How to Become the Good News Person You’re Meant to Be
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 20 Aug
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Lance Ford’s new book Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be (Tyndale, 2014).
The word “evangelical” means someone who brings good news. But in American culture today, that word is bad news to many people, who view evangelical Christians as judgmental, bigoted, mean, and angry. Too often, evangelicals lecture others on the right beliefs without showing others how God – the source of all love – is at work through their lives. They preach at people without building relationships with them. They’re known primarily for negative opinions: what they’re against rather than what they’re for. Then evangelicals wonder why people don’t respond well to the Gospel (“good news”) message they communicate.
You can be the kind of evangelical that Jesus Christ intends: Someone whose life truly communicates the good news of the Gospel, inspiring others to seek God. Here’s how:
Replace the “avoiding hell” Gospel with the “kingdom of heaven” Gospel. Instead of reducing the Gospel message down only to letting sinful people know how they can avoid hell, embrace the Gospel in its entirety so you can show people how the kingdom of heaven is at work around them right now – and inspire them to join that kingdom. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fresh perspective on the Gospel so you can see that it’s much more than just a plan of salvation for the afterlife; it’s a message that should affect the way you live every part of your life here and now.
Cast out fear with love. Ask God to give you his perfect love to cast fear out of your mind when you think about non-Christian people. Replace an “us versus them” mentality that pits Christians like you against nonbelievers with an attitude that recognizes that we’re all sinners and God loves everyone completely and unconditionally. Instead of focusing on how you can protect yourself and your family from other people who are ungodly, focus on how you can reach out to ungodly people with love that inspires them to change.
Seek to live your life as Jesus would live if he were you. Evaluate your worldviews, attitudes, and actions against those you seek Jesus demonstrating in the Bible. When you see differences, confess and repent of the ways that you’re failing to represent Jesus accurately to other people. Moving forward, embrace what Jesus embraces and put away what he scorns so you can build your life around Jesus’ values – decision by decision – and grow to be more like Jesus.
Recommit yourself to your primary identity. If you’ve allowed your identity as an American citizen to overtake your focus on your primary identity (as a citizen of God’s kingdom), reorient your life so you’re basing your decisions only on how Jesus leads you – rather than on your cultural or political ideals. Stop categorizing people according to anything less than their identities as God’s children.
Build friendships with people whose viewpoints and lifestyles differ from yours. Don’t make snide or belittling comments – either in person, or online – about people with whom you disagree, such as Muslims, homosexuals, and abortion rights campaigners. Keep in mind that Jesus would speak of every person with kindness, not meanness. Rather than isolating yourself from people who differ from you, reach out to get to know them better and seek to understand their opinions. Spend time with these “others” whom you meet at work and in your neighborhood. Share meals, entertainment, hobbies, and sporting events with them. Listen and learn from them. In the process, you can show them the reality of Jesus’ love working through you, if you relate to them with no other agenda than simply being their friend.
See yourself as someone whom God has sent to your neighborhood. Accept your God-given mission to represent Jesus to the people who live in your area, by embodying his Gospel message through the way you live. Every day, ask the Holy Spirit to show you specific ways that you can be a good news person right in your neighborhood. Show hospitality to your neighbors, pray for God’s will to be done in their lives, and serve them in practical ways (such as helping them with yard work).
Work for the common good through social action. Since the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven is God’s idea of how human society should function on Earth, it’s crucial to get involved in social action efforts as part of your “good news” lifestyle. Campaign at both the grassroots and policy levels for causes such as empowering poor people; taking care of creation; protecting the sanctity of life helping vulnerable people such as the elderly, the disabled, and refugees; seeking racial reconciliation; etc. Support social justice through your lifestyle, by focusing on the common good rather than on just you and your own family. Reject materialism and live simply, as Jesus did, so you can fully use your talents and treasures to help others. Get rid of materialistic obstacles to that goal, such as by paying off debt, downsizing your home, and donating possessions you don’t need to people who do truly need them.
Become a peacemaker. Jesus calls all of his followers to be peacemakers because that reflects the nature of God, who wants every person He has made to live in peace with himself and all of creation. Pray regularly for the ability to be a peaceful influence on every challenging situation you encounter. Follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in all of your relationships, so that even the most difficult ones will be marked by peace rather than hostility and vengeance. Forgive the people who hurt you, and ask the people you have hurt to forgive you. Rather than just believing in peace, behave peaceably.
Adapted from Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be, copyright 2014 by Lance Ford. Published by Tyndale Momentum, a division of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Ill., www.tyndale.com.
Lance Ford is a cofounder of the Sentralized conferences. With more than two decades of experience as a pastor and church planter, Lance is a writer, coach, and consultant who has designed unique training systems currently being used by networks, seminaries, and leaders throughout the world. His passion is to help churches and leaders as they develop lifestyles of living on the mission of the gospel. Lance holds a master's degree in global leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. He coauthored the book Right Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People with Alan Hirsch. His other books include UnLeader and The Missional Quest. Lance serves on the national leadership team for the Forge America missional training network.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.
Publication date: August 20, 2014