In recent months it has been my joy in the Lord to have been directly or indirectly involved in witnessing quite a number of young people acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, in other words they have become Christians; followers of Jesus.
They have made these very personal decisions from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and speak of how the Lord guided them individually through this or that situation whereby they in effect, fell at the foot of the Cross seeking forgiveness of sin and opening a whole new realm into their lives.
Evangelicals call this being 'born-again' or 'coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ' or even as in seminary a 'soteriological experience'. It all means the same, they have become followers of Jesus.
Now, although we speak so intelligently of issues associated with the intellectualism of theology, the historical analysis â for all these people - it was as John Wesley wrote when he experienced his true conversion to Christ, "my heart was strangely warmed".
So today my plea to my fellow Protestant theologians who acclaim the high moral ground of the high-level intellectual ingredients of Salvation, one could so easily lose this central message â that the critical component of becoming a Christian and living the life of a Christian, is the 'Heart'.
There are numerous Scriptures that speak of this simpler message, and there is none more poignant than the Apostle Paul's core teaching of the Gospel than in his letter to the Romans, in Chapter 10:
The 9th verse says - 'That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.'
The two questions
The two questions I pose which relate directly to this matter of the heart are -
Why might this central issue of Christianity, 'the heart', become so marginalised in recent Protestant theological discussion?
And, what actions might be available to return the focus of Protestant theological discussion on 'the heart'?
To the first, I wonder if some Protestant theologians feel the need to be 'seen' to be relevant to the world. When issues like climate change, the environment and political correctness set the agenda, some Protestant theologians publicly justify their position with respect to these issues. It appears to me that these issues exhausts their spiritual resources.
Personally, after having to cope with intense stress in my own life, I find there are only so many hours in a day, so that prioritising becomes a critical coping strategy. Sometimes the core Gospel proclamation has been so inundated with a swathe of such fashionable political issues, that the 'lost' become the marginalised, and are in danger of not hearing the message of being 'saved' by the very people who should be able to help them.
In other words, I sense that what Jesus Himself described as 'the world' has set the agendas and some Protestant theologians have fallen for this, hook line and sinker. Instead, I advocate a return to the simple message of addressing people's beliefs within their own hearts.
This leads me to the second question, addressing the problem of how to realign and refocus on the 'lost' and follow the clear command of the Great Commission Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew Chapter 27.
The emphasis the entire New Testament provides its readers is that of the Heart. Therefore the answer to the second question must in some way be associated with preaching, teaching and reflecting on this central theme.
Recently, listening to Romans 10 being read on a video taken from the Banora Point Baptist Church video library where my wife and I worship (Tweed Heads), I was strangely alerted to this theme. The heart is where it is at.
As an avid reader of things theological, the reading impacted me like a thunder bolt. The constant missing ingredient in preaching today is 'the Heart'. I cannot emphasise this enough. I read sermons on the Internet. I listen to sermons from the Internet and CD. I watch sermons on the television. The missing ingredient in our age is the 'heart'.
I recall my first year as the Australian cricket team chaplain in 1984. Shortly after my appointment Bob Simpson was appointed the coach. His one theme that echoed around the Australian cricket world was 'back to basics'. In my view this is so applicable today in Christian belief and practice.
Without the Heart there is nothing, no substance, for it is the Heart that is spoken into by the Holy Spirit and moreover, Christ becomes alive and fresh for the believer through the Heart. This is my call to get back to basics with an emphasis on evangelism of the lost!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html