Pastor's Blog

Years ago I worked in a chocolate factory.  One day I was dumping blocks of solid chocolate into a heated tank – a hot, slippery, messy, and mindless task.  I was surprised when the guy working with me asked, “What does John 3.16 say?”

I quoted John 3.16 to him and asked why he asked that.  He paused a moment, confused, and then said, “So…what does that have to do with football?”

I would love to say that in the conversation that followed I led my co-worker to believe in Jesus.  Instead, I had another slippery and messy task -- explaining why Christians felt a need to shove religion down his throat at a football game.

Evangelicals who do this sort of thing subscribe to what I call “the magic words theory”.  Utter the magic words – “God loves you!” or “Jesus died for you” (or hold up a placard with that reads ‘John 3.16’ in the end zone so it gets on national TV) – and maybe the magic words will save the soul of someone who sees it.

The task of the church is not to help people understand the words, or to put the words in a context to be understood, but to make sure the public sees (or hears) the words.
            Tack them onto the end of a sermon or slip them into any conversation.
            Write them on notes or birthday cards or spray them as graffiti on a wall. 
            Post them on a billboard or a banner behind an airplane at the shore.
            Write them on the cash you leave as a tip.
            Insert them into movie scenes or song lyrics.
Just say the magic words whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Or even when it doesn’t.

I believe this idea and this practice to be well-intentioned, but more of a stumbling block to the gospel than a helpful vehicle for it.

We are not here to merely shout magic words at the unbelieving world in hopes of magically altering eternal destinies.

Our destiny is changed because our relationship to God changes when we understand the gospel (not just hear magic words) and believe.  When we understand and believe, God saves us and alters, not just our destinies, but our everyday lives.  Christianity is not about eternal life insurance.  It is about eternal life – life begun now that will be lived for eternity, doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

And eternal life is not life lived in isolation, but lives lived together in relation to God and to one another – lives lived out of love. 

The greatest commandments are “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.

Jesus said that all people would know we are His followers if we have love for one another.

It is not good for man to be alone.  Never was and never will be.

The work of evangelism isn’t founded on the proper uttering of the right magic words, but on Christians living out a new life together as a sign of the truth of the existence of God’s new creation.

 

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