• indoubt Podcast
  • ·
  • March 27, 2023

Ep. 008:ARE YOU PREPARED TO SHARE YOUR FAITH?! w/ Matt Smethurst

With Matt Smethurst, , , and Andrew Marcus

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There has been a quote floating around for many years that says, “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This quote has been shared by many Christians with good intentions, but there are some problems with it. The main problem is this: it’s just not biblical. Join host Andrew Marcus as he spends some time with author and pastor Matt Smethurst as they discuss 5 tools to help you become evangelism ready and how it is absolutely crucial to use words! Tune in and learn how we can better prepare ourselves to share our faith boldly and confidently!

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Andrew Marcus:

Hey, this is Andrew. Welcome to THE INDOUBT SHOW. We have an awesome show for you today. We have Matt Smethurst all the way from Richmond, Virginia, and we’re going to talk through his latest book Before You Share Your Faith, and he’s going to walk us through five ways that we can be evangelism ready, and so we hope you enjoy this. God bless.

All right, so we have Matt Smethurst. How are you? All the way from Richmond, Virginia. How you doing today, man?

Matt Smethurst:

I’m doing well. Thanks so much for having me, Andrew. Good to be with you.

Andrew Marcus:

Yeah, this is awesome. So I’m really excited to dive in and talk about your book. I know this is a series, part of a series, so you had a book that you released before this book called Before You Open Your Bible, and this is your second book Before You Share Your Faith. Now, for all those who are listening on podcast or you’re watching on YouTube right now, this is a free resource for the month of April. So for the whole month you can get this book for free, which is amazing. You just have to type in the code, SYF23, Share Your Faith. SYF23, and you can get yourself a copy just for the month of April. But Matt, before we dive into your book, I want to hear about your story, your journey. Maybe tell our listeners who don’t know who you are what you’re up to, where you are, your family, and what your ministry life looks like these days.

Matt Smethurst:

Where I am. Well, I am not in as cool of a studio as you, so I want to apologize mainly to viewers. I’m coming to you live from a cubicle and that’s why there’s an echo. And yeah, I didn’t come to this interview sufficiently prepared, so I’m actually holding up my phone, so that’s why it looks a little jury-rigged. You can continue looking down on Americans. It’s fine.

Andrew Marcus:

Oh, come on.

Matt Smethurst:

Okay. So yeah, I’m coming from Richmond, Virginia where we have planted a church. We just turned one year old as River City Baptist Church. I’m the lead pastor there and it’s such a joy to be preparing sermons and pastoring God’s people. I have a wife and three young children and yeah, those are just a few things.

Andrew Marcus:

Awesome man. And so what were you doing ministry wise pre this plant?

Matt Smethurst:

I was working full-time for The Gospel Coalition as managing editor for about 10 years and was also serving as an elder in a church in Louisville, Kentucky. So we had moved to Louisville as newlyweds back in 2009 for me to attend Southern Seminary. And we ended up staying for 12 years and really investing a lot in our church there, which became our sending church for this plant here in Richmond.

Andrew Marcus:

Wow, amazing man. And so is this your first time in ministry, like preaching every week?

Matt Smethurst:

Yes.

Andrew Marcus:

Wow. How has that been? That just seems overwhelming to me.

Matt Smethurst:

You can go online and listen to a sermon and just decide for yourself. Like in sports, sometimes athletes get injured and then they’re listed as week to week. So I feel like it’s, hey, it’s week to week.

Andrew Marcus:

Oh my gosh.

Matt Smethurst:

The Lord has actually been super faithful. I’ve found joy and life in it. I have preached through the first half of Mark’s gospel, the whole Book of Ruth, and I am in a series in Philippians right now and have just been amazed, freshly amazed at the wonders of God’s word and the bottomless nature of the book. I also do, every Tuesday I do a sermon preview meeting where any members of the church can come, and we open our Bibles to the passage I’ll be preaching that Sunday. And I’m not teaching, I’m just typing as people share observations, insights into the text, suggested applications, and it really gives me a running start throughout the week.

Andrew Marcus:

Wow, that’s really cool. That’s a great way to also keep people in the congregation involved, a very unique way.

Matt Smethurst:

Yeah, it’s been encouraging to a lot of folks and useful to me.

