I love the movie Braveheart. I remember the chills I felt when I first watched William Wallace rally his Scottish warriors, and how instead of begging for mercy from his torturers, he shouts “FREEDOM!”
Good stories captivate our hearts and minds. We enter in, waiting expectantly for what happens next. There is nothing like experiencing a well-told story for the first time.
Our church has recently been talking about ways we can share the story of our faith and hope in a way that our neighbors understand. Often, it’s hard to know where to start because there seems to be so little framework for the gospel in the hearts and minds of our friends.
Many of my friends don't think about any greater purpose beyond their horizontal, person-to-person relationships. Some live simply to make it through their kids’ sports schedules in any given week. Others do value real conversation and connection and will spend time and effort to pursue those things. And another set of friends even recognizes our cultural problems with individualism, isolation and anxiety.
But I haven’t met anyone who is thinking that our felt needs have a transcendent solution. The types of remedies we naturally come to at the pub or on the sidelines usually have no reference to God, the divine, or any greater purpose for our lives.
This feature of our culture is described really well in a book we’ve been reading, Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice, a pastor at All Souls Church in London. Tice addresses the challenges we face in trying to share the gospel.
It's not just how Tice so clearly understands our culture that's been so encouraging about the book. Tice also reminds me that the Gospel story, the Holy Spirit, and incarnation have always broken through in tough environments like ours.
Maybe this is the first time in human history that a large swath of us (it feels like all of us in Newton!) deny all things transcendent, but at the end of the day, it's just another form of unbelief. And unbelief doesn't stand a chance against the power of the Gospel, applied by the Holy Spirit. As Tice says, our job isn't conversion, but testimony. We tell our story and stand back and watch God work. I need this reminder.
As we approach the Advent season, I would like to encourage you to do something to remind yourself of the story of the gospel. Sit down with a mug of your favorite beverage and read the book of Mark as a story, straight through. Returning to this Story—the Story that shapes all other stories—is a great way to remind ourselves of both the simplicity and the power of the gospel in our lives and for our city.
Once you have read the book of Mark again, read it with a friend. For many of my friends, it will be the first portion of the Bible they have ever read. It will be the first time they have encountered Jesus. This excites me. I am praying that as my friends encounter Jesus for the first time, my own encounter would be refreshed, and renewed. I need this too.
If you do read Mark with a friend, let’s plan to gather together in a couple months and share what happened. Because there is nothing like experiencing a well-told story for the first time.
Listen to Bradley's talk from our All Church Gathering in November “Mapping our Cultural Moment: How Understanding Our Culture Shapes The Form of our Evangelism."
Bradley Barnes and his family live in Newton, where they planted CTK Newton in 2010.