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About the Author
Matt Mikalatos has shared Christ with people in countries all over the world, hosted an atheist Bible study, and served on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for 20 years. He lives in the Portland, Oregon, area with his wife and three daughters, Matt is the author of several books, including My Imaginary Jesus and Sky Lantern. He has tried almost every way he can think of the tell people the wonderful good news of Jesus, though he must admit he hasn't tried dressing up as a giant chicken.
Read an Excerpt
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO GOD
The Unchanging Message of the Good News
THERE WAS A KNOCK at my dorm-room door.
I opened it to find another student standing there, a young man I didn't know. Before I could say a word, he said, "You need to stop smoking pot, stop sleeping with your girlfriend, and come to Jesus."
Startled and unsure what was happening, I said, "My girlfriend lives eight hours away, and I've never smoked pot."
He shook his head, as if I had completely misunderstood his message, and said again, "You need to stop smoking pot, stop sleeping with your girlfriend, and come to Jesus."
"Listen," I said. "I don't smoke, and I couldn't sleep with my girlfriend if I wanted to. She lives on the other side of the state."
"I know you love pot," he said. "I know you sleep around. But you've got to come to Jesus."
"I'm already a Christian," I said.
He threw his arms wide, a huge grin on his face, and shouted, "Brother!"
That was not an enjoyable way to hear the so-called good news. Could the Holy Spirit use that young man's passionate initiative to bring someone to saving knowledge of him? Absolutely. Would I like to go back in time and give that kid some gentle advice? Yes, please.
Sometimes we forget the gospel is good news. We think we have to battle people with the gospel, that we have to confront them and beat them down. There's a reason the term "Bible thumper" exists. We think we're in a war and we have to "win people to Christ." It's a contest, a battle, a game, a conflict.
In that context, it's not "good news." It's propaganda. And when we see evangelism as conflict, we immediately put our listeners on the defensive. When I was a college student, "stop smoking pot, stop sleeping with your girlfriend, and come to Jesus" was unrecognizable to me as good news. My would-be evangelist told me, "You need a different moral code." That's not good news; that's a philosophical argument waiting to happen.
So if the good news isn't "stop sinning and come to Jesus," what is it?
Let's Talk about Jesus
The gospel is ultimately about Jesus.
There is an awful lot of good news about Jesus, and it's not just that he died for our sins and was raised again on the third day. Healing the sick, that was good news. Being born to Mary, that was good news. The forgiveness he gave to those caught up in evil behavior in their lives, that's good news. The way he interacted with women as people worthy of respect, that's good news. His ascension, the Transfiguration, the time he stayed in the Temple when his parents were walking home and he was "lost" from them for a few days: good news. His parables, his teachings, the feeding of the gigantic crowds — these things are all good news.
Any "gospel presentation" is, by definition, only shorthand for the "full gospel." There's no such thing as a complete gospel presentation, because Jesus is an eternal person, and all the news about him is good; which means part of the work of eternity will be getting to know him and growing in our knowledge of the good news. We don't know the entire gospel now, nor will we ever, because we will never exhaust the knowledge of Jesus' goodness. The good news we know is amazing, and the good news as we get to know Jesus only deepens and grows.
Nevertheless, there is a sort of "core" gospel that we'll refer to as the "universal gospel." It's the good news that is true for every person on earth, no matter their background, culture, ethnicity, or social status. It's good news that may take some work to understand for some, but most of us, when we think of evangelism, think precisely of this universal gospel: How do I tell someone the core, salvific truth of the good news?
My favorite place to start the universal good news is with the most famous Bible verse of them all, John 3:16: "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The most basic, core message of the gospel is "believe in Jesus and receive eternal life."
This one verse also tells us God's motivation in saving humanity: He loves us. That's part of the gospel, too, and for many of us, the most unbelievable, baffling bit. I've had more than one person tell me it's the one thing about the gospel that they just cannot believe.
People start throwing up all sorts of objections to this simple idea, like "You don't know what I've done. God couldn't possibly love someone like me."
