Identifying Gospel Gaps
As we continue to unpack this idea of “gospel gaps,” let’s use another helpful example: language. When I see you, I could greet you by saying “hello,” “hey,” “hi,” “yo,” “sup,” “greetings,” or any number of other salutations. And those are just the English words! I can express the same root sentiment in many ways. This is often referred to as “dialect,” or the variation that exists in language based on circumstances like how old you are or where you grew up.
The same is true of gospel gaps. As we’ll discuss in the next few posts, these same root gaps can express themselves in a variety of ways, gap dialects, if that helps you understand. For instance, you might have a job as a schoolteacher. The reasons you don’t share your faith will likely look different than the students you teach. You might be afraid that a co-worker will look at you differently and ask for a different lunch-duty partner, but a teenager might worry that their friends will call them a freak and stop texting them. Two different dialects with the same root gap based on the external variables of age and occupation.
I’m walking through this so painstakingly because it is crucial to understand that no matter how unique you think your fears and hesitations are, you are not alone.
In 2020, I put together a little survey. The survey went out to hundreds of people from various ages, backgrounds, denominations, ethnicities, countries, and levels of spiritual maturity. We had teenagers from Florida and retirees from Japan respond. We collected data from people who gave their lives to Christ in the 1950s, and people who gave their lives to Christ that year. The survey was simple. It began with a thorough explanation of the gospel gap concept. Next, we collected all the personal data to see just who was answering this thing. Finally, we asked each survey-taker to list the top three reasons they don’t share their faith.
Well, after a few weeks we had a list of a few hundred gaps. You can probably imagine the spread. Remember that part about dialects? We had people write novels to explain gaps, we had people use a single word, and we saw everything in between. Then came the fun part. The Excel spreadsheet! We took this data and listed it all out one by one, reading it carefully and beginning to match dialects and roots. For example:
“I’m afraid it will harm my relationship with someone.”
“I don’t want to seem pushy and scare people away.”
“Conversations about religion make people upset.”
Fear of offending
Three people used different words based on different experiences with different individuals to say the same thing. “I’m afraid that I’ll offend someone.” So it went with the hundreds of gaps we received. We carefully categorized them until each dialect found its root, and when we had finished, we had seven gospel gaps. Seven. Not 1,893. Not one for every person on the planet. Seven root gaps shared by every believer who has ever hesitated to share their faith. Sure, they may have expressed themselves in hundreds of different ways, but they all came back to the same seven.
Believer, you are not alone. The reasons you struggle to share your faith are likely the same reasons I do. And you know what’s crazy? Those reasons are probably, in some form, the reasons a Russian teenager who knows Jesus avoids sharing their faith. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in this together, both in our victories and in our struggles.
When we stop to ask ourselves the question, “Why do I struggle to share my faith?” we have an opportunity to grow because we can begin to identify our gospel gaps. When I walk people through this concept, one my favorite things to do is ask them about the people in their life who don’t know Jesus. I mentioned it briefly already, but I like to walk them through this line of thinking:
KNOWLEDGE: “I know that _________ doesn’t know Jesus.”
ACTION: “I could/should/would talk to _________ about Jesus.”
GAP: “I don’t talk to _________ about Jesus because…”
As I have these conversations with people about identifying gospel gaps, really asking the question, “why not?” I invite people, as I invite you, to put different names in that little formula.
“I know that Jamie, a girl from my soccer team, doesn’t know Jesus.” Knowledge. “I could/should/would talk to Jamie about Jesus.” Potential action. “I don’t talk to Jamie about Jesus because I don’t want to make it weird to be on the same team if she says she isn’t interested.” Gospel gap.
Bingo! We made it a real example. It’s not a theoretical idea, there is a real person involved, a person we want to introduce to Jesus Christ. We could do that again and again, picturing different people we love and using their names and faces to help us ask the question, “Why do I hesitate to share my faith?” This question is so important in our understanding of evangelism.
It’s also important to realize that not everyone has the same gospel gaps. Yes, you and I may have overlapping gaps, but I’m actually not very scared of failing or not having the words to say. Maybe those are some of the things that paralyze you, but they’re not necessarily gaps of mine. Be careful not to put yourself or others into a box when talking about this concept. It’s important to know our answers to the question, “Why not?” and to understand the seven root gaps, but also understand that our answers to that question will be expressed in unique ways, and that’s okay.
We’re just about to dive into the seven root gaps, I promise. But before we do, we need to return to our diagram of the earth. If the first layer to the evangelism conversation is, “Christians are supposed to share the gospel with people,” and the second layer is, “I don’t share the gospel as much as I probably should,” and the third layer asks the question, “Why don’t I share the gospel as much as I probably should?” then what’s left? Well, friends, I couldn’t have planned it any better myself, because the core question we absolutely must ask ourselves when it comes to evangelism is, “How can I overcome my gaps?”
Again, I have had hundreds of conversations about gospel-sharing hesitations with Christians. I have read hundreds of survey answers. And yet, this question is one that is rarely brought up by those who are struggling. Instead, the conversations are filled with hopelessness.
Even if someone knows what evangelism is, and even if they know they don’t do it as much as they’d like, and even if they know why, most people don’t know where to go from there. So, they throw their hands in the air and often give up.
This problem right here is why this series exists; to help believers ask the question, “How can I overcome my gospel gaps?” Hopelessness and frustration in evangelism are parasites feeding on the people of God, paralyzing us, and stealing our joy. So, buckle up, friends, because we’re in this together. Throughout the next few posts, you will find seven root gaps shared by millions of people in every context imaginable. So, take heart, be honest with yourself, be vulnerable with God, and let’s come out on the other side equipped to boldly share the best news imaginable with anyone and everyone who needs to hear it.