Recently, I was talking with one of our graduate residents about the Easter Sunrise Service at her church. She and the youth group are in charge of planning and execution, and we discussed what the message of the service should be. I was reminded of the end of the Gospel of Mark. My New Testament professor in seminary was a Mark scholar and I learned more about that book than any of the other gospels. She said it is the shortest and the best. Mark seems to be a little less a collection of stories about Jesus woven together and more of an oral tradition that was finally written down. Mark is best studied as a whole so that you get the entire picture. My favorite part is the end (not the longer ending that was added later), but the original ending in chapter 16, verse 8.
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Imagine a group gathered together with the early followers of Christ and hearing this dramatic story—of a carpenter and his band of rag-tag followers who challenged the status quo, taught the ways of love and grace, brought healing and hope to the Jewish people, and died and came back from the dead—that ends with “they said nothing to anyone.” I can imagine the silence that followed and the questions of, “Wait what did she say? They didn’t tell anyone?”
Of course, they told someone. If not, then we wouldn’t be telling the story today. Mark seems to be making a point, though. How could anyone who just learned that Jesus is alive keep it to themselves? Mark is asking if we have told anyone or are we like the women who were afraid.
The CYMT graduate residents are enrolled in Intro to Evangelism with Dr. Janelle Baker. Evangelism is an interesting course in that it combines the history of the evangelical movement with the practice of sharing the Good News. Residents are discussing case studies and exploring what role evangelism will take in their own ministry. Many churches have become insulated and have failed to share the Good News with others.
As we visit the cross and the empty tomb this Lenten season, I have a question and a challenge for you and your church.
When was the last time you shared the Good News of Christ with someone? When was the last time your church shared the Good News with folks outside the congregation? Is it time for your congregation to revisit the lost practice of evangelism?
Our mandate is to share the Good News to the ends of the earth, but most church members will admit that they do not know how to share the Good News. We need some training and modeling so folks can learn, but more than anything we need some practice. Here are three simple ways to practice evangelism:
1. Witness to God
God is at work in the world every day, but many people go through life unaware of God’s presence. Make a habit of recognizing God’s work and pointing it out to those around you. Give God credit for the difference Jesus is making in your life and vocalize that difference. Your testimony will inspire folks to ask about your relationship, which creates space for conversation.
My friend Amanda Drury says that “it is really hard to believe in something that you can’t talk about.”
The best way for youth or others to learn the language is to be immersed in a community that talks about the faith. It is essential testimony to be a part our church’s spiritual disciplines so that we can learn to talk about faith outside the community. Amanda’s new book Saying is Believing is an essential read. For a preview of Amanda’s work, watch her talk from The Summit in 2014.
3. Bring them to Jesus
I used to tell my youth group that part of their job each year to help our youth group grow was to invite half a youth to our ministry this year. Our goal was to grow the youth ministry by 150% each year. They always laughed, but I encouraged them to be like the disciple Andrew who brought folks to Jesus. Simply be like Andrew or the friends of the paralytic and bring someone to Jesus (or to the place where people act like Jesus). At every church I’ve been employed by, this practice worked. Do not try to bring 10 people. Bring one.
How can you and your congregation share the Good News?
They didn’t tell anyone … have you?