But as Paul writes in Romans 5:8, While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (NKJV). Christ died for sinners. Why? What was his motivation? Because God loved the world so much. Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn the world but to save it. If we love him, it's because he loved us first.
The simplest, core bit of the universal gospel is all in John 3:16. It doesn't spell everything out — it implies the other pieces, assuming maybe you already know them. For instance, it doesn't say "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" or "The wages of sin is death" (both part of the universal gospel in the sense they are the bad news that the good news answers), but it says that if we believe in Jesus, we don't have to perish. It sort of assumes we know that everyone dies rather than spelling it all out for us.
I have plenty of friends who, if they were going to choose a passage to boil the gospel down to its core bit, would rather use 1 Corinthians 15:1-6:
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
This passage answers a question we might have had after reading John 3:16: What exactly do I have to believe about Jesus to be saved? Paul (the author of 1 Corinthians) lays it out for us: Christ (the Savior sent from God) died for our sins and also came back from the dead to show God's power over death. Our sins, Jesus' death, and Jesus' resurrection come together as the seed of the gospel. It's still a sort of shorthand — it's not the whole gospel, but it's a piece that lodges like a seed into the soil of the human heart.
Maybe that's what the young man at my dorm-room door was trying to get at: "Stop sinning and come to Jesus." But somehow his words didn't communicate that universal gospel to me. What I heard was, "Agree with my morality and convert to my religion." I didn't recognize the good news in what he said ... or at least in the way he said it.
At nearly the same time I was talking to that young man in Southern California, Krista, the woman whom I would one day marry, was on a tour in southern China with her college history class.
Krista asked her tour guide, "What god do you worship?" She was from an ethnic minority in those southern regions.
"I worship the god of my tribe," the young woman replied. "What god do you worship?"
Krista said, "I worship a God of the whole world ... a God for every tribe on earth."
Shocked, the tour guide said, "I have never heard of a god for all people! Tell me more."
There's that good news again ... a God for the whole world. God loved the whole world, which includes you and me, Krista, and a tour guide from southern China. So the thing about the universal gospel isn't that it's not attractive, or hopeful, or life changing. It's all those things and more. But sometimes we forget how individually, personally life changing it really is. We are so worried about getting the "facts" right that we forget to check if the person we're talking to even gets why it's good news. But once we understand the kaleidoscopic beauty of the universal gospel — for ourselves and for every person around us — everything changes.
1. Restate what the young man said at my dorm-room door to make it sound more like good news. Is there a way to keep his basic message but say it in a way that reveals good news? How much would you need to know about the person listening to your message to make the good news clear?
2. What does God's motivation in sending Jesus suggest about our own motivation in sharing Christ? What should we do if we find ourselves motivated by fear, guilt, judgment, or shame instead of love?
3. Read the 1 Corinthians 15 passage again and think back to the time before you knew Jesus. If someone had come to you and read that passage, alone and without explanation, how would you have responded? Would you have recognized it as good news or not?
1. Get together with a Christian friend and take turns sharing the good news with one another, using only Scripture as your springboard to conversation. The first person gets to use any verse they like from John 3. The next person can use 1 Corinthians 15:1-6. Then look together at the "Romans Road": Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9; and 5:1. (This will be easiest if you stick to the order I listed them in.) This is a no-risk way to practice good news conversations ... and it will help you keep the ideas of the universal good news in mind.
2. Choose a verse or verses from the Bible that really speak to you about good news, and memorize them. Memorization is a great way to get the good news to seep into our bones so it becomes second nature. If you have a hard time memorizing, just text the verse to yourself twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, until you don't need to look at your Bible anymore. (Obviously, don't just forward the text, you cheater — type it in each time.) Don't worry too much about getting it all word-for-word — the concepts are just as important as the precise wording.
