When I was a kid, I loved newspapers. I enjoyed reading the news. I was a weird kid, OK? I loved reading the sports section and learning how to read box scores and seeing where my favorite teams were in the standings. I loved good sportswriting, the kind you used to find exclusively in newspapers or Sports Illustrated. When I was in high school, I was on the school newspaper; my senior year, I was the editor of the Boys’ Sports page. I was thisclose to being a journalism major in college. God had other plans. So, I write this now.
When I was in middle school, I had a paper route. I loved newspapers so much I wanted to deliver them to others. And so, every day except Sunday, I would go around my neighborhood with my delivery bag slung over my shoulder and bring the news to everyone on my route. And, yes, I was once attacked by a dog on my paper route. I lived the cliché.
This was mostly a fun job. It was difficult during the school year because I had to come home from school and go right to work to finish the deliveries before my 5 pm deadline. In the newspaper business, even paper boys have deadlines. It was a tough job in the winter because it was cold. And the Saturday papers, with all the ad inserts, were huge and heavy. You might not think newspapers are heavy but try throwing 50 Saturday editions in your delivery bag and carrying those around.
It was my job to deliver the news and deliver it on time. That was it. Even though I worked for the Waukegan News-Sun, it was not my job to write the news or to report the news. It certainly wasn’t my job to make the news—12-year-old boys living in the Chicago suburbs are seldom newsworthy. It was just my job to deliver the news. That’s it.
God’s Paper Carriers
When it comes to evangelism, or sharing the Good News about Jesus with others, we often think of our jobs as bigger than they really are. I am convinced that’s why so many Christians struggle to evangelize. We are not the newswriters—we don’t have to write the Good News. We are not reporters—we don’t have to verify the accounts of the Good News. We are paper carriers. We just bring people the news.
The First Evangelist
In the Bible, in John 1, we see the first time someone tried to share the Good News about Jesus with someone. Philip, one of Jesus disciples, wanted his friend Nathanael to meet Jesus. Nathanael scoffs at Philip when he said that Jesus was from Nazareth—what good could come out of Nazareth, Nathaniel exclaimed. I don’t know what Nazareth did to Nathanael to get that kind of shade.
So Philip runs into a little resistance. And his reply? “Come and see.”
“Come and see.” That’s it. That’s all he said. Nathanael went with him to meet Jesus, and Jesus amazes Nathanael. All Philip had to say was “Come and see.”
He didn’t need the Four Spiritual Laws. He didn’t need the Wordless Book. He didn’t need More than a Carpenter or The Case for Christ. He didn’t even need that one diagram where the cross is a bridge connecting people to God. He didn’t need flannelgraph, he didn’t need video, he didn’t need tracts.
All he needed was Jesus. All he needed to do was an extend an invitation to meet Jesus. Jesus did the rest.
All we need is Jesus. All we need to do is extend invitations to our neighbors. “Hey, come and see Jesus for yourself.” Jesus will do the rest.
How Do We Deliver the Good News?
How do we deliver the Good News? How does this work practically? I think it happens organically. It happens in relationship. Philip was friends with Nathanael. Philip believed that Nathanael would like Jesus if he met Jesus. He introduced two people to each other.
As we live our lives and make acquaintances and friends and neighbors, we meet people who would probably like Jesus if they met him. We know Jesus loves them and would want to be in a relationship with them. All we are doing when we evangelize is introduce two people to each other.
We can share our story about our relationship with Jesus. We can tell stories of answered prayer or overcoming frustrations and difficulties, of how we have seen Jesus at work in our lives. We can ask our neighbors how we might pray for them or we can ask them if they’d like to try praying for themselves. We can invite them to check out a portion of the Bible with you and answer whatever questions they might have (Philip would do this in Acts with the Ethiopian eunuch).
It doesn’t have to be elaborate. We don’t have to “sell” Jesus. We don’t have to give an answer to every possible objection to the Christian faith. We simply share who Jesus is, what he did, and how he wants to save everyone.
It’s Not Our Job to Save People
When I was a paper boy, I had one job: deliver the news. What the people did with the paper after I dropped it on their porch was not up to me. I couldn’t force them to read it and I certainly couldn’t make them understand what they were reading. I couldn’t make them respond to the news with actions. All I could do was deliver it.
When we evangelize, that’s our entire job too. We just deliver the news. We can’t make people understand it. We can’t make people receive it. We can’t make people accept it. Our job is to deliver the Good News. Jesus does the rest.
It can get really frustrating when you share the Gospel and it seems to fall on deaf ears. It can be demoralizing and it can cause you to not want to do it anymore. When I first understood that it wasn’t my job to make people believe the Gospel, it was quite freeing. It’s not my job; it’s God’s job. Only God can save; I can only deliver the news about that salvation. All we can do is what Philip did: extend the invitation to know Jesus. What Nathanael does with that is out of our control but it’s completely within God’s.
Entrusted with the Good News
Paul tells the church in Thessalonica that the Church has been entrusted with the Gospel. We have been entrusted with the Good News just as 12 year-old me was entrusted with the news of the day.
Now, you might think that entrusting something someone has paid for, like the newspaper, to a 12-year-old boy is foolhardy. I agree! I was unreliable and untrustworthy; fortunately for the people on my paper route my mom was none of those things and expected reliability from her son. But if my parents had taken a more hands-off approach to child-rearing, my customers may not have gotten their papers with great regularity.
And it is tempting to think that it is foolhardy for God to entrust the Good News about Jesus to us. We are unreliable! We are untrustworthy! We are easily distracted! Why would God give us the responsibility of delivering the Good News?
Like most of my attempts to understand the divine mind, I fall short here also. I don’t know if I have a good answer to that question. Best guess: because God almost always chooses to act in this world through fallen, fallible people. The heroes of the Bible weren’t really heroes; they were just like us. God uses imperfect people to accomplish his perfect will. And because of this, whenever someone receives the Gospel and chooses to follow Christ, it is clearly God’s work and not ours. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
We have the awesome privilege of delivering the Good News about Jesus. We don’t have to be gifted preachers or great apologists or even particularly bright. All we need is a heart willing to do our job and invite people to “Come and see” Jesus.