This Sunday we started our study through the book of Mark called The Good News. The title, along with our series vision, comes from Mark's own purpose statement for what he intended to do with this writing in chapter 1:1, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." The gospel (whether we write it with a small "g" referring to the message we proclaim to others, or a big "G" referring to the four inspired accounts of Jesus' life) is simply the good news of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection.
As good news, the gospel must be proclaimed. Our series vision is simple, "NOW is the time to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." But how often have you thought of using one of the four Gospels to do this?
Often we want to reduce the gospel to its lowest common denominator. Perhaps we learned one time to create and practice our "elevator-pitch" gospel presentation in two minutes or less. This can be a helpful exercise for ensuring we know the gospel well and can communicate it in its simplest terms. But what if we actually had more time? What if a follow-up opportunity presented itself to really dig into Jesus' life with someone? What if we encountered someone who knew about Jesus but didn't really know and love him personally?
Could it be that any of the four Gospels could actually be used as a long-form presentation of the gospel? I would suggest that is one of the reasons they were written: to capture the oral tradition of the gospel that had been passed down for decades.
How might this look?
You are having a conversation with your neighbor and you find an opportunity to mention how Jesus changed your life in some way.
They to connect with your statement:
Neighbor: [nervously] "Oh yeah, Jesus… I mean, I believe in Jesus”
(OR “Jesus, whose that???)
You: “Have you ever taken time getting to know Jesus?”
Neighbor: [confused] “No, that sounds weird.”
You: “I know, but would you want to get to know Jesus if you could?”
Neighbor: [indifferent] “Sure, I guess.”
You: “Would you be willing to read the Gospel of Mark and discuss it with me?”
Neighbor: [slightly reluctant, but also intrigued] “Yes, I would like that.”
You: Great, I'll email you a copy [or text you a link] to that tonight and give you some things to think about as you read.
You print, email, or text them a link to the "Mark Challenge" reading plan from Christianity Explored (also accessible from our Mark resource page). In the body of your email or text, you write something like this:
"Here’s that reading plan I mentioned that will guide you to read just a little bit of the book of Mark every day. It tells you how to find the chapter and verses in the instructions in the top right corner of the page. I want to challenge you to read and keep a piece of paper or a journal nearby to write down a few thoughts. Let's get together in two weeks and discuss whatever you've read so far. As you read, write down answers to these three questions as you read each day:
1) Who is Jesus?
2) What has Jesus done?
3) What difference does that make?
Let me know when you might be able to get together. I'm praying for you!"
After you send your email, pray until the time you get together. When you get back together in two weeks, discuss what they have read. It doesn't matter how far they got as long as they are still reading and still discussing with you. Get together as often as the Lord still appears to be working.
Let them set the agenda for what you will discuss, and ask what they have been writing down in answer to those three questions. Listen to the things they have found interesting and the questions they have. Use their observations to point out the significance of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Point out how Jesus saves us from the shame, guilt, and fear. Demonstrate his victory over Satan, sin, and death. Use what you learned in these sermons to point them to explain the good news from every part of Mark’s gospel.
Now maybe you are thinking, “No way. No way anyone is going to want to read the Bible and talk about Jesus with me." But I’ve used this "Mark Challenge" a few times, and I haven’t had anyone turn me down yet. The worst they can say is, “No!”
If they don't want to read with you, then you just know that the Lord isn’t drawing them in this way at this time, and you simply say, "OK, well if you ever want to, let me know." That’s it. You remain a faithful and loving presence in their life. You keep talking about Jesus as the opportunity presents itself. You pray, and you wait.
And if they say “Yes,” then you can trust that God will lead you and give you the words to say when you need them. His word will not return void.
So many people in our local area think they know who Jesus is, but they’ve never really explored his gospel for themselves. They need to be confronted with the reality of who he is so that they can get to know and love him too.
Whether it is Mark's Gospel, or another part of the scriptures, use the word of God to do the work of God in the power of the Spirit of God.