Honestly, few questions irk me more than “When did you get saved?” Seriously, when a street preacher accosts me with the question, my snarkier side occasionally bursts through with something like: Oh, I don’t know, somewhere about 2000 years ago.
It isn’t that I don’t “believe” in the concept of salvation, of course. It’s that I don’t think “getting people saved” has much to do with Christianity.
Let me back up a bit. When I use the phrase “getting saved,” I’m referring to the idea that an individual was destined toward hell, but prayed a prayer of commitment and has thusly had their eternity of torment and affliction replaced with an eternity of cherubs and golden streets.
My problem isn’t the concept of hell (although I have brilliant colleagues that argue no one will end up there and I certainly don’t believe it’s ever appropriately or biblically used as an “evangelism technique”), my problem is the belief that a transactional prayer has anything whatsoever to do with one’s salvation.
Jesus didn’t work that way; the apostles don’t seem to have worked that way; there is little or no indication that the scriptures ever even considered Christianity in such a way. It seems, to me, to be mostly an invention of the North American “great revivals.”
The problem is, we have become an outcome based world where “ends” are more important that “means.” Apply that to Christianity (which is naturally a “means-based” religion rather than an “ends-based” one) and it quickly becomes a religion focused on “getting people to heaven.”
Not so! Heaven (or better yet, “the new heavens and the new earth” – a topic for another day) is a pleasant side-effect of Christianity – not the goal of it. The goal of Christianity is to engage people right now in faithful, thankful discipleship as a response to the (freely-given) reconciliation we have with God and one another in Christ. Put a bit more actionably: Christianity is about becoming people who love like God loves and live like Jesus lived – not to keep ourselves “out of hell” or to “get into heaven,” but because discipleship is the only true response to (and the only clear indicator of) God’s grace freely given us in Jesus.
I’ll leave my understanding of “biblical evangelism” for another day too. (I’ll bet you can’t wait!) 🙂
Grace and peace,