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Relational Evangelism

Who’s On First?

By May 22, 2024No Comments

The words we use to convey the truth of the gospel are important and must be clear. Body language is important when we present the gospel.  

Who’s on First?

“Who’s on First?” is a classic comedy sketch performed by Abbott and Costello. The humorous sketch is centered around a misunderstanding regarding the names of players on a baseball team. The names of the players are confused with questions being asked. The answer to who’s on first? is, yes (the first baseman’s name is Who). The sketch is a humorous example of the potential for human miscommunication.  

 While funny in a sketch we all know that communication can be no laughing matter. We all tend to assume that we perfectly express the plain meaning we wish to convey with the utmost clarity and accuracy. When we are misunderstood, we sometimes get defensive and fault others for not hearing us correctly. A better approach is to assume we can and should become better communicators. This approach is essential when sharing the gospel. We must strive for clarity when presenting the gospel. In fact, clarity was so important to the Apostle Paul when sharing the gospel that he asked the church to pray for it (Col. 4:3-4). 

Clarity in Communicating the Gospel

To be clear with the gospel we must recognize that our words matter. According to statistics I live in the least religious region of the United States. Nearly half of all adults in New England consider themselves non-religious.i That means religious vocabulary is rarely heard in our neighborhood conversations. When I speak with neighbors or non-church friends about the gospel, I must be careful to not use bible terms that can be confusing. I must guard against the assumption that the person with whom I am speaking understands what I mean when I use terms like being saved, born again, or converted. It’s not that those are poor terms or inaccurate terms but that they are not familiar to most people hearing the gospel for the first time. Using these terms like these can create confusion because when we hear unfamiliar terms, our brains tend to fill in the blanks with words we know. So, a word like saved, get filled in with a word like helped, or converted with a word like radicalized. You can see the potential for muddying the truth of the gospel. 

 As committed followers of Christ we know that Biblical language is helpful in conversations with other believers about the Bible but can be confusing for those who are hearing the gospel for the first time. If you do choose to use biblical terms when presenting the gospel be certain to clarify through explanation of the source and definition of those terms. 

I see what you’re saying

To be clear when presenting the gospel, we must recognize that words are not everything when it comes to communication. In fact, our vocal tone and gestures can say more than our words. In the middle part of the last century, Albert Mehrabian, a researcher of body language, argued that the emotional impact of human communication is primarily non-verbal. According to his research he came up with the 55/38/7 guide to communication. He estimated that the emotional impact of communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and only 7% in words or vocabulary. That means most of our emotional disposition is communicated non-verbally. For example, walk into a middle school classroom full of rowdy students and shout at the top of your lungs, “I demand pandemonium!” It’s likely that the room will become quiet because the students have keyed in on your non-verbal communication and missed the verbal instruction. When we communicate with others, they are primarily reading the non-verbal cues we send to gauge our emotional disposition about the matter being discussed or about them as a person. So, I can accurately convey the truth of the gospel in words, but my non-verbal cues may send the wrong message. If I seem timid or shy about what I am saying by a soft tone and poor eye contact it can convey a lack of conviction about what I am saying or even embarrassment. On the other hand, if I am loud and brash with arms crossed and a frown it conveys unconcern or distance from the person with whom I am speaking. If I fail to listen and frequently interrupt it communicates impatience and unconcern. All of these attitudes are inconsistent with the gospel message. When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” I cannot imagine his saying it with poor eye contact, folded arms and a dismissive tone. So, when you communicate the gospel remember people really do see what you’re saying. 


We must all strive for clarity when communicating the gospel. By carefully choosing the right words and taking note of our body language we can become clearer communicators of the truth.  Thank you for reading Who’s on First? Clarity in communicating the gospel.

Matt Fagan

Exchange Trainer

Matt Fagan is the Lead Pastor at Heritage Baptist Church of Windham, New Hampshire and serves as an Exchange Trainer. Contact Matt about leading an Exchange Training Event or to discuss this article at [email protected].

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