We live in the midst of a people who have a hard time saying anything positive. Did you know there have only been two presidents in the past 75 years who campaigned on a positive platform? The first was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 (“Happy days are here again”), and the second was Ronald Reagan, running for reelection in 1984 (“It’s morning in America”). All the rest have run against something. Think of Bill Clinton’s famous slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” and you’ll pretty much get what I’m talking about.
I think part of the reason the church isn’t seeing revival here in America these days is that our message turned almost wholly negative. We spent much of the past 75 years focusing our evangelism on convincing people they are sinners in the hands of an angry God. And when that didn’t work, we abandoned the message of Christ altogether in favor of a “gospel” of social reform or else, some kind of high-tech “gospel” that we called “seeker sensitive”.
I remember as a young Christian in college in the 1970s, all the campus fellowships did door-to-door evangelism. We were told all we had to do was convince people they were sinners and they’d turn to Christ in droves. It didn’t work. In fact, it convinced most of us that opening our mouth to witness for Christ was a scary, invasive proposition.
What about trying a different tactic? Psalm 40:9-10 says,
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
In Matthew 11:4-6 we read, “And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus’ conclusion is that someone is blessed who is not offended. Both his and Isaiah’s first impulse was to testify to the wonderful things God had done for them. So maybe an opening for the gospel is there if God’s people begin to share the amazing things he is doing today. When Isaiah saw the glory of God manifested (Isaiah 6:1-7), he immediately acknowledged that he was a sinful man. His second response was to go and tell what he had seen and heard.
So here’s an invitation (and also a crafty way of discovering how many readers this blog has). Take Jesus’ words seriously. Go and tell Jon what you hear and see. Do the blind receive their sight? Do the lame walk? Are lepers being cleansed? Do the deaf hear? Are the dead are raised up? And have you seen the poor have good news preached to them? If so, I want you to send me brief stories of what you, personally have seen the Lord do. Please don’t send third-hand stories, and please don’t forward stuff you found on the web. If the God who raised Jesus from the dead has revealed himself to you, then you have a story to tell. I’m going to collect whatever comes in before Christmas and publish them all as The Morning Watch on the 25th. If you wish to remain anonymous, please note that in your email and I will respect your privacy.
Publish glad tidings;
Tidings of peace;
Tidings of Jesus,
Redemption and release.
-- Mary Ann Thomson (1868)