From Escaping Self Idolatry: How Churches of Christ are finding their way into the future, by Tony Branch.
This has been a positive, feel-good chapter, and I don't think what I'm going to say next changes this. Some will, though. I'm going to talk about evangelism, which becomes a different concept when we think of salvation this way. What if evangelism doesn't just involve getting people into Heaven, but also involves spreading the Good News in a way that affects the life of everyone around?
After all, the root of the word evangelism means 'good news'. Perhaps we should make sure that we aren't trying to scare people into Heaven. Perhaps we should avoid spreading a Holy Guilt that shames people into turning to God. Scare tactic conversions often put down shallow roots. We wonder why we don't hold on to our converts; perhaps we should think harder about what we're converting them to.
Salvation isn't about a single moment that draws a line between Heaven and Hell; it is about the beginning of a life-long transformation. Salvation is joining in the Kingdom of God and changing your life in a way that makes you a full-fledged citizen of the only nation that will last. Salvation is about living, not only what happens after you die.
Perhaps looking at salvation this way helps us answer a question that is often asked when the idea that we should accept people in other churches is introduced. In the Churches of Christ we have been taught to view everyone that is not of us as a target, as a mission field. Being part of our group was thought to be the only way to avoid Hell. So if the idea that the masses around us are likely going to Heaven takes hold, do we quit evangelizing?
I would suggest that we should quit evangelizing the way we've been doing it anyway. We should quit knocking on doors and asking people if they're sure they're heaven-bound.
But laying aside the misperception that we live in an area where everyone claims to be a Christian, this view of the spreading Kingdom of God gives evangelism a whole new context, one that highlights the 'good news' roots of the word. Let the Kingdom of God spread like mustard seed (not the harmless plant we know, but something like a middle-eastern Kudzu, in the words of Shane Claiborne (90)) that infuses everything around us and changes the very nature of what life is. Let us be salt and light, both of which cannot be present without changing everything they touch.
Let's make the lives of the people we touch better, more peaceful. Let's stop using guilt as a hammer to get people to conform to the image we have created. We've spent too long creating neurotics and depressives (I know from experience.) If we don't change, we will die. Maybe we should. Maybe what we're doing in the name of God is actually counter to the truth of who he is.
Perhaps what we should do is die to ourselves. There's a little something about that in the Bible, I think.
You can buy this ebook for $2.99 at this Amazon.com link.