“Does the gospel I preach naturally lead to people becoming disciples of Jesus?” – Dallas Willard
Put another way: Is becoming a disciple of Jesus the natural way to say ‘Yes’ to the gospel I preach?
This question has been revolutionizing my understanding of the gospel, evangelism, and discipleship. For example, if we see the main message of the gospel as “Your sins can be forgiven,” it does not naturally lead to becoming a disciple of Jesus, because once you’ve got the “forgiveness contract” signed, discipleship seems like an optional extra-curricular activity for people who are into that kind of thing. Gospel-as-forgiveness is an anemic understanding of what the New Testament proclaims.
Here’s the way I am beginning to understand this, and the simple way we are going to be teaching our leaders at Christ Church to practice evangelism. Do you think this adequately captures things? What do you think?
The Gospel is the good news that through Jesus Christ, life in the kingdom of God is available to anyone and everyone. The door has been kicked open by the death and resurrection of Jesus, and whoever wants to can come running in and find the good life in God’s kingdom.
Evangelism is the work of proclaiming this gospel; that is, announcing to people that a life in God’s kingdom is available to them right now, and inviting them to move into it by trusting Jesus.
Discipleship then flows easily and naturally from this gospel, because the way we enter life in God’s kingdom now is by trusting Jesus. This doesn’t mean simply trusting him to let us into heaven when we die. It means we trust him for everything: our daily needs, abiding joy and peace, and power (through the Spirit) to do the things he said were good and right, to join with him in his action in the world.
Thus trust in and obedience to Jesus are what we are calling people to when we tell them the kingdom of God is available to them. Some will ignore the message, some will mock and attack it, but some will respond with a question like, “What must I do?” The answer is, “Trust Jesus. Join us as we seek to live in relationship and obedience to him. Join us as we seek to be involved in what He’s doing right now in the earth.”
All of this must be done in a relational context. That is, we will seek to establish presence in a context before we move into proclamation, and our proclamation will be conditioned and shaped by our context. If we discern that someone is open to the gospel, one easy way to invite people into the kingdom is to simply say, “I believe God is very close to you, he loves you, is available to you, and wants to work in your life. What would you like to ask him for?” From there you can simply pray with them about that issue, and then walk with them and see what happens.
This way we’re inviting people on a journey of trusting Jesus, where they can take small steps of faith and obedience in relationship to the actual issues of their lives, because these are probably the places the kingdom is seeking to break into their lives anyway.
What are your thoughts on this way of formulating these ideas and practicing evangelism?