If a neighbor were to approach you with an urgent personal message (that your house was on fire, for example), you probably wouldn’t pause to vet the credibility of the person who communicated that message. The urgency of the matter and the risk of not believing the news would far outweigh the desire to consider the trustworthiness of the messenger.
If a handsome gentleman personally delivered a handwritten note warning you of the importance of saving for retirement (let’s put this in the “personal but not urgent” category), you may save the note for later, but you’re not likely to act immediately on this information. For most of us, retirement isn’t a pressing matter, and while you may appreciate the effort that was put into the handwritten note, you just can’t be bothered to think about the future right now.
If a hurried man rushed up to you with a message that was less personal and less urgent (say, that your taxes may increase if this Fall’s ballot measure passes), you’re much more likely to be dismissive of that message. Mostly because your brain is full of more pressing matters at the moment, but also because who is this guy, anyway?
In these situations, the recipient’s understanding and acceptance of the message depends on a number of factors: who the messenger is nature of the message itself, and how the news is delivered.
When it comes to evangelism, Christians tend to focus on these things. We work hard to build and maintain a certain level of credibility so as not to undermine our message. Lately, pastors spend lots of time insuring that their people understand what the message is in the first place. We often concentrate on methodologies that might maximize our effectiveness. This is all well and good; as communicators of the gospel, we should be aware of who we are, what we say, and how we say it.
But there is one important factor in our mission of communicating the Good News that we often overlook. This isn’t a new problem, as even the very early Christians needed to constantly be reminded of it. The funny thing is that in communication, it may very well be the most important factor of all.
The urgency of our message is vital to our communication of it. When we reduce the gospel to something less pressing, we imply that it is less important. “Just give it some thought” we say, as if Christ’s call to repentance were like buying a timeshare in Florida.
Now, to be clear, the urgency in our message isn’t solely based on the fact that Jesus could return at any time. That’s too abstract a thought for most. No, our urgency is based on something that everyone wrestles with every day: time.
Justification in Christ isn’t like a layaway plan, it’s immediate. In this day of instant gratification, why should anyone waste time drifting without life, hope, meaning, and purpose when he can find them in Jesus today?