I remember the difficult thing about preaching… It wasn’t the getting up in front of people that bothered me the most. It wasn’t that I was concerned whether or not they would like my message. It wasn’t a concern over whether I would have enough to say (never been a problem). All of these things and many more would go through my head repeatedly as the time approached for me to stand and deliver. No… the biggest concern was how to wrap it up in such a way as to make sure people felt a need for salvation. I don’t mean that it was ever manipulative (at least not in an intentional way). But one of the primary things we’ve seen modeled is that we must always make sure people understand the need to come to Christ for salvation. I would approach it with urgency and true concern over their hearts and souls… and on numerous occasions, they would come forward and make a decision right then and there to “get saved.”
At this point, there was a big sigh of relief within all of our hearts. We, as a family of believers would be so happy and overcome with joy that someone had entered into the Kingdom of God, as we should have been. We would schedule a time to baptize them and make sure they had the proper support network within our body and continue on to do more of the same. Our goal was simple — we wanted for all people to come to a true knowledge of a Savior that loves them and wants a relationship with them. We wanted to make sure and be obedient to His command to make disciples. We wanted to see people’s lives changed forever and their souls brought to life. We wanted to see them get involved with the family of faith and become an integrated member of it.
This wasn’t about assimilation into a group or building our numbers for our own gain. We really and truly wanted to see everyone affected by the Gospel and I believe that virtually all churches feel the same way.
However… there was a big problem in all of this. And it is prevalent everywhere from what I’ve seen. It’s that even though we have the best intentions in relation to relaying the Gospel and it’s invitation to follow, we’ve unintentionally reduced it down to a formula that will give people assurance of life in Heaven after death. We’ve become quite superstitious with it, truth be told. I actually heard one preacher speaking about sharing his faith with an old friend who was an atheist. This friend was dying and the preacher was begging him to simply say the words, “Jesus is Lord.” The reason for this is that the Scripture states that no man can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. So this preacher thought that meant that no matter what was going on in this man’s heart, as long as he said those three words, he’d go to Heaven.
That’s not salvation. That’s incantation.
Now, this is not really the norm. This extreme line of thinking is actually very uncommon. BUT… sometimes our urgency to have people make a decision and “get saved” translates the same way… where the perception is that we simply want people to say this prayer, make it public, get baptized, and get involved with the church. Like I said, this isn’t how we really feel about their situation but it is how they may think we feel because of the way we are handling it.
Part of the problem is that we speak in terms of things having a finality…
When we hear the term “get saved,” it indicates that once this person has gone through this rite or this process, then they are saved. They will not go to hell. Their life will be changed for the better. The sun will shine brighter and the grass will be greener. All of their problems will begin to be solved because “all things work together.” Once again, we are not saying this and hopefully not implying it either. But it is easily perceived.
When Jesus called His disciples (which means “students”), He gave them a two word command. But it wasn’t “get saved.” Instead it was much more present-tense… He said, “Follow Me.”
This is a very important distinction because it doesn’t imply arrival at all. It indicates a journey without end. There is no arrival. There is simply an ongoing road on which we follow Him.
His call to humanity has never been one that resulted in arriving at a set destination. His call… His true invitation… has always been one about a lifestyle on foot… metaphorically speaking.
Why does this matter?
Because many people “get saved” but don’t follow Him… and at times I’ve totally been guilty… and if we give them the impression that they are His followers simply because they had that moment… well then that’s a false bill of goods and we should be ashamed to have sold it.
Don’t get saved.
This reality is as true now as it was when you walked the aisle of the church at age 10 or 70.
What would happen if we, who call ourselves Christians, were to really live our lives in harmony with His initial call? We would definitely be a group that people saw as more than just superstitious holdouts of an old and tired religion. We would illustrate the beauty of the relationship He has called us unto… and what’s more… they would see that it is a living faith… a relational one… unlike any other.