I think I’m done “sharing the Gospel” with my “neighbors.” For a girl who grew up a protestant evangelical—who’s been leading “ministries” since 8th grade—this is a big deal.
I’m done barging into my neighbors’ lives with all my “answers” to what ails them.
I’m done referring to people as “neighbors,” because I don’t think people really know what that means anymore—I doubt that just because I can throw a rock and hit your house I even know you. (If I did that, though, I’m sure I’d make your acquaintance, real quick.)
I’m done sharing The Gospel because it isn’t The Gospel that saves people.
You don’t need heresy handcuffs for this one.
This isn’t about decrying the power and purpose of the Death and Resurrection, or about undermining the lordship of Jesus as the Son of God.
It’s not even about “finding a new approach”. There is no new approach because there is nothing new under the sun.
It’s about all the ways using “The Gospel” allows us to bank a set of concepts and then measure everyone else’s correctness by it. “The Gospel” means your salvation depends on how identically your concepts match my concepts. If we don’t have an identical match in our personal thoughts about the greatest universal and human mysteries—even ones within the same faith tradition—then I have to fear and loathe your eternal destiny. I’m not having it.
This is about taking a hard look at the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and relational shortcuts that “sharing The Gospel” affords me: I don’t have to make a thoughtful case, face my own baggage, or meet you in your pain because I already know all the “right” things to say. I’ve got the sentences to pull out when I want and to use them where I please.
This is about not feeling so self-satisfied when I relate the events of a familiar death & resurrection narrative and then drop the mic.
It’s about no longer having a religious agenda when I build relationships with people around me.
I haven’t “walked away”. I’m not a heretic—not on purpose anyway.
This is still about the Truth.
Jesus promised “You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”
But here’s what “sharing the Gospel” makes it easy to overlook: The Truth is a Person.
When Jesus talks about knowing The Truth, He’s talking about knowing Himself.
When I feel compelled to tell people about Jesus, it’s because I’ve learned—I’m still learning, with all the limitations I have out of who I am as a person—that He really is the only true source of Peace, Joy, and Abundance, the only true source of insight into how things are and how they should be.
The rest is just words. The rest is just how I’ve been taught to “make sense of things.”
“Making sense of it” hasn’t actually helped much lately. “Making sense of it” hasn’t brought me the peace or healing I need.
I’m not “sharing the Gospel” anymore because I have found more Life and Hope in the mystery than in an intellectual schematic.
Because things like Love and Atonement and Healing and Eternity are much bigger than a limited legal model that encourages us do salvation math.
Because an elevator speech does an injustice to who has changed my life—to the person who is ever at work changing my life.
Because delivering the elevator speech demands I lay claim to things I’ve heard a lot, but that I can’t live from yet.
It’s like hearing from the doctor, reading in magazine, learning in Health Class that 8 glasses of water, 8 hours of sleep, 5 daily cups of leafy greens and 30 minutes of cardio in the morning is what it takes to be healthy.
We “know” it, but how many of us actually do that?
Mental agreement with a set of concepts won’t change your life. Just because you repeat some words during a church service one day (or on the side of the road, or at a conference, or on a campout) doesn’t mean you’ll have all you need to live The Abundant Life.
Simply knowing what it takes doesn’t make you a healthy person. You have to do what doesn’t come naturally. You have to get up early. You have to say “no” to the pleasurable things. You have to practice. And you have to do this every day for a long time before you notice a change.
No one wants to hear that.
I won’t share the Gospel because I feel like it perpetuates false expectations. You can’t pray a prayer and be all better. Even if you pray that prayer and have a radical moment, you’ll still have more demons to battle once you’ve vanquished that one. He’ll probably even come back.
I will start by saying to live the abundant life, you need to face your issues. You’ll have to do some hard emotional and relational work before you feel a difference. You need to make a daily effort to connect to God.
After all that, your best-case scenario is still going to have some time in the desert, some time in the dark. Before the glory of the resurrection necessarily comes death, and unfortunately, that’s not hyperbole.
I’ll tell you getting through the desert and the dark and the death requires fighting fear and despair with all you have—to believe in spite of all you know and all you’ve ever learned about life and your worth that you are Someone’s Beloved, that what is happening is Good and will be Good.
I’ll warn you that when this faith meets your circumstances, it will feel like it’s tearing you in half.
I’ll be honest about how even though God is always with you, it won’t always feel like it. In fact, that consolation may not be there when you’re sure you need it most. But He is. Your job is to fight like hell to hang on to that and go looking for Him no matter what it takes. And when you can’t find Him, you have your people point the way and hold up your arms like they did for Moses.
It’s not that there isn’t Good News. It’s just that The Good News also includes the book of Lamentations. The dark Psalms. Job. Jesus’ last words on the Cross. Paul’s time in Prison. Peter’s martyrdom.
These are a tough sell, but they can’t be ignored.
These things are the Truth; somehow they set us free, too.