It Is Messy (Part 6 of 7)

           In our culture of American consumerism it can be all too easy for the contemporary church to lose sight of the reason we do evangelism, become distracted by a plethora of other things and fail to keep centered in the key component of gratitude.  The crux of the problem is that when the church is not motivated by gratitude then it is most likely motivated by law or impure non-kingdom desires.   The law is a lousy motivator for loving our neighbor with the Gospel and the law is a lousy tool for embracing others into the body of Christ.  For gratitude is what motivates the church in evangelism, a gratitude that is a result of a God that first loved us. (1 John 4:19) 
Not only was the early church motivated by gratitude, it also conducted evangelism in the midst or within tension.  In other words, much of the early evangelism was messy.  Not a little but very messy.  According to Richard Fletcher in his book titled, “The Barbarian Conversion” there were many cases where the conversion process took up to a dozen years.  This would happen when people would accept Christ as a deity in an abstract way and then progress into the faith (i.e. receive Christ as a savior later on).  In many circumstances they would definitely enter the Christian community prior to believing.[1]  As we can about imagine, this made things messy and created a great deal of tension for the church.[2]      

[1] Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion (University of California Press, 1997), 97-ff.
[2] I am reminded of Jim Engel’s “Engel Scale” which used a scale with a minus 9 to a positive 3 to describe the conversion process.  In a modified scale one can rejoice in the process of an unbeliever towards the cross and yet still distinguish the process from the definite conversion point.