We must seek to bring His Kingdom here.

First off, I need to give you a little disclaimer: my thesis here is not to discount evangelism. We are all sinners, we all need salvation, we are nothing without the free gift of grace from Jesus Christ.

I believe that when we focus our attention and energy as believers primarily or exclusively on salvation we do so at the expense of discipleship. We end up with a lot of baby Christians who know the 4 spiritual laws and who have a desire to convert others to the same experience, but not much else. When we live like this what ends up happening is that we believe what it means to be a Christian is to make as many other Christians as possible.

Where do I get off saying something like this? Well, although Paul didn’t write anything like what I have, he didn’t write anything about evangelism either. As Tyler Wigg Stevenson wrote in his book Brand Jesus, “Paul the apostle, the greatest missionary in church history, spent exactly zero percent of his letters exhorting his flock to go out and make new converts. His emphasis was on doctrinal truth and living together as the body of Christ.”

Yes, Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, and I am not at all saying that we should not be deeply concerned about our neighbors who have never heard the Good News, but Jesus said a lot of things and I believe we need to take them all seriously. When someone asks why they should go to church what do we tell them? Some would answer: “So you don’t burn for eternity in Hell.” Although this is definitely a good enough reason, if we are so focused on the light at the end of the tunnel we will trip over a lot of things lying at our feet.

That is where this truth comes in. When Jesus explains how to pray he tells his listeners to ask God that His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Jesus tells us that we should pray that earth is like heaven – that God’s Kingdom comes here – now – all around us. When we live our lives in a way that is so in-tune with the Spirit that we can sense His Kingdom all around us it is the greatest evangelistic tool around.

A quote that is commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi speaks directly to this:

Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.

I remember a class on the history of Mexico that I had while going to Southern Oregon University. A story stood out to me from the textbook explaining how many Jesuit priests in what is today northern Mexico and southwestern U.S. would dip brooms in “holy water” and fling the water onto the crowd of unsuspecting natives to save them from the lake of fire and eternal damnation.

What we need is not a body of believers who superficially scare people into the Kingdom, and in doing so build a flimsy theological foundation for that new Christian to build upon, but rather a church that allows their actions of love, service, sacrifice and grace to speak for itself. Those are the foundations that His Kingdom is built upon.

Unfortunately, this is how many non-Christians view concepts of heaven and hell and I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t created them ourselves:

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One Response

  1. Andy,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your numbered truths. I think you nail it. As I’m preaching through Romans now I think it is important that Paul’s idea of salvation is much richer than a one off event. In Romans 5 and 6 “justification” can be seen as once and for all but salvation is where we stand, where we live, it is in the kingdom of God (OK, Paul says kingdom of “grace” but that is another way of saying kingdom of God) that has invaded the kingdom of sin and death. Thus Paul can encourage us to live obedient to the kingdom of grace. To say that Paul doesn’t encourage us to evangelize seems a bit odd except that yes, he certainly doesn’t see evangelism the way the North American church has defined it. Perhaps that is because we trade in a spiritual gospel whereas Paul is a good Jew who believes in God the creator who made heaven and earth. Paul believes salvation has to do with our bodies and our obedience (yes, faith not works but obedience too) and indeed with the entire creation that will be brought out of bondage to sin and death.
    And, again, the great commission is a strange text to use for evangelism “American style” where we get folks to commit to Jesus then leave them to their own devices since the commission is specifically about making disciples who obey the words of Jesus. I’m not sure that is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he encourages us to evangelize since evangelism means proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, a kingdom that we evangelicals have somehow forgotten about and divorced from the death and resurrection of Jesus. What I appreciate about your ministry is that you take the gospels seriously and seek to demonstrate the kingdom of God, a kingdom that has to do with the entire world in every dimension, not only the spiritual nor only the emotional or again only the corporeal. Evangelism, since the time of Jesus has meant the good news of the kingdom

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