At the MTV Movie Awards in June, Chris Pratt accepted the Generation Award with a speech that filled our Facebook feeds with hope and humor. His words were colorful and compelling, a reminder that all believers can communicate gospel truth in their areas of influence.
But do we? Though we’ve experienced the power of the gospel and know it to be good news, we often tell it as if it’s mediocre. Sometimes we recite the basics like it’s a children’s book we’re forced to keep re-reading: a good story made boring by repetition.
We may also neutralize the power of the story by downplaying its most alarming details. An innocent man who died so we don’t have to? A murdered man whose heart started beating again?
When we forget the freshness of the message, what’s meant to be vibrant can seem blasé. We shouldn’t be surprised when no one says, “Tell me more about that.”
Here are three ways to communicate the “old, old story” in high-definition color.
1. Reclaim Personal Wonder
Recounting the gospel story blandly should make us consider whether our hearts have been recently jolted by its impact. When we store mediocre things in our hearts, mediocre words spill out our mouths. Because we have a responsibility to be gospel storytellers, we have a responsibility to cultivate hearts amazed by grace.
We can reclaim personal wonder by coming to the Gospel stories with the questions journalists employ upon discovering a fascinating news story: Who was involved? What happened? Where did it take place? When did it take place? Why did it happen? How did it happen?
Intrigued by previously dismissed details, our minds will encounter a reinvigorated, multi-dimensional account. Inevitably our excitement will spill out as we talk, and we’ll recount the elements with freshness rather than formula.
Personal wonder also equips us to tell the story more powerfully, with owned insight rather than borrowed phrases. It will compel us to rehearse the story and its implications in our individual voices, leveraging the minds, personalities, and perspectives God has entrusted to us.
2. Tell a Specific Gospel
We have the opportunity to minister the gospel whenever we encounter a specific sin, a specific shame, or a specific death. When a vivacious young woman from our former student ministry committed suicide, our family and community were devastated. We wrestled profoundly with the darkness of her death. What a comfort it was to be able to say to our fellow mourners, “Jesus came for this severe darkness. When he stepped out of the grave, he conquered even this.”
As we consider the love and power exhibited through Jesus’s physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, we discover his death and resurrection are undeniably personal. The gospel is the answer to our pain, not just in a general singsongy way, but with italics: “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
To the teenager wrestling with the shame of her past, we can say: “Jesus conquered this.” To the coworker burdened by the weight of sin: “Jesus died to redeem this.” To the mourning parents: “Jesus wept because death is this dark, yet he stepped fully into the darkness and demonstrated ultimate victory—over even this.”
3. Invite as a Fellow Guest
The unique beauty of the gospel story is that it places its tellers on level ground with its hearers. In a world eager to fix the broken, we abandon solution-prescription and instead present ourselves as needy, too. We invite others into the same rest and surrender we ourselves need—and have found in Christ. This is a welcome embrace to a world weary from mantras of self-improvement.
When we tell the gospel story, we have the gift of casting both ourselves and also our hearers in the shared role of the sinner. Forever and always, God is the only one who gets to be perfect in the narrative. Our common place makes the gospel different from all other stories. None of us is beyond our need for it.
Though we may have heard it a thousand times, the gospel story is not simply black letters on white paper. It is vibrant and neon. It provokes wonder in hearts, can be applied from a thousand angles, and invites hearers into the rest for which they truly long. May we glorify God by embracing our role as storytellers, sharing in full color what he has done.