Life from the Missional Web

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By:  Rev. Shannon Youell 

Donning rain coats and boots, my husband and I went on a rainy day guided hike in one of our local parks boasting old-growth 800-year-old Douglas Fir, a multitude of resident creatures and an incredible diversity of understory plants. Our focus was on mushrooms – Marvelous Mushrooms as the hike was titled.  We expected to learn and identify mushrooms but this was so much more. We discovered mycelium!             

Mycelium, a vast network of fungal threads, are something like the root and digestive systems of the mushrooms.   These networks are what is going on underneath the top layer of soil. They are formed from the mushroom’s mycelium, a web like network that makes its way beneath the forest floor connecting to other lifeforms.  What we see on the surface and recognize as mushrooms are the fruit of the fungi.  

Surprised as we were by that discovery, it was the symbiotic relationship the mycelium has with the forest trees that brings Marvelous Mushrooms to this blog.  Called mycorrhiza, this under the surface relationship is crucial to the health of the trees and of the forest ecosystem and of course for the support of the mushrooms themselves.

The short version is that mycorrhiza from the mycelium weave around the underground roots of trees to nourish and protect them.  They help trees absorb their needed nutrients and helps to protect them from absorbing toxins that could affect the health of the tree.  Mycorrhiza also connect trees in the forest, via the mycelium web network, to one another and help the trees sense when one of their ‘community’ is struggling.  Once those ‘sensors’ are triggered, healthy trees will divert their own nutrients to help the struggling trees, even trees of different species.  Current research being done at the University of British Columbia has discovered that these ‘connections’ go even deeper: ‘mother’ trees, through the web, can detect when one of their own ‘baby’ trees is struggling and divert energy and nutrients to help foster their growth.  They will prioritize the nurture of their ‘own’ over another tree! 

My apologies to any mycologists out there, I am just learning and excited to learn more about how all life is connected.   

Let me get into more familiar territory.  What do mushrooms and their ‘web’ have to do with how followers of Jesus, and specifically communities of followers of Jesus, participate in the support and nurture of one another’s communities?

This blog has often touted the benefit of partnerships for the establishment of new expressions of the gospel in our communities.  Both past and current plants are the beneficiaries of partnerships with already established churches (small and large), and in fact, those partnerships are necessary to nurture those plants and crucial for their ability to grow into healthy gospel communities of their own. We also encourage symbiotic relationships in these partnerships – a flow back and forth as needed for the health and discipleship of both communities. 

We need more of these symbiotic relationships as an eco-system for all our churches. Would more of our existing churches be willing to risk planting new expressions of the gospel if they knew they would not be on their own but supported by the ‘underground network’, communities of Christ ‘mycorrhiza’? Can we operate as an eco-system of communities even while distant from one another, so that we naturally respond to the struggle’s others are having, diverting some of our own energy and nutrients to support them?  If Jesus were talking to nature folk rather than agrarian folk, would he have told the Parable of the Mycorrhiza?  The kingdom of God is like……? 

I think of this in supporting gospel communities both new and existing. How might we, as our vast geographical network of churches, live symbiotically, nurturing one another for the health of the whole.   Can we be more active and involved in the health of one another’s communities in our common mission of joining God in his work of revealing the Good News wherever we live, work, play and pray?  Think about it.  (Paul writes about it in 2Cor 8)

There are new communities right now that you can nurture and encourage by your connections with them.  Contact me at syouell@cbwc.ca for how you can join the web of life that connects all of us to God’s creation and to God’s mission in and to this amazingly interconnected and interdependent world he created.    

Joining God in His work: Evangelism

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By: Rev. Shannon Youell

Here we are talking about that scary word “evangelism” again.  CT News and Reporting, writes about a recently released report on the state of evangelism in our Canadian churches.  The survey was conducted by Alpha Canada and Flourishing Congregations.  The majority of churches that responded were evangelical churches.  The results may or may not surprise you.  A whopping 65% of respondents revealed that evangelism is not a high priority for them in their churches.   Read the full article HERE 

Some of you might find that surprising and some, like myself, just nod our heads. I have lamented often that many Christians are unequipped or unlikely to talk to others about their faith in God and, in particular, Christianity. Please note I am referring to ‘unlikely’ as something that happens outside the church walls – we are much bolder when we evangelize one another within the parameters of the church. 

