Monday, May 02, 2011

Turn or burn: The gospel at gunpoint?

We had dinner with the couple who oversee us as home group leaders in our church at the weekend. Good food with good conversation about our journey's with our God.
Each of our conversions to Christ centred not on fleeing hell but on embracing Christ, two via childrens evangelists, mine via Cranmer's liturgy. We came to believe because of Christ. Christ who led us to faith. Christ who convicted our hearts. It was Christ. And it is. .

Got me thinking about my evangelism. What do I speak about?

And then Bobby Grow cited Karl Barth's observation on Billy Graham's evangelism. Whether the observation is valid about Graham isn't my concern. I don't want to attack Graham or defend Barth, or vice-versa here. It simply makes me ask about my own preaching. Quote:"It was the gospel at gun-point . . . He preached the law, not a message to make one happy. He wanted to terrify people."

Sometimes, I get the feeling I might see a bit more immediate fruit if I preached a "gospel at gun-point". Now, of course we preach for a response, and final judgement certainly seemed to be a factor in the appeal made in the book of Acts, but even then it was their extolling of Jesus and the Resurrection that seems to dominate Luke's sermon summaries. There is urgency. There is wrath to come, and today. There is much to say about sin too. And there is terror outside of Christ. Yet, that terror is not because our God is not a God of love, but because he is so full of love, the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, and for his Bride, and the Spirit for all of the above etc. The love of God compels us to invite people to Christ.

I supppose it might come down to what's the aim. We don't preach to make people feel bad about themselves, though I know I have done that. And we surely don't just preach to try handle objections, though we do that. And we cannot preach to send people to hell. Jesus' hardest words were for the hard hearted Pharisees and yet even then (say in Luke 15-16) he was still pointing them to the Father's invitation to the party, and to the testimony of the Scriptures that they might turn and receive Christ.

Interview with Mark Driscoll: Spirit filled leading from Terry Virgo on Vimeo.

Mark Driscoll asked Terry Virgo: Do you like God? - if the answer is no, we have some serious problems. And yet as Rob Bell observes, many fear the god lurking behind Jesus.  I imagine many who call themselves Christians would falter on that, and certainly many who wouldn't call themselves Christians do say it's because they don't like him. Mike Reeves says::
 "...again and again when talking with non-Christian students I find that their description of the God they don't believe in sounds more like Satan - greedy, selfish, trigger-happy and entirely devoid of love - than the loving Father of Jesus Christ. We need to make the living God known as who he is: the Father of Lights, the fountain of all love and blessing, the one for whom holiness and wrath are not 'nasty sides' but his beautiful commitment to goodness" (Quoted in NB Magazine, Who is God? by Pod Bhogal March 2011)
If we speak of Jesus, and of his loving Father's view of him surely we can't but love him. My colleague Chris Oldfield says:
"The Father loves the son, not arbitrarily, but just look at him! See why the Father loves him - there's no darkness, no conspiracy in him at all; and he's so secure in his Father's love that he'll go to a cross for him. He'll empty himself for him. What a son."
Whatever the setting, whether in answering hard questions or expounding a text, I want to say, with much persuasion and much passion. No gun points, just a humbled beggar pointing, saying: Just look at him.