Andrew Marcus:

Wow, that’s awesome. Praise God. That’s really cool. Talk about this book a little bit here. I’ve been reading through it and I’ve been really enjoying it. Before You Share Your Faith: Five Ways to Be Evangelism Ready. And so we’ll talk about those five ways, but maybe give us a little bit of an inside of just your heart behind it, why you felt like you needed to write this. Because I know you mentioned in the book a few times, not that you’re bashing other evangelism ready books, but this is a lot different than most evangelism books that are out. Talk about maybe the problem that you saw and maybe what you were hoping to accomplish and what it did in your life too.

Matt Smethurst:

It’s probably cliche to say, but I wrote the book in large part because I needed this book. I feel like evangelism is maybe the easiest spiritual discipline not to do. I think that a lot of us might struggle with our prayer lives, for example, but I think even prayer comes easier and more naturally to us than evangelism. Evangelism is so easy to delay, kick the can down the road, wait for a more ideal time and just end up never really getting around to it often. And so what is unique about this book is that I’m not trying to just recreate what others have done so well in typical evangelism books, which focus on how to actually, the mechanics of sharing your faith, communicating the good news of Jesus.

I’m wanting to start a little more upstream and think about the fact that before we even get into that moment where we can open our mouth and declare Christ, other things need to already be settled in our minds and hearts. I think so many of us as Christians, we kind of live, we float through life and we sort of live as it were on our heels. And especially when it comes to evangelism, you have to be on your toes. You have to live ready for gospel conversations. And not simply, I used to pray that the Lord, He would lead me to gospel conversations and I still pray that, but I also think there’s a sense in which we sometimes need to create them. He wants us not only to walk through open doors, but to sometimes open doors ourselves underneath His ultimate sovereignty. But taking that initiative is not going to happen unless you’re living on your toes and you’re looking for opportunities to talk about King Jesus.

Andrew Marcus:

That’s huge. That’s huge. And I agree with you, it is the hardest thing to do. I know my wife’s grandpa was dying and I remember we went to the hospital and we were just waiting for an opportunity to tell him about Jesus. And it’s a crazy story. He didn’t want anything to do with Christianity or faith or whatever, and he said, “If anyone comes, a parishioner or a pastor, a minister to come and pray, the answer is no. No one’s welcome in the hospital room.” And we went in there and my wife was adamant, “We’re going to tell him about Jesus before he passes away. We have to tell him about Jesus.” And so we get in the room and at once everyone kind of left for different reasons. “I got to go parking or get a toothbrush” or this or that, and the room was empty and it was just us and her grandpa.

And even in that moment where it was just us, I felt like my mouth was locked. It was so hard and so uncomfortable and so awkward to just… The guy’s on his deathbed and I have this one chance, and for some reason my mouth was still… And I mean by the grace of God, my mouth unlocked, God unlocked my mouth and I was able to share with him and he was basically unconscious the whole time. I shared the entire gospel with him. And then I don’t even know why I asked him because he wasn’t even alert, but I asked him, “Would you be willing to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” And he instantly sits up fully alert, fully aware, and says, “Yes.”

Matt Smethurst:

Wow.

Andrew Marcus:

And we pray and he gives his life to the Lord and he lays and he passes away right after that, which was a crazy moment. But I surprised myself in that moment with how hard it still was for me. It was still so hard to tell this guy about the gospel. And I asked myself, “Why is it so hard?” I mean, is it because it’s family? Is family harder? But I mean, you’re obviously showing that there are some things we need to prepare for beforehand so that we are ready. And I love something that you say in this book. It says, “Nothing is more worth talking about than Christ, of course. Yet at the same time, nothing is easier to stay silent about.” Why do you think it’s so hard for believers to be open and evangelize well?

Matt Smethurst:

I think it’s a combination of factors. The most obvious one I think in our conscious minds is fear because we’re often conscious of our fear. We know that there’s risk involved. We could be rejected, we could be mocked, we could just be stumped and not have a ready-made answer for a skeptic’s objection. And so I think fear freezes us. But what I try to show in the book is that actually even more than our fear, I think an obstacle that we have to face in surmount is our lack of love. Because if we really loved people enough and if we really saw them the way God does, then we would overcome our fear in order to communicate the most important message they would need to hear.

Andrew Marcus:

Wow.

