When it comes to evangelism, do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Truth be told, you don’t really actually get a choice. Instead, I’m going to assume that every reader of the Weekly SNAC has chosen to hear the bad news first.
So … are you ready? Here comes the bad news …. when it comes to evangelism, the bad news is that evangelism can be hard … very hard. You may remember the book Honest Evangelism that many of our gospel teams read through last year. I think the author’s description of the challenge is spot on:
‘So if you are going to talk to people about Jesus, you are going to get hurt. It is going to sever some relationships. It is going to provoke people. Not every time, and depending on our circumstances, friendship groups, workplaces and so on, our experiences will vary; but we will face rejection enough of the time to give us second thoughts, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like getting hurt. We’re wired to assume that if we’re getting hit, something’s gone wrong. And so whenever I tell someone the gospel message, and get hit (metaphorically speaking), there’s a temptation either to stop saying anything, or to change what I’m saying. I know there’s a painline that needs to be crossed if I tell someone the gospel; but I want to stay [on] the comfortable side of the painline. Of course I do!’ (Pg 15)
Yet this is not an experience unique to our times. In 2 Corinthians 4:1, the apostle Paul is well aware that there is a real temptation to ‘give up’ when it comes to gospel ministry. He writes, ‘Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up.’ In fact, he says exactly the same thing later on in v16, ‘Therefore we do not give up’. Clearly, there was a very real temptation for Paul and the Corinthian Christians to give up on gospel ministry … and in the context of chapter 4, we see this gospel ministry includes evangelism. Evangelism can be hard … very hard.
So what’s the good news? Well funnily enough, do you know where the word ‘evangelism’ comes from? In Mark 1:1, we read ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ However, in the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word behind ‘gospel’ is ευανγελλιον (or euangellion). This Greek word eventually came across to English as evangel which became the root of our word evangelism. Furthermore, if we understand ‘gospel’ as an ‘announcement of good news’, then it follows that evangelism is simply announcing the good news of Jesus Christ.
But how does all this help? Well, as we come to appreciate the wonder of this good news that we’re announcing, it will grow in our hearts a willingness to endure the very real challenges of evangelism. Have a look again at 2 Corinthians 4:1 – it’s ‘because we were shown mercy, we do not give up’. Can I encourage you to spend some time in the week ahead reflecting on what it means to experience the mercy of our God? My prayer is that as we reflect on this incredible ‘good news’, it will completely transform our perspective on the ‘bad news’ of evangelism.