In “Help, I’m Lost,” I retell a shared account. A new resident attended church where the sermon emphasis was a social issue. At the conclusion, the preacher asked, “Are you saved?” The lady was in a quandary. She didn’t hear anything about salvation until this question.
This scene is all too common in churches because most clergy and laypeople don’t understand salvation.
Jesus gave the same mission to all Christians and Christian churches: Go and make disciples. This mission implies that we are to help all people experience Christ’s saving grace. How can we make disciples if we do not preach or teach about salvation? The simple answer is, “We can’t!”
Therefore, we ought to turn this dilemma around. How? Like the early Christians, we must possess a passion for salvation. How can we begin to do this?
The first step involves pastors and lay leaders. Seminaries and church-leadership training may teach theology, but rarely do they teach the biblical process of salvation. This is due to an assumption that Christians already know about salvation. My experience says this is a faulty perception.
Since these events don’t help us understand salvation, we will continue to be ignorant about salvation after these events. If they learn about salvation and its effects, our church leaders will guide people toward the most important aspect our churches have to offer — salvation!
Social justice is important, but we can pursue it more effectively through salvation whereby God’s love empowers us to serve others through sharing God’s love. Programs, church revitalization, clergy effectiveness, church planting and funding have replaced our passion for salvation. This causes the good news of Christ, aka salvation, to be lost. This loss has devastating effects in our homes, businesses, schools and communities.
The second step involves a fundamental shift from storytelling and social justice as the main foci of sermons and education to the divine-human relationship experienced in salvation. All Christians ought to be lovingly telling people why we need salvation. With this understanding present, we can then share God’s initiative of giving us salvation through Christ to address our need for the divine-human relationship. If we share salvation with others, then we are being faithful servants with God so that they can become disciples of Christ!
It is again time for us to use salvation as the means to make Christian disciples! I pray that you and your church will join me in working on the divine mission Christ gave us!
Wright is the pastor of First United Methodist Church and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.