Sometimes we view “The Gospel Story” with too narrow a lens. The gospel isn’t just the part where Jesus is born, baptized, crucified and risen again. It’s more than that. It’s the whole story. It includes the part where sin entered the world in Genesis, the part where a promise was given to Abraham, and all the parts throughout history where God worked in big ways and little ways all the way until now. Of course, Jesus’ death and Resurrection were key parts in the story, but those are not the ONLY parts.
This is how Dr. Michelle Anthony opened up her session during the second day of The Gathering.
Michelle continued, explaining some of misconceptions we hold onto as Christians. She recounts a time she took an evangelism class when she was about twenty years old. Everyone was supposed to write down the names of a few friends on little circles and as the class progressed, the goal was to move those little circles into the big “God’s Kingdom” circle. Turns out, Michelle’s circles weren’t moving too much. As the class drew closer to the end, she knew she had to “close the sale” with a neighbor she had named on one of the little circles. One day, (when she didn’t have too much time) she headed next door and started down the outline.
She asked “Do you believe in God as Father and Creator?” The neighbor responded positively. Great! Michelle continued with the key questions in Christianity. This woman next door believed in Jesus as Savior, Son of God. She believed He died for our sins and even believed that He rose from the dead. Michelle, who was now running late, was ecstatic! She answered all the questions right! Michelle started gathering up all her stuff, and proclaimed, “Great, you’re a Christian now!”
To which the neighbor responded, “No, I”m not.” Michelle argued, “Yes, you are” as she continued packing up her stuff.
“No, I’m not”, the neighbor insisted.
Determined to move that little circle, Michelle muttered under her breath, “Yes, you are” and quickly jetted out the door!
Shaking her head, Michelle says to us, “I sure hope God sent someone more spiritual into that lady’s life!”
I remember having those same feelings when I took an evangelism class in college. Evangelism Explosion. Ugh. We too had an outline and specific questions to ask whatever unfortunate soul happened across our path. We memorized verses, analogies and other meaningless jargon. One day, I was sitting next to a guy at Splash Lagoon in Erie. I started down the outline in my head. The first three points went just as planned. Perfect — I CAN evangelize! However, when we hit the fourth point, this guy strayed from the outline. WHAAAAAT? Doesn’t he know he isn’t supposed to DO that? He has to follow the plan! Needless to say, I didn’t get to move any little circles that day.
In contrast, Michelle shared about a friendship that started about 18 years ago. Michelle was at a gymnastics class, waiting for her daughter to finish when a new mom in town, Tina, walked into class with a box of Malibu lights (what are those anyway?). Tina asked Michelle to help her put them together and as the two women monkeyed around with these lights, they shared stories. Michelle shared her story and Tina shared her story. Over nine months, the friendship grew and flourished and when Good Friday came along, the two ladies attended the service together. At the end of the service, Tina went forward and gave her life to Christ. She didn’t follow an outline. She didn’t check off the “5 Key Beliefs You Must Have as a Christian”. Instead, she learned about God’s story and realized she could be a part of it. That’s powerful. That’s real.
Where does this power come from?
The Holy Spirit.
In his book, The Forgotten God, Francis Chan says something to the effect of:
I’m willing to bet that there are millions of church goers across America that have not experienced the movement of the Holy Spirit in the last year and don’t believe they can. Christianity has become more about attendance than the presence of God.
How did this happen?
Shouldn’t there be a difference between someone who has the Spirit of God within them (Christians) and someone who does not. I mean, think about it. The Spirit of God. Wow. That’s powerful.
Instead, we live life like the Spirit has no power at all. We lack joy. We brush off sins, saying things like “Well, I have a tendency towards that.” “Yeah, I struggle with that. It’s just one of those things!” How about, we say “NO” to the flesh. To take a serious look at our lives and what we are demonstrating to the world.
The Bible tells us that we should be walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). If you check the Greek word for this, Michelle explains, “walking in the Spirit” isn’t a stroll through the garden together. It’s walking in perfect sync — almost military style. There is precision. Every step. Form by form. In complete unity. That takes practice. Serious practice.
And it takes submission. Michelle challenges us, “The Spirit will make you do things you wouldn’t normally choose. You learn a sort of dependence that doesn’t come naturally”. Perhaps He will take us on a deep dark winding road. This relationship with the Holy Spirit moves beyond intellectual understanding. It takes us to a place where we can really glimpse God’s power in our lives.
Don’t you want to be part of that story?
Sometimes God takes us to places that we wouldn’t choose. Michelle shared a story about her son. He was in scuba driving training in preparation to become a Marine Biologist. Between some bad weather, heavy waves, and jagged rocks, a friend died in an accident during training. No one would choose that story. No one would want that to happen. This incident caused a stirring in Michelle’s son and he drew closer to God, and now he’s a new person. Totally changed and totally surrendered to God. The power of the Spirit shining through his life is contagious. That’s God’s story. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes it’s tragic. Often it’s unexpected. But if we follow in step with the Spirit, it’s always the best story.
Too often though, we try to live life without God. Without the power of the Holy Spirit. Even in our Children’s Ministry, we push this moral formation tendency onto the kids. We give a lesson and we say, “Now go home and be a servant. Go home and be nicer to your brother.” Just be better, kids. Just try harder.
That’s not right.
We can’t do it. Not really. Sure, we can disciple ourselves and act better. Improve behavior and force kids into “acting right”. But ultimately, that wouldn’t work. This humanistic moral-living theology will be rejected. Kids will walk away because there’s no power in this method.
So let’s try something else.
Let’s jump into God’s Story where we belong. Let’s hang on to the power of the Holy Spirit, and let’s see where that takes us.
* This post is part of series of live blogging posts from David C. Cook’s “The Gathering” conference in Costa Mesa, CA. These notes came from Michelle’s Anthony’s general session. All the good stuff came from her! *
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