And it worked because it was really all about us…
Advertisers want to convince you that you can’t survive another minute unless you have what they want to sell you. They lead you to believe it is about you…your image, your body, your happiness when it is really about them…their money, their shareholders, their reputation and image. Sometimes evangelism takes a similar approach. You tell people they have a problem, sin. You tell people there is a solution to their problem: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They are told that their biggest problem is death and that God has provided them a way to have eternal life through Christ so that we can live with God forever and so that death doesn’t have the final say. It is like we are selling them a product that and if we make it sound enough like the whole thing is about them…their issues, their problems, and their future…maybe, just maybe they will be interested. That is the way to get people interested in something, right…make them think something is about them.
Success breeds repetition. When something works we tend to do it again. Presenting the Gospel in this way “works” and so it is perpetuated. A whole generation was converted to Christ with this approach to the message and many of them had weak and shallow faith…that when what was in it for them was no longer so apparent, they jumped ship and the church is now in decline. I can’t help but wonder if our decline is directly related to how we communicated the Gospel for so many years.
I want to say, the things I said above regarding what God has done for us through Christ are all true, no doubt. I am not saying it is wrong to say those things. The Gospel is about God dealing with sin and death and bringing us life. What I am saying can get misplaced is the focus on the message. The Gospel is not primarily about us. The Gospel is primarily about God. When we sell the Gospel as the solution to our biggest problem, it is not that we are speaking untruths, it is that we aren’t emphasizing the main thing. That main thing is God. Instead, we make it about us…our problem, our needs, our life. The problem, ironically, is that approach works. So we do it again and again. In doing so, we just tap right back into that Western way of thinking that the world revolves around us. Honestly, it almost sounds like God revolves around us…God did all of that for you. Yes he did. But why? Because we are so great? No. Because he is so gracious. That is the point. All of this is to God’s glory, not ours.
Now for scripture. In John 15 Jesus says he is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in Christ we will bear fruit but only if God, the gardener, comes and prunes us. Here is how Jesus concludes the parable in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” The only way we even exist is due to God’s grace. The only way we have connection with the vine, which gives life, is by God’s grace. The only way we bear fruit is through our connection with the life-giving vine, which is by God’s grace. If you step back and look at all of the grapevines and all the care and pruning and planting it took to produce such a harvest, you wouldn’t compliment the fruit that is produced for such an achievement. You would praise the gardener who planted and tended to it for so many years. Jesus says, our being in the vine, which allows us to bear fruit is all for the glory of God.
So when we reach out and evangelize, let’s make sure it is all about God otherwise we just convert them to be more self-centered than they were before they were converted.
This is how Jesus solved the problem of human sin. He lived the perfect life God demanded of us. He died the awful death that God righteously pronounced as our punishment (see 2 Corinthians 5:21 , 1 Peter 3:18 ).