Add to that our own general discomfort around sharing a prescriptive route to salvation that can be viewed as an intellectual nod or irrelevant to peoples lived experiences, and we can see the complexities that have led to a lack of evangelistic enthusiasm in our churches and in our own selves. 

I may lament, but I also recognize that I can be reluctant to initiate conversations around Christianity myself. Not because I think the gospel of God’s kingdom is lame, or powerless, or ineffective. I believe that when humans grasp the immense implications of God-With-Us, it has the potential to transform our hearts, minds, and how we engage in life and relationships. 

Rather, my reluctance comes from the rhetoric that there is a general mistrust directed towards Christians, and thus our God, based on abuses of power and control that have plagued Christianity putting deep shadows that cloud its life giving message of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness of sin, and inclusion of the least, the last, the lost and the lonely.  

I suspect part of our reluctance stems from our own truncated understanding of evangelism, God’s mission to the world, and how the church should equip us to evangelize.  Writer Jeff Banman explores this in his article published in Scot McKnight’s blog space, Jesus Creed.  Jeff points out that Paul himself, while being a beneficiary of the Great Commission, never instructed the churches to ‘train’ the people in evangelism in any of his letters: 

“Paul is not interested in training his churches on how to initiate gospel conversations with their friends and family, nor is he concerned with teaching them how to present the four spiritual laws to a passerby on the street. Paul’s vision of evangelism does not look like ours. Instead of gospel tracts handed out on the street corner, Paul envisages his churches living out the gospel in such a powerful way that their lives and the life of the local church becomes the gospel tract itself!” 

Jeff concludes his article by saying: “Paul’s words to Titus concisely portray his vision of evangelism. As followers of Jesus, we will live our lives in such a way that we “will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10).” 

His perspective should cause us to ask the question:  In what ways do we, and I, live our lives that “will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive”?  If people shun Christianity as the way, truth and life, of good news itself, in what ways have we and I, and thus the church, portrayed God’s kingdom and his love for the world?   

This is not a simple thing to answer. Whether we realize it or not, by the very nature of identifying as Christians, we, you, are evangelizing the world around us. How I navigate my own life, struggles, behaviors, and attitudes, and how I treat others, communicates to the world what I believe about following Jesus.  

Rather than becoming defensive about the perceptions that some (many?) hold of the Church and Christians in general, let’s instead be responsive by looking at our own selves first and honestly acknowledging where we, and I, miss the mark in communicating (evangelism means ‘to communicate’) God’s kingdom good news story in how we live, work, play and pray.  

Ultimately, this is where we all begin to join God in his work, by inviting God to work also in us.

Wise Evangelism” by Jeff Banman used by permission via Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed Blog). 

“Tell me about this Jesus character!”

By Shannon Youell

A recent article in my newspaper last week was of a small local business who makes awnings for outdoor areas. They can’t keep up! Sales are breaking every yearly record they can remember.  Another article on the same day highlighted that there is huge supply demand on home appliances and shortages are beginning to be felt.   

A third story, in a Toronto newspaper, featured another small business that is also seeing unprecedented sales and interest in her products: crystals, tarot cards and other paraphernalia related to forms of seeking spirituality. The owner attributes to the increased desire of people during this time to seek answers and deeper meaning of life and living, and they are turning to spiritual things. 

This shouldn’t be any surprising news to us, the church. We have long known and incorporated deeper meaning conversations as a means to be able to speak God-life into people’s situations and circumstances. People really are asking good questions. One pastor I know said people are literally walking in their front door saying to him, “tell me about this Jesus character!” 

Yet, over the past 6 months—and indeed especially now as the days get darker and colder—we’ve had to drastically alter the way that we have been able to offer hospitality and neighbourliness so we can have these conversations. What hasn’t changed, however, is our need to be able to understand our own faith in order to articulate the reality of the Gospel if and when our neighbours begin to ask about our “questionable lives” (Michael Frost and 1 Peter 3:15). 

