Gospel Tracks and the Kingdom of God
I became a Christian when I was 15 years old and in my young zealous state I joined an outreach ministry. The leader was a man named Jose, a tall, skinny man born and raised in Mexico. He wore dark sunglasses and spoke with a thick Mexican accent. We called him “Mexican Jesus.” The purpose of the ministry Jose led was to generate conversations with strangers about Jesus using gospel tracks. Jose and a bunch of overly zealous teenagers would show up at places like the mall, city parades, or festivals, and we would hand out gospel tracks and start conversations with strangers about Jesus.
The small tri-fold brochure said something like, “If you died today, would you go to heaven or hell?”
One day, not long after I joined the ministry, Jose and the team were talking about how they were going to go to a bar later that night to pass out tracks, and I decided that I wanted to go with them.
So I took my 15-year-old self to my conservative, small town, Church of Christ mother and told her about my plan. This is how the conversation went:
Me: Mom, I am going to go to the bar tonight with my friend Jose.
Mom: Come again?
Me: I am going to a bar tonight. With Jose. To hand out gospel tracks and tell people about Jesus.
Mom: Are you talking about Mexican Jesus?
Mom: Okay whatever. Just be home by curfew. It is 10:00.
Me (hesitantly): That’s kind of what I need to talk to you about. The bars don’t really open until 10:00 [insert mom’s eye-roll], so people won’t be leaving until closer to midnight or 1:00 a.m. So, can I get an extension on my curfew?
Mom (really tuned in now): WHAT?! NO! You are not staying out until midnight in the parking lot of a bar with a guy who looks like a Mexican Jesus.
So I start throwing a huge fit, and we have a major fight. I remember at one high point in the fight when I screamed at my mother, “Who do you think is going to tell these people about Jesus if I don’t?! The blood of their unsaved lives is going to be on your hands!” And I slammed the door in her face.
This was my first experience with telling people, or trying to tell people, about Jesus.
I think it is safe to say that I missed the mark.
As the Christian evangelical church in the West, in general, you don’t have to look very far to see that we have missed the mark on evangelism. We just haven’t quite got it right. From hell-fire and brimstone preachers declaring a “turn or burn” message, to gospel tracks, to televangelists, to dog and pony shows with big flashy smoke and lights attractional ministry strategies, to Christians who don’t share their faith at all, we have missed the mark.
And when we look at the gospel message that Jesus proclaims we see a very different way. Jesus’s primary message was not about heaven or hell. His goal was not to be “attractional” to anyone. His primary message wasn’t about sin or sin management. And I am pretty sure he didn’t use gospel tracks. Instead, his primary message was about a kingdom.
In Luke 10:11 he sends out 72 additional apostles and tells them to proclaim to every town and village, “The kingdom of God has come near.”
And this is what the villagers would have thought about when they heard this message.
They would have thought back to the story of Abraham in Gen. 12 when God promised, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
They would have thought back to the story about the promise of land given to Moses, about the return to Sinai, about a faithful keeping of the covenant between God and Israel.
They would have thought back to the promise of a King that would sit on David’s throne.
In 1 Chron. 17:11-12 God says to David, “When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me and I will establish his throne forever” (emphasis added).
They would have thought about all the prophets who pointed to this day when the King would reign in the kingdom.
They would have thought about the King reigning in the kingdom that David speaks about in Psalm 72:
The poor and the needy are exalted and the prideful are brought low.
The needy and the children of the needy are delivered and their oppressors are crushed.
The righteous flourish.
They would have thought back to the history of God’s promises to God’s people, and they would have been invited to believe that this great story continues and finds its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The kingdom of God is here and the reign of God is breaking in. The time is now.
This story about this King and this kingdom is still the gospel message that the church is called to proclaim. It is a message to a lost world about a King who re-orders present circumstances. It is a story that continues to this day. So who are you inviting into the story? Why don’t you join me? We’ve got a story to tell.