A community church in North Andover, Massachusetts

Joy in Evangelism

Here we are heading quickly toward Thanksgiving and Advent. What better time to explore sharing our gratitude and joy in Jesus with others in our communities. As the story of Jesus is declared in Luke 2:10-11 to be “good news of great joy for all people,” when we Christians evangelize (sharing the Gospel’s good news for all peoples with everyone needing it), we really should provide a joyful witness. Years ago, I put on grease paint, a crazy quilt outfit, and hit the boards as “Joyful Noise,” a Christian clown. Using a “joyful witness,” central to the definition of evangelism according to American Baptist Churches USA, I was able to invite people to accept the messages of God’s love and Jesus’ redemption while we laughed together, sharing the joy I feel in my faith.

One challenge for us today, facing a skeptical and divided world, is to make good use the clown’s joy-filled methods to communicate, without the grease paint and the costume of course, to break down those divisions and invite people into the joyfilled good news we have been given to share. After all, the New Testament is filled with joyful messages of God’s redemptive love and the Gospel of John states that joy is complete and fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, through whom we find the joy we all seek. The parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and prodigal son all speak powerfully of the joy felt in heaven over the return of any lost soul.

Communicating joy, and joyfully communicating, should be integral to evangelical witness in the twenty-first century.

Joy in the Old Testament had a very public dimension, referring to visible acts of rejoicing. Theologically, Old Testament joy was a celebration of who God is and what God has done for God’s people, including deliverance, steadfast love, and salvation as seen in Isaiah 25:9, Psalm 30:5, and Jeremiah 31:12-13. Furthermore, God’s very self also rejoices, as illustrated in Psalm 104:31.

Moving to the New Testament, its books are filled with joy. This joy emanates from the inauguration of the new age in which the Messiah has come. The angel’s pronouncement of good news of great joy for all people in Luke 2:10-11 becomes central to Jesus’ ministry in both word and deed. Joy is in the very character of God’s kingdom. Paul says that the ultimate source of joy is in Christ and the Holy Spirit (Phil 3:1; 4:4; Rom 14:17). Therefore, if we know the ultimate source of joy, we really should share that source with others, and visible acts of rejoicing while doing so would not be out of place. Of course, sharing Jesus with others is evangelism.

American Baptist Churches USA states clearly that evangelism should be a joyous witness provided by sharing personal stories with others about how Jesus has changed us and what Christ offers everyone. No hard sells are required, only engaging stories well told that invite others to come with us, much as the clown invites others to come play with her or him during a performance.

Both clowns and Jesus point to who we truly are. Like Christ, the clown also points out that no matter how difficult life becomes, there is always reason to hope. The Christian clown also points to the source of that hope, Jesus Christ, as should we. When we share the good news joyfully, we are doing the work God calls us to do … which brings us joy. Let’s give that a try, warming up with joyful news as the weather outside gets colder. If you find yourselves intrigued by the possibilities and want to learn more, continue with the next article … “So You Want to Share Your Faith Joyfully, Eh?”

Wishing us all a joyous walk through Thanksgiving and Advent!
~Pastor Jeff