EVANGELIZE WITH WHAT?
Is there anyone, I wonder—is there anyone professing the name of the blessed Lord Jesus who does not know we are called to pursue holiness without which we can’t see God?
Is there any Christian who doesn’t know that Christians are called to live lives worthy of God?
I’d be willing to bet there is not one! I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of Christians have known that truth since they were young children.
How is it then that from our pulpits and lecterns pours a ceaseless stream of, “Let’s all strive to be better people”? We don’t hear such preaching and teaching now and then; we hear it week after week after week.
"Yes, but surely people need to remember and so need to be reminded."
Week after week after week for decades?
And, in addition, remember what? What are they to remember?
Why was it that Israel was called to leave the edges of the fruitful fields for the poor? Why was Israel called to treat the aliens among them with fairness and compassion? Why was Israel called to honor its parents and speak the truth rather than bearing false witness?
Again and again and again the ground for such calls is this: “For I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
And what does that clause and claim involve? If we are to speak on it, how should we unpack it?
“Why would it need unpacked? We’re all completely familiar with it.”
Is that so?
It’s precisely that Story that God told Israel—who experienced the events—it was precisely that Story that God told Israel to rehearse in every setting of life!
“Tell it,” he says, “in the house and out of it, in the field and out of it, on your bed at night and at your work in the morning and during the day, when you plough your fields and harvest them—in season and out of season tell them about me and how I have revealed myself and my purpose.”
It’s what we assume we’re familiar with that we barely nod at. What God has done, is doing and says he will complete in the Lord Jesus, that we take for granted. We don’t saturate our people with the good news; we don’t drench them with the gospel.
Our teachers and preachers spend the bulk of their [and our] time with interesting information as “filler” and “background” before offering us bits and pieces of social theory as ways and means to fine-tune marriages, raise children, handle grief and loss, balance finances, develop patience and other virtues and, on rare occasions, how to become evangelistic.
They call on a database of familiar verses—familiar because often quoted—verses that aren’t developed and are left without context and so, in many ways, the verses are not what they are as they sit in the Bible.
For example, Matthew 28:19 is a command for all of us to evangelize—the word “go” proves that. But the word “therefore” is rarely if ever developed. The command “go” is expounded and the “therefore” is nodded at. The astonishing claim of Jesus is not developed, either in relation to heaven and earth or in relation to those he sends. The nature of his “authority” is bypassed and because that’s the case, a central thrust of Matthew’s gospel is bypassed.
No one is astonished, no one is stunned or left pondering and certainly no one is convicted or inspired—they just know they’ve been told again that they’ve been commanded to evangelize.
Evangelize with what for pity's sake? Tell the world what for pity's sake? What they're hearing week after week after week at church gatherings? What some preachers call preaching "the gospel"?
I accept this as true: we cannot get a full-bodied theology every time we assemble. It simply isn’t possible. Those who complain all the time that they aren’t getting this will just have to go hungry. The way our corporate worship is structured doesn’t allow for such a demand even if the teacher/preacher is able to offer it. The time we spend at corporate gatherings is determined in part by social needs and realities that hardly need listed here.
Just the same, precisely because it’s true that our time is limited we ought to use it wisely and well. And since our Story has been laid out for us in the biblical witness with its massive and underlying subtext, teachers and preachers need to work with it rather than dabble in sociology, economics, politics, marital counseling and such—areas in which they aren’t specialists and shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking they are.
Their calling is to gospel to God’s People and whosoever.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.