We had an active discussion last week for our Lenten Study. This week we will be in Chapter 2 “Catching up with God” of Dr. Hanna Steele’s book Living His Story. For this week, please read Chapter 2 and the discussion questions at the end of the chapter.
In the Beginning:
When we speak of evangelism, the first point to understand is that evangelism begins with God. Wherever evangelism takes place, God is already there. Remember back to the angel’s conversation with Martha outside the empty tomb in Matthew’s gospel. He tells her that the tomb is empty and that Jesus has gone before them to Galilee. Matt 27:8. In other words, he has already gone out into the world before us. In evangelism, we do not drag Jesus out into the world for he is already there.
Therefore, Dr. Steele writes, evangelism is theocentric (originating in God) not anthropocentric (originating in the needs of humanity). (p.35). Evangelism is defined, directed, energized, and accomplished ultimately through the Trinity and not through us. We have a role to play as simply the messenger or storyteller. The hard work itself is performed by God.
A Story of Love:
The story that we tell is the story of God’s love. This is a love not for the perfect and morally upright (for those who are well have no need of a physician (Mark 2:17)), but for the lost, the least, and the lawbreakers. Read the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15. In these stories, the shepherd, the widow, and the father search diligently and sacrificially for the one that has run away. The good sheep, the good coins, and the good son are left behind in a loving search for the missing. We like to say that God loves everyone equally, but in Jesus and in the stories that he tells, we see that God’s love is always biased towards the lost and outcast. As Dr. Stelle points out, it is as if God loves most those furthest from him. (p.41). They are ones in Galilee, and that is where we should be found as well.
A Story of Forgiveness:
Dr. Steele writes that the terms “election” and “covenant” (going back to the call of Abram in Gen. 12) are not terms of exclusivity – we are God’s chosen and you are not – but terms of mission – we are called by God to be a blessing for the world. (p.36). We see the tension between these two fundamentally different understandings of these words in the story of Jonah, the Lost/Prodigal Son, and the Pharisees.
Think back to our study of Jonah last summer. The prophet brings redemption to Ninevah, but God’s love for them makes Jonah exceedingly angry. (Jonah 4:1). In the parable, the father celebrates the return of the wayward younger son. But the older brother refuses to join in the celebration because he, like Jonah, cannot understand God’s love and forgiveness of the one that was lost. Luke 15:28-29. Likewise, it is the Pharisee that proclaims his goodness and his election to God and to the world, but it is the Publican who simply asks for mercy. Luke 18:9-14. God’s love and God’s forgiveness come to the latter and not the former. Our role is simply to proclaim the already accomplished indiscriminate, promiscuous, and prodigal love and forgiveness of God to the Ninevites, the younger brother, and the tax-collectors.
A Story of Victory:
Dr. Steele reminds us that the term “gospel” or “good news” originally had a secular political/military origin. (p.32). The good news was that carried by messengers to proclaim a military victory. We can see this type of gospel proclamation in the inscription in the ancient city of Priene which proclaimed the good news of Ceasar Augustus’ victory over Mark Anthony or in the story of Marathon whereby the victory of the Greeks over the Persians was proclaimed in Athens.
Within the political/military origin of this term, we see a message that is urgent and compelling. We see a message that proclaims an existing state of affairs independent of someone’s subjective beliefs. Augustus’ victory or the Persian’s defeat was simply true. Finally, we see a message that goes out to those who do not know of the occurrence and do not know of the full implications of that occurrence.
Evangelism is the proclamation that our God has already conquered. (1 Cor. 15:57). The battle is already won. (Gal 1:4). Ours is simply to speak of what we have heard and seen. Acts 4:20. We in the Church have been elected to go forth to proclaim God’s love for the lost, his forgiveness to the sinners, and his victory over the powers of this world.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is St. Patrick’s Day (observed). Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.