So in this time of waiting and watching, let’s take the opportunity to reflect on how good and how big this Good News really is in our lives. 

Check out this webinar from Trevor Hudson and Carolyn Arends at Renovaré about “Finding Good Words to Share the Good News.” You may find some of their advice around suffering particularly timely in the midst of COVID as well—definitely an hour well spent.

What was helpful? What was hard to hear? Share your comments with us!

Ethnic Churches are Sent

By Shannon Youell

Most of us love hearing stories of missionaries who have brought the Good News of Jesus as King–the King who brings the salvation of God’s kingdom now breaking into human reality to those who have followed other gods or not known God in any form or shape. The church has done a good and faithful job of bringing this news to most of the world. Stories of new faith and new communities brings us all new life and hope and energy.

When I was teaching in churches and discipleship schools in India, I had hours of “car” time with some of the pastors whose churches and schools I was teaching (Canada, quit complaining about traffic – it is insane in Mumbai!). Many of them asked why the church in Canada was declining and faithfulness to God was becoming a private pursuit when it was faithful Canadian missionaries who brought the gospel to much of India. My quip back was that perhaps their church needed to begin sending us missionaries to reignite our passion to be faithfully present where we are and to share the Gospel with our neighbours.

For years the pray-ers in Canadian churches have been praying for God to revive us, to reignite our passion for God’s mission, and to breathe new life on us. And we are seeing new life coming to us as God sends us the nations.

At Assembly 2019, CBWC welcomed into full membership four new churches: three Filipino and one Iranian church. Almost all our other plants in process are ethnically based – Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Karen, Kachin, African. We should take note of this….God is actually sending missionaries to Canada! And they are planting churches here.  

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Welcoming new churches into the family

There is two-fold purpose behind their plants: the first is that first generation new Canadians long to worship God in their ‘heart’ language, just as we do. The second is that when Christ followers come, they recognize there are many from their own lands that have not settled into communities of faith, are not following Christ, not engaged in a faith community and in true missionary fashion, they want to share Jesus with those folk. 

There are many conversations around what this trend means, but I think the pertinent point is that God is doing ‘something’. These communities are exciting us with their stories of folk coming to Jesus, in their devotion to gathering, to intentional missional discipleship, to sharing Jesus boldly and courageously wherever they find themselves. Perhaps they are the ‘wake-up’ call our complacent, contemplatively established churches need, to help re-excite us to the reality that Good News is still Good News for the world. 

The question is how do the second and third generations, who will be English speaking and whose culture will now be predominantly Canadian, stay engaged? How does the existing church begin to be a place where ethnic diversity truly has a place?

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in his book Future Faith, tells us that when non-Caucasian people go to a church where all the leaders are of one ethnicity, they do not see a place for themselves. Our churches themselves are not ethnically diverse. The existing churches that are growing the most are those that have multi-ethnic staffs of both males and females. The interesting piece of his research is that the other ethnic leaders do not even have to be of the same ethnicity as the person seeking to join a church – they just have to be non-Caucasian!

The other important note I want to comment on is something that a Korean pastor of a Vancouver church said in a church catalyst meeting: multi-cultural is not the same as multi-ethnic: multi-cultural means that there is a diversity of cultures and the expressions of faith and worship of those cultures are reflected in the gathering and scattering times. Our warm welcome of all people assumes they will worship, reflect, pray, and minister like our dominant culture does, which would make us multi-ethnic but not multi-cultural.

This is an important distinction to make as our new-Canadian church plants move to the second and third generations who will be looking for multi-cultural expressions of faith to stay engaged in church life. Canada’s young people are growing up in a diverse world and they too will gravitate towards diverse expressions of faith and community. We should be right beside them opening the pathways.

I would like to say this is a near-future challenge for us and for our new churches, but we are past that. This is our challenge now and it would certainly appear as though God is sending the world to us to help us engage together in a place of all nations gathered together, worshiping and serving our God and our King.

Living Like Citizens

By Cailey Morgan

What does it mean to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom?

