Why is it easier to leak (or expose) bad news than to leak good news? Gossip is a lot more prevalent than evangelism. For some people, gossip seems much more fun or entertaining.
In both gossip and evangelism, unknown information is revealed. Something is exposed. In the first case, it is devastating or troubling news. In the latter, especially when it comes to the “Good News,” it is transformational, life-changing news — saturated with blessings and mind-calming solution.
Leaking bad news is controversial and injurious, but it is profitable business. Perhaps Watergate and the Pentagon Papers (a secret Defense Department study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam) were two of the more notable leaks a generation ago. These incidents started an avalanche of leaks and led to a president’s resignation and the first war to end on the basis of leaked information. More recent examples include WikiLeaks, Benghazi revelations, the contents of Hillary Clinton’s email server and the early posting of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket on Twitter. Leaks are newsworthy. They are a little salacious and fun. Frankly, gossip is the ancient art of combining leaked information with the sprinkled air of judgment and shame.
When David’s son Absalom died, one person was so eager to deliver the bad news to David (2 Samuel 18:19–33) that he could not resist running ahead of the official news bearer to tell it. It is hard to imagine what his compelling desire was to request being the deliverer of bad news. Sin is perhaps lurking in the answer. People are curiously wired to seek bad news — as long as it is others’ bad news. Perhaps a more honorable reason is that most people desire to express empathy for those who are struggling more than they want to celebrate the victories of others.
Charles Swindoll said it well years ago when he referenced Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (NASB). Swindoll said, “It is far easier to weep with those who weep than to rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Perhaps it is because we wish we would have received whatever others rejoice over, and we find a little solace in not suffering what they suffer. Perhaps it is because we feel a little more useful if we are helping someone who is down. My experience tells me that people sometimes take special delight to be present when tragedy strikes someone else — perhaps to be close to the hurting, perhaps to commiserate on shared pain. The bad news oddly draws us into the drama.
Two features stand out when it comes to leaking information. The first is that bad news is generally more newsworthy and career-advancing (such as in the news media or cyber protection) than good news. The second, and perhaps in some ways related to the first, is that bad news is easier and much more tempting for most people to share.
Don’t get me wrong. Most people like to pass on delightful information — you see it on Facebook all the time — such as the acquisition of a new puppy or the announcement of an engagement. For the most part, however, that is just giving broader exposure to things already known. Leaking bad news has shock value. It is stunning by nature and engenders deep emotion.
Why is this so? Why is bad news easier to share than good? Sin is interesting to report because it has shock value and is tempting to expose. As sinners, we are tempted to gossip or tell of other’s failures for a number of spiritual and psychological reasons.
But, as forgiven and loved children of God, I wish we were better at leaking the best news known to humanity — the Good News of salvation. The under-told story of salvation in Jesus Christ leads to life transformation. Who wouldn’t want to share that? Everything about that news is transforming, uplifting and life-changing?
Four Factors for Sharing the Good News
Sharing the good news is a little harder but much more rewarding. I would like to offer some suggestions that will help even the shyest person know how to leak the Good News well and what holds them back.
- Personal Experience
First, sharing the Good News is predicated on our personal experience. You cannot share what you do not possess. Frankly, some folks are a little uncertain or dispassionate about their own Good News experience. Others struggle living it out. In those cases, sharing it is a little awkward at best and hypocritical at worst. We can more easily share bad news because we are familiar with struggles and failure. Who isn’t? Simply put, it is easier to speak of our experiences than it is about what we should experience. If we purport to be transformed, then we should look and live a tad unlike those who are defined by their struggle. Most of us can tell of our failures more easily than our successes, because it sounds more humble and less presumptuous to share failures. Most of us can speak of struggle in great detail and yet feel a tad less comfortable with celebrating the wonderful life with those who are down and out.
The best way to get excited about sharing the Good News is to live it out. Don’t start with crafting words. Start instead by living deeply in the love of Jesus and obediently to the call of God. The best testimony is an encouraging and contagious life. The Good News will leak without much intentional effort. Start evangelizing from your knees in your prayer room.
When our son Mitch was dying in the flesh due to aggressive cancer, my wife and I were simply leaning on the grace of God and experiencing Jesus’ love in spite of the circumstances. The tears of grief mingled with tears of gratitude and love. The tears were almost inextinguishable. While we leaked tears, we unwittingly leaked hope as well to those who were watching and listening.
Trust me. If you experience financial hardship but refuse to worry, others notice. If you experience rejection but feel secure because of whose you are, others wonder why. Conversely, if you experience severe disappointment and walk around in inconsolable despondency, people notice as well. What you say speaks more profoundly when it resonates with a well-lived, grace-soaked life. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul instructs Timothy (and the rest of us): “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Live out your faith well, and it will prove your salvation to yourself and convince others in the process. So start leaking a life well lived.
