And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.Mark 16:15 (NLT)
How often have you heard pastors preach on the Great Commission? Or heard other people in church speak about the importance of effective evangelism? Of not being ashamed of the gospel, and being ready to share your testimony?
Go out and make disciples of all nations, they cry! Tell everyone you meet about this Good News, about what Christ has done for them and for you! Take every opportunity to tell the world, tell someone, tell anyone, how good it is to be a Christian!
But what does it really mean to “share the Good News”? What was Christ really asking of his disciples, and what is he really asking of us?
The “Three Minute
Sales Pitch Testimony”
Have you come across this idea in evangelical circles of having a prepared, practised, “three minute testimony”? Something you can spout out and recite on command whenever required, whenever an opening presents itself?
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that preparing such an account is without merit. It’s a great exercise for our own spiritual growth to think about and write down an honest, concise description of why you’re a Christian. It’s helpful to clarify what your spirituality actually means to you, and what experiences have led you to hold your current set of beliefs.
The problem arises not with giving an authentic account of our faith, but with transforming it into some kind of marketing spiel. Such speeches tend to fall on deaf ears. Worse, they do harm, because it becomes apparent in the delivery that the speaker doesn’t actually care about their audience. They only see them as a potential sale for this “gospel” they’re advertising.
A better testimony: Listen and love
By all means, share honestly and vulnerably what Christ has done for you. But be careful your testimony doesn’t come across as a weapon, designed to manipulate or to shame. That was never the intention of the Great Commission.
In our last post, we saw how instead of jumping into trying to “fix things”, the example set by Christ is to love first. And just as Jesus grieved with Mary and Martha before raising Lazarus, so too we should sit with a person and love them before trying to “sell” them our idea of salvation.
How can we know what “salvation” is for a person, if we haven’t taken the time to find out what they need saving from? How can we preach the “good news” to someone, if we haven’t listened to them enough to know their needs? Reducing the Gospel to a one-size-fits-all marketing message is dehumanising. It dehumanises those we deliver it to, who are individuals with their own unique hurts and desires, worthy of being known and heard. It dehumanises us, too! You’re worth more to Jesus than the slickness of your three minute testimony and your ability to market it well. And it cheapens the actual good news of Christ, which says that each one of us is loved and valued for who we are.
Remember that good news looks different to each person. So let’s not be blind to someone’s unique situation in the rush to tell our practised story. If you really want to bring someone good news, first love them enough to know what “good news” means to them.
- Who am I? The quest to understand our identity
- Angry prayers: when our praying isn’t pretty
- What does it mean to love as God loves us?