Our church is gearing up for this year’s VBS (www.uhbc.org). My family and I moved here last summer and barely got in on what was happening, so it’s a lot better having our feet on our ground here in Springfield for this event.
It’s hard to imagine summer without VBS. Many churches in Springfield are offering such weeks of training and fun for children, and I’m glad that it’s part of UHBC’s pedigree as well. We are fortunate to have a good pool of adult volunteers on hand to help out with the kiddies, and this year’s theme of “Power Lab” should be a good one. Our Minister to Families, Janet Hill, has done a great job gearing up for this event and should be commended for her efforts.
VBS is the biggest evangelistic effort for many churches, ours included. The possibility of having young people hear the gospel and respond in an encouraging environment is exciting. Our church family has praying for this to occur for a number of our children, and we’ll trust the Lord for the results. We will present the message of salvation as found by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a simple, profound, unchanging message of hope. It’s the same message I heard when I was in VBS decades ago.
Baptists typically have had a handle on the gospel presentation, as far as knowing that Jesus Christ is the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). I’m not sure one could ever get a handle on the gospel, though. I couldn’t imagine telling young people that it doesn’t matter how they respond to God as long as they are “spiritual.” It does matter how one comes to God. The Bible says that God loves the whole world yet persons come to salvation through Jesus Christ (Jn 3:16, Acts 4:12). This statement pretty much summarizes the scandal of particularity. The term has been used to refer to the truth that God loves all people and earnestly desires that all come to experience salvation and eternal life. However, this saving faith is found only through Jesus Christ. For some, this is reassuring. Others say this is arrogance, scandalous.
Salvation has been called a “process” having past, present, and future dimensions. In other words “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.” There is a moment when a person comes to Christ, but he or she spends the rest of this life growing in grace and deepening in their understanding of what it means to be a disciple. When this life is over, there is the ultimate spiritual healing that occurs in heaven. I’ve heard it said by a pilgrim in the faith, “I’m not what I ought to be, I’m not what I’m going to be, but thank God I’m not what I used to be.”
I’m troubled by the confusion among some evangelicals about the nature of salvation. There seems to be a functional universalism in that Christians believe that people will all end at the same destination but are able to take different paths to get there. In other words, “we’re all going to the same place.” From a theological standpoint, salvation becomes theocentric rather than Christocentric. Jesus becomes one way to God rather than the only way. This can be attractive approach, especially when considering the billions of persons who have chosen another belief system. Many of these folks are good people and it’s difficult to comprehend the eternal consequences for those who do not respond to God through Christ.
I’m all for dialogue among different religious groups. And by no means should Christians respond with arrogance or superiority toward those who disagree with them. But, we must careful to communicate with clarity the gospel of Jesus Christ with love and compassion. Evangelistic methods should be authentic and expressed best through personal relationships. With so much competing for the hearts and minds of our young people, VBS becomes even more important. Statistics have shown that as persons grow older, they become less likely to make professions of faith.
There is a lot more that could be written and has been already about this subject. I haven’t added anything new to the discussion, but gearing up for VBS got me thinking about the new life offering through Christ and the possibility of children experiencing that for the first time. That’s worth talking about.