Some lack confidence in verbally sharing the Good News. They believe in Jesus but lack adequate knowledge of the Good News or the ability to share it without messing something up. That seems to be a common theme when I talk to people. Their questions and statements reveal hesitancy to talk about God:
“What do I say?” “I’m not a Bible scholar.” “What if they ask me a Bible question or something challenging, and I don’t know the answer?” “What is the core of the message?” “This is so important and so personal that I don’t want to mess it up or interfere in another person’s personal life.”
To these people who love Jesus but are reluctant to share, I have some simple responses: Share what you know, and don’t worry about what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Stick with your own experiences, Scriptures or advice that have been most helpful to you. Know-it-alls never get very far anyway as they convey off-putting pride. So, rest assured that you would be better off knowing God and His saving grace and not every answer to every question.
Do not think that you will mess it up. God has one prosecuting attorney — the Holy Spirit. His job, not yours, is to convict and convince. But your job, not His, is to share your experience. Like Jesus said to the man liberated from a legion of demons, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19). Jesus didn’t send him to evangelism school or Bible school. Tell what you know.
If you are shy, just admit it. God can help you with that. If you are spiritually reluctant, realize that is a faith issue. God can help you with that too. If you lack the experience and information, immerse yourself in Scripture and prayer. God will help you with that as well.
Some people are just uncomfortable with the mechanics: “I have never done this before. How do I enter into a meaningful dialogue or conversation?” “What are the best ways to broach the conversation?” “What if someone shares something deep and intimate? I am not a counselor or accustomed to answering deeply personal questions.” “If someone wants to respond in faith, what do I say?”
There are simple mechanics and preparations to improve your sharing. Think through your whole story. If you are a normal human being, there are likely several parts to your story. Your experiences likely include some of these: defeat, disease, discouragement, difficulty, delight, determination, disappointment, depression and deliverance. Think through each part of your story. Remember what happened, what you thought, what you did and what God did. If you don’t have much of a faith story, start now and record what God does.
I know some people like to memorize and rehearse a scripted testimony or story. In fact, I encouraged that many years ago. I do not any longer. I know very few people can’t wait to hear your scripted salvation story. However, I know many people who will share their own experience of defeat or depression and would love to hear if you have had similar experiences and found some solution to it.
If the Scriptures have helped you, they will help others as well. God’s Word is penetratingly powerful. As with your story, I would not suggest you find the good Bible verses for sharing Jesus and put them in your ammunition magazine. I would suggest you find the specific verses, chapters or letters that helped you in life. Memorize and familiarize yourself with them. Put them in your own words. Know where they are located in the Bible so others can read them later.
- Start Close
Start with those closest to you. Deuteronomy 6:4–5 begins the Great Shema (or the Great Hearing). This essence of the Good News contains what Jesus later referred to as the “greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37–39). The Great Shema starts, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Most Christians are familiar with that part. We know that love underlies all of the commands. Most of us know that we are to keep these things in our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6). We know that believing in this one God and loving Him completely is at the core of the Good News. Don’t forget that right after that central claim and command, He told us to convey these truths to those closest to us — our children, those in our home and those with whom we travel on the road (Deuteronomy 6:7).
It is not only our duty but also the most natural progression to let the Good News leak closest to home first — our children, family, friends and colleagues. We naturally care deeply for them. We are close to them. We have some responsibility for them. What happens to them should matter to us. What we know about God and His kingdom should be conveyed if we love them deeply. The notion of daily (“when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”) sharing the good news with those closest makes the mechanics of sharing more natural.
When it is a daily occurrence, the intimidation of sharing diminishes. I have found the best Good News sharers to be those who have daily devotional time where reading the Scriptures aloud, talking about the Scriptures and praying aloud together is an integrated part of life. Habitually speaking about God, the Good News and the hope we have found is just that — habitual. The more we transparently share, the more often we share and the more places we share. Telling the stories and quoting the Scriptures in the context of laughter, crying, joy and struggle make sharing more natural and compelling.
Leaking news is not hard for most people. Leaking Good News should be the most natural of all news. Years ago, one of the tellers in my bank said, “Why are you always so happy?” As if holding a secret that might jeopardize national security if told, I whispered, “Do you really want to know?” She leaned forward and said, “Yes.” I said, “Jesus has transformed my life, and I can’t help it.”
There it was. It just leaked out. She became a Christian and is still a member of the church I pastored.
Go ahead! Don’t hold it in. Leak the Good News.
Bishop Matthew Thomas has been an active part of the Free Methodist Church since 1979. His ministry roles have included serving as a pastor, church planter, missionary and superintendent.1