Triangulating the Gospel
If you’re like me you’ve grown ridiculously dependent on your navigational technology for tasks as simple as finding your neighborhood grocery store.
GPS devices have practically become a part of the collective American family. Maybe that’s why we give them names like “Tom Tom.” Thanks to government satellites launched in the early 1970s, we are now able to quickly determine which interstate exit to take in search of the nearest Starbucks. That’s probably not what the United States Department of Defense originally had in mind when they developed the global navigation satellite system.
While it might be simple to plug your Garmin into your car charger and turn it on, there is a lot more that goes into helping you find that caffeine fix on your next road trip. Your GPS works by locking into three orbiting satellites, which are then able to ascertain your position on planet earth. Oddly enough, I think I see a parallel between navigational technology and evangelism. Both require triangulation.
The most effective Christian witness is found within the hub of three corresponding values: Christ, Culture, and Conversation.
Christ: Abiding in the Word
God has spoken through the mouth of a jackass before. This example should not become, however, license to speak from ignorance. Abiding in the gospel is a prerequisite for proclamation. As Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer said, our lives are our “final apologetic.” Thus, we should first learn to preach the gospel to ourselves before preaching it to others.
Culture: Developing a Biblical Worldview
The Apostle Paul spent the first eleven chapters of Romans laying a foundation for God’s sovereign grace in salvation, only to open the twelfth chapter with this admonition:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When a believer meditates on the gospel it changes the way they see the world around them. You can call it apologetics or worldview studies, but it is ultimately the natural overflow of abiding in the gospel. As one scholar remarked, “A believer should be able to hold the Bible in one hand, the newspaper in the other, and rightly interpret them both.” In other words, the gospel provides answers to humanity’s most basic and recurring questions. Understanding this provides a foundation for interacting within the broader culture.
Conversation: Building Context for a Gospel Witness
The gospel is transmitted in relationships. “Drive by” evangelism is not a superior method for sharing the good news. “Brothers, we are not vacuum salesmen!” We are not pushing a product, but presenting a person. Why would we seek to communicate the love of the personal Creator God exclusively through impersonal methods? While I don’t negate mass evangelistic efforts, there is nothing that can substitute for real world relationships. Nothing.
Effective evangelism is the result of an interplay between abiding in Christ, developing a biblical worldview, and building intentional relationships.
If you feel lost in your efforts to share Christ, you might be in need of a little triangulation.