Matt Smethurst:

And then I would say another factor that we don’t want to underestimate is the reality of spiritual warfare. And that Satan is real and he hates people who begin to show interest in gospel things and he will scramble and do anything he can, he and satanic forces, in order to distract, to derail, to discourage. And so we are fighting a multi-front battle every time that we have an opportunity to share Christ.

Andrew Marcus:

That’s huge. So there’s fear, which I totally have felt many times. There’s lack of love, which is that’s very confronting. I remember listening to a guy online the other day. You know those magicians Penn and Teller? I think their names are Penn and Teller. The really tall guy and the short guy, I don’t know if you know them. I think they’re in America. Anyways, it’s as if like America, oh, you probably know Joe Smith. He’s in America. Anyways, this guy, he says, “You know what?” Because he’s an atheist. And he says-

Matt Smethurst:

Well, I think I know the quote you’re talking about where Penn Jillette talks about how it’d have to be the height of hatred not to share with someone.

Andrew Marcus:

Yea. Like an atheist-

Matt Smethurst:

Yeah.

Andrew Marcus:

… who’s saying it. He’s saying, “I would be so upset if you actually knew the truth and you didn’t tell me.”

Matt Smethurst:

Absolutely.

Andrew Marcus:

That was eye-opening when you hear from the other side, “Okay, we do have this truth. We’re afraid to be rejected, but these people are wanting truth and do we love them enough?” And he even mentions that. It’s like, if you actually believe it’s true and you love us enough, why wouldn’t you tell us? Huge, man. That was a huge eye-opener for me. And so okay, so we see the problems, we see there’s fear, we see the lack of love, that we’re not ready to have answers from skeptics. You have some answers for us of how we can prepare before we even open our mouths and get out into the world. And so what are the five ways to be evangelism ready?

Matt Smethurst:

Grasp the gospel, check your context, love the lost, face your fear, start to speak. I think I got those right. Did I?

Andrew Marcus:

Should I check? I’m going to check your work here. Let me check your work here. So grasp the gospel, check your context, love the lost, face your fear, start to speak. Five out of five, bro. Five out of five. You nailed it. Can we walk through each one if that’s okay? I’m just going to briefly give our viewers and listeners just inside of what this book has to offer. So grasp the gospel.

Matt Smethurst:

Yeah. I mean, the reason this is first on the list is because without it, there is no list. We can’t do evangelism if we don’t grasp the evangel. That’s just the word meaning gospel, the good news of Christianity. And we’re not ready to think about getting the gospel out unless we’ve first gotten the gospel right. And so I want to be very clear in that first chapter that before this is good news for anyone else, it has to be good news for you. And the way I kind of break it down is in four movements to the gospel story, the ruler, the revolt, the rescue, and your response, which is just kind of a combination of creation, fall, redemption, consummation, as well as God, man, Christ, response. It’s just my own kind of take on that.

But it’s a gospel presentation. And I guess the only other thing I would say about that, and I think sometimes we can share a very privatized, individualized, reductionistic gospel that I’m wanting to show that the gospel is good news for individual sinners but also for the cosmos. And that heaven came to earth and the person of King Jesus, the future broke back into the present. And for those who are hidden by faith in Him and are trusting that He lived the life they should have lived, died the death they deserved to die, rose again on the third day, that one day they too will rise right along with Him with resurrected bodies fit for a resurrected earth. And that I still find to just be the most compelling message in the history of the world.

Andrew Marcus:

Praise God. Praise God. It really is. And I love that. You can’t send the gospel out unless you have the gospel in and you understand the foundation. So that’s so important. So number one, grasp the gospel. Number two, check your context. Walk us through a little bit about what you’re talking through there.

Matt Smethurst:

So this is my attempt to take discussions regarding contextualization and put the cookies on the bottom shelf and readers will have to determine if I succeeded. But contextualization just basically means realizing the fact that every time that we communicate truth from God’s word, we are doing so not in a cultural vacuum but in a specific cultural context. So it’s not that the message changes, but it’s that the environment does. And we need to be sensitive to that because every culture has certain strengths and weaknesses and idols. There are some things which are reflective of the image of God and other things which are reflective of the way that that image has been shattered and marred because of sin.

