In order to honor the fullness of the “Four Chapter Gospel,” our evangelism needs to move beyond a truncated gospel proclamation of just Fall and Salvation. Our gospel is larger than that, so our evangelism needs to be larger than that as well. We must include all four chapters of God’s story of Recreation. Those chapters are:
Creation: God created all things and called them “very good.” This created cosmos, therefore, has a creational structure or order to it. This is the Shalom peace that God originally intended. Cornelius Plantinga writes that Shalom is “the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight…Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be, Eerdmans, 1995, p. 10) Our evangelism must start here: exploring with people how they understand how things ought to be, helping a person discern their creational image-bearing goodness hidden in the fallenness of their depravity, affirming that God has created them as special human beings with much to offer.
Fall: We now all experience the perversion, pollution, and disintegration of Shalom due to humanity’s rebellion against the intended purposes of God. Because of the Fall, the creational structure or order of all things has been redirected in “a sinful deviation from that structural ordinance” (Albert Wolters, Creation Regained, Eerdmans, 1985, 2005 p. 88). Our evangelism must help a person understand and own their own culpability in this perversion of God’s intended purposes for his creation.
Redemption: In God’s grace, he has determined to redeem human beings, in order to restore the entire cosmos. God’s grace is restoring all of nature, “renewing conformity to God’s creational order” (Wolters, p. 88). Therefore the redemption of people must be seen as the central part of God’s intention to redeem all of creation. Our evangelism often conveys that God wants to save people from the created structure, when in fact God wants to save people from the perverse deviation of God’s structural order. He also wants to create a people who will be instrumental in redirecting this sinful deviation toward his intended purposes. As we read in Colossians,
“15 He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
Our evangelism, then, must not be about promises of escape from this earthly experience into some heavenly bliss. It must be about joining in with God’s intended purposes for his creation. God is calling a people to be his redemptive agents in the world today.
Restoration: We all know how transformative it is to have a clear vision of the way things can be. This is true of evangelism as well. Part of our call to reach people is to call them into the hope of the eschatological future God holds for us all. As we see the way things will be, it calls us to, as much as we possibly can, bring that future into the present in small and large ways. Our evangelistic message of hope, therefore, is not a spiritual life divorced of the material world around us (as Greek Platonist philosophy would have us believe), but the message of hope for this created world, the world that God called “very good” will be restored, and we will have a place in it.
Therefore, our Appreciative Inquiries with people will help them discern “structure” (that is, the way things were meant to be, “Shalom”) and “direction” (the way things have been perverted, polluted, or disintegrated). But it does not end there. We ask people to join in God’s “redirection” (that is, the redemption of all things back on the course God intends for them) and we help them envision a world where everything is the way God intends it to be.
As Albert Wolters writes, “What was formed in creation has been historically deformed by sin and must be reformed in Christ.” (Creation Regained, Eerdmans, p. 91). We are inviting people into the reformation of all things.
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technorati: emerging church, missional, missional community, emmanuel apologetics, postmodernity, postmodernism, apologetics, evangelism, Shalom, justice