Mark 1:1-4 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” 4 John the baptizer appeared[e] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Let me begin this morning by asking you a question and then telling you a story. Here’s the question: What is origin of the word ‘evangelist’? This is a really important question because until we know, we don’t really get the nuances that were in the minds of the original New Testament writers when they adopted the word into Christianity.
So, here we go: the Greek word ‘euangellion’ was a well-known word in the ancient world. But it wasn’t a religious word at all, but a political, military word. For example, archaeologists have discovered inscriptions referring to the records of the birth and coronation of the emperor ‘Ceasar Augustus’. Guess how this document starts off? “The beginning of the Gospel of Caesar Augustus.” So you can see how cheeky Mark was being when he started his gospel with “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, ” (Mark 1:1)
During the Greco Persian wars when the Greeks won the watershed battles of Marathon and Solnus, they sent heralds of the good news of the battles’ outcome to the cities. Obviously, the battlefields were miles away from the civilian population. These messengers carried this message; literally: “We have fought for you, we have won, and now you are no longer slaves; you’re free.” Guess what these messengers were called? Evangelists.
This is the background, the context of the word that we use so much in our churches today. Think about this: after the victory was won, without phone or NBN, most people on the victorious population had no idea and thus continued to live like slaves, until someone turned up and said “Hey, you don’t know this, but you’re free. The battle you can’t fight has been won. You don’t have to live like this anymore.”
Isn’t that a compelling, encouraging, and exciting message?
This morning, I want to explore this concept, in the light of Carols. When we use the word ‘Evangelism’ in an event, we are saying that the central message of this event is essentially “This has been done for you; now what are you going to do about it?” “You don’t have to live like this anymore.”
- OK, How does it relate?
I want to take some time to unpack our evangelistic vision this year. I do not simply want to do this for sake of Carols but I’m kind of hoping that (even already) a discussion around this topic will benefit other areas and ministries of the church.
In the next month or so, I am going to be filming some folks answer one question and one question alone here it is: “How did Jesus’ coming down to earth make a down to earth difference in your life?” I’m expecting people’s answers to be practical in nature, obviously testimony based and crucially, to mirror the basic doctrines of the gospel in regard to sin, salvation, renewal and future hope. Feel free to quote your favourite verse in your answer.
And it’s going to be filmed here, on a Sunday morning. As I have mentioned before, we’re going to make sure that by the time people pack up their picnic blanket, on that Sunday night, they feel like they have already been inside these four walls. Hence our vision: bringing them to church, bringing them to Jesus. We’re putting real faces and real stories of struggle, transformation, joy and journeying on this foreign concept of ‘church’.
What’s behind this vision? This: Mark 1:4-5 John the baptizer appeared[e] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
This passage haunts me. It drives me to try new things, to throw away things that don’t work. To ask hard questions. Here’s why; when you’re a youth pastor one of the questions you always get asked is; why don’t we see more young people in Church? Ok, so hold that question in your mind for a minute.
Here’s a dude wearing camel hair and eating locusts and honey. His central message is: repent. Change your life. What we have here is pretty much the most un-seeker-sensitive evangelism project you can imagine. It’s not cool. It’s not hipster. It’s not high production values. And so naturally, no one turns up right? Wrong. He empties the city and the country side. This wasn’t a large event. IT WAS A NATIONAL EVENT. Why?
Because John addressed a question at the deepest heart of the population. What was the question? This: “If I have been so religious and faithful a Jew, how come I can’t get past this sense of guilt?” Some weird dude turns up talking about repentance and forgiveness, because God’s coming to town….and the towns empty to see him.
And yet retuning to the now, we find ourselves scratching our heads as to why a generation would seek after godlessness and it makes me wonder: What if the people who aren’t turning up, represent the questions we’re failing to really address? What if every empty seat, is representative of a struggle that someone feels isn’t allowed to be talked about in church?
Here’s our starting point. We’re going to talk about it. We’re going to talk about it in front of thousands. We’re going to talk about what Jesus can do about it.
- Why did you stick my name up on the butchers’ paper?
Something I have realised in ministry is that you can never get 100% agreement but it is possible for 100% understanding. There may be people this morning who are thinking, “man, what a great idea!” on the other hand there may be some who are thinking “this is the most preposterous way of doing things.” If you are one of those people, I respect your opinion. Moreover, we need your passion and input as much as anyone else, and I’m not simply talking about carols. So if we can’t get 100% agreement, can I at least give you the opportunity to understand by explaining why.
Evangelism on this scale involves some logistics. Maybe we can call that evangelistics. We need to be in it together to get stuff done. In recent years, as we have mentioned before, we’re gone out of our way to survey waratah on whether we should go ahead with the carols. We have plainly been told YES. As a Church, we have decided to pursue this together and thus as a church every last person needs to be accountable to that decision.
Every one of us. Here’s the thing, in our hyper individualised culture that should sound offensive and weird. The church is one of the few organisations on the planet that takes the idea of community this drastically. Because the bible takes the idea of community this drastically.
If you read Deuteronomy chapter 1, you’re going to hear Moses talking to the congregation of Israel and constantly use the word “You”. “At that time, you.” “You didn’t do this so this happened”. ‘You this, you that, you, you you. And so on. Of course, out of the hundreds of thousands of people standing there, the irony is that only 2 people Joshua and Caleb were actually there for any of it. But that doesn’t shift Moses’ language. The continuity of community is a huge deal in the Bible. It’s from my study of scripture that I got that annoying phrase that so many of you are probably so sick of by now; “we do it together or we don’t do it at all.”
You see this is one of our major, major, major points of difference. The biblical understanding of community is part of our evangelism itself. You want to engage with millennials? Show them community worth sacrifice. When you get involved in a church event, especially when you’d rather do your own thing, you’re not simply lending a hand, you’re challenging the late modern western understanding of what community is to its core. You’re living out a biblical ethic amidst a foreign culture.
So, what’s on the butcher’s paper there, that is not what we’re doing, it’s who we are. Literally. We start with names because who, and why is more important that what. Because It’s a visual proclamation of an idea of community that wouldn’t have existed without the saviour we worship.
Your name is there because you’re a part of this church (last addition to the church role) If your name is not there, please add it into the extra spaces on the final sheet. The person precedes the task, not the other way around, and we’re not going to assign or shoehorn task to people. All you have to do is pick a task that suits you.
- One last thing.
Mark 1:5 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Not one person who went out there that day, went out there to keep a secret. No one assumed that you could respond to John’s message about the kingdom of God and take a leave pass on the concept of confession. No one.
As they went into the water, they allowed their story to be heard in the presence of thousands. So here we stand, 2000 years after the one to whom John was only a forerunner. And because we’ve seen and know the one whom John spoke of, there’s only one confession left.
We’re confessing Christ. That’s all evangelism is. That’s all I want you guys to share. I confess, this is who I was, but also, this is who he is, that’s why He’s made such a difference in my life.
What if your confession is the answer to someone’s question?
I pray that we find out…together.