In every hurdles race, it would be so much easier if the hurdles were taken away, whether that’s athletics races or even the Grand National. But of course, the challenge is part of the fun and what makes the race so interesting.
In sharing the good news of Jesus with the world, there are plenty of hurdles for us to overcome and avoid tripping over. Yet often we get held up by one hurdle or another that we can’t seem to overcome.
These hurdles also illustrate the journey many go through in coming to faith and the hurdles they need to overcome. For some it is a short 110m sprint, for which they jump several hurdles quite quickly. For others, it’s a thirty-five and a half furlong marathon where they have to jump over some hurdles more than once.
If you don’t have contact with anyone who isn’t a Christian then you’ve got no one that you can share the gospel with. That’s quite simple and yet for many that’s the biggest hurdle.
Some Christians only spend time with other Christians. Some might be so busy with their local church that they don’t spare any time for those who aren’t in the church.
Who do you have contact with who isn’t a Christian? I don’t just mean the fleeting contact like with the person on the checkout that you barely speak to and will never see again. But who do you really connect with? If the answer is ‘no-one’, then there’s your first hurdle. Jump it – go and meet people.
If you’re employed, then that’s often a way of meeting others. There’s the school drop-off for those with young children. Why not join a club or social group, or make contact with neighbours? Find where people meet other people in your community, go there and be deliberate in making good meaningful contact with others.
Once you know some people, they need to know that you’re a Christian. It may not be the first thing you say to someone you meet, otherwise you might come across really weird and unnecessarily so. But at some point you will want to confess that you’re a follower of Jesus.
You may well have done good deeds in front of them, but unless they know you’re a follower of Jesus, they could easily mistake you simply for a do-gooder. They may like your way of thinking but unless they know who has renewed your mind, you’ll just be another person with another point of view.
Overcoming this barrier often takes courage. The longer you’ve been in contact without them knowing you’re a Christian, the harder it can be to find a natural way to tell them. But often there can be very natural ways to confess your faith. How often on a Monday morning is the question asked, ‘What did you get up to on the weekend?’ There should be an obvious answer to that for the Christian!
But it’s no good them just knowing that you’re a Christian. They’ve got to know what that means. Having seen your lifestyle, they may be keen to become a Christian, but they won’t be able to become a Christian unless they know what you believe – the gospel!
In order to explain the gospel, you must know it well yourself. In evangelism training, I’ve often asked people to try and summarise the gospel in a minute, which is often as long as you might get before the conversation turns onto another topic.
The gospel centres upon Jesus’ death and resurrection, which is the linchpin of the good news. As part of that, we will want to reflect God’s rule over everything and his utter moral perfection. We will need to convey human rebellion that separates us from God. We may want to convey God’s plans of rescue pictured in the scriptures. We’ll certainly need to explain how Jesus paid for that rebellion in his death and brings us forgiveness and a new life as a free unearned gift. We may get onto the eternity to come and the judgement that will be made.
But there’s no point in giving the content of the good news in Christian jargon. You can’t use terms like ‘redemption’ or ‘justification,’ at least not without explaining them carefully. Even the word ‘sin’ is prone to be misunderstood today. We need to know the content of the good news in today’s language.
So, do you know the content of the gospel enough to explain it to someone you knew in a short time in ways they’d understand? If not, then why not look at the summaries of the gospel in the New Testament and find some other resources to help you? Ask one of your church leaders to guide you in that.
A non-Christian may know the content of the gospel and even explain the facts better than some Christians. But unless there’s a sense of conviction, the content of the gospel is as useless to them as being able to explain the science behind condensation or the socio-economic effects of the Wall Street crash.
Conviction is that sense of being compelled to respond to the content. In other words, people need to get to the point of asking, ‘If the gospel is true, what do I need to do about it?’
In order to overcome this hurdle, we need to give a winsome appeal for them to actually respond to the good news of Jesus. We need to demonstrate in our explanation that the cross reaches through time to our situation and need. We’ll have to show what it means to submit fully to Jesus in his Lordship and they’ll need to be aware of the cost of following Christ too.
The final hurdle is where a person is truly changed to become a follower of Jesus: where the dead are made alive, stone hearts are made flesh, where the old goes and the new creation comes. They may jump this hurdle suddenly, or it may be a gradual thing, but it must be overcome nonetheless.
Ultimately, this is God’s work. Only he can take a person over this final hurdle by the power of his Spirit. But as we, with God’s help, bring people over the other four hurdles, so they are then set before this final hurdle ready to jump over by God’s enabling, as we look on and pray.
I’m firmly convinced that every Christian is both called and gifted to share the gospel with others. Of course, some will have a different level of calling and gifting (particularly evangelists), but each one of us has a responsibility to tell people about Jesus.
We’re bound to meet some of these hurdles along the way as we seek to bring people to faith. With prayer, we should be ready to tackle these and bring people forward, closer to Christ himself. So are you ready for the hurdle race of evangelism he has for you? Soak it all in prayer and get running and jumping!