Experiencing God’s Boundless Love with Jonathan Evans
by John Hall
The theme for Missions Fest 2018 is “What is the Gospel” and we’ll be looking at the word through the eyes of missional professionals throughout the year. In this article Jonathan Evans, gives a glimpse into the many facets of the word. There is often a tension in our society to make sure that we can summarize a topic to a brief description, often known as an “elevator pitch”. The church isn’t immune to this tendency. As you read this article consider if we’ve done that to the word Gospel? If so, are we losing too much?
Who are you, and what ministry are you part of?
My name is Jonathan Evans and my wife Carla and I have been pioneering a new expression of The Salvation Army after ministering in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 13 years. Over the years we have realized that many of our neighbours had experienced childhood abuse and trauma. Believing the answers to Vancouver’s pain and suffering are in the Gospel we understood God called us to start Boundless Vancouver with two other couples. Boundless is a church community that is positioned to bring faith and hope in conjunction with The Salvation Army social services which engage with children and families in the area.
What does the word Gospel mean to you?
When I think of Gospel I think of an announcement of victory – a declaration of God’s love over our inability to love. Like any good announcement, it takes on different forms and avenues so that everyone has a chance to hear it, see it, taste it, know it, feel it and be immersed in it. The Gospel cannot be neatly be packaged into a slogan, phrase or article – though some have tried and come quite close. Because it is much more elaborate and involved than any expression that would try to bind it, it takes on an energy that disrupts any container we try to safely keep it in – it seems to be boundless.
How does the Gospel impact you?
The Gospel is a story – a true story that I find myself in that tells me about God, and most alarmingly, a whole lot of bad news about myself. It’s a story that affects everything because it starts way before we show up and it never ends. God’s victory over the most threatening assaults on our existence is the ultimate, most surprising story: our inability to resolve our existence on our own and our complete dependence on God to overcome our neglect, debt, greed, injustice, poverty, illness, abuse and addictions.
We discover, in Jesus, the hero of the story. Creation, covenant and culmination are cured in his life, death and resurrection. We discern that the power we exercise and rely on is not the same power of God. We realize this King has overthrown our kingdom and offers to replace this system of coping with a foreign set of postures and purposes. We require a new way of thinking and living when we surrender our small kingdom to live in Jesus’ eternal kingdom.
The Gospel impacts me because it connects me to God and everyone else who has received it. It is where I find my identity, place, purpose and peace. The Gospel daily defines my reality – that apart from God and his love – I can accomplish nothing. The Gospel gives me hope that my meaning and existence isn’t based on what I can accomplish but what God has already accomplished and is working out for me and the world.
How are you (in your ministry) a reflection of the Gospel?
Boundless Vancouver reflects the Gospel. The name comes from a hymn William Booth wrote:
O Boundless Salvation!
Deep Ocean of Love!
O Fullness of Mercy,
Christ Brought from Above.
The Whole World Redeeming;
So Rich and So Free,
Now Flowing for All Men,
Come Roll Over Me.
We invite people to experience this great ocean of God’s love that is at work in the whole universe and is so personal that it can heal the smallest and coldest hearts. We see this when women from a home for mothers experiencing domestic abuse are welcomed into our community. We praise Jesus when we have children go to our summer camp and meet Jesus and continue in faith through our mentoring program. We celebrate God’s redemption when we see rich people share their wealth sacrificially for immigrants who have joined our congregation. We are astounded when people hear about God’s story for the first time, heed his voice and surrender their all to him. We join in a journey into the depth of his love which we have only begun to fathom.
We have seen the Gospel’s power in our friend Kerry. Kerry and her daughter were homeless after their roommate had taken their money but not paid their landlord. We were alerted to their situation and picked them up on the day they were evicted. With the help of The Salvation Army Belkin House, Kerry made a new start. We helped her acquire permanent housing, furnished her new home, registered her daughter in school and childcare at the community centre. The love and care lead to Kerry committing her life to Jesus and joining our faith community. Her life isn’t the same after encountering God’s love quite personally through people in the community. She’s made commitments to keep her life on track with God. Kerry now contributes her gift of hospitality and love – she cooks meals and encourages her neighbours to know us and have their children attend our outreach programs.
Missions Fest Vancouver is an organization dedicated to supporting the local church in their efforts to become more missional. Learn more at: missionsfestvancouver.ca