COMMUNITY AND RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
McRaney illustrates the desire of God for us to live with him in a community and in an eternal relationship. These terms are very important in understanding the most effective way to do personal evangelism in a modern world. This brief posting will examine the definition, importance and context of these terms and their connection to evangelism.
Webster defines community as “a number of persons having common ties.” (Webster, 204). God has sought for us to live with him in this community of common ties since the Garden of Eden. “The act of creation was the first expression of the divine community.” (McRaney, 18). From the very beginning of the planet, God has desired closeness with us! God has lived in a community with the Trinity prior to creation. (McRaney, 17) He made us in his image to live in that same sort of arrangement, first here on Earth then in Heaven after death. He had the idea of a God-man community of living from the very beginning.
Relationship is defined as “the state of being related or connected by blood, marriage or another alliance.” (Webster, 809) At creation God created man to have strong relationships with him and to each other as illustrated by the idea of community already discussed. When that community was disrupted by sin, he immediately began to desire a new type of relationship with us, a redemptive one. God now desires a “redemptive relationship” with us, restoring the “severed relationship” caused by sin. (McRaney, 16) Once we have restored that relationship through reconciliation, God also seeks a “communal relationship with Himself the others.” (McRaney, 17)
In summary, God has sought for all of us to live in a close, common relationship with him since creation. We can all walk together in the garden of life, much as Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden originally. That has always been his goal. At the beginning that relationship was natural and immediate. Today, since the original sin, that relationship can also occur in God’s original intent once the act of redemption has occurred. We must take a step toward God to restore our relationship with him and join his community.
This all relates naturally and easily to personal evangelism. Our listeners need to know that God’s original plan from the beginning of time was to live with them daily and eternally in his community, his family. He seeks that relationship and welcomes it! Sin put at a gap or space between man and God in the Garden of Eden. That sin blocks the relationship God seeks. Our acknowledgment of that sin and its impact on our lives is part of the redemptive or salvation step now necessary to restore our relationship with God and join his community of daily living that lasts from here to eternity!
Helping another to see their place in God’s community and how to easily restore their relationship with him to where he originally intended it to be can be aided greatly by the Learning to Listen materials we discovered this week. Empathetic listening leads to a faster and deeper understanding of the other person’s feelings, perspectives and personal needs. Understanding how to relate the Bible’s life-changing gifts can be seen by understanding your listener’s personal needs and where they are today in their lives. Truly, deeply listening to your subject can smoothly open the door you seek to open for their understanding of the saving knowledge of Jesus and help them see the path to the life, community and relationship God seeks with them.
Will McRaney, Jr., The Art of Personal Evangelism, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003).
New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, (New York, NY: Delair Publishing Company, 1971).