The word evangelism comes from a collection of Greek words rooted in eu-angelos – good-news. The E in the ABCs of evangelism is EU –as in good, but also, as in YOU.
1. It is GOOD news. What followers of Jesus have to share is not a painful confrontation. News in democratic/media culture is often just political wordplay. Christians have tried to play that game with their evangelism a bit, or at least the people I know are deathly afraid they will need to play if they open their mouths. They are scared that as soon as they talk about Jesus, they will need to have good answers for questions on sex, war, right to life, or any of the myriad “issues” that people think people should be talking about if they are being serious. Serious news is, essentially, bad news — or it is at least it is about conflict and likely mayhem. All we followers of Jesus are saying is that a new king is on the throne. It is good news. Things are going to change. There are some politics in that, of course, but it isn’t something we will be voting on. It is just good news. If you have ears to hear, listen.
2. It is GOOD news because it is full of joy. At least I am happy about being saved. Strangely enough, we followers of Jesus need to remind ourselves we are happy, sometimes, so we can keep the good in good news. I wake up in the middle of a conversation sometimes and tell myself, “Don’t let them steal your joy.” For some reason, I can feel obligated to be downhearted, because not being so would violate my friend’s sensibilities. They think the world sucks, so I should, too. My “silly” words about Jesus aren’t making it for them, so I should adapt to their way of handling the mess they are in. It sounds like a simple choice to “don’t worry, be happy” but it is more complex than that. I need to skillfully deploy my joy; but I sure need to hold on to it, regardless.
3. It is GOOD news because it is undermines the ungods. My simple, persistent good newsing is one of the best things I can do, in my finitude, to stay in the fight against the anti-Jesus forces. It is being good. Jesus did not end the war with his resurrection, he began it. Humankind has a chance, now, against the forces bent on their destruction. I think we followers of Jesus think of ourselves as so miniscule, we don’t think that what we say means anything. In these postmodern days when philosophers doubt that words have any lasting value to communicate truth, we get a lot of encouragement to take ourselves lightly. But the way God sees it, we are very important to his cause. Our lives tell a story and we tell the story of our lives. It is a re-telling of THE story of life. The process opens up the possibility for more people to get in on what Jesus has done.
4. Which brings me to my main point: It is GOOD news because it is you. You put the EU in good news. As soon as I wrote that, I got the feeling that someone was saying, “Oh brother.” But I am sticking with it. Thinking we are not good thwarts evangelism. You have to be saved to tell a salvation story, obviously. If we can’t confidently stand before God in his grace, knowing we have been forgiven, rescued, and welcomed into the kingdom, where we live, now – then that’s an issue. If, when we open our mouths to speak a good word for Jesus, we are worried about how good we are at it, if we don’t trust Jesus to take our capabilities and multiply them – that’s an issue, too. But if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, that is enough faith, Jesus says. We are good enough, and Jesus is good in us.
I have been talking about the ABCs of evangelism in an attempt to normalize the E word a bit. I think we need to think about it more and figure out how we can practice it, in our own way. I was really motivated to speak up when I picked up Guy Kawasaki’s book and found out he called himself an “Apple evangelist.” What with the Christians scared to use the word and the marketers stealing it, I was afraid we would lose it altogether. But the family business is still the redemption of the world. We need to at least learn our ABCs – all of us.