My wife and I have two sons and I’ll never forget the day each of them was born. The feeling was like nothing else on earth. I was so excited, so thrilled, so bursting with joy that I wanted to shout the news from the roof tops. It makes me grin now just thinking about the journey home from the hospital. Sara had to stay in overnight but once I left her I couldn’t wait to get home and set about telling all our friends, ‘We’ve got a boy.’ I most clearly remember the taxi driver, after the birth of our second son, Jacob. He was so good to me. I burst into his car with the news that I’d just become a Dad again and he listened so patiently to me before gently interrupting to find out where I wanted to be taken. All the way home he listened, nodded and smiled as I enthused about my beautiful son and the wonders of the birth. All the time I was talking I was simultaneously text messaging friends and family.
Pulling up outside the house I left the driver a big tip and dashed straight to my neighbours’ door, ‘Great news, we’ve got a boy!’ Then into the house where I didn’t even take my coat off before sending an email out across the globe. Sara and I had been looking forward to sharing the good news and we’d prepared a birth announcement already. Within the hour I’d filled in all the details – the baby was a boy, his weight, the time he was born etc. – and got the pre-addressed envelopes in the post. Call me crazy, but this was news worth sharing!
No-one had to persuade me to tell the good news about the birth of my children. I didn’t need a course or a book or a manual on how to do it. I doubt it was articulate, or balanced or well thought through, but when I was filled with the joy of becoming a Dad I was consumed with passion to tell everyone and anyone and I used all resources in my power to get the message far and wide.
It’s normal to want to share the things we are passionate about isn’t it? Despite the majority of newspaper headlines, people do love good news. We’re quick to make announcements about births, marriages, new homes, exam results, parties, holidays and many other beautiful things in life. Good, life-changing things happen to wealthy, privileged, intellectual people and also to poor, uneducated and deprived people. Wherever we are in the spectrum of life we all love to share and celebrate news of good things. We don’t keep the news to ourselves because we’re not clever enough or because we haven’t been on a course or read a book on how to do it. We just do it because it’s a big deal to us. It means something to me. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me, the greatest thing I know. I share it, naturally. So why do so many of us who profess belief, faith and even ‘relationship’ with God, our maker and Christ our Saviour, struggle to share the Gospel?
The words in Mark 16:15 are simple: ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’ (NIV). ‘Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all’ (The Message).
It doesn’t sound too complicated does it?
I believe that the problem here is more than not knowing how to share the good news about Jesus Christ. We talk about ‘evangelism’ and get all tied up about what that means and who should do it, but when we look at Jesus’ words here we surely have to realise the simplicity of the task. Do we need a book or training course or a special manual to teach us what it means to reach lost people? Do we even need a special word to describe the practice? The disciples were not learned people. They didn’t go to college or study the Scriptures, but they did spend time with the Master. So with us. We need to spend time with Him, we need an encounter with Jesus, so that the Holy Spirit might convict us towards love and compassion for the lost. As I travel I meet many Christians who share this same realisation, those who are truly living the joy of their own Salvation and are desperate to share it with others. They might stumble and struggle to find ways of expressing it, but their heart is right. They’re always looking for the next opportunity and for different ways of telling the good news. They’re hungry for resources that might help or new ideas and anecdotes on how to communicate the message. Such people are obediently, joyfully and naturally living out their purpose.
But many more Christians, it appears, are simply not that way. Many take part in church every week, they might sit on dozens of committees and dedicate themselves to many good works, but for some reason sharing the Gospel and reaching out to the lost with God’s message of love and life is not even on their radar. For such people it’s not an issue of knowing how to do it, but of whether they should do it at all. ‘Leave all that to the evangelists and the preachers, it’s really not for me.’ I’m amazed at how many Christians sincerely believe that they are exempt from sharing good news and believe that only a certain gifted few are called to the task of evangelism. The tragedy is that this lie is perpetrated in many of our churches. There’s a good analogy here in medicine. Only a small number of people are trained to be pharmacists and doctors, yet we all have a duty of care. Most of us can buy and use basic medicine to help others. The truth is that God’s requirement is universal. He calls on the whole Body of Christ to participate in the act of sharing the good news of Salvation. It is an obligation for all who have this gift to share it. The idea that evangelism is just for the chosen few – it may be done, or not done, as we choose – is a lie and perhaps one of the greatest diseases the Church is suffering from in this current age. Such wrong thinking is unbiblical and also illogical as it means that multitudes of people around the globe do not hear the Gospel.
Salvation is a gift. It is my gift from my Father and it ensures my eternity so surely with that personal gift comes personal responsibility. If I have been transformed by the Gospel and understand what I have been saved from then surely I am determined, even in my weakness and inadequacy, to communicate this news to others who are lost in this world and heading for terrible punishment after death. Charles Spurgeon had a wonderful description of evangelism as ‘One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.’
Anyone working in marketing knows that to sell something to the best of their ability they have to really know and believe in the worth of that product. It’s like visiting a travel agent for advice on a holiday. You’re much more likely to choose a destination that the agent can sell you through personal experience. Their personal testimony to the quality, the fun, the ease and the living up to expectation speaks far more than anything they can show you in a brochure. So it’s important to understand that if we are to get anywhere with this discussion on evangelism – on sharing the good news of Salvation, on releasing the handbrake on the Great Commission – we must set our foundation. We must be sure of our own destiny. We must discover (or rediscover) what it means to have ‘eternity’ stamped on our eyeballs, as well as our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), so it is that which we see every day in all we do and with everyone we encounter.
Perhaps what I’m saying here is ringing a little too true. Let me assure you, you are not alone, but if reading this does nothing more than jolt you back to the reality of your Salvation, then I consider its writing worthwhile. General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army is quoted,
‘Most Christian ministries would like to send their recruits to Bible College for five years. I would like to send our recruits to Hell for five minutes. That would do more than anything else to prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry.’
The famous evangelist Charles Finney advised Christians,
‘Look, as though through a telescope and see the misery of the lost and hear their groans; and then look to heaven and see the joys and hear the songs of the redeemed. Then each believer should ask, “Is it possible that I should so prevail with God as to be the means of elevating the lost sinner to that glorious place?”’
Are you sure of your Salvation? Are you spending enough time with the Master? Is the Gospel transforming you and do you understand what you have been saved into and saved from? Only then will you begin to grasp that this is truly and desperately good news, worth sharing.
Father God I pray that you will stir our hearts, that you will turn our passion to the Passion of Christ.
God bless you and keep on keeping on…
(Passion © 2010)