I have a friend, a young woman we’ll call Chelsea. She’s an atheist, and one day she said to me, “You Christians seem to think Jesus is boring.”
I was shocked. After all, she and I had discussed him at length. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you find all these weird ways to bring him up. Like you’re looking for an angle. A way to make him interesting.”
“Can you give me an example?”
“Yeah. Like when you do an outreach about porn.” (She was a college student. A local Christian club had recently done a “porn survey” among the students and had a big night where all the students were invited to come and talk publicly about pornography. An expert speaker was brought in to share about his own journey into the sex industry’s dark corners, and afterward he shared his testimony.)
“I thought you liked that meeting.”
“Oh, yeah. It was interesting. I have a lot of thoughts about the sex industry and pornography. That’s how you hooked me. Then, when I was interested, you shoehorned Jesus in there.”
“What are you saying?”
Chelsea thought about it for a moment. “I’m saying you think sex is more interesting than Jesus.”
She wasn’t wrong.
We think there is one correct way to share the good news, and because we need to start in the same place every time (Jesus, who died on the cross for your sins and rose again on the third day), we’re always trying to find a way to get to that story. The problem is, not everyone is interested in that story at first. Not everyone understands how or why it’s good news. So we find something else they are interested in and tack our good news onto it once we have a captive audience instead of finding their good news about Jesus, the thing that will draw them along through the story.
This takes many different forms. We have conferences to fix your marriage (answer revealed at the end: Jesus). We invite kids to come play Earth Ball at youth group (followed by a talk about Jesus). We’ll do “prophecy seminars” to help people understand what is coming next in this crazy world (Jesus, that’s who is coming next!).
Those things aren’t wrong, and, like I said earlier, these things work. Many have come to Christ in these ways, and we shouldn’t look down on them.
Nevertheless, Chelsea is right. In journalism, they would call this “burying the lede.” That’s when a reporter writes an article and starts out by talking about things of secondary importance. The news should lead with the most important fact and give you the supplemental information afterward.
Sometimes we bury the lede with Jesus. We don’t start with the most important, most interesting news for our audience. It can be a subtle difference, because for some people the good news about Jesus will intersect with other things. But the “lede” in the good news will always be Jesus, not something else.
The truth is, Jesus is the most fascinating person in the entire universe, and he intersects with everything that interests us in the world. But remember: The cross is not the only good news about Jesus. It’s really, really good news, but it’s not the only good news. The incarnate Jesus walked among us for a few decades, and there are millennia of other actions made by Jesus, who is God(!), that are also good news. Sometimes, insisting that we begin at the cross prevents us from getting to it at all with people. Sometimes, starting with some other piece of good news about Jesus can bring us eventually to the cross, too.
And there is a lot of good news to choose from. Jesus, the radical Savior, actually has a plan not just to save your soul but to repair the broken places in the world. He intends to do away with racism, and sexism, and corrupt prison systems, and flawed governments, and judgmental religious systems, and on and on. If there’s a system or a corporation or a person who has harmed you, Jesus has a plan to right that.
We can’t limit the good news of Jesus just to the Gospels alone, because the whole of Scripture—and how God intersects with all of life—is the good news of Jesus, because Jesus, after all, is God. Jesus is the God who created the world, who formed quasars and quarks and leptons just by speaking, who designed our brains and our emotions and our longing for relationship, and who gave us not just breath and life but one another. The good news weaves throughout Scripture and the tapestry of our lives and relationships and this world God has made.
Every person on earth, whether they recognize it or not, whether they know it or not, wants to know more about God. They are desperately waiting for someone to start a conversation with them about good news. They’re receptive to good news . . . because who isn’t?
Every person on earth would be fascinated by Jesus if we could just find the way to start the conversation. We have this internalized message—the good news about Jesus—that we’re ready to communicate, and they’re longing to hear that sort of message!
Which brings us back to Chelsea. It took me a few times hanging out with Chelsea to find what was good news about Jesus for her. It surprised me a little bit, because it was something more traditional and more common than I would have expected. But I finally got a clue how to transmit the good news message to her in a way I thought she might be able to receive and understand.
“Chelsea,” I said, “I’m sorry we’ve acted like Jesus is less interesting than so many other things in life. Let me make it up to you . . . let me teach you one theology lesson. Just one, and then I’ll drop it.”
“Chelsea. Jesus loves you.” Such a simple, childlike theology . . . so basic . . . but it’s not boring, not at all.
“How could he love me? I’m an atheist. I’m—”
“God knows who you are, what you’ve done, and what you believe. And I’m telling you . . . you don’t have to believe in Jesus for him to love you.”
Chelsea said, “What Jesus is this? I’ve never heard of a Jesus like this.”
“What do you think about that?”
And Chelsea said what all our friends and loved ones will say, what every person on earth will say if we just give them a chance to enter the conversation. She leaned toward me, eyes wide, and she said, “Tell me more.”
You’ve been reading with Matt Mikalatos from his book Good News for a Change: How to Talk to Anyone About Jesus. Read more free chapters at goodnewsforachangebook.com. Invite Matt to lead an evangelism workshop at your organization or watch video of him speak at goodnewsforachangebook.com.