How to Get to Heaven

Yesterday was the day during our VBS program when, according to the curriculum, we were expected to present the Gospel and give kids a chance to pray “The Prayer”.

If you’ve run around in evangelical churches at all, you know “The Prayer”:

“Jesus, I’m a sinner, but I believe in You, so please come into my heart so I can go to heaven and be saved.”

Now, it’s not necessarily a bad prayer. It does bother me, though, when it’s used as a type of secret password that you have to say to get into the Jesus Club.

Worse, however, was that we used the traditional “Bridge Diagram” to explain the Gospel (example compliments of Bible.org):

This probably wasn’t our best choice for teaching, considering we’re a Mennonite church where most people either don’t know how to explain this diagram very well, or where those who can, like me, don’t like it. I suppose that’s what we get for following such a evangelical-heavy curriculum. Needless to say, it made for a rather interesting alter call.

It’s hard to say why these conversion techniques bother me so much. The diagram and prayer aren’t necessarily wrong, and I can’t say that they aren’t rooted in the Gospel. It’s just that they feel so incomplete.

The Gospel of Christ is so much bigger and greater than figuring out how to get to heaven. Honestly, the Bible’s evidence of what Heaven is like is pretty shaky anyway. Although any Evangelical who really gets the faith he preaches knows that conversion is more than just a prayer, techniques like these too easily turn Jesus into a means to the end, Heaven, and they give the impression that getting to Heaven is the only important thing.

The Gospel is about relationship. God didn’t incarnate Himself in human form for the sole purpose of dying. He came to show us a side of God that we could know, understand, touch, see, smell, talk to… He totally changed our ability to relate to Him. Jesus’ life was as much a part of the Gospel as His death was. And through his life and sacrifice, we’re now able to have that relationship with God through the Spirit that took Jesus’ place. Heaven is not the end goal – being reunited with God is! Heaven is just where we get to do that. But if, through Jesus and the Spirit, we get to start that process now… clearly our focus should not be on some far-off, perfect place after we die!

In the same way, Jesus clearly proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom is now here! It’s not completed on Earth yet, but the work has begun. So if being reunited and reconciled to God starts now, then putting all of our focus on going to Heaven after we die does ourselves and the whole Kingdom a great disservice. Salvation is not a promise of life after death – it’s a promise of a new and fuller life starting NOW. If all we advertise is going to Heaven, then we are missing a huge part of the Kingdom.

All that to say, yes, Jesus is how we get to Heaven, whatever Heaven actually looks like. But Jesus is more than just a middleman, and He is our guide to the whole Kingdom of God… not just the afterlife, but abundant life now. Any evangelism tool that skips straight to the end of the story is not doing justice to the real truth of the Gospel.

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~ by Peter on July 2, 2008.

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