The ordination of a former journalism student got me thinking that journalists and pastors aren’t entirely different. Both are devoted to truth. In fact, the word “gospel” has roots in the Old English for “good news.”
Journalists decide if a story is worth telling based on “newsworthiness,” which usually means the story has some of these seven qualities: timeliness, proximity, prominence, impact, novelty, conflict and human interest. Using those criteria, the gospel message continues to be the most newsworthy story of our time.
Timeliness: It’s happening now. And although the gospel story is 2,000 years old, each person’s need for it is immediate. Jesus is ready to welcome broken sinners to brand new lives this day, and every day. The gospel’s truth is timeless; our need for it is timely.
Proximity: It’s happening here. Jesus told his disciples that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” And while the gospel story took place some 7,000 miles away in Israel, its significance is as nearby as anything can be, because the hole that Jesus fills is as close as each of our hearts.
Prominence: We care more about things that happen to famous people than to non-famous people. Jesus Christ easily fulfills this criteria, because Jesus is the most prominent person in history. We actually measure history from his birth. He is the focus of the best-selling book in all of history. The world’s large religion takes its name from Christ, and even those who don’t claim the name of Jesus often utter it when they stub their toe. You can’t get much more prominent than Jesus.
Impact: Does the story pass the “so what” test? No story has more impact than the gospel message. If we really believe the things we say we believe, we can’t live as though we don’t. The Christian faith isn’t something you can just tack on to a life that’s already all set. It’s not a final coat of paint that dresses up something you’ve already built, but a radical, life-changing stain that goes to your very core.
Novelty: It’s unusual. There’s an old saying in journalism that when a dog bites a man, that’s not news, but when a man bites a dog, that’s news. If you like stories with novelty, you’ll love this one. An all-powerful being loves us so much that to reach us He became a human being, be born in a stable, preach against religious corruption, and be executed as a prisoner. Then He came back to life, defeating death and Hell, and today wants to offer each of us eternal life. How’s that for a weird story?
Conflict: Sadly, stories about people being kind to one another don’t exactly grab attention. That’s part of why the news seems so negative. Of course, the gospel is a story of conflict. It’s God versus Satan in a battle for mankind, with Jesus launching a sneak attack on the gates of Hell from the grave itself. Each day that conflict is played out in each of our lives. Like the current “war on terror,” we don’t always see this conflict, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. In some ways, not being able to see it only makes it more dangerous.
Human interest: This can be a slippery concept, but the idea is that people are interested in other people. We are drawn to stories that tugs at our heartstrings, that connect with us emotionally. And at its core, the gospel is about sinners saved by grace, about broken people finding wholeness in the arms of a loving God.
Is the gospel newsworthy? It’s as timely as today and as close as our own hearts. It involves the most prominent person in history, and His desire to have an eternal impact on our lives. It’s a story filled with novelty – a miracle-working person who is both God and man, who brings life through His death. It’s a story huge enough to be the central conflict in all of creation, yet as personal as each individual Christ came to save. That’s a story worth sharing.
— Dr. Doug Trouten
Trouten (@TheDougTrouten) teaches in the communication department at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul.