The Gospel: Too Good Not to Share
This week we listened to an impactful sermon by pastor Kyle Cunningham where he concluded a series on gratitude by talking about how our gratitude for the gospel should compel us to share the good news of Jesus with others.
He began with a powerful modern-day illustration that really stuck with me – the story of Niles Bolen, the Volvo engineer who invented the three-point seatbelt in the late 1950s. Now we take this simple but genius life-saving invention for granted. But initially, Volvo realized the massive implications of Bolen’s seatbelt and decided it was too good not to share with the rest of the automotive industry. Within just a couple years, nearly every car was being built with seatbelts. It’s estimated over 375,000 lives have been saved in the US alone thanks to this freely shared seatbelt technology.
Kyle made the point that when we humans create or discover something valuable, we intuitively want to share it with others. How much more should the gospel of Jesus Christ compel us to share freely with the world? As Kyle said, “the gospel is a bit like a seatbelt, except maybe multiplied by a factor of infinity.” If a simple seatbelt can save our mortal bodies, the message of Jesus offers eternal salvation to our immortal souls.
The Crisis of Evangelism in the West
Yet strangely, Christians, especially in the Western world, are increasingly NOT sharing this glorious news. The statistics on personal evangelism by Christians are sobering:
- 95% of Christians have never led someone to faith in Jesus
- 80% don’t consistently share their faith
- Less than 2% are actively engaged in any kind of evangelism
In my personal circles, I’d say it’s extremely rare to encounter a Christian who actively and regularly shares the gospel message in their day to day life. I think it’s become taboo and politically incorrect in our culture. Plus, church people tend to only have church friends – we live in a Christian bubble.
On top of that, our culture is experiencing rapid secularization. There is a growing sentiment, especially among young people, that evangelism is wrong and intolerant. Pushing your “beliefs” on others is seen as arrogant, ignorant, and unacceptable in today’s pluralistic society.
But Jesus couldn’t be more clear – he explicitly commands his followers in numerous places to go, preach, make disciples, baptize, testify, and proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth. So why has evangelism become the exception rather than the norm?
Personally, I resonate with many of the reasons Kyle brought up: fear of rejection, lack of gospel fluency and Bible knowledge, and lack of non-Christian relationships. Thankfully, vibrant churches are starting to recapture the art of relational, compassionate gospel witness in our communities versus the more aggressive, salesman-like approaches of the past. But overall, global evangelism statistics reveal we have a long way to go, especially reaching secular Western cultures.
Back to the Basics – Understanding the Gospel
I loved how Kyle brought us back to the simple biblical definition of the gospel with an insightful word study analysis in Mark chapter 1. The word “gospel” means “good news” and reminded people in the ancient Greco-Roman world of Caesar’s imperial propaganda. The “good news” heralded the latest Roman military victory and the spread of the Empire.
But Mark introduces a radical, subversive new gospel – the good news of Jesus, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah and Son of God come to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth, just as the prophets foretold. This new gospel confronts and overcomes the false gospels of the competing kingdoms all vying for our allegiance – political parties, new age philosophies, social media, self-help gurus etc.
Kyle explained that the gospel encompasses Jesus’ entire incarnate ministry – his life, death on the cross, resurrection and ascension. All four gospels climax with Christ’s death-defying resurrection, proving his lordship over all Creation and vindicating all his astonishing claims about the Kingdom. In Jesus, God is powerfully and definitively acting in human history to restore fallen humankind and redeem all things under his benevolent rule and reign. That is very good news!
This fits with the common biblical metaphor of God’s kingdom – his effective rule and reign bringing righteousness, justice, peace and joy wherever his writ runs. The gospel declares that King Jesus has come to displace the cruel tyrant rulers and systems of this world and reconstruct Eden’s paradise globally in the power of his Spirit until he returns to consummate his kingdom visibly for all eternity. Hallelujah!
Countless persecuted Chinese and Iranian Christians can testify that discovering and dwelling in God’s empire even now amid suffering and death is the only satisfying way to live. As Jesus said, wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. All the false gospels promising salvation this world offers end in disillusionment, emptiness and death in the end. Only Jesus offers indestructible resurrection life and hope.
Kyle stressed that the gospel encompasses the past inauguration of God’s reign in Christ and our present access by faith to kingdom life as much as the future promise of eternal life when Jesus returns. The invitation of the gospel is to repent – to renounce our self-centered sin and humbly yield to Jesus’ kingship. As well as to believe – to entrust our whole selves and destiny to Christ’s finished work and words as authoritative for life.
When we repent and believe, we begin tasting the spiritual revolution and transformation Jesus unleashed on earth. We join the global, unstoppable movement of redemption he is unfolding through his emerging kingdom community until every enemy, including death, is under his feet. That fill-your-sails vision outstrips any thrills this world can offer.
Compelled to Share
Is it any wonder, then, that despite intense persecution, Christians have evangelized relentlessly for 2000 years with this dangerously subversive message that Jesus, not Caesar or any other ruler, is the world’s true Lord? As Kyle emphasized, the jaw-dropping reality of the gospel has propelled generations of Jesus-followers to reproduce passionate disciples across cultures. The kingdom is simply too good not to share! The breathtaking story of God’s plan to redeem all Creation in Christ has been passed down to us today purely by the thread of evangelism.
But for reasons outlined above, evangelism is on the ropes in our increasingly post-Christian society. While biblical methods of sharing faith must constantly adapt to changing times, Jesus’ global commission has not been revoked. My prayer is that Kyle’s timely message will spark the whole BridgeWay Church community to afresh embrace our identity as gospel-ambassadors of Christ’s kingdom in every sphere of life.
In this Advent season anticipating Jesus’ new world invasion as a helpless babe, may gratitude for God’s infinitely costly rescue plan compel us to broadcast the good news in word and deed all around us. As discipled worshippers, may we overflow with contagious joy as heralds of true liberty, sight and beauty for the blind and oppressed.
I don’t know about you, but I desperately need help embodying Jesus’ heart for the lost in my relational web of family, co-workers and neighbors. What fears or inertia hold me back from scattering the seed of the kingdom? Am I even living under King Jesus’ beloved rule so that it flavors all my days with his hope and care for others?
Let’s encourage each other in grace and truth to make intimate abiding in Christ our highest aim. And outflowing from that communion, to freely share with anyone breathing the resplendent gift we have received. Every prisoner of sin or suffering deserves a chance to see Jesus’ light.