We’re in the middle of a series on Gospel, Kingdom and Justice. In some ways, Gospel is the biggest picture—the story of God with us throughout history and the reality that He is for all who will receive Him. Kingdom zooms in a little to explain that God is King, so living out the Gospel (aka, living in His presence with Him) means we are citizens of His Kingdom: the realm in which what God wants done gets done.

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In coming articles we will dive into Justice—an even sharper focus on one of the key ways that the Good News of the Kingdom is enacted on earth and in heaven. But today, let’s look at one of the ways the Tangible Kingdom Primer describes God’s Kingdom on earth:

“We believe that whenever you see a group of people who find a rhythm or balance among communion, community and mission, you will always find the Kingdom. It will be tangible!”i

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Communion represents ‘oneness’—those things that make up our intimate connection and worship of God. Community represents aspects of ‘togetherness’—those things we share with each other as we live our lives together. And mission represents ‘otherness’—the aspects of our life together that focus on people outside our community.”ii

I can quickly give mental assent to this description of the Kingdom. It’s chock-full of missional-incarnational-community language that I’ve been steeped in as an apprentice of Cam Roxburgh over the years. But a life of communion, community and mission—living as a citizen of King Jesus’ realm—is not just a proposition I give a nod to, or a neat box for explaining a spiritual truth.

Choosing citizenship means action. It means intentionally striding toward the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). And it means shedding all other attachments and allegiances in order to squeeze through that hole in the wall.

The authors of the TK Primer explain it this way:

“Nothing good ever comes easy. For sure, nothing of God’s Kingdom comes without resistance from our personal kingdoms or the world’s kingdom. Nothing of the Spirit of God comes without a good ol’ fashioned bar fight from our flesh….

God’s ways are natural, but they aren’t easy—especially at first. New ways of life must be formed in us through hours, days, and years of intentional practice. The future of your own faith and the incarnational presence of your community is ultimately about letting the Spirit of God re-orient everything about you.”iii

A Picture of Citizenship
This citizenship process is difficult, but not impossible. In Acts 2, we get a clear and beautiful glimpse of what happens when God’s people surrender to His Spirit and His Kingdom way; the Good News that God offers Himself to all is proven when He empowers those who say yes to respond by offering their all.

 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:37-47).

The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Wow. Yes please, Lord! So how does the Kingdom advance in this passage? Notice what begins to happen when hearers of the Good News let the Gospel take over in their own lives. It infiltrates every area of their devotion and action, and soon other people start to notice. And then those other people begin to surrender their all to living in the Good News of the Kingdom and the Spirit-led cycle continues.

Peter shows us the need for clear preaching and admonition, but this movement exploded because people believed what he said about Jesus with not only their minds, but their hearts and voices and wallets and calendars and homes and refrigerators. That’s evangelism.

Devoted. Everyday. Everyone. Everything.
I’ve read and prayed through this passage so many times over the years because it’s this type of abundant life that I covet for my family and my church and my neighbourhood. But when I opened again to Acts 2 the other day, God’s Spirit nudged me to consider whether I myself am living as a devoted citizen of God’s Kingdom. The conversation went like this:

Spirit: “All the believers were together.”

Cailey: “You mean, like, in the-same-place-spending-time-together type of together? Or emotionally together—like a shared purpose?”

Spirit: “All the believers were together. Every day they continued to meet together.”

Cailey: “I can dig it! With a few people. I’m kind of introverted, as you obviously know.”

Spirit: “All the believers were together.”

Cailey: “Like, the ones I get along with?”

Spirit: “Nope. All.”

Cailey: “How about the ones I know I can trust?”

Spirit: “Nope. All. Trust Me.”

Cailey: “How about the ones who have the same core value statements?”

Spirit:  “They had everything in common.”

Cailey: “You mean like they lent each other their stuff?”

Spirit: “Yes. And they shared their pain. And their joy. And their love for the place where I planted them. That’s why they sold property to give to anyone as they had need.”

Cailey: “As in, when they could afford it they gave offerings to support people who were trying to get back on their feet.”

Spirit: “No. I mean they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”

Cailey: “What if they don’t deserve it?”

Spirit: “What do you deserve?”

Cailey: “Touché, Lord. But what if they misuse the gift?”

