Around twenty years ago, while teaching Bible School in El Salvador, Neto Glick, young son of a local missionary came to me with a large, attractively illustrated new book. A new concept in missions, he told me, that makes a lot of sense.
The book, fast growing popular in missionary circles, claimed it was a mistake to try and reach people with Jesus' Gospel right off. One first needs to build a foundation, it claimed, and one must do that by teaching creation. Starting with Genesis, one should gradually lead people through the story of Noah, Abraham and the Israelites. Only after this foundation has gotten laid may one proceed with the message of salvation through Jesus.
For a short while I let the book (that I borrowed and took with me to Costa Rica) influence my approach to evangelisation. But on reconsidering our Anabaptist past, and particularly after I became familiar with the story of the Moravians, I put it aside.
No one, since the early Christians, has more effectively reached the lost than the early Anabaptists and the eighteenth century Moravians. How did they do it? They preached "nothing but Christ and him crucified." They used no gradual build-up of the intellect to bring people to Christ. To the contrary, they spoke immediately of sin, guilt, and deliverance from condemnation through Jesus' blood. They built no philosophical platform on which to set Jesus' Gospel. They let the Living Word plunge to the heart of the matter (the unhappiness of the human race) and from the death and new life that comes of that, they built living models of God's heavenly Kingdom on earth.
Life, hope for the future, an abiding witness to Jesus' peaceable rule, were the results of this approach. Wasn't that good enough?
Last month our children came running in just as we finished washing up at the dining hall after our noon meal. "A man and woman are here with Noah's Ark," they told us excitedly. And so they were.
Towing a caravan painted with comic scenes from Noah's ark, they quickly flipped up one side to reveal a large model of the ark with all the animals walking into it. The friendly man, and the lady (loaded with makeup and jewellery, her short hair dyed, in denim cut-offs and a tank top) started handing out the above posters, little ark model kits, Creation magazines and a video. They told us about their marvellous full-time ministry travelling from coast to coast in Australia, telling people about creation and the flood. "People have gotten saved, just from reading the comics in our magazine," they told us.
Travelling from church to church, giving programs, they invited us to a Seventh Day Adventist one in Burnie, or the Ulverstone Gospel Hall, coming up in the next days.
The Creation Gospel.
I remembered Neto Glick and some comments I had read on a conservative Mennonite group singing and preaching on the streets of southern California. An unbeliever, drawn to them by their lovely singing, their modest clothes and head coverings, was startled and disappointed to hear they had nothing more to talk about than "Intelligent Design" and to hand out creationist videos. Something southern California is already bombarded with day after day.
Wouldn't Jesus' Kingdom Gospel have spoken more directly to the need at hand?
Arguing about who made the world (in how many 24 hour days), and who gets to govern it, is as old as the world itself. But to pick up that argument is exactly that -- an argument. No more. No less. Hardly the Gospel of Christ for which a great cloud of witnesses has already given their lives.
Paul indeed started with God the Creator in his message on Mars Hill, but he quickly moved on to the personal needs of his hearers, to repentance from sin, and to Christ risen from the dead. Jesus' resurrection, not Paul's view of creation, separated true from false, light from darkness on Mars Hill. And so it will today.
The Moravians stumbled into the bush in South America, they set foot on the ice-bound rocky coast of Greenland, telling the most primitive stone-age tribes of the Lamb and his wounds. They accompanied the Gospel they preached with the powerful witness of their life in Kingdom Community, and brought multitudes to Jesus through his blood. The first Anabaptists, the early Christians in their time, did the same.
What has Creationism accomplished?
If anything it has produced even more argumentative, mentally bloated but spiritually starved intellectuals. People getting a charge out of tacky comics and hard-to-read "words of human wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:17), page after page. Human wisdom, propaganda and argument, that quickly leads to blows, such as the horrible litigation, money wars and shameful accusations (of witchcraft and necrophilia) between Carl Wieland's CMI (Creation Ministries International) and Ken Ham's AiG (Answers in Genesis) that has taken year after year, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in court cases, to resolve.
Do we believe in creation and the flood?
If the way we live, dress and speak does not already answer that question, no amount of glossy magazines, multi-million dollar museums (making money off the "gospel") or fighting for our rights through state legislation will prove our point.
How did we Anabaptists get caught up with this anyway?
If we had been out there preaching the cross (foolishness to those that perish), bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth in our time, all that meet us and seek the Truth would have known that God made the world. That we come from Adam, not monkeys, and that we, with all living and moving things, survive through Jesus "who created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible." Through our convincing witness (not our clever arguments) honest seekers would have learned how "all things were created by him and for him," that "he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16-17).
The next time a creationist caravan comes onto our place -- these people made it clear they were of Carl Wieland's group, not Ken Ham's -- I will talk to them about the cross. The tiny cross pictured in the bottom left-hand corner of their poster. It is, after all, still the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Rocky Cape Christian Community
19509 Bass Highway
Detention River, Tasmania 7321