6. Evangelism is always invitation.
The gospel is an invitation. Luke 14 makes this abundantly clear. Jesus depicts the gospel as an invitation to the great dinner that God has prepared. The gospel is an invitation to come freely and joyfully partake of what God has done. All that is required is acceptance of the invitation.
A certain man was making a great dinner and invited many; and he sent his slaves at the dinner hour to say to those who had been invited, Come, for all things are now ready. –Luke 14:16-17
However, the twist in the story is that many who were originally invited did not attend because they were tied up with other engagements. They made polite excuses for their refusal. They double-booked, so to speak, and prioritized their errands above their dinner invitation. This typifies the excuses people tragically make, often politely, when refusing the gospel. “I have a career path that needs my attention.” “Sorry, I don’t have time for this. I’m running late for class.”
And in a sense, people who make these excuses are right. They somewhat realize that they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Although the gospel is free, it does cost. The gospel interrupts our plans. It cuts across our path and forces us to reprioritize our life. That’s why the opening word of the gospel is “repent”- which essentially means “change your mind.”
In response to these polite refusals, the master of the house sends his servants out to extend the invitation to others.
Evangelism is not always only invitation
And here’s where I somewhat disagree with Bosch. The gospel may always be invitation, but it’s not always ONLY invitation. In verse 23, the servants are told to “compel them to come in.”(I’m setting aside the fateful development of this verse that occurred in the Middle Ages).
Quite often, almost always, when I’ve shared the gospel with someone they don’t immediately accept the invitation. Usually they either 1) have sincere questions that are roadblocks to them 2) resist and argue because they hold differing beliefs or 3) resist because they are unwilling to repent of sin.
Last October I was sharing the gospel with a student named Ali at UT. Turns out that he was an Ahmadi Muslim (which I had never heard of). He was a very thoughtful student and listened to what I was saying. He then asked me three questions:
- How can Jesus be the Son of God?
- Why can’t God just forgive us, without Christ dying for us?
- Why is Jesus different from the other prophets, if God doesn’t change His ways?
When this happens the gospel has to be more than invitation. I have to reason with him, persuade him, compel him. Paul wasn’t above begging (2 Cor. 5:20). Later in 2 Corinthians, he said “we overthrow reasonings and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ” (10:5). I get the feeling that the gospel allows whatever approach is needed and appropriate for each individual. This challenges us to not be a one-liner in the gospel. We should be able to present the gospel in a number of different ways to meet the present need of whomever we may run into. We can present the gospel as simple invitation. We can also present the gospel as powerful reasoning. We can entreat and we can overthrow.
The New Testament describes the gospel as more than mere invitation:
Saul was all the more empowered, and he confounded the Jews dwelling in Damascus by proving that this One is the Christ. –Acts 9:22
According to his custom Paul went in to them, and on three Sabbaths he reasoned with them from the Scriptures. –Acts 17:2
And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, persuading Jew and Greeks. –Acts 18:4
He vigorously confuted the Jews publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. –Acts 18:28
He entered into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months reasoning and persuading them in the things concerning the kingdom of God. –Acts 19:8
- Evangelism and Mission (lifeandbuilding.com)