By: Dr. Chris J. Hayes
Pastor, Arlington First UMC
As you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, our visit with you wasn’t a waste of time. 2 On the contrary, we had the courage through God to speak God’s good news in spite of a lot of opposition, although we had already suffered and were publicly insulted in Philippi, as you know. 3 Our appeal isn’t based on false information, the wrong motives, or deception. 4 Rather, we have been examined and approved by God to be trusted with the good news, and that’s exactly how we speak. We aren’t trying to please people, but we are trying to please God, who continues to examine our hearts. 5 As you know, we never used flattery, and God is our witness that we didn’t have greedy motives. 6 We didn’t ask for special treatment from people—not from you or from others— 7 although we could have thrown our weight around as Christ’s apostles. Instead, we were gentle with you like a nursing mother caring for her own children. 8 We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much. -- 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
As a young child, the most influential people in my life outside of my immediate family were the pastors and Sunday school teachers at my United Methodist church. Multiple times per week we would enter the church doors and be welcomed with love and grace. Then, we were offered worship and teaching that connected those warm welcomes with the Good News of Jesus Christ. As I’ve reflected on this amazing experience as a child and how it developed me into the person of faith that I am today, I realize that the love and hospitality nor the stories and teachings of scripture would have by themselves produced my relationship with Jesus Christ. The biblical teachings would have simply been good information and teachings, and the love and hospitality would have simply been affirming and kind, but the combination of the two…
Witness and evangelism are the combination of sharing God’s Good News through Jesus Christ and deeply loving another person well enough to build genuine loving relationships with each other. In mathematic terms:
Paul is clear about his evangelistic efforts in the early days of the church. He not only sees it as a trusted responsibility given from God to share with the world, but also an act of love that cannot be separated from the task at hand. Too often, Evangelism in our culture misses one of the fundamental components of the equation focusing only on Good News or loving relationship. There are so many who have been hurt by well-intentioned churches and Christians who either share evangelistically bad news that leads to guilt and/or a negative feeling about God and Christianity, or they forget the loving relationship component that Paul reminds us of in verses seven and eight.
The church must reclaim the Biblical understanding that we have been entrusted with Good News for all people and that the Good News is only understood and accepted when it is combined with a loving and caring relationship that leads us to authentically share our lives with each other (verse 8). The real question for those who wish to be evangelical today is how I can best share the story of God’s Good News through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, while investing my authentic self with community enough to build genuine relationships of care and love? We will never produce fruitful and fulfilled disciples of Christ if we forget either part of the vitally important evangelism equation.
Prayer: Gracious and loving God, help us to be people who are glad to share not only God’s good news with the world but also our very lives because we care so much for all your beloved children. Thank you for the hospitality and grace you offer to us all. In Jesus’ most holy and precious name, we pray. Amen.