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Pastoral Reflection: Preparing for Easter – Holding Back

Recently I read an online post that said that before a church focuses on getting people excited about missions, it should focus on getting people excited about the gospel. It was a thought-provoking quote but when I mentioned it to someone in the congregation, this individual said that it’s not necessarily the case that the two should be separated. I thought this was true as well.

Christianity is centered on a world-changing event. About 2000 years ago a man claimed to be the long awaited Jewish Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. This claim in and of itself was not particularly remarkable. There were many people who claimed to be the Messiah in Jesus’ time. There was actually a strong interest in the Messiah at the time because of the political climate and as a result, there was a ready audience whenever someone claimed to be the Messiah.

What made Jesus different from these others were the things he taught, and most importantly the fact that after he was crucified, many people claimed that he was alive and was reigning in heaven. The followers of Jesus could not keep themselves quiet about the subject. They were willing to risk their earthly comforts and even lose their lives for their faith.

So what is it? Is it that we should be excited about the gospel and therefore go and share our faith? Or is it that we should share about our faith and then as a result become excited about the gospel?

I think that both statements have merit. Christians often don’t share for several reasons. Some of us don’t believe that it’s really that good. Others are fearful of sharing because we’re afraid of how others will respond. Still others don’t know what to say. We’re afraid of saying what is not true or what is not right. We are not advocating that we should bring out Jesus in every single conversation. But I have come to realize is that I often miss opportunities to speak about Jesus. I recall times in my own Christian growth where even when I was asked what I believe, I avoided answering the question.

It was after going on a mission trip for a summer that I realized talking about Jesus could be a very natural. I simply asked people what they did over their summer. They then would naturally ask what I did last summer. My answer proceeded to change. At first I said that I went to China to teach English. Then I proceeded to say I went to China to teach English and talk about Christianity. Then I eventually said, I went to China to talk to people about Jesus.

What surprised me was how willing and open people were to talk about their faith and what they wrestled with in their faith. Some discussions couldn’t be contained in one conversation. Sometimes it took several conversations. Another thing I began to realize was that I wasn’t the only one that could speak the truth of the gospel into a person. It took several people and a community to speak the gospel.

Perhaps one way we can prepare for Easter is to remember that the gospel is “Good News”. It is not news that we should be ashamed of. It is the news that is good for all people. However, it’s not often treated as if it were good news. Sometimes even in church we find it difficult to talk about Jesus. It’s sometimes easier to talk about our last vacation, the latest healthy food we should eat that it is to talk about Jesus. Some children have not ever had a conversation with their parents about God.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can have a conversation with someone about Jesus.

– If you’re a parent and your child attends church, ask your child what they learned in Sunday school. Or ask them, what did they learn in church. Don’t settle for a one-word reply. When your child asks you about a problem, ask them, “What do you think God wants you to do?”

– If you have an older child who doesn’t want to go to church, tell your child why church is so important to you. Be honest. Don’t make up an answer. Pray for them. Let them know you love them by telling them you’re praying for them.

– If you’re a youth and have parents who are Christians, ask your parents about how they started to believe in Jesus. If they grew up in church, ask them how your family became believers.

– Have you talked with your spouse about what the Lord has been speaking to them about? If your spouse is not a believer, ask them what’s on their heart? Then you can know how to pray for them.

– If you’re at work ask your coworkers what they’re planning for next weekend. After Easter, you can ask what they did last weekend. If they’re of a different religion, try to learn about what they believe. It may be that you can develop a comfortable relationship where you can feel free to discuss religion. You may need to be creative and discern what is appropriate.

May the Lord prepare your heart to enjoy the gospel as Easter approaches. May the Lord grant that your conversations over the gospel remind you how good Jesus is