My husband and I love the outdoors. Whether it be walking on the beach or hiking in the mountains, we love being surrounded by God’s magnificent creation. When I am immersed in that beauty, I’m reminded that creation is never an afterthought in Christian faith; it is foundational. All else moves outward from there.
Early on in my ministry, as I found myself more and more drawn to the work of evangelism, I thought it was all about following the directive of Jesus—go, make disciples. Over time, however, I’ve come to realize that the roots of evangelism go much deeper than that.
Don’t worry, I still believe in following the directives of Jesus. But evangelism—sharing the Good News of God’s redemptive, healing, life-transforming love—is at its deepest point, rooted in creation itself. God’s act of creating sets the stage for all that follows.
When it comes to evangelism, that idea isn’t always as obvious as it should be. It’s easy to flip things around and think of God as the Redeemer who also creates, rather than as the Creator who also redeems. But that would be a mistake borne of placing ourselves at the center of the universe, rather than the one who truly belongs there—God.
God creates. God redeems. Christian faith is deepened and enriched when we get the order right. This is especially true in the arena of evangelism, where our focus is often on individuals and our fervent hope that they might come into relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no doubt this is an extremely important focus. Yet something significant is lost when the lens of our spiritual life remains set on zoom, rather than wide angle.
As we reach out to others on behalf of Jesus Christ, we would do well to remember that sin (our need for redemption) is not the reason for God’s grace. God’s grace is part of God’s very nature. It was alive and active within our Triune God and bore creation into existence long before sin entered the picture. And it will abound overwhelmingly, long after sin has been eliminated and God’s new creation is experienced in all its fullness.
Again, don’t worry, I understand the depth of sin and our need for grace; but once again, it is the order that’s important. We begin with the grace of our creating God, the grace that defines God’s very nature and is made evident by God’s extravagant desire to be in a relationship of love with creation. We begin with our creating God’s grace because it is out of that grace that God created in the first place: to be in a relationship of love with all that is.
When we look at evangelism through the lens of our creating God, through the lens of grace, we immediately see that our creating God is also a seeking God. It is in God’s very nature to seek out relationship, and it is this divine seeking that provides the roots for evangelism and grounds all the directives that Jesus gives us.
God seeks Adam and Eve in the garden. God seeks to restore relationship through the first covenant with all the earth after the flood. God seeks Abraham and covenants to make him the father of multitudes. God seeks the Israelites and makes covenant with them to be a light unto the nations.
Although as humans we are covenant makers and breakers, our creator God is a covenant maker and keeper, and that covenant-making paves the way for our seeking God’s plan of salvation and new creation through Jesus Christ.
The Great Commission—Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples—is a pillar of evangelism. But as important as it is, it stands on something even deeper: the seeking grace of our creator God. The deeper truth is that evangelism is not about the command of Jesus, it is about the spirit of Jesus; it is not about what He orders, but who He is: the incarnate creator God.
One of my mentors has frequently said that only when the grace of God becomes our Great Compulsion will the command of Jesus become the Great Commission.
As Christians, we worship a creating, redeeming, sustaining God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) who redeems not only human beings, but the entirety of creation—which Paul tells us is even now groaning as God continues to work within it for God’s redemptive purposes.
As Christians, we share the Good News of our creating, redeeming, sustaining God who is working, even now, to eliminate evil and bring to fruition the justice and peace of the kingdom inaugurated in Jesus of Nazareth. It is this God who creates. It is this God who redeems.
Don’t forget to register for the Amplify Conference at Wheaton College, June 28-30, 2016. The focus of the conference is Multiplying Evangelism in the Local Church. Join Luis Palau, Alan Hirsch, Derwin Gray, Ed Stetzer, and many others as we think through our gospel witness and prioritizing evangelism.