By Shannon Youell
“Every day in our neighborhoods, amid strife, broken relationships, and tragedy, whether we are Christians or not, we need the gospel. Christians must play host to spaces where the gospel can be proclaimed. As we gather around tables and the various meeting places of our lives, if we will be patient and tend to Christ’s presence among us, the moments will present themselves for the gospel to be proclaimed contextually, humbly out of our own testimony. And in these moments Christ will be present, transformation will come, and onlookers will catch a glimpse of the kingdom. This is faithful presence” (David Fitch; Faithful Presence: Kindle Location 1568).
Many of our CBWC pastors, spouses, staff and friends will gather for our annual Banff Conference, where David Fitch will be sharing with us regarding being Faithfully Present as a discipline in all the circles of our lives.
Today, I want to write a bit about his chapter titled The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel, from which the above quote is found.
I’ve written on this blog before about our sleepy approach to proclamation, where historians recount that when the church becomes comfortable in society, we tend to leave proclamation to a few. Fitch addresses this as well by placing it back into our thinking that we all need to hear and proclaim the gospel daily as a discipline of Christ’s daily presence with us.
I have often said that as believers we are to be “gospeling” one another continuously. This may seem confusing if our understanding of the gospel is reduced to a one-time conversion experience. Gospeling is the discipline of bringing the presence of Jesus and His good news of God’s Kingdom into our daily and present realities where we wrestle with relationship issues, justice issues, our own brokenness that affects how we react/respond to others and how others react/respond to us. In any and all of these places we daily find ourselves in, are we proclaiming the Jesus Way to one another, to encourage, to spur, to clear our clouded vision?
Proclaiming the gospel is always pointing people to God’s shalom, which hopefully is what we primarily do in pastoral counseling as Joell wrote about previously. To Jesus being in the midst of our hopelessness, shame, guilt, confusion, pain and brokenness; of allowing Jesus to shape us to his gospel rather than to our own experiences and opinions. It can be as simple as saying to a fellow believer who is wrestling with offense against another and just wants to cut them out of their life, “How did Jesus respond to offense? To power struggles? To those who look, think, believe and act differently than I do?” Reminding and re-focusing one another to the reality that the story of God and humans is active and transforming makes room for the Spirit to do the shaping and re-shaping.
But, as Fitch asserts, we must also proclaim the gospel in the other circles of our lives as well: to those we encounter along our way wherever we live, work, play and pray. When I read the gospel stories of Jesus’ encounter with those who are suffering the effects of living in our broken fallen world (which is all of us), I see Him bring the gospel message in many different ways. He contextualizes it, finding an entry point that immediately grabs the heart of the hearer.
To the woman caught in adultery He extends grace and mercy rather than condemnation, leaving room for her to step into being reconciled to community through abandoning the way of living that brought her there and inviting her to experience Christ’s reality of restoration. To the sick, the crippled, the leper, He extends both the caring of physical healing and of being able to re-enter community relationships. To the one struggling with guilt, He offers forgiveness. To the one wrestling with broken relationships, He offers His company, His presence to demonstrate that God is already at work to restore those relationships. At this place we decide whether to submit or to reject the invitation.
“Proclamation is spoken from a place of weakness and humility. It tells the gospel from a place of having witnessed it, seen it, been humbled by it. It is unsettling. It calls for conversion (a response) every time…Proclamation creates the conditions for either submission or rejection. Proclamation cannot be argued or debated, only accepted or rejected…will you give up control, submit to Jesus as Lord, and participate in this world?” (ibid Loc 1482)
“It seems so foreign to proclaim the gospel to others around (us). As we sit around a table and share our lives (our stories) with one another, expose our sufferings and joys (our rants and our hopes!), a moment comes that begs for the proclaiming of the gospel into our lives. And so we must wait and listen, and when the time is right, we might even ask humbly, ‘may I say something?’ And then, as with the first disciples, the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13).”