Evangeli*&!@#$, pt 3

For a good laugh to start your day, check out Rob Benson’s funny description of his foray into a postmodern church: My Emergent Guilt.

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Okay, back to Evangeli*&!@#$ being the new dirty word. I love Amy’s reply to my post two days ago (scroll down). Here’s an excerpt:

“I don’t believe that Christians should stop influencing the world, or stop sharing the full slab of ribs that is the gospel. But I do believe that if BBQ sauce has gone out of style, I don’t mind grilling with another sauce. Language conveys meaning. If “evangelism” conveys something that does not line up with the meaning I am going for, it is not the right word anymore.”

So, if the word “Evangelism” hinders the cause of evangelism, then let’s change it. I can’t argue with that. Consider it done. Let’s call it being missional, or being on mission, or creating on-ramps. I don’t want my archaic language to hinder the cause. If I call myself a fundamentalist (which I don’t), that would conjure up images of armed militia-men crouching behind pews… In spite of the fact that I still believe the fundamentals of the faith as delineated about 50 years ago by guys like Gresham Machen (The Fundamentals).  preacher.gif

So out with the old lingo, and in with the new.

Just make sure you don’t toss out the concept of communicating Jesus and his work too.

Deal?

I want to outline something that I haven’t read about alot, but it’s important and I think biblical. That is: the supernatural elements of evangelism. Errr… of being “on mission.” (Give me time, okay?)

The premise is that God is a missionary. He sent his son into the world to fetch us for himself. There is no outreach (Amy–can I still use that word?) without the invovlement of God himself. It’s not just natural–it’s supernatural. When you create spiritual on-ramps for people, you are meshing your gears with God’s supernatural gears. You are a co-laborer WITH GOD in the gospel.

How is being on mission supernatural? Here are several ways:

  1. The “call” is supernatural. In theology, “calling” is the title given to the work of God by which he orchestrates and brings into being the events in history that bring about a person’s salvation. So, for me to get saved, there had to be a church on the corner, and my family had to bring me there, and Aunt Alice had to be teaching Vacation Bible School, I and I had to be there on that day… All of which was orchestrated by God, who is Lord of the details. No amount of human planning can achieve this; we cannot “call” a person to salvation. (1 Pe 1:15, Eph 4:1). God is the Great evangel—– uhhh, Missionary.
    [I will NOT get into any more Calvinistic stuff like election, etc. in this blog–that’s not my point here, so hope you’re not too disappointed.]
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  2. The meeting between you and the person who receives Jesus is supernatural. An aspect of the call, I’d call this providence. The person who led you to Jesus did not enter your life by accident. God supernaturally tee-d you up, and somebody else swung the club. Just like God arranged the meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26, ff. He opens and shuts doors and we go through. I believe that you should seriously listen to God’s little whispers about approaching people spiritually. He might be nudging you into a conversation about deep things. As Bill Hybels recently wrote: “Just Walk Across The Room” (a new book title).
  3. The gospel (content, message, teaching) is supernatural. It is the power of God, says Paul in Rom 1:16. The message of Jesus itself possesses inherent power. This is why APOLOGETICS–which is important, and which I’m teaching at Tozer Seminary next fall, so I view it as a valuable tool in our collective belts– SOMETIMES messes up our outreach efforts. Too much of our logic, and too little of God’s power. Twice have had a weird experience when sharing Jesus, that I can only classify as supernatural. The two experiences happened years apart, in different places with different people. Yet they were remarkably similar. I had been sharing Jesus with friends over the course of about a year. Most of the times, we debated. We argued. Apologetics stuff (this goes back to my college and high school years). My logic is better than your logic, sort of stuff. Finally, I got tired of fighting. So I said to Ben, “Ben, I can’t answer all your questions. But I do know this: For God so loved the world…” For about a minute I just quoted missional Bible verses at Ben. Gently. Lovingly. I just pulled the trigger on the gign_faces_092.jpgospel. And I discovered that it can be its own best defender. Ben immediately plopped his head into his hands, and started rubbing it. He rubbed his head like I was hitting him with a hammer. The whole time. He moaned a little (spiritual warfare, huh?). He couldn’t look at me, and when I was done, he had nothing to say except, “I’ll think about it.” What a year of argumentation could not do, one minute of the gospel according to Scripture could. I had virtually the same experience years later with another guy.  It’s mystical.  Mysterious.  Supernatural.  The Bible says that the gospel is the power of God, and I believe. It’s supernatural.
  4. The illumination of the gospel truth is supernatural. When you communicate Jesus and his message to a lost person (can I still say lost? is seeker better?), there’s a problem. Here it is: they can’t “get it.” “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV. That is why, every time you share Jesus, explain Jesus, tell your story of Jesus–the Holy Spirit swoops in an enables a fallen mind to “get it.”  To understand.  God turns the lights on.  I believe that this is automatic for every presentation of the gospel.  It is the power of God mingling with the power of the gospel in an immediate sense.  No one can “get” the gospel without this illumination. I just won’t click.
  5. lightbulb.gifThe softening of the heart is supernatural.  Have you ever seen fruit so ripe that it’s almost falling off the tree?  That’s what happens when we’re on mission.  One day it’s like your sharing with a brick wall, and the next day it’s like you’re the best guy ever, and where have you been all my life?  and why didn’t you tell me sooner?  and I did, but you didn’t want it.  There is a sense of READINESS when it comes to salvation, and you can’t force it.  That’s why we’re never in the business of cramming the gospel on anyone.  That’s why Jesus told his followers to shake the dust off their feet if people wouldn’t receive them (Matt 10:14, Mk 6:11, Lk 9:5).  They weren’t ready.  That’s why famous missiologist Donald McGavran advised, “Hold resistant fields lightly.”  Don’t damage the tree by trying to yank off unripe fruit that’s not ready for harvest.  Be there, show love, serve… but cooperate with God’s timing.  I believe that God uses a one-two punch to prepare hearts for the gospel:  1) Prayer–missional prayer for peopel to get saved.  2) Your love and compassion, along with that of the people of God at large.  3) Trials and adversity often soften hearts, and put minds into a receptive frame.  (Okay, so that’s a closing uppercut).
  6. The faith is supernatural–kind of.  Here, I will let down my calvinistic friends, but I can’t help myself.  I know that Eph 2:9 says “it” is a gift of God, but I don’t think that the antecedent of “it” is faith.  I think it’s the whole salvation plan of God… that is the gift of God.  Faith itself is a gift only in the sense that breathing or thinking is a gift.  Everybody has it.  From God.  Universally.  EVERYBODY has faith.  Faith is universal.  The problem is that their FAITH IS IN THE WRONG THING until it’s exclusively in Jesus.  That’s where we come in. We have to SPEAK  the right thing that we may provide an object of faith that ACTUALLY SAVES.  The act of faith has no merit;  any dummy can believe.  It’s the object of faith–the thing or person believed–that has merit or not.  And for us who know Jesus, we are utterly convinced of the infinite merit, and immeasurable worth of his sacrificial work on our behalf.

Bottom line:  to God be the glory.  It’s all his power.  If you have contact with God, you’ve received a miracle.  Supernatural salvation.  All grace.  All God’s power.  We just provide the vocal cords to speak, the hands to serve, the heart to love, the life to back it up.

Let’s go get people saved (can I say that?).

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7 thoughts on “Evangeli*&!@#$, pt 3

  1. It seems to me there is absolutely nothing wrong with the “words” being used today. The problem comes with people’s definition and understanding of the words being used. The trend appears to be – it’s whatever I think it means! That’s our sinful world with no absolutes any more. Like you said, if they’re not born again (yegads! now that’s another term…) there will be no understanding until the Spirit’s enlightenment dawns. However, with true believers, it’s so difficult for me to comprehend the disagreements and utter hostility which come up. Aren’t we supposed to be on the same team, for the same goal, and done with LOVE??? Unbelievable! I suppse that’s why you’re writing about the newest “dirty” word, evangelism…

  2. I understand the part about not wanting to “lose” the people with an offensive term before we’ve even started. The problem with trying to replace “evangelism” is that it is a biblical word, almost being transliterated. Hmm. What do we replace it with? “On a mission” sounds okay. It makes me feel like I’m being associated with Tom Cruise, although I’d rather be associated with Katie Holmes (and that would be impossible). “Creating on ramps” is just going to offend the green people who will be annoyed by our perpetuation of dependence on cars and oil. And we don’t want to be inconvenient. How about…”Good news?” We could go out goodnewsing on Friday nights. We could see if people are gifted as goodnewsists. But we don’t want to get them confused with the weird nude goosists, although I guess they’ll do in a pinch (Help! I can’t stop.) I understand if you have to edit.
    It’s not my intention to ridicule the conversation, just to lighten it up. I do want to say though, that the darkness hates the message and work of evangelism, whatever we call it. I know that’s no big news to anyone who reads this blog. Part of that hatred is for the Name of our Lord and no one wants to change the Name of Jesus Christ, no matter what anyone thinks.

  3. For folks that are uneasy with “evangelism,” I ran across an ad from a megachurch looking for someone whose duties include “leading teams to create cutting edge worship . . . “

  4. Bill,

    as to the supernatural aspect of evangelism, you couldn’t be more right on…

    …we have a crazy group of people that we have gathered here, and no matter what I do they keep coming back!

    We have people who aren’t sure if they believe in God (at least the God of the Bible) because that would interfere with their ability to participate in homosexual behavior, we even have one guy who believes he is god (pantheism not psychosis, although we have some of that too!) We have people who hate the church because of the way they have been treated by it, or the hypocrital nature of it, etc. and people who have never considered the fact that going to strip clubs might not be a part of God’s plan for healthy sexuality. We have street people wrestling with schitzophrenia and business owners trying to understand what God wants from them in their finances.

    I keep telling them they need to die, and they won’t go away! If that isn’t supernatural I don’t know what is. I think I have the ‘homosexuality’ conversation about once a week now, but the gay men are the most commited servants in the church!?!?!

    But …I am still waiting for someone to fall on their face before Jesus, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to make that happen. When the Spirit moves, He moves; until then, we wait and pray…

    As for the whole evangelism thing …I had someone ask me the other day what the central message of Jesus was, I responded with Jesus’ words in Mark 1 “repent for the Kingdom of God is here” but added that I wouldn’t use those words without contextualizing them; the guy said, “Good, cause you’d freak people out!”

    Words like ‘born-again’ and ‘saved’ are Biblical, however, they are also very new in the vernacular of the Church. It has only been the last century that has seen them popularly used. The Bible is rich with language to describe the good news that God is present and available to us, in spite of our brokenness (individual and corporate brokenness); we should be looking for words that communicate the gospel, not sticking with words that communicated (past tense) the gospel. The work of evangelism requires an exegesis of culture just as much as an exegesis of scripture.

    One of my favorite biblical phrases to describe God’s offer made available through the person of Jesus the crucified/annointed King/Priest of Israel/World is the apostle Peter’s phrase “participation in the Divine Nature.” Isn’t that a mind-boggling concept?

  5. Yes, “participation in the Divine Nature” is definitely mind-boggling. And it would also cause its own set of problems because it has its own modern-day connotations. We can’t escape them. The message itself, the Person Himself, is a stumbling block. I thinkwe have to be careful that we’re not trying to make the message something it isn’t. Jesus did tell us to change the wineskins, just not the wine.

  6. Hey Uncle Bill

    I had ribs from Uncle Bub’s for my birthday, so I was definately still licking the BBQ sauce off my fingers when I wrote that. 🙂

    I I totally understand the frustration of trying to overhaul language. I don’t think any words are really wrong, and it’s true that all language is going to be offensive to somebody. I just think it’s a matter of being sympathetic to people who use weird or different words. I went to a church for months that replaced “church” with “festival” and “small group” with “tribe.” It took some adjusting; it was weeks before I stopped rolling my eyes.

    I would just like to point out a connection in your entry that I think is very beautiful. I enjoyed the story where you quote the bible to that guy and it is way more powerful than any argument. Since you are quoting an english translation of the bible, probably not even NKJ but a later rewritten translation, the connection I see is this: the power of the gospel is not “watered down” in the least by an accurate translation. It is made more powerful. What an amazing provision that no matter what language we use, if the substance is accurate the power is still there. I suppose this is true even if the translation is by hipsters and young people communicating with eachother in “emergent-speak.”

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