A fortnight ago, I preached here at a weekend of evangelistic events.
On the Friday night they held an excellent Jazz evening. In between music and dessert I interviewed Laura for the best part of half an hour - she gave a wonderful testimony about God's work in her life. Later, after some more puddings and music, I spoke for 20 minutes on the subject "Why bother with Jesus?"
Recently I wrote about offering Christ to people in evangelism (as opposed to simply offering them credibility, cool, creeds or courses). With those kinds of convictions in mind I decided to offer people a chance to respond to Christ's call. I said a prayer at the end which I invited them to own for themselves if they wanted to say Yes to Jesus.
Let me say straight away (and I said this on the night) I don't think such prayers are magic. I don't think the words are important. I don't think they're a new sacrament or anything. But if God's been speaking to people, here's a way of them making some response of faith - calling on the name of the Lord.
So anyway, I spoke for 20 minutes - which is a relatively short period of time given that I wanted to take people from "Good evening, aren't the Jazz band great?" to "Follow Jesus, you can start tonight..."
I finished the talk, asked the audience to bow their heads and prayed a short prayer.
Afterwards I couldn't help thinking of a previous church I have worked for. They would have loved the event we put on but seriously questioned calling people to become Christians there and then. After all, we have to first build the relational bridge until it's strong enough to carry gospel freight. We have to overcome the barriers to belief - the "it's boring" barrier; the "it's irrelevant" barrier; the "it's untrue" barrier. In our culture people are "too far back" to expect that a twenty minute gospel presentation can bring a person to the point of conversion.
Well I don't know the extent of their prior Christian influence, I don't know the number of people who have been praying for them nor the hundreds of gospel seeds that have already been sown in their heart, but three people made known that they became Christians that night.
The point is not "what a talk" - it was nothing special. The point is - what a gospel! And the point is that this gospel is an event. Revelation is an event. Conversion is an event. The gospel is not a process, revelation is not a process, conversion is not a process. To say so is to deny the gospel. And the more we think and plan sociologically about pathways to faith the more we compromise the gospel.
I do believe in relationships and building friendships. I believe that the loving community of the church is the context for our evangelism. But I also believe in events.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation.