It’s now late spring. I’ve had too much chocolate, used a treadmill only once, and still watch way too much television. There go my New Year’s Resolutions. How are you at keeping yours? If you’ve stopped altogether the, “I’m gonna do these in 2020 like I pretty much have done,” I do have something I’ve started doing that may have better and far reaching positive consequences in my life and in others around me more than any New Year’s promise I could keep.
Starting a Gospel Conversation
This isn’t a new trend that I saw on Facebook or heard from Dr. Drew or Dr Oz. I didn’t read about it in any magazine, or even on the Gospel Coalition’s blog. I found it in a biography about an Englishman born over 250 years ago. I looked back through time and found an amazing way that one of my heroes of the faith used to talk about God with his friends and acquaintances.
He may have used this idea often when he spoke with William Pit of Parliament. I’m sure he used it with his friends, who alongside him fought to abolish the slave trade in England and eventually slavery itself.
The man with the great idea was William Wilberforce (1759-1833). In Eric Metaxis’ biography on Wilberforce titled, Amazing Grace, Metaxas chronicles Wilberforce’s rise in politics to a member of Parliament with his conviction and resolve to stop slavery in England, as well as Europe and the West Indies. Metaxas also tells the story of Wilberforce’s journey to a saving faith in Jesus:
“William Wilberforce’s conversion to Christianity in 1785 – what he called his, Great Change” was without question for him the central and most important event in his life. Indeed as far as Wilberforce was concerned, faith in Jesus Christ was the central and most important thing in life itself, so it can hardly surprise us that sharing this faith with others was central and important to Wilberforce too.”
This resolution, or idea, from Wilberforce might help you and me be better gospel encouragers. Whether it’s encouraging your kids, family, friends, or co-workers in their existing faith or to a new faith in Christ, this gem is not difficult, but it is very intentional.
Making Your “Launchers” List
Wilberforce tried his best to move any conversation that he had to one of eternity and faith in Jesus. Wilberforce’s desire was twofold: (1) to be the right kind of friend to others, and (2) to be prepared in what and how he spoke to those he knew and loved. Wilberforce took the time to think about people beforehand. He made lists of his friends, and next to their name he would thoughtfully jot down notes on ways to best encourage them in their faith or to a faith.
He would ponder on which subjects he might bring up that could lead to a gospel conversation. Wilberforce even had a name for his way to encourage his friends. He called these subjects and the questions that he would pose, “launchers.” Don’t you love that? This was a very thoughtful and purposeful way to engage others, and I’m sure it made each person feel valued.
Metaxas wrote that in many cases, Wilberforce felt like he had failed in encouraging others to faith in Jesus, and that the intent of his kindness may have felt more like a project. But his friends continued to respect Wilberforce for his faith and they certainly enjoyed his charm, intellect, and friendship.
I believe “launchers” as used by Wilberforce in the past can also set in motion a beautiful act for us; a way to practice God’s Word through intentional gospel conversations. They are, after all, a reflection of Philippians 2:3, which says to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves.”
Our conversations—with the Holy Spirit’s guidance—will be encouraging when we consider ways to lift others up before we meet them. This also might just increase our desire to pray and petition for them in richer ways. Personally, “launchers” help me keep a keener eye on God’s Word, pay attention to what’s going on in my friend’s lives, and have a greater desire to spend time with these people.
Would you join me in this intentional endeavor? I encourage to to get a small notebook and use it to make notes and pose questions. Let this spur you on to become a gospel launcher to all those you plan to meet.
Let the words of the apostle Paul urge you on: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:1).