And the Bible is not bound to any one culture. In fact, I think one evidence that the Bible is a supernatural book is that it offends every culture at some point. And that’s because it’s not the product of any one culture. And what I’m trying to communicate in this chapter, check your context is, Hey, here’s what it means to contextualize the gospel well. It doesn’t mean dressing the message up to make Christianity cool. It means breaking the message down to make Christianity clear. It’s not about making it cool, it’s about making it clear, which means that you will know that you’ve contextualized faithfully if the offense of the cross becomes more understood and felt.

And so what we’re wanting to do is remove barriers that people might trip over, whether through misunderstanding or just other blind spots that people might trip over in order for them to be able to confront the living Lord Jesus Christ himself. And so I’m pulling from some places in the New Testament where I think contextualization is happening not just in Acts, but also 1 Corinthians 1. Jews seek signs. Greeks look for wisdom. But Paul kind of subversively says, “Yeah, and they’re not wrong to be looking for those things, but they’re looking for them in the wrong places.” Actually, the real power that the Jews are looking for and the real wisdom that the Greeks are looking for is found in this message, which seems like foolishness and weakness to the world.

And so yeah, I think in modern Western culture, I think things have changed so quickly in recent decades where if we were having this conversation even 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I think we would’ve been able to assume more common understanding on the part of those that we encounter in our everyday lives. In other words, we could assume that they’re coming into a gospel conversation somewhat furnished mentally. They have the mental furniture to understand, okay, there is objective truth, there’s right and wrong, there’s an afterlife, things like that. Whereas now evangelism is not so much connecting the dots that are already there for people. It’s actually putting those dots on their mental map for the first time. And so you have to start further back.

Andrew Marcus:

Yeah, that’s huge. It’s like you need to provide the furniture, that it’s an empty room.

Matt Smethurst:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Andrew Marcus:

Yeah. Wow, that’s such a relevant thing in our culture today. I feel that’s such an important word. Check your context. That’s so huge. Love the lost is number three.

Matt Smethurst:

Yeah. I already mentioned that I think lovelessness is an even greater obstacle to our faithfulness and evangelism than fear. But what I’m trying to do in this chapter is talk about two ditches, two ways that we can get this wrong. And it has to do with two different approaches to evangelism. So one would be what’s sometimes called friendship evangelism or relational evangelism where you’re really only sharing Christ with those you know. The other approach would be what’s sometimes called contact evangelism, where you’re striking up spiritual conversations with strangers. And I kind of am trying to show from scripture that both have warrant, and we should avoid assuming that only one of those approaches is valid, but both also have dangers. The danger, as you kind of alluded to earlier, Andrew, when you’re sharing the gospel with someone you know, there is a greater felt risk of rejection. And so the danger with relational or friendship evangelism is that it never turns into actual evangelism. You just keep befriending, befriending, befriending, but you never confront them with the demands of Christ.

But of course, the danger with street evangelism, as it were, contact evangelism, is that it can be impersonal. It can become manipulative. You can treat people like projects. And so I think rightly understood biblically, both approaches are valid. But the important litmus test is am I really operating in love? And especially in our cultural moment, which is an age of outrage, it can seem like the emotional temperature on every debate is set to blazing hot. I think we have the opportunity as Christians to stand up and stand out and show a more excellent way by modeling a kind of calm, gentle, kind approach where we are clear about the truth, but we are communicating it in love. Ephesians 4 does not say, “Speaking the truth is love.” It says, “Speak the truth in love.” So there is a wrong way to be right.

Andrew Marcus:

Wow. There is a wrong way to be right. That’s confronting as well. This is so good, man. Okay, so we got grasp the gospel. We got check your context, which is huge for our cultural moment. Love the lost. And number four, face your fear. Walk us through that.

Matt Smethurst:

Yeah. In that chapter, I’m trying to bring theology to bear on the practical moment when we have the opportunity to talk to someone. And I think so often we pass up good opportunities because we’re waiting for the perfect one. And if you’re waiting around for the ideal evangelistic scenario, you’re probably going to be waiting around forever. I also think it’s worth mentioning because of the way Satan can discourage us and convince us we’re not capable, we’re not equipped, we’re not knowledgeable, we’re not ready. Here’s just the anecdotal reality for my life. The evangelistic interaction always goes better than I feared. Now, I’ve had a couple experiences that have not gone so well, but I feel like 96% of the time, the conversation that we so dread goes better than we feared. And I think that just goes to show that it’s not logic keeping us from talking to people. It’s fear, and it’s the evil one.