Excerpted from "Good News for a Change"
Copyright © 2018 Matt Mikalatos.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Good News about Evangelism xiii
1 The Gospel according to God 1
The Unchanging Message of the Good News
2 The Gospel according to You 9
The Personal Message of the Good News
3 The Gospel according to "Them" 19
Everyone Wants Good News
4 Discerning the Good News 33
The Importance of Learning to Listen
5 Can You Hear Me? 43
Communication and the Good News
6 The Gospel according to Twilight Sparkle 55
Creating Fluent Translations of the Good News
7 Jesus the Evangelist 77
What Is Good News for This Person?
8 The Gospel according to Buddha 93
Finding the Good News People Already Know
9 I'm Losing You 107
Noise in the Signal
10 Why Didn't You Say That in the First Place? 113
Jargon, Translation, and the Good News
What People are Saying About This
I loved this book! Evangelism can be scary. We often love Jesus but are intimidated to talk about him with others. Fortunately, Matt Mikalatos is here to the rescue: with funny stories from his personal experience and illuminating insights from Scripture, he breaks down stereotypes of stuffy evangelism so you can enter the freedom and joy of fresh, creative, respectful, and down-to-earth ways to catalyze life-giving conversations about Jesus. I plan to use this when training others and have already begun putting some of his ideas into practice myself!
In today’s argument culture, Christians are leery to share their perspective. After all, who wants to get into a heated religious argument with a friend or coworker? Mikalatos reminds us that everyone along the social spectrum enjoys hearing one thinggood news. Through engaging stories, helpful communication exercises, and insightful handling of the Scriptures, readers are reminded that the story of Jesus is not only inherently good but also attractive to others.
While most of us aren’t full-time, vocational evangelists, we’re all capable of having God use us to bear witness to Christ’s work in our life. In Good News for a Change, my friend Matt helps us overcome our fears and grasp the practical ways we all can be liberated to join God’s timeless quest to build his Kingdom, life by life.
Matt Mikalatos is a brilliant writer and teacher. Good News for a Change combines solid Bible teaching, relevant issues, compassion, humor, and practical application. The reader benefits from both the why? and how? of evangelism as Matt shares actual conversations from personal experience with clear, sharp, thoughtful insights. I appreciate Matt’s humble, learner posture and the thorough research used in addressing our current social landscape. Refreshing, pertinent, challenging, relatableI highly recommend this book!
Every Christian I know is afraid of evangelism. We all know we’re supposed to do it, but none of us is any good at it. In Good News for a Change, Matt Mikalatos has shared with us his gifts as an evangelist. With the expertise of a teacher, the love of a mentor, and the passion of an artist, Matt demystifies the process of telling people about Jesus. As every great thinker does, he shows us that we don’t need more information. We need a new way to look at the work God is already doing in our lives. Good News for a Change is a practical, inspiring, and exciting return to our first loveand what’s easier to share than that?
In the past twenty years, there has been a revolution in our understanding of evangelism and what it means to share the good news. Without fanfare or folderol, Matt Mikalatos takes the best of what we’ve learned and gives us a toolbox of creative resources and handy instruments that can help us lift up Christ in energizing and compelling ways.
A lot of us who grew up in a Christian fundamental environment often felt like we were doing Christianity wrong. If we didn’t “win souls” by telling people they were sinners destined for the fiery pits of hell, then we must have been ashamed of Jesus, which meant we probably didn’t truly love God. At best, evangelism was an icky sales pitch chore we were required to do. At worst, we may have driven away loved ones and developed resentment or worse toward the God who saves. In Good News for a Change, Matt reminds us why the truth of Jesus is such good news. Sharing in that truth is a privilegeexciting and beautiful, and not even a little icky.
I don’t like books on evangelism. As a general rule, sharing the good news of Jesus is learned better on the street than in the classroom. But this book is different. Very different. For it is crafted by someone who knows the streets and has years of experience sharing Jesus with real, everyday, normal people. This book does two things: It presents the good news of Jesus as both good and news. In an age of fake news, this teaches us how we can share the good news, not fake goods, in a way that is good and life-giving. Mikalatos should get an award for this book. It is a masterpiece.