My neighbor Levent drank too much and beat his wife. We actually lived close enough to hear them fight and see a lot of the fallout from this on a daily basis. One evening over tea in our home with him and his wife Berrin, I asked Levent about his past. He had grown to hate his job as a government employee and so retired early. He was tired of the corruption, and wanted to start over, but he still just wasn’t able to shake off some of his bad habits.
I had been reading through the book of Mark. That week I had read the story of Jesus calling Matthew out of a life of sin and corruption, and how this had changed his life. Jesus said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). I thought about how God had rescued me from my life of sin and had supernaturally changed my life.
I shared the gospel from this Bible passage and encouraged Levent and Berrin to consider Jesus’ offer of new life. Levent listened hard. We prayed together. I asked God to convict them of sin, free them from addiction and abuse, and save them through faith in Christ. I sensed new hope and an open door to the gospel where there had been none. I live for these kindsx of of gospel conversations with my precious neighbors.
This is gospel fluency, where sharing the gospel with our lost neighbors actually becomes our way of life, buoying our enthusiasm to learn their language and culture.
Gospel fluency can be described as this:
· Delighting in language learning through the lens of the Great Commission
· Loving our lost neighbors by sharing the gospel with them.
· And cultivating a practice of evangelism and discipleship as we become fluent in the gospel in our new language.
So how do we become fluent to share the gospel in the language of our lost neighbor? How do we get there? It’s a process. Our first goal in this process is to reach basic conversational fluency, when we are no longer tethered to rote words and phrases and can begin to actually interact in meaningful and creative ways with people at a basic level. More specifically, it’s at this level that we come within range to understand and tell a simple familiar gospel story.
I consider this the breakthrough point in our language learning. If we can get to a point where we can understand and tell simple familiar gospel stories, we have a very specific and powerful reason to keep learning. Gospel fluency begins most earnestly when we reach a point that we can understand a simple gospel passage from the Bible in our new language, and the gospel we understand in our new language feeds our minds and souls.
My best personal preparation for gospel fluency involves reading Scripture daily in my new language, and thinking hard on it, in prayer. I have realized that I cannot rely only on memorized texts from last week’s seminar if I want to be fluent in the gospel of my neighbor’s language today.
My best personal practice of gospel fluency is teaching the Bible to key people God has brought into my life and having them teach it back to me. In this way, I learn the language and the culture, I learn how to teach in the language, and I learn how the gospel is changing their lives as it changes mine. This is also one of the main ways I practice obeying the Great Commission.
Making a habit of daily proclaiming the gospel to my lost neighbors takes deliberate personal preparation and practice. It also takes prayer and faith. God opens doors we may not even know existed, as we prayerfully prepare, practice, and proclaim the gospel to our neighbors, every day.