A gospel as expansive and comprehensive as the Bible presents it can’t be shared in sound bites or simple propositions. It is a story with six chapters bounded by creation and consummation and constituted by everything between. We cannot hope to capture this gospel in a brief and digestible presentation.
So what are we to do? We must still share, preach, and proclaim the gospel!
We can tell stories. We can tell the gospel story. It won’t be quick and clean like the Four Spiritual Laws. Nor will it be idea-centered like the aforementioned Four Spiritual Laws or the Roman Road and the like. Rather it will be relational, open-ended, ongoing, and lived out. And all four of these elements are essential. So it will be as messy as life itself, told and re-told as often as necessary and in the ever-changing contexts of our lives, and as credible as the lives of those who tell it. In short, sharing the gospel, or evangelism, is a story, wrapped in a community, embedded in life, and made credible by a counter-cultural reconciled and reconciling way of living.
Yet, given all this, what is we actually want to say when given the chance to tell this story? Here are some of my thoughts.
What’s God’s “big picture” plan for us and our world?
God created this world to be an eternal home for him and his human creatures. He appointed and gifted man and woman, his children, to be his royal ambassadors throughout creation and priests, overseers of creation for its protection, direction, and growth to full flourishing.
2. What’s gone wrong?
We defaulted on our humanity by denying our family head, God our Father, defrauding our great Sovereign, God Almighty, and devaluing and undoing the work of our Creator. This inexplicable and heinous act of claiming our lives as our own to direct and fulfill has boomeranged on us. Not only do we find being the source and goal of our lives nearly intractable, the fulfillment we seek remains ever elusive. And our handling of the creation has broken and exhausted it for more than renewing it in well-being. This defaulting on our humanity by breaking relationship with God is what we call “sin.”
3. What has God done about this?
God never acquiesced in our breaking relationship with him. He established a subversive counter-revolutionary movement calling Abraham and Sarah as parents of a great new family: raised up by God, blessed by God, and used by God to bless the rest of the world. Every one of Abraham’s family, however, also defaulted on their humanity by failing to be faithful to God’s great promise to them. Well, not quite every one – one Israelite remained faithful, even unto death, Jesus of Nazareth.
He was both God come among us, “Immanuel” and also the true “Adam,” humanity as it should have been. He did for us what only God can do and offered God the love and loyalty humanity should have. He is God’s subversive counter-revolutionary movement in person!
In Christ we find God’s lavish love poured out for us and human life poured out in love and service to God. In him we are wayward children reclaimed by a loving Father and restored to our primal dignity as his royals and priests in and for creation and set anew on our creational vocation. As such, we (the church) are the agents of God’s subversive counter-revolutionary movement. Through us (remember Gen.12:3) God intends to show the world what true humanity looks like and what human community and caring for creation means for our drive to find meaning and fulfillment in life.
4. How will this story end?
God’s intention for us and our world will finally be fulfilled. As God’s subversive counter-revolutionary movement, the church serves, sacrifices, and suffers for God and the world. By such service it spreads God’s blessing around the world and shows humanity how God intends life to be as his royal ambassadors and priests of creation.
Through and beyond our service and struggle to set thing right in our lives and world, God will be victorious over everyone and everything opposed to him. That victory will result in a purifying judgment that works the reconciliation and restoration, rather than the destruction, of all things broken and out of joint.
This earth too will be renewed by God’s victory to what he always intended it to be, the eternal habitation of his creatures and himself loving and serving each other and caring for the new creation in endless felicity and joy. In other words, we will finally know life as God desired and designed it to be!
Obviously, no one will tell the story exactly like this. But this is the story, however we tell it, which must be told. This story enables us to both discern and demonstrate the way God’s kingdom sets right - subversively (from the bottom up) – and counters the attitudes, actions, patterns, and structures our sinful rebellion against God have put in place in the world. This story is our raison de etre and our destiny, our food and drink (think Eucharist), our vocation, our way of life, our being, our delight!