Have you ever had a wonderful new experience or come to a fresh new understanding about something and then wanted to share it with someone you cared about? Of course you have. Once for me it was sharing how I learned to prepare fried green tomatoes. Maybe for you it was the California Redwoods you saw on vacation. Or your first day in a new school. Or a painting or a ball game or a concert.
Wouldn't you agree -- whenever we come upon something intriguing or interesting or important to us, we find a way to tell someone? We find a way to get the word out. As Christians this is of greatest importance when we come to our faith. We believe that what God did in sending his only Son Jesus Christ, a part of Himself, to us and our world, to say what He said and do what He did, is the most fantastic event ever to take place in the history of the world.
The story of God's intervention onto this planet for us we call the Gospel. Gospel simply means "Good News." Each of the four accounts of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Bible found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are called Gospels. They are the records of this good news. They are the sharing of eye witnesses and secondary witnesses to Jesus Christ. And when we come into vital contact with Jesus Christ through this Gospel, amazing things happen in our lives.
In short, the Gospel shows us that God loves us and cares for us. In Christ, God has come to reconnect us with God, with ourselves, with one another. What God has done for us, He calls us to share with others. Jesus calls us to go fishing for people. Like those disciples in the boat that day, we are called to put the boats of our lives out into the deep waters and put our nets down anticipating a catch. The big theological word for all this is evangelism.
It is a word that may sometimes puts us off a bit, because we have seen its abuse. But evangelism is a good word. It means announcing good news. An evangelist is one who announces good news. The Presbyterian Book of Order lifts up the importance of evangelism by saying, "God sends the church in the power of the Holy Spirit to call people everywhere to believe in and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and to invite them into the community of faith to worship and serve the triune God."1 That is a good book definition. But the one I like most simply says, "Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread."
I think most of us understand that Christianity is to be shared. Most of us would agree to the high level of importance our faith should have in our lives even if we are not where we want to be with it right now. And we know that Christianity traveled worldwide because somebody told somebody else who told somebody else, and as each person heard, like the person who told them, they trusted the God they had been told about by exercising the gift of faith. We know that is the short answer to how faith spreads.
But when it comes down to where we live, aren't we often reluctant to tell another person about what has come to be so important to us? How many business associates and new neighbors do we welcome to join our book club or golf group, but never mention our church? Maybe sometime we have been talking to somebody at a party about football or politics or nothing in particular and sensed they are struggling in their life, yet say not a word about Jesus Christ. Maybe we are seated on a plane and get into one of those long conversations with our seat-mate and they pour out their soul about their troubles. Yet we do not mention the source of our hope. Maybe we stumble upon someone who needed our kindness and compassion, a good deed for Jesus Christ, but we pass by on the other side.