Spirit: “If you’re asking that question, it wasn’t a gift.”

Cailey: “I don’t think I can do this.”

Spirit: “That’s why you have them! And Me!”

The Gospel news of God’s presence, His reign, and His constant, all-out search has been the reality since the beginning of time and is the reality today. Yes, one day we will have fully-realized heavenly life when the darkness of sin and separation from God no longer seeks to block out the warmth and light of Christ and the radiance of His Bride (us living together in the unity of the Spirit). But the Kingdom is already among us, as Jesus declared and His people have been declaring for twenty centuries.

When we—the citizens of that Kingdom—submit ourselves to the reign of the King, aligning our will with His, our very lives will point to this Good News, and our “evangelistic” declaration of truth will no longer be a hollow and awkward statement of beliefs, but a simple and natural explanation of why and how our lives are marked with contagious and brilliant Light. Sounds like good news to me!

Next week, we’ll jump into Advent by taking a look at some of the Old Testament promises and prophecies about Jesus, and the strong thread of a Kingdom of Justice that winds its way throughout history and Jesus’ teachings while He was here on earth.


i. Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer: An Eight-Week Guide to Incarnational Community (CRM Empowering Leaders: 2009): 202.

ii. Graphic and quote from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer: An Eight-Week Guide to Incarnational Community (CRM Empowering Leaders: 2009): 201

iii. Ibid: viii.

My Gospel Questionnaire Part 2: What’s Good News to You?

By Shannon Youell

When I pick up my newspaper at end of my driveway each morning, I walk back glancing at the headlines to see what catches my attention the most. Those are the stories I want to read first. What is the story underneath the headline?

Were I to pick up my newspaper and see the headline: “Good News! Becky Morgan found her lost hamster,” I would think, “well that’s nice.” And indeed, it is good news for Becky. But it doesn’t affect how I approach the rest of my day, let alone my tomorrows.

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Or how about the headline this summer announcing that Canada had just purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline? That was good news for some, but not such good news for others who opposed it.

However, if the headline read that scientists had discovered the cure to eradicate all cancer, this would indeed be good news for many—if not all—of us. This story changes everything in regards to the ravishing of these diseases. This news gives hope for those who have the disease and relief for those who may find themselves or their loved ones in this place in the future.

Good news is something that has happened that impacts what is happening to them/around them, and will change what is yet to happen.

The Good News of God’s “Is-ness”
Those of us who have heard and believed good news that changed everything can likely pinpoint the aspect of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that penetrated to the depths of our very souls. For some, it was the release from guilt and shame that the good news offers forgiveness into. For others, it was the aspect that God loves you; that God has always been looking for you; that you are not abandoned.

Others found the good news first in emotional, psychological or physical healing–  demonstration that God truly is, and, in his is-ness, God is actively stepping into the darkest places of our souls with a holistic healing that begins to transform thinking, actions, motivations and the lens through which life is viewed.  Some who have lived in rejection intersected the good news by being accepted, welcomed, given dignity, value and voice regardless of what separated them from both community and God.

These are but a few spaces where the good news intersects with God’s beloved image-bearers.

In Jesus’ encounters with people throughout his ministry, he found the intersection between the story of the person he was engaging and the Big Story of God. To the thief on the cross, good news was that he was forgiven, absolved, and entering with Jesus into a transformed reality of both an immediate and a future of restored relationship with God and with God’s community. God had not forsaken him after all, no matter what lies he had accepted and lived by.

For the cripple, the blind man, the woman with the issue of blood, the good news was that because Jesus had healed them, they could now be included by a community that treated them unlovable. This because was the catalyst for those to have their eyes opened to see Jesus as Lord and Savior as they recognized that only God-with-them could deliver them from the darkness of their world.

Fluency In the Good News 
I believe our world is hungry for good news. Even as we lament the growing secularity in our nation and our world, the hunger for connecting with something greater than ourselves, that has the best interest and future for humanity does not wane. In fact, it seems to increase.

