Thursday, August 27, 2009

God's Training Grounds

I just started taking classes toward a degree in religion at Liberty University. With that said, I AM PSYCHED, STOKED, EXCITED whichever you prefer. One of my classes is Contemporary Evangelism. One of the books I have to read for it is The Art of Personal Evangelism, by w. McRaney. This class and my first required discussion board thread has a lot to do with my last post "Are We Adding to the Church" (HERE) that I wrote after the Summit Leadership conference. So I thought I'd add a “part 2” of sorts, since it's still been on my heart.

McRaney identifies God's desire is to “have an eternal relationship with His people", evidenced by the fact that He created us to live forever. From the very beginning God established relationship. He gave Adam and Eve each other, then instructed that man should leave his mother and become one flesh with his wife. God also made sure He had an active relationship with Adam and Eve in the garden. Genesis 3:8 reads, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day...” This desire is expressed continually throughout the bible. In Exodus 29:45, God again reveals His desire to have relationship with His people by stating, “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.” God created us to have relationship with us and so we could have relationship with each other. He created us as vessels to pour His overflowing love in to and the fact that He gave us free will is evidence that He desired willing reciprocation of that poured out love.

But He didn't stop there. God also expects us to continue pouring out our love to others, our neighbors. In the same instance that Christ commands us to love God with all our heart, He gives equal weight to the command to love our neighbor. This is the foundation for community. God revealed His desire for us to live in community by establishing the desire and need for relationships and modeled it in the Trinity. McRaney speaks to this point by saying, “God was living in community with Himself as Trinity and created all things to enjoy the benefits of such community." God intends us to live in community, not only with other Christians, but also (and especially) with non-believers. Most often when the Israelites would turn from God he would send a prophet that was already a part of the community. Christian community is very important because it helps us to sharpen each other as believers. It also strengthens and prepares us to go to the unbeliever. C.S. Lewis describes Christian community by saying, “Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together.” We are intended to be united in relationship and community as one body. Our church should provide that relationship and community. But it should not be our stronghold, rather a training ground and a safe place to find comfort and support in between our attempts to bring others into God's community and a relationship with Him. That is where we become equipped and prepared to evangelize in today's world.

In Training,
Bruce