A few months ago, I decided to completely update and redo the evangelistic series we offer called Life Unlimited. Over the last 12 months, I’ve given a lot of thought to the traditional approach that we as a church have used for years. I have already expressed in other places my concern with beginning with Daniel 2 for our post-modern world and the unintentional message that we too many times give off to those in the audience who are broken. I also understand why, in the past, we have begun with “establishing the validity of the scriptures,” but I have some concern there as well. (Can anyone tell I’m a tormented soul yet?) I’m quite sure that this will be misunderstood by some, but please try your best to see what I’m intending to say by this. It would seem that, as important as it is to believe in the inspiration of the Bible, that is not as central to Christianity as believing that Jesus is God incarnate and having Him as Lord and Savior of our lives. Salvation is a matter of being related to Christ, not necessarily to the Bible (please see John 5:39). In fact, for us, believing in the inspiration of the Bible should be a consequence (not the basis) of confessing Christ to be the Lord of our lives. (Although this is difficult to get your head around for most fundamentalists, I have found this approach extremely effective in reaching the unchurched.) Therefore, I wanted to begin this series in Honolulu, rather than with establishing the validity of the scriptures, by answering one question and one question only: Can reflective, reasonable, thinking, rational, intelligent, critical people really believe in Jesus without unplugging their brain and committing intellectual suicide? In other words, was the historical person we know as Jesus really what and who He, and the disciples, claimed Him to be? And then let everything else (including the inspiration of the scriptures, and everything else we believe) flow from and find relevance and validity from this. Two things became inescapably clear on opening night. If Jesus is who he claimed to be, then:
1) The God of the universe, as revealed by Jesus Christ, is the most beautiful being that ever existed or ever will.
2) You could not possibly be more loved than you are right now by Him.
I quickly reminded the audience that this does not mean we have to accept the things that we have suffered in life as somehow orchestrated by this God. These things were wrong and should have never happened to us. And we began unraveling that fact on the second night. And it doesn’t mean we have to blindly embrace a “religion,” especially one like Christianity, which holds the record for being the most violent on the stage of human history. (We began to contrast traditional Christianity with the teachings and life of Jesus right away as well.) But we started with establishing the basics: There is a God, He came to this planet, and He came to show YOU one thing and one thing only: He loves you! And although there are many questions still to be answered, His love, when seen as it truly is, is really what each human heart has been searching for.
From this foundation, we spring-boarded into the remaining presentations on God’s character of love, revealing from the scriptures how surrendering to His selfless love for us, changes everything we believe, and ushers each of us into life and life more abundantly. In other words, Life Unlimited! (Yes, for those who have to have it spelled out, we still covered topics such as the inspiration of the scriptures, the Sabbath, the state of the dead, Hell, and some of our prophetic understandings—but all in the light of God and His character of love as revealed by the person of Jesus Christ.)
The result? The series was only a week long, but those who had been studying with the church to this point were all baptized, seven in total. I was so amazed at how the whole series came together from both head level (intellectual) and heart level (emotional) perspectives. I walked away from this series, with all its many updates and revisions, and said, “I kinda like the new Life Unlimited series. I think I’ll keep it.” Now all we need is to update the DVDs. Ha!
May God continue to bless all of us as we seek to make Jesus and the cross the center of all we do and preach.