To engage in conversations with our not-yet-followers-of-Jesus family, friends and acquaintances, we must increase our fluency in the amazing good news that God is looking for us?  Can we develop our listening skills and our care for, the stories we tell one another and listen to, always opening up the space of inviting Jesus as Lord into the very stories themselves. Can we thicken our understanding of the Gospel to see where Kingdom and salvation are co-existing aspects of God’s very good news and are both being realized here on earth as in heaven?

How we share the good news, and which aspect of the gospel is any one person’s entry point, requires us to be good listeners to truly hear where people’s stories, the place they find themselves in their current reality, intersects with God’s kingdom plan of Shalom of flourishing humanity that reflects God’s heart in how we love God, love others and love our world and submit ourselves to inviting Jesus into the situations where we see the miracle of Jesus is Lord reach deep down to connect with us in the midst.

On a personal note, I came to faith because I experienced God looking for me. The realization that, a) God was real (which was the initial question I asked “to the air”) and b) that this real God was looking for me was incredibly good news to me. It was this aspect of the gospel that then drew me to Jesus.

Those door-to-door evangelists had no impact on me with their “do you want to spend eternity in heaven or hell?” tracts. These were not things that concerned me. But the very existence of God looking for me was the perfect entry point for me.  That doesn’t mean that those approaches are wrong or obsolete. Rather, if we desire to be sharers of the thick gospel of the Kingdom of God through Jesus, we need to listen well for natural entry points. Everybody believes in something; even if their belief system is “nothing,” that’s still a thing!  It is here that we look to the Big Story for the intersection with that and begin.

Again, good news is something that has happened that impacts what is happening to them/around them, and will change what is yet to happen. 

Why do I write this on a church planting blog?  Because churches are planted as people who did not previously follow Jesus hear the good news in a way that connects them to God and the big story of God interacting with humanity. From there, discipleship communities grow into the places and spaces we live.

My Gospel Questionnaire, Part 1: How Jesus Put it

By Shannon Youell

One of the things I like to do is ask Christians “what is the gospel?” I don’t do it because I enjoy watching people squirm, but rather because these reactions show how those of us who are followers of Jesus have a hard time articulating the very thing we are commanded to proclaim.

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So, I’ve been doing a survey. For about ten years now. It goes something like this:

“What is the gospel? What is the good news that Jesus ushered in?” 

I’ve asked it of long-time Christians and new believers alike. More often than not, the answers range from explaining that the gospels are the first four books of the New Testament; or the gospel is the Creed; or the Gospel is summarized in four spiritual laws. Certainly we find aspects of the good news in all of those answers.

But there’s a follow up to question one:

Is our articulation of this gospel—this good news announced by angels, proclaimed by Jesus as the news of the kingdom now near us, among us, with us; of the fulfillment of prophecies that spoke of good news—actually heard as good news? 

It’s the question everyone should be wrestling with—because we should be able to talk about good news that, when shared with others, actually sounds like good news to them. To do so requires us to first look back at the historical Jesus and what He meant and what His hearers understood as “good news.”

When Jesus stepped out of His ordinary life into the spotlight, He said these things:

Repent.
The kingdom of God has come near.
Come follow me.

The story continues by telling us that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria….” (Matthew 4:23, 24a).

The people who heard Jesus make these statements had an embedded understanding of what was being said to them because Jesus used concepts that meant something to them. The context, of course is their story, the story of Israel from the beginning and including their current occupied state.

The term gospel or good news had a known meaning. It was used as a heralding that a new king had battled an oppressive king. This new king would change everything about their lives. He had saved them from the results of that oppression and promised them peace and justice, both in the immediacy of the near future and into the future beyond.

When Jesus told those who heard Him that “the kingdom of God was near,” this was what they understood it would look like. The term “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God,” had an embedded understanding that comes both out of the story of God and his people, Israel and their understanding of the royal pronouncement of Good News represented.

So when the Jewish people heard John the Baptist and Jesus speak the phrases “good news” and “the kingdom of God has come near,” their ears immediately perked up. Here is something they’ve been waiting for, looking for. It had deep meaning to them even if many of them became disappointed and then many more disillusioned, that it wasn’t a power exchange that led to some kind of political domination.

