By Shawn Willson
How closely are you paying attention when someone else shares the gospel?
Thanks to my move into the Free Grace community, I pay far greater attention to how the saving message is presented today. The more closely I look, the more of a mess I see.
I was at a funeral about two years ago where the pastor had everyone stand and repeat a prayer line by line following his lead. In the prayer, we confessed in unison our sin and our need for salvation. At the conclusion of the prayer, the pastor declared, “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, so everyone in this room who repeated after me and called on the name of the Lord is saved!” Now I am all about salvation by grace through faith, but not salvation by repetition.
This year I was at another church where the gospel was presented. Jesus’ death and resurrection were discussed. Our sin and need of salvation were also covered. The solution of bringing Jesus’ salvation to our sin was to dedicate your life to Christ. Faith was never mentioned. Giving your life was the key. At one church, you only needed to repeat a prayer to be saved. And at the other, you needed to sacrifice your entire life.
Salvation presentations in America are a mess. This makes me wonder if the Free Grace movement is any better. We would like to think that those in our movement would clearly present a faith-alone gospel with Jesus Christ as the object of our faith. We would expect to hear of a gospel free of the clutter of works and religious jargon. However, I think the reality would most likely be worse than we would hope.
For this reason, Eternal Life: Believe to Be Alive by Lucas Kitchen might be one of the most important books in the Free Grace community. In this book, Lucas seeks to clear up the confusion in the American church regarding the gospel, i.e., how to be saved to eternal life. How to go from dead in sin to alive in God.
Our knee-jerk reaction may be to assume this book is beneath us. We say, “I know the gospel ,and I never mix works with grace!” But as Lucas shows in Eternal Life, there is a lot of confusion regarding gospel presentations. We need a plan to present the gospel with clarity or we will only end up adding to the mess and confusion.
This is what Lucas gives to the church in Eternal Life—a basic and reproduceable presentation of the gospel. In the majority of Eternal Life, Lucas walks the reader through the evangelistic presentations in the Gospel of John. He shows us the clear and consistent message given to us by Jesus Himself. For Jesus, the saving message is always so simple. Jesus is not building hoops for men to jump through for salvation, but He is offering a gift to save people in need.
Through his simple illustrations or charts, Lucas helps us to see how consistent Jesus was to offer eternal life through faith.
The seven salvation statements chart on p. 152 of the book reveals how consistent Jesus was to say—“He who believes in Me has eternal life.” Once you see Jesus’ claims and promises in chart form, it allows you to clearly see how repetitive Jesus was when He shared the gospel; so we should be just as consistent when we share the gospel today.
This is really where Lucas shines—in simple charts and illustrations. I usually skip right past illustrations and graphs in books, but Lucas’s were some of the best I have seen.
It is easy to read the Bible without tying together themes from one chapter to another or to see Jesus’ repetition. Or we follow the mistake of seeing this as nothing more than needless repetition. I spoke with a life-long Catholic recently who read the Gospel of John for the first time, and he described it as needlessly repetitious. I responded with, “Maybe Jesus wants to be absolutely clear to you on how He wants you to receive His life.”
After reading Eternal Life, I believe those of us in the Free Grace movement should follow a consistent plan and pattern when presenting the saving message. We need to follow Jesus’ example and craft our own prepared, simple presentation of the gospel. One that is relatable, engaging, and repeatable. The only way this will happen is if pastors and Bible study leaders in the Free Grace movement regularly offer a template for those in their church to share. In Eternal Life, Lucas Kitchen presents such a template for the church.
The final section of the book is a 14-page chapter instructing the reader how to draw his or her own chart to present the gospel based on John 3:16. I am just about the worst artist of all time, so I assumed this can’t be for me. By the end of the book, thanks to all of Lucas’ illustrations that came before, he had convinced me to hold out hope and check out his plan for sharing the gospel. The result of holding out and reading his plan is that I concluded that I need to internalize this, practice this, and share this illustration.
One month after I finished reading and practicing Lucas’ method for presenting the gospel, I needed to share it with my church. I stopped mid-series on Daniel and gave a stand-alone sermon on how to present John 3:16 with a simple picture anyone could draw. After presenting it once, I will continue to share Lucas’s method at least once a year to help my church own a consistent and clear strategy to present the faith-alone message.
The Free Grace movement needs a consistent model of presenting the good news free of the works and efforts of man which so easily mix into the clear water of life. Thanks to Eternal Life: Believe to Be Alive, we already hold the plan we need to help our people share the gospel in an engaging, quick picture with a world who needs to know of God’s love in sending His Son.
Now we just need to share this plan with each other, practice it in our churches, so we can be ready. Armed with nothing but a scrap of paper, a pencil, the one verse we have all memorized, and the filling of the Spirit, we can be an army of evangelists ready to share the simple message of belief in Jesus Christ for eternal life. This is my call to pastors, Sunday school teachers, and small group leaders to take pp. 264-277 in Eternal Life and share it with others.
Shawn Willson is pastor of Grace Community Bible Church in River Ridge, LA, near New Orleans. Follow his YouTube channel: Rev Reads by Shawn Willson.