When I was about five or six years old I had an experience that would change my life forever. My family and I gathered in our living room and my parents lovingly introduced my brother and me to the transformational story that is Star Wars: A New Hope. I had never been sure as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, but from that moment on I knew: it was Luke Skywalker.
In 2012, Disney bought Star Wars (for more money than some national budgets) and announced that they were going to start making new films in the series. As soon as I was done screaming, I did what everyone does when they hear the best news ever; I shared it on Facebook.
Whether it's the announcement of a new film or the delivery to your restaurant table of a delicious meal, we are accustomed to sharing good news with people on social media. We jubilantly tell the world about the final score of the England game (the Panama one, not the Belgium one), and yet many of us feel far less comfortable telling our friends and family about the best news we've ever received.
The message about Jesus is called the Gospel. Translated from the Greek word euangelion, 'Gospel' means good news. Mark begins his Gospel account with this simple introduction: ;The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God' (Mark 1:1).
People like good news. We are told so much bad news every day: wars, terrorist attacks, economic downturns, the continuing popularity of Love Island... it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news. We are starved of good news in our world, but every single Christian carries within them the most powerful good news there has ever been.
I wrote previously about Jesus calling his first disciples and telling them he would make them become fishers of men. I bring it up because the clear implication from Jesus to his fledgling disciples was that they would tell others about what they had seen and heard. Telling others is an important part of being a disciple of Jesus.
As disciples of Jesus, we follow his example. Again, Mark puts things really simply for us: 'After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"' (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus told people about the good news, and he calls his disciples (then and now) to do the same. This call is best summed up in what is commonly known as the Great Commission: 'Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age"' (Matthew 28:18-20).
At one time I thought that telling others the good news about Jesus was only the job of people who are called 'evangelists'. These were people who I thought God had specifically asked to preach the gospel, so the rest of us had to wait until one of them came to town and hope that our friends would want to hear them speak. While there are people who have a particular gift as evangelists, evangelism – or witnessing – is the job of all Christians.
I often use this quote in my church from Charles Spurgeon: 'Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.' That doesn't mean that every Christian is supposed to go overseas. A missionary is someone who is sent to proclaim the good news. For you, that might mean you are a missionary to your local community, while for someone else it might mean they are a missionary to Guatemala. Perhaps the full Spurgeon quote will help.
'Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor. Recollect that you are either trying to spread the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus, and a totally silent tongue about him. Of course I do not mean, by that, that those who use the pen for Christ are silent; they are not. And those who help others to use the tongue, or spread that which others have written, are doing their part well; but I mean this,—that man who says, "I believe in Jesus," but does not think enough of Jesus ever to tell another about him, by mouth, or pen, or tract, is an impostor.'
Strong words from Spurgeon! It can make us uncomfortable to see something put in such black and white terms, but the point he is making is a valid one. I love my wife, but if I never told anyone about her, if I never mentioned her in conversation, if I had never made my public vows to her in a marriage ceremony, you could rightly question whether I really do love her. The same can be said of our relationship with Jesus. If we truly believe that Jesus willingly died for us, taking the punishment for our sin; if we truly believe that he was raised from the dead, giving us eternal life with him; if we truly believe that through Jesus' sacrifice we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God himself, surely we ought to talk about it!
If all this makes you a little uneasy, I hope I can reassure you in some way. You might be thinking that you could never preach to someone. That's OK: you don't have to. You can just tell them your story. What was your life like before you met Jesus? How did you meet Jesus, and what happened when you did? What has your life been like since you met Jesus - what difference has he made in your life? If you can answer those questions, you can tell your story.
If you would like further guidance on how to tell others about Jesus, there are plenty of excellent resources out there. I wrote a little book called Confidence: Evangelism for Non-Evangelists, which is available on Kindle. I also highly recommend the work of J John (particularly The Natural Evangelism Course) and Nicky Gumbel's book Telling Others.
Rev Jack Skett is associate pastor at Elim Church, Selly Oak. He is the author of 'A Better Kind of Intimacy: The Price of Porn and How to Overcome it', published by Instant Apostle. Follow him on Twitter @jackskett. He also blogs on his website, jackskett.co.uk