We have been examining the values of one of the most influential churches in history – the church at Antioch. We find the beginning of their story in Acts 11:
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-21
So far we have discussed these missional values that the Christians in Antioch modeled:
They embraced their “scattering” and saw it as a means of widening the reach of the Gospel.
They engaged their world rather than isolating themselves from it.
They purposefully reached across ethnic and economic lines to build a diverse Body that reflected God’s heart.
Of course, the scattering, engaging, and reaching all led to telling people “the good news about the Lord Jesus.” That phrase brought a couple of questions to my mind: What was this good news about which the Christians in Antioch talked? And is the message that I bring to our campus good news?
The Message in Acts
To answer the first question, I went through the Book of Acts to see what kinds of things the Christians talked about when they shared the message of Jesus. I found about three common themes:
They talked about the life of Jesus, that he went around doing good, performing miracles, and healing people.
They talked about the resurrection of Jesus.
But mostly they proclaimed the good news that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. The Messiah was the one chosen and anointed by God – the one who was promised throughout the Old Testament. This is what is most often referred to as the “good news” in the Book of Acts.
But what was Jesus chosen or anointed for? And why was this good news?
He was to initiate the Kingdom of God. And when God is in charge, good things happen. Lives are made new. Relationships are restored. Hope is given. Peace prevails. But to experience those things, you need to be a citizen of the Kingdom. And you only enter the Kingdom through Jesus.
Our Message of Good News
Rebecca Manley Pippert, in her classic book, Out of the Salt Shaker, nails our dilemma:
“Christians and non-Christians have something in common: we’re both uptight about evangelism. Our fear as Christians seems to be, ‘How many people did I offend this week?’ We think that we must be a little obnoxious in order to be good evangelists.”
We don’t think about sharing our faith as sharing good news. One reason is that we tend to think of all the things that we don’t know and the questions we can’t answer. Rather than experiencing the excitement of sharing good news, we live in fear of either offending someone or of embarrassing ourselves.
But I also think that many of us only think of the Gospel as good news in a “theoretical” way – as something good after we die. We don’t think about the reconciliation and restoration and healing that people will find in their lives when they start to follow Jesus and live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. The Bible talks about how God wants to not only restore our relationship with him but to bring restoration in society, in families, and in our own hearts. And if we know Christ, we have experienced some of that. We may not have “arrived” but we have tasted the goodness of a relationship with Jesus.
I like what Jesus told the man from whom he had cast out a legion of demons:
“Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. Mark 5:19-20
What is the good news that you have to share? How about your students? Can they verbalize what Christ has done in their lives as they engage their world? Can they talk about how their relationship with Christ is not just about getting to heaven, but experiencing God’s reign and the restoration it brings in this world and in their lives?
Mike Armstrong (@_mikearmstrong_) is in his 32nd year of ministry to college students at the University of Arkansas with Christ on Campus and is a past president of the Association of College Ministries. He has been married to Gina for 34 years and they have two grown and married daughters. He has also been a track and field official for over 20 years and is a fan of classic rock, jazz, and the blues. You can read his blog at michaelarmstrong.net or find him on Facebook at THEMikeArmstrong.