If we tell someone, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is that true? For those unfamiliar with the line, it comes from “The Four Spiritual Laws,” developed by the late Bill Bright of CRU (formerly, Campus Crusade for Christ). It is the opening sentence for one of the most commonly used evangelistic presentations in China and the world. I’m not questioning the first part, “God loves you.”
But what about the second part?
This post draws from my experience in talking with people who have heard this or similar type evangelistic presentations. So, I’m not talking about intent. The purpose of the line, of course, is to convey God’s gracious love and grab the listener’s attention when sharing the gospel. These are admirable goals, however, might we actually mislead someone?
Many in East Asian cultures have a pragmatic view of religion. When they hear about this “wonderful” plan, they naturally think in terms health and wealth. By the average person’s definition, “wonderful” means something like having a lot of family and friends, plenty of comfort, good health, and a good deal of money. I’ve heard time and time again stories of newer “believers” who are shocked that something bad happens to them (like the death of a relative) sometime shortly after “accepting Christ.” They hear God wants to bless them.
What else are they to think, especially when they are told that this wonderful plan is for their “life”?
Let’s be honest….most modern evangelistic tracts emphasize “eternal life,” not this life. Yet, the first of the Four Spiritual Laws does not say God has a wonderful plan for your “eternal life.” That wouldn’t actually be true if you were speaking to a non-believer. No evangelical would say that non-believers can expect a wonderful eternal life.
Therefore, think about it. How should our listeners legitimately understand us? What exactly does one intend to communicate in saying, “God has a wonderful plan for your life?”
Pretty consistently, the Christian life in Scripture is depicted in rather difficult terms, certainly nothing that people would call “wonderful.” It may be significant and meaningful, but it requires a lot of nuance for someone to understand this by the word “wonderful.”
Adam Ford has a nice comic over at his blog that captures the point. I’ve included it below.
What do you think?
What has been your experience?
What if we talked about the cost of discipleship as much as the “wonderful plan” for their life?
What might be a clear way of communicating?