The Church is constantly telling us, “We must make disciples. We must evangelize.” You know it. I know it. We all know it. But has anyone ever articulated to you what exactly it is that we’re supposed to be saying to people?
I think a lot of times we Professional Church People just assume that our fellow Catholics know what the Gospel message is, when I’m not so sure that’s a safe assumption. In fact, I know it’s not. We can’t very well “seize the moment” if we don’t have that crucial bit of information. So, let’s figure out what the Gospel is!
The Facts of the Matter
There are many different ways to articulate the Gospel message, but they all contain similar themes. If we were to gather all the data surrounding the instances of “gospel” and “good news” in the New Testament, then this would be a faithful summary:
Jesus is the Son of God,
and He died on the Cross and rose from the dead
to save us from sin and death,
and to bring us into the Kingdom of His Father.
It’s a mouthful, I know, but anyone who proclaims the Gospel is trying to tell the world who Jesus is, what He did for us, and why He did it. This way of saying it addresses all of those concerns.
Who is Jesus? “Jesus is the Son of God.”
What did He do for us? “He died on the Cross and rose from the dead.”
Why did He do it? “To save us from sin and death, and to bring us into the Kingdom of His Father.”
Theologians call this “the objective content of the gospel.” No one can become a disciple of Jesus until he possesses this content. But, this doesn’t exhaust the gospel message. It also has a subjective element.
The Other Side of the Story
The subjective content of the gospel is our own story of becoming true believers and followers of Jesus. It’s a story of mercy, repentance, and reconciliation – and it can be mightily persuasive in the lives of those who hear it.
For one, everyone loves a good story. Stories capture our attention. They inspire. They change our minds and teach us something. When the story is about God working in our lives, then all this is doubly true.
This kind of story also answers the question, “Why should I care?” – and it does this in a way that is non-threatening and hard to argue with. After all, who would question our own lived experience? And since it’s our story, it’s easier to proclaim. There’s nothing to memorize. It can come right from the heart and our own history with God.
And when people discover how God entered into our ordinary, messy lives and changed us for the better, they will begin to consider how God might fill their lives with His goodness, too.
Every Disciple Has a Story to Tell
At this point, you may be wondering, “What if I don’t have a dramatic conversion story?”
You don’t have to be Paul, knocked down on the road to Damascus, life radically transformed from wretched sinner and persecutor of Christians to passionate disciple of Christ.
If you’ve ever made a decision for Jesus instead of for fleeting pleasures, then you have a story to tell.
If you’ve ever felt God’s presence or experienced something work out in a mysterious way, then you have a story to tell.
If you’ve ever experienced victory over anything — a bad habit, an addiction, an abusive relationship, a debilitating illness, a wound from your childhood, etc. — then you have a story to tell
When you look back on your life with the eyes of faith, I think you’ll find that it is filled with moments of God entering in and making things new. That is your story.
Your Time Is Now
Maybe you can see God working, but you’ve never made an explicit decision for Him. Maybe you’ve never decided, “I want to live differently now.”
Well, today is the day. Seize the moment! What are you waiting for? Seriously, what in the world are you waiting for?
Nothing in this world can give you what God can give you, which is fulfillment in Him. You’ll taste this fulfillment here and there in this life. You’ll have it finally and forever with God in heaven. All that remains is for you to say yes.
Receive new life in Him, and then share this life with a world that so desperately needs it. That is the calling placed on the life of every Catholic.