By Merv Budd
Over the last couple of articles I’ve been trying to help us understand the evangelistic mission of the church apart from the Christendom framework upon which it has been assumed: the central position of power and cultural influence. The four assumptions of evangelism we’ve been unpacking are as follows:
- Evangelism is Proclamation
- Evangelism is Propositional
- Evangelism is Punctiliar
- Evangelism is Personal
The Moment I was Saved
The word punctiliar is defined as “occurring at a definite and particular point in time.” By and large much evangelistic activity has tried to climax the evangelistic engagement towards a decision to follow Jesus. In other words, we’ve focused on bringing about a definite point in time that a person could look back on and say “I was saved then.” And while many have “come to Christ” in this way, it has an inherent weakness.
The problem with a single, point-in-time decision is that it leaves the impression that once the decision is made, the person has crossed the finish line to faith. I do not mean to disparage decisions to follow Jesus, it is just that once the decision has been made it seems to place the following Jesus part of the equation as an anti-climactic footnote to the decision. Somehow the decision became more important than the following; the starting line is being considered the finish line!
Ironically we see very little emphasis on deciding in the Bible, rather we see a great deal of emphasis placed upon a process of seeking:
- “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
- “Seek and you will find.”
- God “marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…”
Such a work in us is not done once, but rather is a continual ongoing process that as disciples we continue to engage. We participate in the mission and seek God in the place where we find ourselves, in order that we might join with Him. So while there is a decision made to seek God, that decision is just one of many decisions that are made by disciples day in and day out at they follow Jesus.
The evangelistic task (in part) is encouraging people to engage the process of seeking God and helping to orient them with regard to where they are in God’s story. This is exactly what Peter does on the day of Pentecost when he preaches to the crowds and says, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:22-23, emphases added).
Peter’s message shows the crowd where they are in the story of God, and it was from this place of guilt that they began the process of seeking. As Acts 2:37 tells us, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’”
Evangelism takes place as we join with others and engage them in their journey, direct them towards seeking God from where they are, and encourage them to continue the process of seeking as God leads them from that place towards greater communion and intimacy. Of course it requires a point-in-time decision, but not just one. It requires a continual process of deciding at all times to follow Jesus.