The missionary paused, “You see, Alex, God wants all of us. He’s not interested in getting only the part of you that you want to get rid of.”
Alex nodded. This he understood from what his cousin had shown him in the Bible. In fact, it was Alex’s cousin who had brought him to see the missionary that day.
To be a Christian and only live for Christ part of the time, Alex knew, would be like a man taking a wife and only letting her live with him on Mondays and Fridays.
“But that doesn’t mean God isn’t interested in you,” the missionary explained. “Or that He doesn’t want to save you. He does. When we’re disgusted with the sin in our lives and want to turn from it, all we have to do is to accept His salvation. He gives us the strength we need to overcome the power of any sin.”
A new glimmering hope flashed in the First Nations man’s face. “I want to be a Christian,” he repeated, even more firmly than before.
The above true story (adapted) from one of our fields illustrates Presenting. As Christ followers, we should not need to be convinced of its significance. After all, if no one had presented the Gospel to us, we wouldn’t know Christ!
Presenting is what Christ commands (“Go into all the world and preach the good news” Mark 16:15). Presenting is our missionaries explaining salvation in conversations with First Nations people. Presenting is children and youth hearing testimonies and Bible stories at Bible camp. Presenting is using stories from Indigenous peoples’ history to illustrate Christ’s sacrifice and saving work.
Presenting takes place in public halls, churches, homes, coffee shops, and through television, radio, literature and other media.
Presenting, though, isn’t only proclaiming what Christ did on the cross and asking listeners to make a decision. It is moving a person closer to a biblical understanding of God’s character and His ways. We must include all of God’s Story, laying foundations for understanding the Gospel of Christ and the New Testament. On that firm foundation, the church being planted is in a healthier position to grow and mature.
In this “evangelism” stage, the desire is to see people reconciled with God through the work of Jesus Christ and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The primary goal of the church planting team is the accurate and understandable communication of the Gospel.
God’s over-arching Story is taught, with an awareness of cultural bridges and rival beliefs, intentionally targeting those parts of the local worldview which rival the Biblical worldview.
“Go into all the world and preach the good news…” (Mark 16:15).
Recognizing “worldview” – the framework through which a person sees his/her world – is crucial at the Presenting stage.
Stage 3 needs to be guided by what we’ve learned in Stage 2: Discovering. It helps us determine where to start in our teaching of Scripture, which Bible stories to tell, and which thought to emphasize in each lesson or conversation.
Recently one of our missionaries began teaching through the Book of Genesis in a weekly home Bible study. The lady of the house and her young adult son were the main participants, but there were often other unchurched extended family members attending.
One week a nephew joined the Bible study for the first time, when the lesson focused on Genesis chapter 4, the story of Cain’s and Abel’s offering.
As Bible readers know, Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God. The story teaches that the Lord does not accept people coming to Him on their own terms.
Interestingly, even though the name “Jesus” had not yet been mentioned in that session, and the discussion wouldn’t be considered openly “evangelistic,” it made the young man uncomfortable.
We need to tell the stories of God’s Word so that beliefs, values and worldviews contrary to Scripture are addressed. To consider that there are not many ways to God – but one – disturbed the young man because it was challenging his worldview.
Yes, we see “breakthrough” moments when people turn to Christ – and we rejoice greatly when they happen. But we believe there must be “questioning” moments first.
Another of our missionaries had started a weekly Bible study with an interested First Nations friend. The friend had told a “traditional” Native elder about her new study of the Bible, wondering what he would think about it.
The elder responded, “That’s okay. It doesn’t matter. It’s the same God we’re praying to.”
She said she liked his answer. The result, though, was that she quit attending the Bible study with her missionary friend. She says she’s now feeling happier.
Her disappointing story reveals her culture’s high value of group harmony – that getting along with people is often more important than seeking truth. Her story also reveals her inner questions at a deep worldview level.
The Gospel calls us not just to life alteration, but life transformation.
The Lord is not just calling people to change some of their beliefs, and improve some of their behavior – but their whole way of viewing reality.
It is not just calling people to “add” Jesus Christ to their lives, but to exchange an entire system of beliefs for another – it should not be “God on our side,” but “us on God’s side.”
In missions we have perhaps too often thought and talked of “presenting” as the only thing. Our task is much more.
The unique task of missions is to establish a viable growing church movement among every tribe, tongue, people and nation.
In this issue we’ve focused on Stage 3: Presenting – moving people closer to a biblical understanding of God’s character and His ways, based on what we’ve learned in Stage 2: Discovering.
Every stage is oriented toward the goal of the final stage – a strong indigenous multiplying church. Please pray!
(from Northern Lights Issue #519). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.