In the Fourth Gospel we read the following account about Jesus and his disciples:

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

This request from some Greeks to “see Jesus” has intrigued me for years. I believe, in a simple but powerful way, it underscores what every human heart hungers for—Jesus! The problem is that most churches, and few Christians, actually help people to see Jesus.

25 My friend Fr. Joseph F. Girzone recently underscored this again in his October issue of the Joshua Mountain Newsletter.

Lately, many churches and parishes are embarking on evangelization programs to introduce people to the Christian message. Interestingly, when I read the description of how they plan to evangelize, so frequently I never see Jesus mentioned in the whole description of the evangelization priorities. There is frequent mention of catechesis and theology and liturgy and scripture reading and involvement in church programs. But I cannot help but feel that people don't realize that Jesus is our religion, and getting to know Jesus should be the substance of evangelization. When the apostles went out to teach they didn't teach bible except when using it to explain Jesus to Jews. And there was no New Testament. Nor did they teach theology. There was no theology developed yet. They taught Jesus; "Let me tell you about my friend Jesus, how he lived and taught us and died for us and rose from the dead." People's lives then were totally centered around the person of Jesus, not church or theological concepts. Those things are the medium of the message, not the message. Jesus is the Message, but we continually make the medium the message and people hunger for Jesus and there are few who know anything in depth about Jesus. That is the real crisis in Christianity today. When we evangelize we should make Jesus and his life real for people. People are tired of substitutes.

Can you see why I am so drawn to the writing and encouragement of Fr. Girzone? He gets the central point of Christian faith about as well as anyone I know. The goal of my life is to see and know Jesus. I have too often made the medium, which in my case has been the study and teaching of theology, the message. The danger is that I know a great deal about a lot but miss the One who I truly hunger for in my soul. In the process of getting knowledge and Christian information we can miss knowing Jesus more deeply each day. 

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  1. Joe Schafer November 3, 2011 at 5:48 am

    John, thanks for this article. I think you are spot-on.
    Yesterday, Scot McKnight posted an article with a similar theme. He makes the case for why the gospel must be framed in terms of the person Jesus Christ. It’s one of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen on the subject:
    Scot McKnight is on fire these days talking about this very point. A few days ago, one of your readers posted a comment to recommend Scot’s latest book, The King Jesus Gospel. I want to second that recommendation. Sharon and I have both read that book and we absolutely love it.

  2. Duncan November 3, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I must be in a bad mood today, maybe it was something that I ate last night, because when I read the loving, heart-felt words of Girzone, I want to raise my hand to complain. So, here are my objections:
    There is something outrageously ironic (hypocritical?) about the author of “JOSHUA” (N.B., NOT ‘Jesus’) lamenting that he doesn’t “see Jesus mentioned in the whole description of evangelization” materials. I didn’t see ‘Jesus’ verbatim mentioned as the focus of his book / movie either.
    I am not sure how Girzone can assert that “When the apostles went out to teach they didn’t teach bible except when using it to explain Jesus to Jews”, unless he is not counting Peter or Paul or Philip as Apostles and/or he believes that the Greek church of Corinth was all Jewish (cf. 1 Cor 6:2 from Isaiah — to mention only one of many). Regardless, Girzone would need to help me understand Peter’s quoting from the book of Joel in Acts 2:14ff which he introduces with “Fellow Jews AND ALL of you living in Jerusalem…” Moreover, was the Philip’s friend the Eunuch Jewish? I perceive that Girzone is asserting hyperbolically for affect and thereby misrepresenting the truth. The Apostles DID teach the Bible and NOT just to Jews.
    Girzone goes on to say: “Nor did they teach theology. There was no theology developed yet.” This is either crass fundamentalism or lousy academics. Peter’s explanation in Acts 11 is clearly an articulation of theology. I could go on with other passages, but regardless the very nature of the Epistles is the Apostles articulating theology to the early church. Q.E.D.
    Moreover, even a cursory review of Acts 6 (“it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word” right through Stephen’s beautiful expository sermon and culminating in Acts 8 (v.4 “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went_ and then 8:14 (“when the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God”), clearly scripture and theology were a huge part of introducing people to Christ.
    Let me also comment on Girzone’s romantic notion that in the 1st century, “People’s lives then were totally centered around the person of Jesus, NOT CHURCH or theological concepts.” If this is so, I need help understanding Acts 2:42ff (esp. v.46 “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts…ate together…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people”).
    I beg that we not be so passive as to accept Girzone’s hyperboles — which might be better named as false statements. YES, we are driven by the Spirit and God’s love — incarnate in His son and glorified in His sufferings — to introduce others to Jesus. And, as we do so, let us rejoice that He gave us His Word and His teachings (theology) to speak the truth at all times. And let us be free to carry out our callings to show people the person of Jesus — in outreach activities as diverse as after-school tutoring, apologetics conferences, one-on-one relationships, and books that tell the parable of some dude named ‘Joshua’.

