As a church planter, do you see evangelism as sharing about a jail-break (“escaping death”) or as a break-in (“Heaven breaking into the here and now”)? Your choice makes all the difference in the kind gospel you share.
My friend Steven Hamilton, a former pastor, once observed: “How do we help people know and live the life of a Kingdom catalyst, and that they can join with the Father for his reign to break into the world? This is the kind of “discipleship” that I need and want to pass on to others.”
The Kingdom of God is a Break-in
His question goes right to the heart of discipleship. There’s an important difference between seeing ourselves as “born again” or seeing ourselves as “born from above.” The biblical text in John 3 can support both translations. Most translations favored by Evangelicals give us “born again,” but the New Jerusalem Bible (a Roman Catholic translation) renders the idea “born from above.” I find it interesting that historically Catholic Christians have been more engaged in world affairs and social work (the idea behind a break-in of HGod’s kingdom) than Evangelicals, who largely see the work of Christ as a divine rescue mission–saving us from hell and securing heaven–which has encouraged Christians to retreat from worldly things. (OK, I know this is a generalization.)
Have you ever considered what would happen if Jesus came to your home town tomorrow morning? What things would he set straight? Where would he turn his attention and activity? Of course, we have some idea of what he would do; the gospels are a record of what Jesus did when he came to town. Many people think that the arrival of God meant judgment had come, and in some measure that’s true–Jesus brought the judgment of God against sickness by healing the sick. He brought the judgment of God against demonic oppression by setting people free from demonization. He brought the judgment of God against hypocrisy and discrimination by welcoming the outcasts to his dinner table.
In the day of his visitation, Jesus did more than demonstrate God’s verdict on injustice, he invited others to follow him. He invited others to join him in his Father’s work. (see Matthew 10: 1-10; Luke 9: 1-6 & Luke 10: 1-12 for starters). This means that when God came to earth he immediately pressed people into working along side of him, literally doing the same things he did. He is still doing the very same thing today: breaking into our world and inviting others to join him. This is the answer to Steven Hamilton’s question about discipleship.
Hamilton uses the phrase, “Kingdom catalyst,” that is, a person or thing that precipitates an event or change, and in this case the change is the in-breaking of the kingdom. If we limit the work of Jesus to a guarantee of going to heaven when we die, then we will be concerned with breaking out of this world. Who could possibly hear a call to discipleship in that? If broaden our understanding of Christ’s work to see him opening the way for heaven to come to earth, then we will be concerned with the in-breaking of God’s rule and reign (“as it is in heaven”) into our world here and now. If God is going to show up personally, then discipleship is the logical response–it means getting on board with what he will do when he gets here!
Anyone who looks forward to the “jail-break” from earth to heaven will not be concerned with life on earth–except for the kind of evangelism that invites others to join the getaway. When we look forward to God breaking into a captive earth, then our activities here and now take on new meaning. We need to ask ourselves if our gospel is an invitation for others to join the jail-break or join the break-in.
This article about the difference between a jail-break and a break-in originally appeared here, and is used by permission.