I have done much of the former: inviting people to a religion. Here is the way it worked:
- Explain the basic precepts of the religion: Jesus died on the cross to forgive your sins and give you eternal life.
- The entry point into that religion: pray a prayer asking for forgiveness and inviting Jesus into your life
- Join the club of church-goers, read your Bible, follow Jesus AND follow the way of religion as prescribed by your fellow-travelers and church-goers.
The result is that people are sometimes caught up and in love with Jesus but, even so, often become club attenders and religion-subscribers over time.
It’s interesting that Jesus did not do this. His way was quite opposite:
- Tell people to repent of the sin and death that was destroying their life and their communities.
- Invite people to follow Him.
I am seriously reflecting on what this looks like. The former approach is much easier and less threatening. It does not even really call people to change their lives, just get the club membership ticket. “Come to our church, hear a good message, ask for forgiveness, receive Jesus.” Oh, yeah, change will come over time. But, we know the church today is not much different than the world so… it really doesn’t.
The latter approach that Jesus used is quite confrontational: “These things in your life that are destructive and that you know are destructive? Well, yeah, they really are. And the only way that you can step out of those things is to turn from them and turn to life by following a life-giver. The Source of all Life. Yes, that would be Jesus. No, you don’t receive or accept Him, you trust and follow Him. You give your life to Him. You exchange your ways of death for the way of Jesus. No I don’t have a formula for you. He will reveal Himself directly to you. He’s a Person, God of all Creation, incarnated through His Word. Life comes as you turn from your own ways in order to hear and follow… Him.”
By the way, church emerges quite naturally (and simply) as Jesus-followers gather and go in the way of Jesus.