Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

Part 7 of series: The Mission of God and the Missional Church
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Like Jesus, we have been sent to proclaim the good news. In addition to telling His disciples to wait for the Spirit to empower them, Jesus explained what the Spirit’s power would accomplish:

When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Even as the Spirit came upon Jesus in His baptism to anoint Him for preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, so the Spirit empowers us to spread the good news about Jesus. Notice that the content of our good news is a revised version of Jesus’s own message. Whereas He proclaimed the coming of God’s reign, we bear witness to Jesus Himself, to what He accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection. We have the privilege of announcing to people that Jesus died for their sins so that they might be reconciled to God and therefore live forever under God’s reign, both in this life and in the life to come. Our good news is more than: “You can go to heaven when you die.” It is “You can be reconciled to God right now. You can begin to experience true fellowship with the God by living under God’s reign because of what Jesus has done for you” (see 2 Cor 5:16-21).
The language of the kingdom of God, so embedded within Jewish culture and Old Testament theology, can easily confuse us today. But this is nothing new. It was also confusing for non-Jewish people in the Roman world, the very people to whom Jesus sent His disciples with the good news. Therefore, the early Christians developed other ways to communicate the gospel so that their hearers might understand and respond in faith. Rather than announcing that the kingdom of God had come through Jesus, they proclaimed Him as Savior and Lord. The salvation and sovereignty of God’s kingdom was now expressed with emphasis upon the salvation and sovereignty of Jesus. Same basic reality – new language!
This modified language, which also has its roots in the Old Testament, retains its power in our world today. Most of us became Christians because we realized that we needed Jesus to be our Savior, the one who delivers us from our sins and reconciles us with God. By trusting in Jesus, we also accepted Him as Lord, the rightful ruler of our lives. Thus, through embracing Christ as Savior and Lord, we were reconciled to God and entered into the kingdom of God as His subjects, even if we had not yet heard those precise words. (Picture to the right and below: The television characters of the Lone Ranger and Tonto)
In American culture, the good news of Jesus as Lord and Savior has lost some of its original meaning. One of the most powerful cultural forces in our country is individualism. We glorify the “rugged individualism” of our heroes, Lone Rangers who defeat the forces of evil all by themselves. (Though even the so-called Lone Ranger had his Indian companion Tonto! But think of more recent heroes such as Rambo.) When the message Jesus as Lord and Savior gets pressed through the image of individualism, the result is a partial gospel: Jesus died for my sins so I can have a relationship with Him and go to heaven when I die. Now this is true, but not complete. Jesus also died for the sins of the world. And God’s intention is not just to get us to heaven individually, but to form us into a transformed community that will be used by God to help transform this world.
Thus, many Christians today are discovering that the gospel of the kingdom of God communicates more fully in our culture. It calls us, not only to personal faith in Jesus, but also to be part of His kingdom community and to join Him in His work of recreating the world.
Other Christians maintain the central message of Jesus as Savior and Lord, but make sure these terms retain their original, biblical flavor. Jesus as Savior not only saves individuals for life after death, but also is bringing wholeness to people, families, societies, and the whole world. Similarly, Jesus is not only my personal Lord, but also the Lord of the World, the One before whom every knee will one day bow. Thus the good news of Jesus matters, not just to individual souls, but to families, businesses, churches, and even nations.

Part 8 of series: The Mission of God and the Missional Church
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In my last post in this series, I began to explain how Jesus has sent His followers into the world to proclaim the good news. This is one main reason He has filled us with His Holy Spirit. Traditionally, Christians describe this task by the word “evangelism,” an English version the Greek verb that means “to tell good news.” But something gets lost in translation for many of us, since the word “evangelism” can fill us with dread rather than joy. The idea of “proclaiming good news” or “evangelizing” conjures up images that don’t fit most of us, and terrify many of us. We may picture Billy Graham preaching to crowded stadiums. Or we may envision the rainbow-haired man at the Super Bowl, holding up a placard with “John 3:16” emblazoned upon it. Or we may fear that sharing Christ with others requires us to approach strangers, no matter how shy we may be. (Picture to right: Rollen Stewart, the original “rainbow-hair” evangelist.)
Unquestionably, God calls certain Christians to special ministries of evangelism. I am eternally grateful for the work of Billy Graham, whose preaching led me to faith in Christ. But I am not called to be Billy Graham, and neither are you, I’d imagine. You and I are called, however, to tell the good news of Jesus in a way that reflects our talents, personalities, and spiritual endowments.
How shall we do this? In fact it’s much simpler and less scary than it might seem. Are you ready for one key to proclaiming the good news of Jesus? Here is it: Just be honest! Or, as my mother used to say to me, just be yourself! Talking with people about Jesus doesn’t depend upon your mastery of a sales pitch. In fact, the less you “sell” Jesus the better. But as you honestly share your life, your convictions, your hopes, even your doubts and fears, with those around you, the good news will inevitably and naturally emerge.
I think, for example, of a college friend named Lance. He was a brand new Christian when I met him in my dorm at Harvard. Lance was a brilliant engineer, but not especially adept at verbal communication. In fact, he was rather shy and awkward. But Lance simply talked about his faith as if it were a normal part of his life. Imagine that! If he was on his way to a Bible study and a roommate asked, “Where’re you going?” Lance would tell the truth. Unlike some of us, he wouldn’t try to hide his Christian activity by saying, “Oh, I’m off to some meeting” and leave it at that. Nor would he use his roommate’s question as invitation to start preaching, “I’m going to a Bible study and so should you, unless you want to burn in Hell.” Rather, Lance would simply say, “I’m on my way to a Bible study.” Before long, his roommate would ask why he went to the study. Again, Lance would be honest: “Because I am a Christian and I want to know more about the Bible.” Pretty soon Lance and his roommate would be talking comfortably about Christ – no hype, no salesmanship, no terror, just honest communication. All of this could have happened, of course, with mere human ability. But remember that Lance was also empowered by the Holy Spirit, who gave him courage and helped him to speak truly about Jesus.
When we realize that “proclaiming the good news” doesn’t require us to do something that terrorizes us, but merely to be honest, many of the barriers to personal evangelism fall down. But I find many Christians hesitant to share their faith in Christ for two additional reasons. I’ll address those in my next post in this series.

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