Who doesn’t like good news? That’s the premise of Mr. Mikalatos’ new book, which is all about improving our conversations so that when we tell people about Jesus, it actually sounds like good news to them!
This book was challenging, encouraging, and convicting all in one, and I hope to use its principles in all my interactions, not just those times where I’m talking about God.
What’s Good About It?
Mr. Mikalatos starts out demystifying the gospel. After all, “gospel” is an Old English word that simply means “good news”.
Like, “Your baby was born healthy!” or “We’re going to Grandma’s for Christmas!” or “The insurance is covering the entire cost!” kind of news.
So what’s good about it?
The goodness of God is so big, so broad, so all-encompassing and embracing, that each facet can speak to different people in different ways.
Example (this book has loads of examples!): While sharing with some atheists, Mr. Mikalatos explained how the Israelites used to sacrifice lambs to cover sins…but now that Jesus has become the perfect sacrifice, He forgives our sins and covers them in a way sheep-blood never could.
The young man he was speaking with said, “So, the lambs don’t have to die any more?”
“Yes, that’s true. The lambs don’t have to die anymore.”
“That’s good news!”
Yes! It is good that God loves the animals, and cares about their suffering – even though He loves us more. It’s very easy to get so wrapped up in our church-y ways of thinking and explaining…and sometimes we need to be reminded about something else that God has done, that is also good.
Are You Listening?
To tell people about the good things of God in a way they understand involves – you guessed it – listening to them!
Mr. Mikalatos speaks in terms of communication: what signal are we sending, what interference could mess up that signal, are we checking that the other person receives our signal as we intend, etc.
Another example from the book: Mr. Mikalatos once watched an older pastor share the gospel with young kids.
The pastor told them about heaven, how God made it possible for us to live there with Him, and said, “My knees are old, and don’t work so well; I can’t wait to get to heaven and put on my new body, that won’t hurt!”
Mr. Mikalatos points out that kids don’t really understand the pains of old age, and this is like Greek to them. If you want to connect with their desires, needs, and fears, explain how God is a loving Father who wants to be their friend.
My good news, or theirs?
The core facts of the “good news” don’t change, but the angle we use to share it might.
It was very encouraging (and a little convicting) to learn I shouldn’t be blurting out little prepared speeches to my “evangelism victims”…but rather meeting their eyes, listening to their hurts and needs, and translating the amazing love of Jesus into their language (to the best of my ability).
Word and deed.
As for translating, Mr. Mikalatos also points out our actions are part of the message we send.
Shouting at passing college students about their sinful behavior and quoting the King James might not be the most effective way to serve…even if they do hear “the Word”.
The book contains several examples of non-Christians who have been hurt or confused by Christians who used the King James.
I am instructed to be patient and compassionate to my brothers who use the King James Version, even though I don’t choose it for myself. However, especially since my dad is involved in Bible translation, I really think some other translation is better for reaching people without our tradition of “church-speak”.
Lately, I’ve been reading the King James and Good News for Modern Man (Today’s English Version) in my nightly reading. While some of the interpretation choices are interesting, I like the “dumbed-down” phrases for classic church terms that those of us who’ve been here too long tend to glide past.
Not having grown up on the King James, I’m also enjoying some of the unexpected words it uses in passages I know so well, which gives me a fresh perspective and helps me understand just a little bit better.
How Did Jesus Do It?
Jesus was God on Earth – perfectly loving, perfectly truthful, perfectly focused. When He spoke to people, He knew that their greatest need was to accept Him as their Master, allowing the sacrifice He was going to make of His life to atone for their rebellion and put them right with God.
So when He spoke with people – from an outcast half-breed woman in Samaria (Jn 4) to an educated, upper-class Pharisee (Jn 3:1-21) – He zeroed in on their needs, desires, and fears and focused His comments on cutting through the piffle and exposing their hearts.
Mr. Mikalatos includes both these examples in his book, showing how the Samaritan woman tried to distract from the issue at hand – “Go figure; a Jew only talks to my kind when he wants free water” (Jn 4:7) “Enough about me; y’know, the Jews say we should only worship in Jerusalem. How about it?” (Jn 4:19-20).
But Jesus patiently and gently refocused the discussion on the deep hole in her heart (“Go get your husband…yeah, I know you’ve had five husbands” – Jn. 4:16-18) and her need for Him (“I can give you spiritual water that will truly satisfy” – Jn. 4:10, 13-14, 25-26).
Closer to home
It’s easy to get caught up in discussions about evolution, environmentalism, protection of the unborn, refugee crises, politics…and coming from an opinionated family, I’m usually more than happy to swan-dive right into these conversations.
But none of those things will save someone. The only news that will make the difference in their life between Hell and Heaven is that Jesus made a way for them to patch up their differences with God and be adopted into His family – and Jesus is the only way that can happen.
Do I have such a need to win an argument about the six days of creation, global warming, or fixing alcoholism that I forget about the most important part of all?
No, Mr. Mikalatos is not advocating ignoring all social and moral issues. But he makes the vital point that after a person accepts Jesus as their King, Jesus can (and will) deal with their moral problems.
Winning the argument is not the goal. It’s not even our goal to “win souls”. We’re here to tell the truth – the good truth – the amazing, exciting, awe-inspiring truth about God and His son, Jesus.
As someone fond of winning, and facts, and arguments, this was a necessary lesson. Don’t be distracted. Don’t be dismayed. Focus on Jesus, and tell the truth.
The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.
Ready to Talk?
Mr. Mikalatos includes homework at the end of each chapter. He also includes plenty of personal stories and anecdotes to show us we’re not alone in this mission (and that Mikalatos has put his feet where his mouth is)!
Are you ready to find a friend who doesn’t know Jesus and say:
“Hey, will you do an experiment with me? I want to explain the gospel, and you stop me every time I use a ‘church-y’ word. It’s to help me notice when I’m using church jargon!”
Or maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, borrowing a conversation-starter that Mr. Mikalatos has used himself:
“Hi, would you like to talk about spiritual things for a few minutes?”
Scary? Necessary? Amazing?
How would you describe talking about Jesus? Are you ready to step up your game, turn down the pressure (the Holy Spirit does the hard work, after all), and hit your friends with the most incredible news in the history of ever?
Just don’t think that reading this book about evangelism substitutes for actually getting out the front door and talking to people. (Dang.)