Athlete, Know Your People
John 6:35 (NIV)
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty."
I was at Lowe’s, and I asked an employee, “Do you have 100-foot tape measures?” He was older, hunched over and had hearing aids. He leaned over, bent his ear toward me and said, “What?”
I repeated myself louder and slower. He understood and walked me to them.
I had to speak differently to him than I would to someone else. If I would have kept repeating myself in my same normal tone, that would have been ineffective.
I heard a professor at seminary say, “The gospel is never presented the same way twice in the New Testament.” He cited 1) the numerous words and metaphors that spell out the good news and 2) the ways the authors addressed the Jews compared to the Gentiles.
The way the good news was explained often depended on the background of the listeners. (John 6:35 is one example.)
Granted, the gospel does not change — it has to do with restored relationship with the Creator God through Jesus. But you might explain it differently to a scientist than you would to a poet, to a teammate who grew up in church than to one who didn’t, or to a teammate who is depressed compared to a teammate who is optimistic.
Athlete, God gave you the ability to perceive differences in people and thus personalize a message to them. You can’t know everything about everyone. But don’t neglect to consider how someone thinks, their background and their present circumstances when you think about what to say to them about God.
If I kept repeating myself in my normal tone to the man at Lowe’s, I would have been ineffective. I had to change my ways so he could hear me. You might too.
Action: As you read the Scriptures, keep a mental list of the various ways the good news is spelled out and unpacked. You’ll be surprised, and so will your listeners.