The Gospel is More
Most of us started following Christ, and sharing our faith, using the “plan of salvation.” We responded and repeated a variation of the A-B-C’s.
Admit you’re a sinner.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Confess your faith publicly through baptism.
Most evangelism training manuals today are an expansion on this theme. As we go through life, we realize we need more than a formula for our faith to grow. The good news is that the gospel is much more than a plan or a program. It’s deeper than a memorized speech, a set of convictions to store away in our hearts, or a formula to give lost people around us. The gospel that Jesus demonstrated in Mark 1:15 is something we present through our lives. As Jesus came proclaiming the good news to his first followers, he showed them how to demonstrate the gospel. We follow him, and we fish for people. In doing so, the gospel reveals itself as a full-bodied performance of our lives from now through eternity.
Does that mean we got it wrong with the A-B-Cs? Of course not. Those presentations of salvation are just simply designed for people who come to Jesus primarily before adulthood. Faith grows along with our lives. The math we used in third grade is not “wrong math.” But we realize that you can’t build a bridge as an adult on elementary school arithmetic. You need algebra, calculus, geometry, and a few other skills too.
Faith, and the presentation of it, adapts to the audience. As we grow, we realize we need more than simply a few short statements to sustain us through life’s challenges. The presentation of the gospel opens the front door of the heart; living the gospel renovates an entire life. As John Killinger says, evangelism opens all the doors of your heart to Jesus. The gospel converts nonbelievers into believers and believers into surrendered followers. Even the first disciples needed time to learn about the person they were following.
I imagine following Christ the way improvisational actors perform on a stage to an audience that is actively participating in the dramatic presentation. In improvisational theater, everyone is given a part to play, some large and small. Some people are stage crew and curtain managers, operating light and sound. They follow the theme of the play and improvise as they go through their gestures, actions, and words. The message is communicated. People are invited. A community forms because everyone participated together.
All of us are a part of the stage of life. Everyone has a part to play in demonstrating the central message of scripture—following Jesus Christ as Lord. Our parts are many and varied; some are friends, brothers, spouses, cousins, and children. Some people play multiple roles, but in Christ, all of us have something we can do. The scripture gives us the script, the plot, and the themes that God wants us to show in the performance. We have examples over these 66 books how others played their part. Now it’s our turn. Each one of us does that in our own way with fellow actors on the stage of life. We even invite others to come and be a part of the audience. As they observe and see our lives, and we tell them the message of the gospel, they too will want to follow Christ and play a part. We improvise with the community on stage by enacting the message in our own world. They are learning, sharing, and growing in their faith together. Following God’s direction, we embody the message as we live out the gospel on the stage of life. Not all the parts are memorized, but every one of us can remember we are telling and performing a dramatic role that has been going on since the beginning of time when God first made the world. This drama was played out in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It will be consummated when Jesus returns.
This weekend, we have a guide to help us start living the gospel in this way. Scot McKnight is going to invite us to connect to all the ways the gospel changes the lives of nonbelievers and believers. Dr. McKnight is Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, and is our keynote speaker for Connections Weekend. If you miss him Friday and Saturday, you’ll have a chance to hear him on Sunday as well. I hope to see you this weekend as we Live the Gospel. There’s a part in the drama for you.