I think we need to revisit the way we talk about God and His story.
For various historical and cultural reasons we (people within Christian culture) tend to use legal language to describe Biblical realities.
Legal language is certainly used in Scripture, but I would like to suggest that the foundational framework for understanding God, ourselves and Creation is relational rather than legal (if you would like me to lay out a case for this from Scripture, leave a note in the comments).
The way we understand and tell God’s story shapes what we say ‘yes’ to, which in turn has a huge impact on the direction and shape of our lives and discipleship journey.
Jesus’ Gospel had completely continuity from evangelism and discipleship. So did Paul’s;
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
– Colossians 2:6–7 (ESV)
The Gospel we hear proclaimed often doesn’t have obvious continuity between ‘acceptance’ and ‘the rest of my life’.
The should be a challenge and an invitation that never stops challenging and inviting both those listening and those proclaiming. We are making fresh responses to the Gospel continually as we move through each day.
There’s a lot I could write about that (and probably will) but for now I’ll just the say that I think the word “evangelism” is better understood “telling God’s story” – and His story always comes with an invitation to step back intorelationship with Him through trusting obedience. Similarly, I think “discipleship” should be understood in terms of “learning to trust God as a person and align ourselves with His loving reign and rule”.
An Attempt To Tell The Story
A couple of years ago I tried to summarise God’s story in a few minutes using relational language rather than legal or religious language (along with a well-known diagram).
Personally, I’m not comfortable going around looking for people to ‘do’ this with. However, it is a tool I can draw on whenever it is appropriate and will serve the other person, and it is a framework that continues to shape and challenge my own discipleship walk.
I have several goals in telling the story this way:
– be faithful to what the Bible is communicating
– use relational imagery/language rather than religious or legal imagery/language
– tell the story rather than trying to convince (God’s job – Jn 6:44-45)
– give the hearer complete clarity as to what God’s is inviting them to through this story – they have a clear picture of what saying “yes” means for the rest of their life
– give God’s basic invitation without watering anything down, and yet being accessible to as many worldviews as possible
How do you think I did?
How would your non-Jesus-following friends react?
How would you tell the story?