My wife and I were blessed with the opportunity to share the gospel with someone very near to our hearts last night. But as thankful as I was for the opportunity, and despite how well the conversation went, I found myself shamed by my lack of clearer communication. The English student in me wishes that I'd been more pointed with my argument, but I already know that I struggle with spoken word, and besides, Paul warns me in 1 Corinthians that Christ did not send me with "words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross be emptied of its power." What Tara and I did was share the gospel from our hearts and answer, as best we could, the questions which the topic of our faith aroused.
Just by way of brief encouragement to whoever may read this, I wanted to share 1 Corinthians 14.8-9, a passage which comes out of a discussion of love and its comparatively greater worth than spiritual gifts - specifically, the gift of tongues: "If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air." Paul may have been speaking specifically about the Corinthians' tendency to babble in fake languages, because disjointed sounds do not communicate the love and mercy of our God, but I submit that his point is true of our attempts to share the gospel in modern English as well. If we cannot communicate the gospel clearly, then who will be summoned to battle? If we stammer and struggle to fill in the blanks, how will anyone understand the message that we bear? Peter tells us to be prepared at all times to offer a "defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you," not because we need to maintain the moral high ground, but because Christ stands there with us with His arms wide open (1 Peter 3.15). In fact, he goes on to qualify that we do it in a spirit of gentleness and respect. But how will those still in the valley, who "run helter skelter to distruction with their fingers in their ears" (Don Francisco), know to turn to Him if they have not heard and fully understood the message of love we bring?
The point is this: speaking clearly is less dependent upon how many credits you earned in that Gen-Ed public speaking class than upon knowing for yourself what the gospel is. If you know Jesus intimately, then you shouldn't have any trouble talking about Him - no more than you do your favorite sports teams and music. But this also requires practice. If you share the gospel, on average, once every two years, then you are bound to be unprepared and uncomfortable during the conversation.
So I encourage you: start practicing. (That's also directed at myself, by the way.) Share the gospel, and share it from your heart. The goal is not conviction. It is not to convert people. We are not concerned with numbers - we are concerned with individuals. The goal is to share the faith that defines our very existence; a faith which is offered gently, respectfully, and lovingly; a faith that would be weak and pointless if we kept it to ourselves. The goal is not results: it is to plant the seed and be content to water it. The goal is to be patient and demonstrate what righteousness looks like, because we have the opportunity to introduce lost and needy people to our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ.