Outreach

Big Questions
| |

Q I have been inviting my friend to my church for some time. But he seems far from committing himself to Christ. What do I do?

A Often evangelism in the church has taken place according to a pattern that can be summed up as “believe, behave, belong.” That is, if you believe what we believe and behave how we behave, then you can belong to the church. However, this was not the model in the early church. Nor is it successful in our post-Christian culture. 

Here is an alternative: “belong, behave, believe.” That is, the church simply invites all people, no matter who they are, to belong in the community of Jesus’ presence. In that community they learn to behave with deeds of compassion, justice, and worship. In so doing they are drawn to believe in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. 

We see this pattern in the New Testament. The Samaritan woman at the well, for example, felt she belonged when Jesus accepted her for who she was, a sinner. Then she behaved with an act of worship, asking, “Give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty.” Finally she began believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” 

In Acts 2, we see that the early Christians opened their homes with such hospitality to their Jewish neighbors that they experienced a sense of belonging. There they witnessed Christian behaviors: the apostles’ teachings, the Lord’s Supper, worship and prayer, and koinonia. Then “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

As one historian put it, “The new believers were attracted to the community of Jesus’ followers first. Only then did they begin to realize that they were attracted to the person of Jesus.” 

About the Author

Victor Ko is a church planter with mosaicHouse in Edmonton, Alberta.

See comments (1)

Comments

The person asking this question about evangelism seems to be under the impression that the presentation of Christ is something that would normally be responded to with an accepting response or reply.  But I think deep down we know better.  Human wisdom dismisses the gospel as foolishness.  It just doesn’t make sense and is unreasonable.  That is why the gospel and spiritual truths from the Bible have to be accepted by faith.  The gospel just does not stack up to logical thinking.  In fact we can’t even conjure up the faith ourselves to believe such teachings, therefore even believing faith, itself, is a gift from God. 

Because we misunderstand the teachings of the apostle Paul (or deny them), we try to make the gospel attractive so that people can not help but to respond positively.  The natural response, though, is to think the gospel is foolishness.

People who are not Christians assume that God’s sense of justice is the same as what we experience.  Humanly, we understand that the punishment should fit the crime. Or we think that in judging people we look at a person in their totality and judge them as such.  A basically good person should be judged favorably.  Or we grade people from A, for excellent, to an F, for failure, with B, C, and D falling between. 

But God’s justice is different, one misdeed is total failure, worthy of damnation.  Most people, following a human standard, have a hard time fathoming that God judges them as total failures.  So, to the non Christian, the gospel is foolishness and just doesn’t make any sense.  A basically good person assumes that he/she is ok with God, not perfect but acceptable.  It apparently takes the Holy Spirit to convince a person they are total failures in God’s eyes, and therefore in need of the gospel.  It’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to dismiss what makes sense in our human thinking (our ideas of justice) to accept the foolishness of God (1 Cor. 2:14).  That’s why the gospel has no appeal to a person apart from the convincing influence of God.  But I suppose we just keeping trying, trusting the Spirit will work with his electing love for his chosen ones.

X