In seminary, I used words like eschatology, soteriology and pedagogical imperialism. And people knew precisely what I meant! But for a person who has never attended a graduate class in theology, why in the world would I use those words? Rather, it'd be far more effective to explain the concept in a way that communicated the idea without using the word--kind of like a parable.
Same thing for missional spaces. Why would I use words like "sin" with someone who's never heard of grace; or worse, for someone who's become disillusioned with Christianity? These words are like triggers that immediately put up walls and completely disallow me any opportunity to show them why the story of Jesus really is transformative!
Rather, I can explain to them my brokenness, and how everything I ever tried to make me whole still failed--money, ambition, a career, hedonism, etc. This is an idea everyone knows about (or is learning). Thus, in this way, the concept of sin is explained without ever using the word.
It seems like forever ago we deconstructed the coffee shop. We did so to prove the point that Jesus knew how to communicate the gospel to people in a language they understood. And if we want to be like him, we need to learn the same skill. So then returning to the coffee shop, here are three practical ways I can communicate Jesus' incredible story without actually telling it in words.
1. Tip Really Well. I mean really well. Christians know that money means nothing to us! God is our provider and always gives us our daily bread. Demonstrate the reckless generosity of our God who gave his own son for love, as well as our unwillingness to become a slave to money, by throwing in a few extra bucks as tip.
2. Do little acts of service. You see a cup left on a table not yours. Bus it. You noticed another regular like you. Buy their coffee once in a while. Little things without agenda other than to demonstrate the deep joy and up-welling servant hearted nature that comes with knowing how much Jesus has done for us already.
3. Plan for Interruptions. Jesus was constantly interrupted. When asked to go and heal, he went. When asked to come to dinner, he came. Be ready for any and every conversation, any and every encounter. Be ready to allow the Spirit to orchestrate your time. Just be there and be listening. To a world obsessed with productivity, presence may be a powerful witness to a God who has all the time in the world to pursue the ones he loves.
[Your Turn]: Write down three practical ways you can communicate the gospel without words in the missional space you chose. Then, try them out and write down what happens. I want to hear the stories! We'll discuss them at a later Brooklyn Table.