Evangelism for too long has been disconnected from discipleship. In Nudge, evangelism is discipleship. What yokes evangelism to discipleship, I propose, is the art of attention, attending to life and attending to God.
The art of attention goes something like this: You have an appointment with God. The address of that appointment? The dress of the next person you meet, whatever it is. Their dress is God’s address. Want to find God? Look in the face of the person next to you or the next person you meet.
You will not find in Nudge a gospel of religion; what you will find is a gospel of Christ. What’s the difference? The currency of the gospel of religion is fear and imposition. The currency of the gospel of Christ is love and invitation.
Love engenders a spirit of wonder, where fear spawns anger and distrust. Fear seeks to quash wonder and to impose. Love frees to wonder and invite.
Nicolaus Copernicus first argued that the earth was not the center of the universe, that in fact the earth revolved around the sun. The publication of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres ) caused a reaction of fear in the religious establishment, which denounced the work and for a time waylaid the truth through imperfect interpretations of Scripture. But the discoveries of Copernicus, and those of Galileo Galilei, would make nautical navigation by the stars possible. It was a sense of wonder, not a sense of fear, that made discovery and invention possible.
Love, and the wonder that results from it, create a posture of invitation—as simply as the love and wonder of a wedding, as deeply as the wonder of the Spirit that nudgers invite others into, also known as evangelism. Such love is an outpouring of a sense of love, of generosity in love because of a deep sense of being loved.
The fear that permeates religion demands that to spread, a larger fear must exist. Selling or marketing religion, as opposed to offering the wonder of love, requires a maneuver not unlike that of a pots and pans salesman (I know because I was one in college for a week), who is taught to introduce people to a problem they don’t know they have then to sell them a solution he happens to be selling. Or more precisely, “Spread fear, sell hope.”
Fear breeds in a cocoon of scarcity and insecurity. A natural human response is to bargain our way out of it, the net result being that folks who have come to religion by fear have really made a business deal with God. We are sons and daughters of the living God. We are not business partners who have made a bargain to avoid some unpleasant consequences.
So, long before we can talk about evangelism, the spreading of the gospel, we’d best agree on what the gospel is. Gospel, the very word, means “good news.” When we offer our sense of wonder, when we can see ourselves as bruised and broken yet beloved, as a people in process, the gospel is the good news that Christ is alive and with us, within and without, and that health and healing is ours through his death and resurrection.
It is wonderful news, for the emotionally worn out and strung out, that counseling could help them limp better. It is wonderful news, for the infirm of mind and spirit, that with enough good therapy, we can learn to compensate and moderate. But it is great news that Christ has come to bind up the broken hearted and to set the captive free. It is great news that healing and restoration is available to those who trust and obey.
The gospel is the sensational news that we can be the sons and daughters of the Creator, and that the One who created us loved us before we were even born. The gospel is the sensational news that eternity has already started and that the laws of sin and death need not apply to us. The gospel is the sensational news that life, and life more abundant, is ours. The gospel of Christ is a no-fear gospel. There is no push point to create a pots-and-pans sales close.
Nudge evangelism is the planting of seeds. With a motivation of love, nudgers meet people in their context and nourish their souls in some way. As in Jesus’ parable of the seeds, planting frees us to be extravagant in love, yet leaves the results for God to germinate and grow. Nudging is an open-ended enterprise God may undertake directly. God may use others, and time, and circumstance to grow. Or God may even employ a continuing involvement from us. The main thing is that nudgers are free to love without consequences. Nudgers are free to invest in the lives of others through the generosity of life as a conduit of love from God.
In short, the gospel is the good news that Jesus is the Way—in a world that has lost its way and when there seems to be no way; Jesus is the Truth—in a culture of lies where deceit is king; and Jesus is the Life—in a world full of evangelists of death. Nudge is a call to evangelize life and to face death so that others may live.
Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There by Leonard Sweet
David C Cook/August 1, 2010
256 pages/Hardcover with jacket/$19.99
www.davidccook.com ~ www.leonardsweet.com
Want more? The Borrowed Book is giving away a copy of the book Nudge by Leonard Sweet. Be sure to stop by on Friday for your chance to win!