the weblog of Alan Knox

Asking people to vote on their preferences for heaven or hell

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in blog links | 7 comments

Asking people to vote on their preferences for heaven or hell

I’ve read several very good posts lately on the topic of discipleship – i.e., helping one another follow Jesus Christ.

One of the best has been a post by Keith at “subversive1” called “How to Make Disciples: Part 1 – The Problem.”

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?


7 Comments

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  1. 4-17-2013

    “Christians are largely concerned with making converts”
    And churches.

    A large, local church, which prided itself on being the evangelical beacon in the community, invited a well known radio teacher to speak. Christians drove hours to come hear him. The message was one of salvation rather than discipleship to this crowd of devout Christians.

  2. 4-17-2013

    I think traditionally we’ve have many things back to front, Alan. We try to ‘get people saved’ first, then sign them up to an organisation, and then ‘disciple’ them (ie train them in our own understanding of right thinking and behaviour).

    Perhaps we should start again.

    How about this? Begin by treating people as if we love them. Better still, love them and let it show. Invite our friends to find out more about the Bible by reading a short Bible passage together. Get them to re-tell the passage in their own words. Get them to explain what it means. Ask them if they need prayer for anything. Pray with them.

    Repeat as necessary. Encourage them to do the same with their own friends.

    So we make disciples first.

    As they follow and read more about Jesus, they may begin to believe. They’re already meeting together so we see faith and church developing. The seed is germinating and beginning to grow! Light is dawning.

    Not only will they continue to grow and mature, they will also have a missional outlook from the outset. And they’ll never know what it means to ‘make converts’.

  3. 4-17-2013

    The invitation is to enter the Kingdom of God. It is an invitation to have life and have it abundantly.

  4. 4-17-2013

    “Teaching them to observe all I commanded” has become lecture the Bible in one way communication and zero mutuality with the teacher.

  5. 4-18-2013

    Good comments everyone. Thank you!

    -Alan

  6. 4-19-2013

    It has been my experience that ‘avoiding hell and making heaven’ is a universal human desire. Telling someone that Jesus is the way seems like the Christian thing to do.
    I think the point here is “many today have confused making disciples with making converts”. To put it another way, “making converts and then making them disciples”.
    I’m interested in what you (Alan and Chris) are saying that it should be the other way around.

  7. 4-19-2013

    Nelson,

    From what I’ve experienced (and, experience is not always the best teacher), offering someone heaven or hell does not then make them a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ (or a citizen of the kingdom of God, if someone prefers that kind of description).

    -Alan