Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)
Since I was a child, I've always loved a good mystery. There is something about a book or movie in which the outcome is not obvious, that I find appealing. The best ones are those with unexpected twists, especially right at the end when all is revealed. The more I find myself exclaiming, "I didn't see THAT coming!" the better.
Paul here uses one of his favourite words in describing the gospel - he calls it a "mystery". When he uses this term here and elsewhere, he doesn't mean it's hard to understand. Instead he uses it as a way of describing an unexpected twist which few saw coming. It's a secret that is now revealed.
This mystery which Paul speaks of is described through the words that follow which it's believed were the lyrics of an early Christian song. It describes a series of beliefs that you are probably familiar with: Christ was born as a human being (Matthew 1:21-23); the Holy Spirit proved His identity as the Son of God through performing miracles and ultimately raising Him from the dead (Romans 8:11a); angels announced His birth (Luke 2:8-14) and were witnesses to His resurrection (Mathew 28:2-6); and the news of His ascension into heaven (Ephesians 1:19,20) has spread throughout the world (Matthew 28:18-20).
To us, this doesn't sound like a mystery, but to the Jewish people of Jesus day it was the ultimate "unexpected twist". They believed in a coming Messiah or deliverer but expected he would literally free them from Roman oppression and set up His kingdom on earth that would again be a light to non-Jews who were by definition, excluded. For this reason, few recognised Jesus as their Messiah when He came.
For many of the young people we lead today, the whole story of Jesus is a "mystery" - a hidden secret. "He was a just a good man" and "He never really existed" are two of the more common misconceptions among those who think they might already know something about Him. Others will have a hazy understanding about Christmas and Easter but maybe only some will have fully grasped the "unexpected twist" of who He really was/is and what He came to do.
In order for them to do this through your leadership, two things need to happen.
Firstly, you need a really good grasp of the core beliefs of the Christian faith. You don't need to be an expert but you do need a good knowledge of who Jesus was/is and what His death and resurrection means for us today. Many don't know these facts and will rely on you to tell them (Romans 10:14)
Secondly, no one is convinced by words alone. People only respond to the message of Jesus when the Father draws them and the Spirit gives them understanding. That means that as leaders, prayer becomes an indispensable tool in helping those we lead come to faith and then grow in their walk with God.
Sharing information brings understanding, but the Spirit brings life (John 6:63).
How well do you know and understand the gospel message? Well enough to explain it to an unbeliever? What would you say?
Who are you praying for currently - people who haven't yet responded to the gospel message of Jesus? Are there people you could start praying for?