kneeling before the cross

The Natural Next Step

Mark N Living as Anabaptists

Looking backward, I finally located a quote from Dallas Willard that has been under my skin for many years. It’s from The Divine Conspiracy, Chapter 2, where he critiques “gospels of sin management” and questions whether “getting into heaven after death is the sole target for divine and human efforts for salvation.” He describes the greater target as “having life from the kingdom of the heavens now – the eternal kind of life… The words and acts of Jesus naturally suggest that this is indeed salvation, with discipleship, forgiveness, and heaven to come as natural parts.”

The section on p. 57-58 is aimed at leaders and teachers but it also challenges those of us who wish to evangelize in some way. For example:

“Must not all who speak for Christ constantly ask themselves these crucial questions:
–Does the gospel I preach and teach have a natural tendency to cause people who hear it to become full-time students of Jesus?
–Would those who believe it become his apprentices as a natural ‘next step’?
–What can we reasonably expect would result from people actually believing the substance of my message?”

But here’s the point that hurts:

“If gospels of sin management are preached, they are what Christians will believe. And those in the wider world who reject those gospels will believe that what they have rejected is the gospel of Jesus Christ himself–when, in fact, they haven’t yet heard it.”

I was not born into the Mennonite church, but I became an Anabaptist Christian because I believe the gospel of the Kingdom of God as proclaimed and taught by Jesus, in other words, His invitation to eternal life now. Anabaptist faith is not just believing in Jesus, but also believing what Jesus believes, and therefore the natural next step is to become His apprentices.

“We believe that Jesus Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Through the gift of God’s saving grace, we are empowered to be disciples of Jesus, filled with his Spirit, following his teachings and his path through suffering to new life.” – Confession of Faith In a Mennonite Perspective: Article 17