Setting up the discussion. First of all, please take the time to go over the weekly email. Click here if you missed it.
Second, take turns reading through the following excerpt from chapter 13 of Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt.
Whenever, I am engaging in a conversation with someone, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me. He is called “the Helper,” after all (John 14:26). “Help me slow down,” I pray. “Help me to trust you are working here in the silence. Help me to listen well—to them and to you.” In some Bible versions, “Helper” is translated as “Counselor.” So I ask the Spirit to give me the ability to hear the longings of the heart as I listen. I invite him to be the primary counselor in the midst of our time. I ask him to give me ears to hear what the real issues are, and then provide me with wisdom as to how to share the truths of Jesus in such a way that they will be good news to the other person.
I am more and more convinced that the Holy Spirit goes ahead of us, preparing people for conversations like this. This growing confidence in God as the one who saves has freed me from the pressure to be the savior for people. Our job is to be present, filled with the Spirit, and ready to listen, then open to speak as the Spirit leads.
As you grow in listening to people’s longings, also learn to listen for their overarching stories.We can share our stories in a way which is always making Jesus the hero. If we are going to speak the gospel fluently to the hearts of others, we need to listen for the dominant storylines under which others live their lives. What are their gospel stories? Who’s their hero? Let’s look at the fundamental questions or longings in each movement of the story in light of people God has put in our lives. Get familiar with them, and then, as you listen to people, listen for their answers to the questions:
Over the course of a long conversation, I shared with the woman that she was feeling shame and guilt because of her sin and her subsequent attempts to deal with it. I shared with her the story of Adam and Eve, and how they tried to deal with their sin. I continued to show her how it led them to blame each other and brought destruction in their relationships. “What you need,” I continued, “is one who can truly atone for your sin. You need someone who can handle the weight of sin, forgive you of your sin, and set you free from it, so that it no longer defines you. You need Jesus.”
I then went on to describe how Jesus willingly went to the cross to take her sin on himself. I shared how he was willing to be publicly shamed for her so that she not only could be forgiven, but also clothed in his righteousness and freed from guilt and shame. We went on and on about how the gospel brings forgiveness, healing, hope, and even love for those we’ve hurt or been hurt by.
She wanted to make things right. She wanted forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. Jesus had good news for her. I let her know that I know and love Jesus, and that Jesus cared and was listening to her as well. She then shared how she had never been into religion, but recently she had been seeking and checking out some churches in our area. She knew she needed help and was reaching out.
In the second example, a friend was lamenting his recent job loss. Over the course of a long conversation, he admitted that his identity had been tied to his job: “without it, I’m not sure who I am anymore.” After sharing a similar situation from his own life, Jeff prodded his friend to share more about his upbringing, and learned that the young man had lost his father during his teenage years. In hearing more of the man’s story, the Spirit helped Jeff listen and realize the following:
What was his Creation narrative? “My identity is in my job because I’m looking for approval and love from my dad.” What was his Fall narrative? “My dad died and I lost my job. And even though I could get another job, I could lose it as well. Nothing is dependable. Nothing lasts. We lose dads and jobs.” What was his Redemption narrative? “I need a dad who will love me and a job well done.” What was his New Creation narrative? “I want a dad who won’t die and will be proud of my work.”
Do you see how the gospel has great news for my friend? With the Spirit’s help, I did. So I gave it to him. Both conversations are merely summarized here for the sake of brevity, and thus lack nuance and most of the words in each conversation. We’ll say again, that both are given more context and fleshed out more in Gospel Fluency . But at the end of the day, [everyone needs] the good news of Jesus shared as good news for [each of our specific areas of] pain and longing. Remember, we don’t save people. God does. We listen and learn, and then we love and share Jesus.
Just for context...
Look again at how the Apostle Paul spoke to direct areas of need and question in Acts 17:16-34
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