• Preston Fidler

John 3:16 and beyond

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! Acts 16:31


Can you quote John 3:16 from memory in your new language yet? I learned it as early as I could. I was motivated to share Christ with my lost neighbors. I even composed a song which helped me to memorize John 3:16. This got me off to a good start. But, I obviously needed to learn so much more than John 3:16 in my new language to be fluent in sharing the gospel.

I learned more key gospel scriptures and began using a Simple Gospel Diagram to present the gospel from Creation to Christ. But I still found that when I shared with people, I often couldn't understand their responses, and therefore was unable to fluently attend to these responses. I asked myself two questions:

  1. What were people hearing when I shared the gospel with them? Were they really hearing what I thought I was saying?

  2. What would it take for me to really understand their responses? And then meaningfully attend to those responses?

These were tough questions for me to work through. I had to ask myself: Was I really ready to share the gospel if I indeed expected people to respond? I found that in my world when people hear the gospel, it often evokes deep and often irrational responses that may even surprise us at times: genuine interest, doubt, pretentiousness, wonder, skepticism, anger, fear, confusion, defensiveness, offensiveness, grief, sorrow, pain. People ask questions, share life stories, argue, and may even dismiss what they hear. Do we understand them and are we ready to respond to them?

When people hear the gospel it often evokes deep and often irrational responses that may even surprise us at times.

So, what is it going to take to get there? To be able to not just present the gospel but really converse it, discuss it? The gap between the ability to formally or casually present the gospel, and the ability to understand and attend to people's response to the gospel in a culturally sensitive and spiritually compelling way…is huge. Getting there takes lots of time with people, sitting with them, listening to them, learning from them, praying with them. It takes learning and apprenticing from local or near-culture believers - learning how to share the gospel, what responses to expect, and how to attend to these responses - to reach this level of gospel fluency.

The gap between the ability to formally or casually present the gospel, and the ability to understand and attend to people's response to the gospel in a culturally sensitive and spiritually compelling way…is huge.

To be perfectly honest, gospel conversations in my new language can be brutally hard to navigate. I enter these conversations prayerfully, humbly, and completely dependent on God's strength and wisdom. I absolutely must depend on God to help me through them. They can be tough. But God is so faithful. God helps us rotate from a "listen to what I'm telling you" stance to a "I am listening to you" posture as we attend to their response.

God helps us rotate from a "listen to what I'm telling you" stance to a "I am listening to you" posture as we attend to their response.

God provides spiritual insight as we faithfully pursue language and culture fluency. God provides the gospel fluency we need to sustain meaningful gospel conversations with our neighbors!

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