They also recognized and understood that good news is only good news if there is a king.  They were anticipating God’s movement of anointing a new king to His kingdom who would be the deliverer of salvation for all peoples. Thus those who heard this pronouncement looked towards the one in whom the pronouncement was focused. Without the anointed king, there could be no kingdom, so the good news was the victorious king.

Thus, Peter’s epiphany–that Jesus Himself is the Messiah, the saving King who will come to usher in God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven–became those first followers’ battle cry.  It is because Jesus is that King, that Lord, that salvation from the oppressiveness of fallen humanity has broken into reality.

It is because Jesus is Lord that the sick are saved from sickness because mercy and justice are now upon them; that the “sinners” (literally “outsiders”) can be welcomed into the kingdom; that enemies can imagine what it looks like to love one another; that forgiveness can dominate and shape our thinking and actions towards one another; that we can now be in the presence of God who never stops looking for His lost children and be restored to relationship with Him and with community.

This was the rich, deep, joyful good news that pierced the hearts and souls of those who both heard and received it. It tangibly touched the aspects of their lives that were most separated from community relationships and from relationship with God their creator. It was so big that everyone with humbled hearts and willingness to rethink what they thought they already understood about God and themselves, could find a place of entry made possible by Jesus the King, Jesus their Lord. Good news indeed!

Tune in next week as we discuss what this good news means in our world today.

Whatever Happened to Talking about Jesus?

By Shannon Youell

And we’re here today bringing you good news: the Message that what God promised the fathers has come true for the children—for us! (Acts 32:13-The Message)

I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to explain the “good news” part of the Good News? Is that why we are so afraid to talk to people about this Good News outside of our Christian circles (where, supposedly, we all understand it completely and don’t need it explained to us)?

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To be frank, the number of times I hear the Gospel preached, and indeed, preach it myself, to those who have already heard it, really causes me to lean into the concern that we’ve lost the ability to truly convey what amazingly, marvelously Good News the Kingdom of God present here on earth is to those who do not yet know there is such Good News.

All Called to Be Sharers
Some of us exempt ourselves from this conversation by saying that we do not have the gift of evangelism. But are not all of us convicted and called by Jesus to “go and make disciples?” To be fair, there are those folk among us who are wonderfully gifted in communicating the Good News. Often it is from a public platform, or by placing themselves strategically within communities where darkness still prevails and the Kingdom is groaning to advance. They are particularly and uniquely set apart by their giftedness to engage this way, and we need to celebrate and support these evangelists in our midst.

But that does not exempt me, or you, or us. As I stated in my previous article, I haven’t really been able to find an exemption for myself in Jesus’ teaching. Or for that matter in the Story at all. It appears that those who worship our Father in heaven, who are professed disciples of Jesus, who are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to do good the work of the Father, are sharers of Jesus. They communicate (evangelize) to others the great Story of God and help them find their place in the Great Story within the story of their own lives.

So why are we so darned afraid? And how did we, the ekklesia of God, get that way?

Taking Steps Forward
Friends, I think these are some of questions we need to start asking ourselves and our communities of gathered believers. I am pretty confident that were one to ask a faith community if we are to share Jesus, they would mostly agree that as an absolute. Yet we do tend to leave it to others to do so, while sighing with relief that indeed there are those who ‘like’ to share Jesus with others.

Can we engage in the evangelism conversation again? Can we imagine being a people set apart by God to herald the Grand News that God, through Jesus, has come to earth with the rule and reign of His Kingdom that brings us justice, liberty, hope, love, peace, joy and salvation from the corrupt and oppressive rulers of the kingdoms of this world? And the wonderful news that we are invited to join Him in living it and sharing it?

We’d love for this to be a dialogue as we explore and share together to attempt to answer, frame new questions and reimagine how we can create of culture of communicating the Good news of the kingdom of God for the sake of the world.

For those who will be at the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference next week, come and join in a round table discussion around this very topic: Mission—Impossible? Can we re-engage evangelism? We will discuss three questions to frame our conversation together and begin to face the evangelism vacuum so common in our Baptist culture.

Join us there, and here on this blog as we listen and learn from one another to pray, equip and share Jesus in the spaces where we live, work, play and pray!