FIRST-PERSON: People are open, so share the Gospel
MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)--A few days ago, my rental car shuttle bus driver greeted me as I stepped on the bus with, "God bless you." When I thanked him for the blessing and told him I was a Believer, he started telling me about his dreams and visions. During the seven-minute ride to the car lot, he told me about several experiences in which God "told him" various things about the future (talking while looking in his rearview mirror at me!).
Most of his observations were innocuous, until he started telling me about China attacking California, Russia backing China, Israel then attacking Russia, and everyone going to war in the Middle East. He was so sure of his vision, I expected him to pull the bus over and show me a chart of the whole process -- including dates.
After listening to his impassioned sharing, I tried to respond gently (affirming his love for God) but directly about the importance of judging all spiritual impressions by revealed objective biblical truth. I encouraged him to read the Bible, get in a small group Bible study, and hear a pastor regularly preach messages based on the Bible. I hope he does this and balances his intuitive sense of God's presence with the stabilizing force of biblical revelation.
The conversation, however, is a significant example of a common experience in today's culture. People today seem more spiritually minded, and more willing to talk about their spirituality, than at any time in my ministry. When I was first learning to share my faith, the trainers spent considerable time on how to open a conversation and get people thinking about spiritual things. That was approximately 25 years ago. But today is different. People are open to spiritual conversations.
Yet don't confuse "spiritual conversations" with a stereotypical understanding of discussing the Christian faith. While people are more open to dialogue about spiritual issues, they aren't automatically inclined to discuss the Gospel. Our role is to introduce Jesus into the conversation as the Source of true spirituality. Doing this isn't difficult. Sharing Jesus and your relationship with Him as your spiritual story is a terrific way to engage someone with the Gospel.
Sharing your story, however, is not enough. The Gospel must be explained. The Gospel stands apart from your experience. Sharing the Gospel is communicating timeless truth about God's love, humankind's sin, Jesus' death and resurrection, and the possibility of conversion by grace through faith.
There has never been an easier time to engage people in spiritual conversation. So, listen to the spiritual stories of others. Discern God's work in their experience. Share your experience of knowing Jesus. And, share the Gospel -- the Good News of God's offer of true spiritual life.
Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., just north of San Francisco. This column first appeared at his blog, JeffIorg.com.