  3. Darren Gruett November 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

    “Let me tell you about my friend Jesus, how he lived and taught us and died for us and rose from the dead.”
    I love that statement. Is that not what Christianity is all about?

  4. Jack November 4, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I am in agreement with Duncan.

  5. George C November 7, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I think Duncan says what I think quite well.
    There may very well be problems with most churches evangelizing approaches, but he is also condeming the scriptural examples, as well.

  6. John H. Armstrong November 7, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I am really amazed at some your responses here. I think you will fall into the very trap that Girzone and I speak about if you are not very, very careful. Joe Schafer actually gets it, as does Darren Gruett. Of course there was theology but there was no theology as we know it or do it in the modern church. No, there was Jesus and the resurrection! This was the message and the medium was preaching and teaching from the Bible about Jesus! He was and remains the whole point. Because we have missed this we fall into traps we do not even understand, or so I believe.
    Let me explain. I loved theology and teaching but often missed Jesus for years. I know because it was me. I can speak for me. I can see a lot of “me” all around me. I did not come to this by accident. I fell in love with Jesus and then developed a theology that sought to explain him, etc. He defies this box! Even the creeds, which both Girzone and I totally affirm, only give us ideas not Jesus. Knowing Jesus is not about knowing creeds.
    And as for his book, you can’t be serious. You must know that Joshua is Jesus! The whole point of the book is to get people to realize this simple, profound historical point.

  7. Duncan November 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I am grateful for your candor and attempt to clarify. However, please note that I am not sure that you yet “get it” in terms of my points. I appreciate being cautioned and held accountable to not falling into traps. I hope that you and Girzone are similarly appreciative of the effort by me (and George C and Jack) to caution against falling into the other side of the same trap.
    I provided clear scriptural examples of how I believe that Girzone exaggerated his point (and thereby mis-represented clear Biblical teaching). Christ is not honored when we play loosely with the truth in order to make a well-intentioned point. I welcome apologetics to help me see if I am reading this wrong.
    At the risk of repeating myself, and thereby boring the audience, I believe that Girzone has highlighted his personal concern that evangelization approaches often leave out the name of Jesus. As George said, this might be the case and all of us might even agree that it is the case. I know that I hold this same concern.
    So, Gizone is right to be concerned, but his arguments for his point are faulty on biblical grounds. Because the Bible is clear and Girzone is a minister of the Word, I am going to get feisty here. Specifically, the apostles DID teach the bible to more than Jews, so Girzone is WRONG to say otherwise.
    Paul was an apostle who wrote the epitle ot the Romans and in it he taught theology, so Girzone is WRONG to say that the apostles did not do this.
    And again, the early CHURCH was centered around the person of Jesus, AND they were daily meeting AS A CHURCH to meet each others needs. Consider James’ statement that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) So, the Bible is clear that people’s lives were centered around church, and it is WRONG for Girzone to teach otherwise.
    It would be instructive to discuss in what manner Gizrone’s statement about 1st century Christian’s lives NOT being centered around “theological concpets” is wrong, but I leave this for those who want to ponder how the “study of God” is somehow below par when Paul said things like “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them”…”because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator”…”And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God”…”I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” Hmm, they were NOT taught doctrines, but Paul appealed to them about these doctrines? And lastly, I have no idea what Girzone’s interpretation is of Titus 1:9 (“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”) but I will gladly attempt to steer him from violating it.
    My point about Gizone’s book “Joshua” is that his litmus test seems to be that the name of “Jesus” is rarely mentioned in evangelism approaches, and yet his evangelistic book would ail this test. Therefore, perhaps Girzone is waay too quick at using a broad brush to determine what is good. Perhaps many of these evangelism approaches don’t mention Jesus in their descriptions because, like in “Joshua”, the CONTENT delivered reveals the person of Jesus. So, he knows his own work is sound, but he grants no quarter to the works of others based on superficial metric.
    I am simply asking for us to be careful in how we make our points. Factual inaccuracies will hurt the message and create division.

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