Belong, believe, become

This is an edited version of an earlier post, making reference to a conference I attended several years ago that asked, "How do we minister to the typically post-modern, post-Christian younger generations?" Several presenters noted that the typical evangelical presentation of the gospel is not connecting with this cohort---a presentation that goes something like this:    
  1. Behave: change the way you live---repent---act like you belong here 
  2. Believe: change the way you think---have faith---believe like one of us 
  3. Belong: because you have repented and now believe like we do, God forgives you and makes you his child---you are now reconciled/saved---you are now welcome here      
(used with artist's permission)
At least one of the presenters suggested that we change the way we present the gospel to follow this pattern:
  1. Belong: you are accepted by God and by us, Jesus has included you in his life by grace---you are loved and accepted unconditionally---you belong
  2. Believe: now believe into (receive) this truth, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ
  3. Become: as you believe and live into this truth, you will become, more and more, who you truly are in Christ---your life will be transformed by grace (by the Spirit) from the inside out
My response at the time to this plea for change was (and still is), “Right on!” I agree we should invert the typical order of our gospel presentations---not because doing so is effective marketing, but because this inverted order is the actual gospel of God's grace in and through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The apostolic witness to the gospel is about God's amazing grace in and through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. It focuses on who Jesus truly is, and what he actually has done, already, in himself with us and for us, and thus who we, by grace, truly are. The focus is thus on Jesust, not our performance, including our belief and behavior. This gospel declares that God has reconciled all humanity to himself through Christ, apart from any effort or merit of our own. It tells us that God embraces all humanity, loving them, forgiving them and accepting them because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done and continues to do as the incarnate, crucified, risen and ascended/glorified God-man---our representative and substitute.

The stunning truth of the gospel is that in Christ (through his vicarious humanity), all people truly have been included in the love and life of the triune God. In that sense, all already belong. And so the evangelical (gospel) invitation is not, you can belong if..., but you do belong, so now believe that truth, and your behavior will follow (you will, through the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit, become who you, in Christ, truly are).

(source)

The order of the gospel taught by the original apostles and codified by the church fathers in the ancient creeds, is not behave, believe, belong; but belong, believe, become. This is the order and logic of grace. This is the gospel of Christ the Redeemer. And it truly is good news for all people---post-modern, post-Christian people included. For additional articles on this topic click herehere and here.

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