Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Fruitfulness on the Frontline: Messenger of the Gospel

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This one is part seven of an eight-part series, written by a team of us at LICC, to coincide with the launch of new resources – Fruitfulness on the Frontline.

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7

For the early Christians, the term ‘gospel’ came loaded with Old Testament promises of salvation. Isaiah, in particular, declares the ‘good tidings’ of God coming in power, exercising his reign, saving his people, and establishing peace. Indeed, the closing chapters of his prophecy describe how God’s kingly reign will be universal in its scope, embracing all nations, bringing about a new creation. No wonder it’s described as ‘good news’!

Jesus himself understands his ministry as fulfilling the herald of Isaiah, as he reads Isaiah 61:1-2 in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:18-21) and announces the arrival of the era of salvation and peace promised long ago: ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.’ And Paul sees Isaiah’s vision fulfilled in the church’s witness, as we too take our place in a long line of messengers who are ‘sent’ – commissioned to be bearers of God’s good news (Romans 10:15).

Our struggles with personal evangelism often come down to a fear of rejection or the risk of embarrassment or a sense of feeling responsible for an ‘outcome’. However, the gospel is not a product to be peddled, but news to be announced – and we can take confidence that God not only ‘sends’ us but goes with us as we tell others what he has done for the world.

To do so requires being with others, of course, and the New Testament is clear that the opportunities to be a messenger of the gospel occur in the context of everyday life – on our patch, with our neighbours, at our workplace. To be sure, some conversations about faith happen spontaneously – with the taxi driver, or the person sitting next to us on the bus. More often they happen over time when colleagues spot there is something ‘different’ about us as they interact with us on a daily basis at work, or when friends observe how we respond to periods of suffering or moments of celebration.

As such, personal evangelism is not a ‘bolt on’ Christian activity, but is organically connected to the whole of life – a fusion of presence and proclamation, the message of our lips matching the message of our lives – the natural outflowing of who we are in Christ, with the people God brings across our path.

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