I’ve been asked this enough times that I’ll turn it into a post on its own — if the gospel is what I am claiming it is, then how does one evangelize? And I’ve been asked this one several times already, and Embracing Grace isn’t even out of the chute, what are the down-in-the-dirt type things you would say to people?
Well, here goes: the question itself that I’m being asked emerges out of a different understanding of the gospel. And this is no small claim, but I’m making it: the question of “what do you say to someone and ask them to do?” is a question that comes from a gospel that is something you can respond to all at once and be done with it.
But, here’s the problem and you won’t be surprised to hear this from me. The gospel is about God’s embracing grace that unleashes our embrace of God and our capacity to embrace others. You don’t respond to grace all at once, any more than you fall in love all at once. For far too many, conversion is seen as a Birth Certificate instead of a Driver’s License. (I said this in Jesus Creed, I think.) Conversion is a marriage rather than the Marriage Certificate. That question I’m being asked, and I don’t mean to be hard on anyone who is asking it, is a question that is asking how you get a Birth or Marriage Certificate, and I think the point is a Driver’s License and a Marriage.
The question the gospel of embracing grace asks is not “what can I do to get in?” but “will I be a part of God’s work?”
Once this is understood, and that the gospel is designed to regenerate our hearts to love God and to love others, then what we are asked to do is as simple as that: we are asked to love God and to love others. That, my friends, ain’t sumfin’ that happens all at once.
I don’t say I love Kris because one time I told her that, and I don’t love God because one time I “asked Jesus into my heart.” Now, don’t get me wrong here: there are beginnings and there are decisive moments, though not all know when they are (and I went to great efforts to make this clear in Turning to Jesus), but the issue is not the beginning but the relationship.
So, how do you do that? Very simple. We summon others to become friends with Jesus and to join us in the work God is doing in this world, in the work God is embodying in a community of faith, and to join us at the Table where God comes to us in the form of bread and wine. (Some will think that last comment is too high-church, but I’ll stick with it because I think it is biblical and historic for the Church. I don’t mean by that one bit that it is not personal; I just want us to see that this is about what God is doing in this world right now.)