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. In evangelism the order is always significant.
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.
Kim Reisman is the Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism of the World Methodist Council. She is a frequent speaker and has written numerous books, most recently The Christ-Centered Woman: Finding Balance in a World of Extremes (2013, Abingdon Press). She holds a PhD in theology from Durham University in the United Kingdom. Kim will be speaking at the Amplify Conference this summer.