I’d like to suggest that we come together regularly as Christians not just because of someone but that it is coming together for something. The early church realised that they had a mission and a message – Jesus had given them the task of making disciples of all nations through them telling of what God had done in Christ. They believed that this world will one day end and a new world will be ushered in and in between those two events would be a single day – a day of judgement. On this day the world will be judged with perfect justice. They believed that God had appointed that judge and they believed that judge to be Jesus.
They believed all this because they believed that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. And they believed the only way to be confident of standing before this judge when all evil, all sin, all wrongdoing would be judged and condemned for being death-bringing was to repent of our death-bringing actions and trust in the life-bringing action of God in Christ. They urged their compatriots to trust in the life-giving one who dies on a cross and rose from a grave (Acts 17:31). Their message was that God is coming to make the world right and therefore get right with God while you still can. Repent, believe and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
That was their mission and their message and it is our mission and our message too. But how did those who believed persuade those who did not? For Christians in unbelieving Stockholm, as in most of the unbelieving West, this is a gnarly question. We are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who do not believe in Jesus and his offer of eternal life. They can be indifferent or hostile in a passive-aggressive kind of way. The danger is that we then start meeting together not because we need equipping for our mission or to grow in confidence in our message. Neither do we gather simply to celebrate all that God has done but instead our motivation becomes to gather here because out there isn’t very nice.
But the first Christians were also surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who did not believe in Jesus, who had never heard and who scoffed when they did hear and who got angry and upset when they heard the message of these first followers of Christ. So what did they do then, that we can do now?
I want to suggest a shift away from telling people what you know and what you think and to telling people what you have seen and heard! In Acts 4:20, Peter and John are in front of the religious leaders who are trying to silence them but they reply: ‘For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’ – first they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, they were witnesses and so they told people what they had seen. Then people asked about Jesus and so they told them what they had heard him say. Did they talk about the creation of the world or the problem of evil or if there was only one way to God or the nature of truth? Maybe, but what they did say was I saw a man die and then three days later I saw him alive.
We are still witnesses to the transforming power of the gospel and if you can’t give an answer to how believing the gospel has changed you then it’s quite possible you have bigger problems.