Andrew Marcus:

Totally. And I feel fear and logic, they don’t coexist.

Matt Smethurst:

That’s right.

Andrew Marcus:

Once there’s fear, it’s just illogical to think the worst case scenario and never experience it.

Matt Smethurst:

And it’s also worth remembering that people who reject the gospel are not finally rejecting us. They’re rejecting God. It might feel like they’re rejecting us, but we really shouldn’t take it personally. We’re just the messengers delivering the mail. Someone can get angry at the postal worker bringing the mail, but ultimately their job is just to deliver the mail and not to tamper with it along the way. And in fact, tampering with mail is a federal offense. And so we should never edit the message. The Trinity is not in the market for editors, and so we should never try to… The Bible is not a rough draft, and we ought not treat it as such.

Andrew Marcus:

Yeah, that’s huge. That’s huge. And I think that’s really important for people who are trying to share the gospel and the truth with family. Worried about the fear of the family disowning you or coming against you. I guess that’s why maybe the fears escalate a little bit. But yeah, face that fear. If you really love, you got to overcome that. And I think that’s such a huge reminder. The last one is start to speak, and I thought this one was really fascinating because you bring up a quote in there that I’ve heard Christians, many Christians say over and over again. And the quote is this, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” And I understand people are trying to imply that we ought to love people with our actions and serve, et cetera, but that could be a very dangerous quote. Can you let us know why that quote is actually pretty much unbiblical?

Matt Smethurst:

Well, it’s unbiblical because it’s nonsensical. I will say that it’s well-intentioned. I understand people basically mean, “Hey, don’t be a hypocrite.” Make sure that you are living in a way that is compelling and that your actions are adorning the gospel you preach. I’m of course all for that. But to say, “Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary” is like saying, “Feed the hungry at all times, and if necessary, use food.” The gospel is words. It’s a message. It’s a news. It’s a breaking news headline from the press room of heaven that the King has come and He has done everything necessary to restore us into a right relationship with God, and that He holds out mercy in His hands to those who have rebelled against His throne and His majesty. And that cannot be communicated through actions. It requires words. And so that’s why I bring up that quote.

And in terms of what I’m trying to do more broadly in that chapter, start to speak, is just say, “Hey, we can prepare all we want, but at some point, we are going to have to take that step of faith, swallow hard, and open our mouth, and trust God with the results.” Bill Bright famously defined evangelism as communicating the good news of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. And at some point, we just have to do our best and leave our fits and starts, our stumbles, our failures in His hands and trusts that He really doesn’t need us in order to bring His people to himself, but He uses us.

And I find it very liberating, Andrew, to just think about if people are really dead in their transgressions and sins, then that means that evangelism is similar to walking through a cemetery and speaking to caskets. It’s our job to speak to the caskets, but it’s God’s job to crack them open. And when we remember that really it’s on Him, then we can go to bed at night knowing that people’s eternal destiny doesn’t reside on our shoulders.

Andrew Marcus:

Thank you so much for firstly writing this book, creating a resource for us. Thank you. Thank you for your time today and unpacking some of it for us. And I just pray all the best for you and your ministry and your new church plant. Happy first birthday to all of you, and we’re just grateful for you. Thank you so much.

Matt Smethurst:

Thanks for having me on.

Andrew Marcus:

Hey, thanks so much for joining us today. For more great content, check out THE INDOUBT SHOW on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, or wherever you stream your podcasts. We hope you enjoyed it today. Feel free to check out indoubt.ca. We have some great resources available to you. Have an awesome day.

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ID_Show_Ep008-2

Who's Our Guest?

Matt Smethurst

Matt Smethurst is lead pastor of River City Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia; editor at The Gospel Coalition; and author of Before You Share Your Faith: Five Ways to Be Evangelism Ready (2022), Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church (2021), Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word (2019), and 1–2 Thessalonians: A 12-Week Study(2017). He and his wife, Maghan, have three children. You can follow him on Twitter.
ID_Show_Ep008-2

Who's Our Guest?

Matt Smethurst

Matt Smethurst is lead pastor of River City Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia; editor at The Gospel Coalition; and author of Before You Share Your Faith: Five Ways to Be Evangelism Ready (2022), Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church (2021), Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word (2019), and 1–2 Thessalonians: A 12-Week Study(2017). He and his wife, Maghan, have three children. You can follow him on Twitter.