I’ve read several very good posts lately on the topic of discipleship – i.e., helping one another follow Jesus Christ.
There are several great things about Keith’s post. He begins by discussing what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and suggests that many today have confused making disciples with making converts.
At one point, Keith makes this statement:
I believe the main reason for this phenomenon is simple; Christians are largely concerned with making converts. In other words, it starts with the way we understand (or misunderstand) the Gospel and then flows into the way we evangelize.
Most Christians today understand the Gospel as simply saying a prayer so that you can go to heaven when you die. This isn’t the Gospel. It is a simplistic element of the larger doctrine of the Atonement, but it’s not the Gospel.
Growing up, I remember that choosing between heaven and hell was a huge part of “presenting the gospel.” I’m sure we’ve all heard the “fire and brimstone” preacher who warns, “You don’t want to go to hell, do you?” Why, even a few years ago, I was taught to start sharing the good news by asking, “Why should God let you into heaven?”
Not too long ago, while study the Gospel of Matthew together with the church, I noticed something interesting. Jesus didn’t invite people to follow him by asking them to choose between heaven and hell. Yes, he talked about eternal life, and he talked about eternal death… but wasn’t that usually after someone was following him?
What about in Acts? Are there examples of any believers inviting people to believe in Jesus so they would go to heaven and wouldn’t go to hell? I can’t think of any… but I could have forgotten something.
In the epistles, it’s a little more difficult. These were all written to believers. But, even when Paul, Peter, James, Jude, etc. wrote about the gospel, I don’t remember them encouraging people to proclaim a choice between heaven and hell.
So, where did this come from? I honestly don’t know.
But, here’s my big question… if we don’t invite people to choose between heaven and hell, what do we invite them to? I think the answer is fairly obvious, but I’m wondering how you would answer that question?