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“I offered them Christ” [repost]

Preaching-George-WhitefieldThat was how Wesley and Whitfield would describe their evangelistic efforts.  Sounds so simple: just offer them Christ.

And it's so joyous too.  Nothing brings home to me the graciousness of my Lord as much as offering Him to others.  The availability of Jesus is so tangible when you just lift Him up before people and say "Want Him?  He's yours."

But it's so easy to fall short of it.

Here's how:

* We offer them "cool" not Christ

We spend our time reassuring people that they don't have to be a geek to be a Christian.  Christians can be trendy too.

* We offer them "credibility" not Christ

We spend all our time reassuring people that they don't need to be brainless to be a Christian.  Christians can be clever too.

* We offer them a creed not Christ.

Creeds are essential, I'm not suggesting we can divorce the personal from the propositional.  But teaching people 6 doctrines is not offering them Christ.

* We offer them a course not Christ.

Courses are brilliant, I've seen many people become Christians on things like Christianity Explored.  But offering a course is not offering them Christ.

Now, good evangelism might have all sorts of apt cultural references and thoughtful critiques of modern assumptions. It will certainly convey creedal truths and if it's followed by courses where Christ is also offered - that is an excellent thing.

But whatever else happens, it ought to offer Christ, oughtn't it?  Shouldn't it placard the Person and work of Jesus and ask "Will you receive Him?"

Here's some reasons I think we don't.  (And I genuinely say "we" - I fail at this all the time.)

1. We think cool, credibility, creeds and courses are more attractive than Jesus. Of course we'd never say that.  We'd rarely dare to articulate the thought.  But I wonder whether it's there.

2. We imagine that the gospel is a process rather than a Person. Again, if cornered we'd swear black and blue that faith is an event and the gospel a revelation. But if our evangelism is all processes perhaps we've begun to think of the evangel itself as a process.

3. We don't honestly think people will become Christians. Allied to point number 2, we've bought into some social science view of conversion and reckon that "people are much further back these days" and "we just need to bring them on a few steps towards faith."

4.  We don't believe in the Holy Spirit. We don't actually think the power of Almighty God is unleashed when the Word is preached. So instead we trust to the resources of the flesh.

5. We refuse to be as vulnerable as the Lord we proclaim. Paul knew that a foolish message (1 Cor 1:18-25) meant a foolish people (v26-31) and a foolish messenger (2:1-5).  But we don't want to be cruciform evangelists, opening our arms to a world who will despise and belittle the word of the cross.  We want to show the world how wise and strong we are.

What do you think?

Anything to add?

4 thoughts on ““I offered them Christ” [repost]

  1. Cal

    One thing that strikes me, especially in my American context, is a sort of pragmatics and practicality that makes everything to fit into our hands. That's to say, there is very little interest in the Truth (capital T) as an end in itself. There's no time for meditation, no time to see how a revelation of the truth of things plays itself out in the individual. We need bullet points.

    Peter told the crowds the story of Jesus, and didn't begin to list off what must be done in terms of moral reform or social transformation. He didn't even tell them what to do until they were "cut to the heart" and asked.

    It seems there's a ruthless common assumption that people must be led around by the nose with gimmicks, rhetoric etc. That has an ancient pedigree. However its sad that the proclamation that a crucified criminal, mocked as king of the Jews, is really God's Chosen One is not enough to offend or shatter. How sad that the explosiveness of that message has been muted and been quantified into 8 steps for a happy marriage, how to live like everyday is Friday and leadership principles.

  2. Gordon Banks

    How many times in a Church of England church have you heard a call to respond to an invitation to accept Jesus? Sadly it is rare occurence, we just don't that sort of thing. However this leads to a lack of expectancy that people will come to faith through the life and witness of the church.

  3. Howard

    Thankfully, Gordon, we hear it pretty much every Sunday at my Anglican Church, and people are coming to Jesus Christ because of this. The entire purpose of such services should be to focus on Him in word and sacrament, and it's wonderful, after years in the wilderness, to attend somewhere where this is the case. We certainly need to see much more of it.

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