In the 20th century, most American citizens shared a Christian affiliation. It was assumed that your neighbors at least knew the basics of the Christian faith. In this context, any further questions of faith were referred to a professional - a pastor, priest, elder, or professor. There was little need for the average person to articulate, in their own words, the heart of their faith in Christ.
Not so in the 21st century. In our day, such articulation is critical. Missional movements have been founded on the rapid sharing of the Christian message along the relational lines of everyday people. For every St. Paul, there were thousands of Jewish and Gentile converts who shared the heart of their faith in Jesus of Nazareth.
Can everyday Christians respond to these questions?
"What do you believe?"
"Why does it matter?"
"Why is Jesus so important to you?"
In answering these questions, four skills are critical for Christians to speak their heart in an increasingly non-Christian context.
Clear: Can you clearly communicate the heart of your faith? It’s easy to be obscure or complicated. It’s easy to speak in abstraction. It’s hard to be focused and clear. Can you speak clearly enough that the person listening to you can repeat your message in one sentence?
Concise: It’s easy to blab, to say too much, to ramble and babble. As a pastor, it’s actually easier for me to preach 30 minutes than 10. If I only have 10 minutes, I’ve got to really think about what matters. What’s the simple core of the message? Today, our interactions with people are brief. And modern media has conditioned us for short intervals. Can you share the heart of your faith in 60 seconds? If you can’t do it in 60 seconds, it will be hard for you to do it in 60 minutes.
Consistent: Ask ten Christians what the gospel is and you may well get ten different responses. Consistent doesn’t mean the same. And it doesn’t mean it has to be rigidly scripted. The Bible uses a variety of language to express the gospel. But the core of the gospel is fundamentally consistent.
Compelling: As Christians, we have devoted our lives to a first century carpenter who was executed as a criminal. Why? What is uniquely compelling about the man from Nazareth? Today, we have more choices and options than ever before in human history. So people want to know, "Why this one?"
If you’re really compelled by something, you'll crawl across broken glass for it. You'll take a bullet for what you believe. So think about the heart of your faith. Why is it compelling?
This last one is particularly critical for young people. Emerging generations are increasingly skeptical of those who want something from them. Bombarded by media and advertising, they begin to wonder, "What's real? What's bigger than this? What really matters?" A compelling "why" is necessary.
Which of the four comes naturally to you?
Which is hardest?
I demonstrate one way to articulate the core of our faith in my book Loved & Sent: How Two Words Define Who You Are and Why You Matter. If you're interested in quantity discounts or additional free resources, go here.