Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Responding to the Gospel

Mark Lauterbach has a good post this week called Keeping the Gospel as Gospel. A choice morsel:
Evangelism is news not advice. It is telling people what God has done for them in Jesus. It should never sound like "4 steps you can take to become a child of God." We make no contribution at all and it should never sound like we do. It is explaining what God has done and it has content.

It is for this reason, over years, I refused to ask people to "come forward" at the end of a service. I found it confused people. Faith is a response of the heart, not a movement of the feet. I met too many folks told me of their faith in Jesus with these words, "Oh yes, I am a Christian. I went forward at the end of a service when I was 6."

Third, evangelism is content. It is information, news, data -- informing people of God, sin, and the Savior. If someone does not grasp the essence of the Gospel, how can they be saved? In what are they trusting? In whom?

"Evangelism is news, not advice." True dat. The Gospel is the good news proclamation of what Christ has done.
I agree with all that, and I think seeing the Gospel as the proclamation of the coming of the kingdom of God can and should have real bearing (and should perhaps prompt radical reevaluating) of how we present the gospel (ie. how we "do" evangelism).

At the same time, however, while the "come forward and get your ticket punched" invitational style, the "let me argue you into the fold" (like those adventurous ambushers Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron), the "let me emotionally manipulate you with some music and an invitational plea" approaches to evangelism reflect a poor grasp of the Gospel and a tenuous faith in the Spirit to move whom He will, this does not mean the notion of "invitation" is bankrupt.

The Gospel calls for decision. Jesus went around and preached the good news of the kingdom. This was proclamation, not primarily invitation. But his proclamation always called for a decision.

It is noteworthy that he never begged anyone in or tried to argue anyone in. He preached. And he commanded. "Repent."
He might never have given a crowd 7 verses of "Just as I Am" to respond to his message, but he never failed to call the crowds to make a decision. Even when not explicit, we can see that the Gospel itself calls for response. What will we do with the news that we are sinners but in God's grace he has given his Son to reconcile us to himself?

Perhaps that is our failure. We try to convince and then invite, when we should be proclaiming and then commanding. "This is what Christ has done; repent of your sin and trust in Jesus."

When Christ bids a man, he bids him come and die. -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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