News stories typically use an informational structure known as “the inverted pyramid.”
It refers to the way a reporter prioritizes, organizes, and presents information. Visualize an upside-down triangle (an “inverted pyramid”), with the wide base at the top and the smaller point at the bottom. News is written to tell us the most important information first, in the lead – the “wide” part – of the imaginary pyramid. Less important information comes later in the pyramid’s narrower, descending part. Obviously it’s important not to lose “the point” in the process.
The inverted pyramid does a couple of things.
First, it quickly relays the most important information in case one reads only the first part of a news story. Second, it makes the story easy to shorten if space is tight. Rather than requiring a time-consuming rewrite, the story is simply cut from the bottom until it fits. The most important stuff is already up top.
I’m glad the Gospel writers of the Bible – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – didn’t cut off the end of the story as they revealed the truth of Jesus’s ministry. That last part in each of the Gospels about the death and resurrection of Christ isn’t exactly extraneous information. But as I was reminded listening to a recent sermon on the Gospel of Mark, it’s really important that we pay close attention to the first things the Gospel reports – not just the spectacular last things – of Jesus’s earthly ministry.
The lead of the “Good News” of the four Gospels, the first thing Jesus did when entering into his relatively brief but world-changing, life-restoring, and soul-saving ministry was to be baptized by his cousin John the Baptist (Mark 1:9). Jesus’s first message? “Repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). His first ministry invitation / command? “Follow me” (Mark 1:17).
Too often, Christians jump straight to the gory and glory parts of faith: crucifixion, dissecting our sin, being forgiven, rebirth, expecting life ever after, and then saying to Jesus, “Here’s what I want You to do for me…” When that happens we’ve buried the lead, lost the joy, missed the story … missed the point.
The first information of the “Good News” is that we are to be baptized into Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit; to repent – recognize, apologize, and dry our eyes – of our sins before Jesus Christ; to believe in Jesus Christ; and to follow Jesus Christ.
Be baptized, repent, believe, follow.
Now that is the lead to the ultimate Good News story. That is the lead of Christ as we write our own story as Christians.