?
The script idea seems to make some people freeze up. It is unnatural because so few, if any, conversations about anything else in life are scripted. So when they are introduce to the “this-is-how-you-say-it” version of sharing the gospel, they get caught up in the outline, the main points, the diagrams to draw on the napkin, and since that isn’t who they are, it actually makes them feel uncomfortable. What’s worse is that it comes across as disingenuous because the gospel presentation is different from how we normally converse, so it appears to be a sales pitch, not something that has become the center of our lives.
The greatest results we have seen in our setting is of helping people see and experience the greatness of who Jesus is, knowing that if Jesus is real in my everyday life, then I am likely to talk about it like I would the other things I love in life…my favorite restaurant, the game on Sunday, or my new car/truck. And to help people see that sharing Jesus happens in the course of normal life and everyday conversation. No scripts needed. No special knowledge needed. Just a love for Jesus and the ability to have a conversation with a friend.
We have seen people who have been Christians for years having truly natural conversations with unsaved family and friends that they were not having before. The number one comment I get from “veteran” Christians…”I didn’t know it could be that easy.”
Having said that, I will affirm that scripts do have value at certain points. Particularly when addressing common questions people have…”I’m good enough, why do I need Jesus?” “I don’t want religion, why would I want to be part of Christianity?” etc.
Scripts are a good tool, but not for the lead-in conversation. Christianity needs to be less institutional/organization/sales oriented and more organic, natural, and real-life oriented. That means normal people in love with Jesus sharing him in the course of everyday life in natural ways through loving actions and authentic conversation. That’s my perspective…at least at this stage in my journey.
I agree with Chris. Scripts are cold & often rehearsed & unreal. I remember a ministry that came to my former church and their sole mission was to go out and “get” as many people Christ as possible. I’m almost amazed as I look back now how I could have been so naive to fall into this. But they had a script you use. And you basically run after as many people as you can get and if they actually do stop and talk to you, you would try and get them to pray a prayer & admit to themselves that they are sinners. It almost pains me to remember how awkward & forced it seem to use a script or formula on people. It was almost like you were to trying to sell them something instead of really caring about their hearts. I have no doubt that this ministry’s intentions were great, but their delivery was horrible & uncaring to say the least.
I think there must be a balance between sharing what we know are the core elements of the gospel, but also LISTENING to people’s stories. I do not believe we should fire a pre-conceived script on a card at people to say that we “shared the gospel with them”. I think we truly share the gospel with people through modeling it to them first. And even by just sharing our story how God is real to us and has changed our lives. People will feel more cared about than if we just try to sell them something.
“Scripts are good tool, but not for a lead-in.” I agree with you. It’s not a good way to start a conversation.
I also agree that we can help people talk about what Jesus is doing in their lives in a normal and natural way. But our testimony is not a gospel explanation, but evidence of it working.
I also agree with you that scripts can be cold and unreal when used to force conversations to your script.
In fact, I agree with everything you both say, and it’s forcing me to think how can I clarify the point I’m getting at.
Let me try this:
I’m making a distinction between telling a testimony and sharing the gospel. Testimony is focused on your personal experience Jesus, whereas sharing the gospel is focused on communicating what God has done for us in Christ.
For someone who has never shared the gospel message (not their testimony of conversion) in the course of a conversation, where can they start?
For someone who is scared to death of talking about the gospel, what tool can help them get started?
What tool can help them be prepared in season and out when a friend says “What is the gospel?”
A script can be such a tool, when the moment is has been setup by the Holy Spirit, such as when Phillip met the eunuch.
Once a person learns one and the basic “movements” of it, I encourage people to make it their own and use it naturally in a way that fits them.
You’ve both pointed out the dangers.
A script can be used mechanically, salesy, and without regard to the other person or the give and take of a conversation. Some evangelism training is focused on learning the script then spending every available moment using it to interrupt someone else’s day. The script is treated as a magical formula to follow and if you get it right, even down to the order and the words, you’ll get a convert.
A script can be followed to the letter as if one was an actor in a dramatic play by another writer. I don’t think we are training people correctly if we leave them with this impression.
I’m not advocating such a fixed or mechanical approach (and maybe not communicating it well).
We all agree that a gospel script is not a chemical formula to produce anything. Nor to use one outside of the course of natural conversation.
It is my goal to provide the clueless and nervous person who is wanting to overcome their fears by giving them a useful tool for when they have an appropriate moment to share in a genuine conversation.
I agree there are few who know and can explain the gospel.
One resource I have produced is the British website “What Is The Gospel?”
It looks at the gospel given out by both Peter and Paul in the New Testament and compares this with what many preach today.
The web address is http://www.whatisthegospel.org.uk/
Please bear in mind that the “Jesus evangelism model” that he taught the 12 and the 72 includes healing.
John 14:23: “Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.””
John 14:24: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”
Given that Jesus commnded us to obey his teaching, my site also addresses this healing element here:
Blessings to you brother!