Connecting the Gospel to Identity in Evangelism
As I have said on other occasions, I do not have the gift of evangelism, but like all Christians, I am still called to share my faith and engage others in gospel conversations as God opens doors. I rub shoulders with a lot of different types of people each week in my occupation as a flight attendant. As I've been blessed to cultivate many friendships with non-Christians it's become increasingly clear that establishing and maintaining an IDENTITY is one of the most important goals of people's lives. And it should be. As Christians we long to find our identity in something that matters, something that will last. We have found that "in Christ" as the apostle Paul says numerous times. This is the best way to describe yourself because you cannot lose Jesus. I recently met a man on the plane who was reading his bible and a bible study book. Later, I asked him if he was a pastor. He replied, "no, just a guy who loves Jesus." I like that. He knew his identity!
In this short article, I'd like to offer a couple of evangelism helps that have aided me in my conversations when they begin to lean "Gospelward."
While there are a thousand things to talk about in any relationship, one of the overarching issues that we should point people to is Identity in Christ. As Christians, we believe that any identity other than being in Christ will not satisfy our hearts. So bring this to the conversation and talk about your identity as opposed to common ones we often see in the world. I remember having a conversation with a friend and pointing out that many of the things we find our identities in can be easily be taken away or changed. Common identity badges we wear are: careers, being a parent or spouse, sexual identity, personal accomplishments (past and present), significant relationships, personality types, your possessions and style, etc. In my industry, some identities become so wrapped up in being a flight attendant that it becomes their life. It's on license plates, email addresses, call signs and hash tags! And it's easy for this to happen because it's a small group of people in a unique job which creates a sense of community and belonging. But as I talked about this common phenomenon with my friend, I shared that I can't find my identity in a job because it can easily be lost. I can't even find it in good things like being a husband or a dad because that could also be gone one day. And through the list above I gave examples. I explained that my identity had to be found in something so superior that it could never be taken away. To aim for anything lower is to settle for something so much less that will eventually disappoint. And that's why I had chosen to find my identity and purpose in Jesus Christ.
My friend put his head back and processed that thought and seemed to really think it over. It seemed like it was the first time he had thought about where exactly his whole life and identity was found. Was it found in his upbringing? Where he grew up? His relationships? Well, he didn't fall to his knees and become a Christian. But a seed was planted and the seed was "Jesus is greater than anything, anyone or any place. And He is worthy of my identification being found in Him."
This leads me to one other thought. If that is true, then let's give them Jesus. Keep setting him in front of every conversation instead of all the cultural trappings that come alongside much of evangelical Christianity. Often times we unfairly bait unbelievers with a question like "Why should God let you into his kingdom." They are supposed to answer, "Because I'm a good person." And then we bring in the Family Feud buzzer with the big red X! "No, you're not good enough and you need Jesus to do those good works for you." And while there is a lot of truth there, perhaps there are better questions we could ask that point to Jesus' person and work instead of man and his efforts. The summary core of the gospel message is that Jesus is the risen Lord (Romans 10:8 -9), so submit to him and find joy and life in following him. What he accomplished on the cross (justification, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, substitutionary atonement, etc.) demonstrates that he is Lord over all. The core of the gospel is a person, an identity. Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. He also asked them "Who do people say that I am?" So we could ask questions like: Where do you find joy and meaning? Does your current identity satisfy you in good and bad times? What would happen if you lost that identity? How much do you expect from your identity and purpose? Moving to more biblically stated questions: Who do you say Jesus is? Do you know what He says about himself? Do you know what He accomplished for you and I?
These types of questions can lead to deep conversations and keep the focus on Jesus. They could lead you to passages like Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman. Of course in the context of a relationship you will talk about a lot of other things, but avoid the temptation of trying to change a behavior as if that will make anything better. True behavioral change brought about by the Holy Spirit will eventually take place after they find their identity in Jesus. I think this relieves pressure that many of you may feel that somehow you have to convince someone to deny a liberal view, or to change a sexual preference, or to stop a certain addiction so that they can become a Christian. Leave those details to the Holy Spirit. If we keep pointing people into the all satisfying person of Jesus Christ, I don't think we can go wrong. It's the mission statement of our church. We exist to glorify God by pointing the affections of all peoples to the all-satisfying person of Jesus Christ.