When it comes to journalism there has never been any news story that has exceeded the importance and excitement of the one originally announced by the angels out in the field as the shepherds kept watch over their flocks by night!! Good News, at that time, reached and all-time high, and it has never been surpassed. “I bring you Good News of great joy for all people. For to you is born this day in the City of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with that angel a huge number of other angels praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest; peace and good will toward all men.” What amazing news from the very portals of heaven: Christ the Lord born on earth!
And the shepherds had the distinction of becoming the first human publishers of that Good News — spreading the word everywhere of what they had seen and heard. Probably there were many that didn’t take the shepherds seriously, passing them off as silly, rather ignorant herdsmen from the fields. But surely there were others who pondered what they were hearing and also went to the manger in the inn “to see this thing which had come to pass.” We don’t know. But we do know that the angels never came again to announce this news on earth, and that the baton of privilege and responsibility to share this Good News was passed on to others, who eventually passed it on to us. And the question we have to ask at this seasonal time of celebration is: “To what extent do we share in the enthusiasm and this activity of the shepherds — to make this news known everywhere?”
Spreading the Good News, of course, has taken many different forms over the years. Being a child of the Modern Age, with its order and structure, I have often shared the Good News using a form such as, The Four Spiritual Laws, the Roman Road, or Evangelism Explosion. Many people, over the years, have come to put their faith in Jesus through the use of these wonderful evangelism tools. But these forms have largely been passed over by a new Post-Modern generation because they are too structured, too simplistic. Though I believe they can still be useful in various contexts, the modus operandi for sharing the Good News in these days is to talk about Jesus in the context of authentic relationships.
In other words, these days one can’t emphasize enough the importance of building a relationship, of becoming truly incarnational if one is going to be effective in gaining a hearing about the life of Jesus and what it means to trust Him as Saviour and Lord. The danger in the post-modern age, however, is never to really get down to the specifics of what the atonement Gospel is all about and then belief in Jesus becomes somewhat fuzzy. In these circumstances, it is really hard for people to come to a place of assurance of faith since crossing the line of faith (a rather Modern Age idea) is not real clear. Contemporary evangelism tends to emphasize coming to faith and learning to be a disciple of Jesus. (And the danger in that is that the emphasis can easily switch to works instead of understanding what it means to be saved through grace by faith alone — Ephesians 2:8,9).
But the blessing of doing evangelism in these Post-modern times is that the communication of the Gospel is less confrontational, more incarnational. Relationship building can take place in many different ways and in many different contexts and over time can lead easily into sharing the Good News about Jesus as given to us in the Scriptures.
Is there a form of how to share the Gospel today? Not really. But a true sharing of the Good News in these times will probably consist of telling the story of the Christian Gospel — including some reference to God’s creation, the fall of Genesis 3, the story of the Jewish people, the coming of Jesus, His amazing life as the Son of God, and His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. It may often involve inviting people to participate in the life of the community of the people of God. Baptism itself may receive more importance as the point of making a confession of faith. (Once again the danger in this latter expression of faith would be that baptism is not distinguished from something we have “to do” to become a Christian.)
This is a great time in which to be alive and to share the Good News. First and foremost, as believers who wish to do evangelism, we need to genuinely love people and get next to them in all the contexts of our daily lives. We need to be willing to give up our own Christian cultural traditions in order to genuinely connect with people. We need to pray that God will give us grace to say the right thing at the right time in order to gain more of a hearing regarding our faith. We should not be shy about inviting people to participate in the community of God’s people in one way or another. And we need to be prepared to have good biblical answers about the questions that people raise about God and His revelation to us in His Word.
I believe any church can grow in this Post-modern time if it understands the true nature of the Gospel and if its people commit to authentic Christian love and living. People are hungry for community, for significance, and for good answers to the fundamental questions of life. Christmas is a wonderful reminder about the Good News that has been given to us and that we have the privilege of sharing.