Tony Campolo: Did Jesus Mean What He Said?
One of America's most controversial Evangelical authors and speakers says it's time we read the "red letters" of the Bible -- the words of Jesus. Then the mysteries of living finally become clear.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
“groups. Now they are coming back and saying ‘You know, Social Security and Medicare are a handout and a gift to you and we just can’t afford to give it you.’
“Elderly people want what is theirs. They are not asking a favor or a handout. They are simply saying “We trusted you with our money” – thousands of dollars every year for 50 to 60 years. But Congress stole it from us.
“Congress owes us. So, Congress, don’t act as though you are giving us a gift. You owe us. You stole from us.”
Campolo is known for making the occasional controversial statement. Among the things he has said in the past is that he is not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians. Does Campolo still believe that?
“I believe what it says in the first chapter of John,” he answers. “It says very clearly that a person is a Christian when he or she surrenders to Christ.
“It’s not when we say the words ‘I accept Jesus into my life.’ Let me tell you this. You wouldn’t be able to accept Jesus into your life unless Christ was already in you. Jesus said that: I think not that you have chosen me, I have chosen you. I always tell my students when you go to the lost, you are not taking Jesus to where He is not. You are where He already is. Your goal is to get people to surrender their lives to Jesus.
“We have in the church today believers who have not surrendered themselves. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father except through Him. That’s what I preach. Having said that with I say ‘My job is to declare that message.’ It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and to judge.
“I think that when we get into judging business and saying who’s in and who’s out, of God’s will, we make a big mistake. We do have the right to say this is what gets you in – and this is what takes you out. But I think judgment is not our prerogative.
“We expect gay and lesbian to change their behavioral patterns and come to Christ. You’ve got to come to Christ and then He will work in you to change you.”
What would Jesus say to the mainstream denominations across America that are shrinking in membership? The Episcopal church is in trouble. Presbyterian and Methodist churches are closing nationwide. What’s gone wrong?
“If I had to reduce it to one thing, it’s this,” says Campolo. “Evangelicals such as Southern Baptists know how to give an altar call and call people to commitment.
“But liberal churches very often preach a pretty good message – but at the end of the service, they never say – now if you are ready to make a decision to commit yourself to Christ, come down to the altar. If you want to start living out what we’ve been talking about today, come forward for prayer. Then we can ask God to be our partner in this great task.
“Evangelicals are great in calling people to commitment, but liberal churches have forgotten how to do it. One of the top Presbyterians in this country invited me to do a weekend retreat with that church’s clergy and I said ‘Fine, I’d like to do that. What do you want me to do?’
“He answered, ‘Would you please explain to the Presbyterian clergy how to call people to a commitment to give their lives to Christ?”
“I thought to myself, ‘What do they teach you in seminary?’ If they don’t know how to call people down the aisle and say, “Give your life to Jesus.
“Come forward, make a commitment!
“And that’s what all of us must do, liberal and conservative! Come forward. Take Jesus at His word. Make a commitment!”