I asked Mike about his tattoo partly out of curiosity but primarily from an instinct of self-preservation. He was helping his cousin jumpstart a car in the middle of our street in Long Beach, California, where I was involved in planting a church. As he worked, I observed a tattoo of a large knife that covered his entire forearm. I don’t remember how I formed the question, but my relief was palpable when he uttered the words, “It’s a chef’s knife. I’m the Urban Chef!” A simple question about a tattoo opened the door to a conversation about training urban youth, which led to a Bible study, which led, eventually, to Chef Mike choosing to follow Jesus, the one who prepared a meal for a crowd with five loaves and two fish.
I recalled this story while reading an example from Good News for Change: How to Talk to Anyone about Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos. At the end of chapter 11, Mikalatos writes, “Every time you see a tattoo this week, ask the person, ‘Why is that significant to you?’ It’s one of the greatest entrances to deep conversation that I know.” In two short sentences, Mikalatos offers a key insight that I had intuited but never fully articulated: If we want to reach people with the gospel, we need to figure out what matters to them most.
Mikalatos argues that our ability to communicate the gospel has been clouded by Christian jargon unintelligible to the non-religious world, a desire to win arguments, and an overwhelming fear that we won’t get the “facts” right. He reminds us, instead, that “evangelism is, first and foremost, us participating with the Holy Spirit to tell people about God and his love for them and to invite them into deeper ...1
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