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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Future Communication of the Gospel 2

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As you think about the responses in UnChristian to Christians today, they mostly revolve around our inability to express the gospel well, to express the gospel without hypocrisy, to show love more than judgment, etc.  What seems to sometimes be happening is that we are expressing some of the content of Christianity, but without the substance - or a slice of the pie, but not the whole thing.  There were some really good comments in Chapter 6 that deals with the perceptions that Christians are sheltered, subcultured, boring, old-fashioned, unintelligent, and out of touch with reality. Again, though this is a study of young outsiders, which I'm not - I'm an insider, and a little older than their study group - I often find myself agreeing with the analysis.  I feel this way about us a lot of to the time.  In fact (and I'll have to tell this story later - someone remind me), these very issues have a lot to do with my conversion experience and my first full-time ministry experience, which is probably why they hit me so hard.  Anyway, here are a couple more quotes:

Only one-fifth of young outsiders believe that an active faith helps people live a better, more fulfilling life. [p. 122]

...part of the sheltered perception is that Christians are not thinkers. [p. 123]

And then this very insightful paragraph:

Another reason sheltered faith is unappealing is that young adults resist simplistic answers.  Mosaic and Busters relish mystery, uncertainty, and ambiguity.  They are not bothered by contradictions or incongruities.  I was amazed in our research to see how comfortable young people are with nuance and subtlety, expressing awareness of context in complicated and intricate issues.  A majority of Busters, including most born-again Christian young people, believe that the spiritual world is too complex and mysterious for humans to understand.  Millions of young people admit that life itself is too complicated to really grasp.  These ideas are twice as common among Mosaics and Busters as they were in their parents' generation.  [p. 125, emphasis mine]

Now, if that paragraph bothers you and your immediate tendency is to go on the defensive against young people for being ambiguous and for appreciating mystery, before you harp on objectivity and the certainty of our faith, you need to stop for a moment and listen to this.  There is a gem of insight here.  We Christians have too often over-simplified the gospel, our faith, the world in which we live, people's problems, solutions, hard issues like homosexuality, environmentalism, divorce, politics, gender issues, war, poverty, sexuality, and many more.  That doesn't mean the gospel is not true, that the gospel cannot address these things, or that God isn't the amazing God he is who meets people in truth and love and reorders the world for his glory.  Seriously.  God is up to the challenge, truth is deep enough to have serious, nuanced, sometimes complicated answers, and the gospel is deep and wide and long and high enough to transform the world and everything in it.  So why are so always so drawn to oversimplify the gospel?  Because often when we do, we sell people a product that is not the gospel, but a watered-down imitation and when they confront a) the real world or b) the real gospel, they are ill-equipped to handle either and especially their inter-relation.

The church hasn't really talked about world-view much in the last decade.  A world-view is a comprehensive way of looking at the world that addresses both large and small issues in our lives.  (non-technical, off the top of my head definition.)  It is the way we view the world, make sense of the world, engage the world, and provides the foundational rules by which we live in the world.  The Christian world and life view is something that can really handle the big and the small issues of life, and yet Christians tend to not want to, or are incapable often of doing so.

One of the reasons - and a good reason - is that we often simplify the gospel message in order not to scare people away or overcomplicate it for new believers.  I get that.  It's why churches run seeker-services, to get to the "core" message of God's love in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins offered through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and our submission to his Lordship.  That is the core of the Gospel.  But it is the seed, the starting point, the entry-way to something that is large, expansive, and engagingly beautiful.  Jesus said that a seed must die for it to grow and bloom.  The kingdom of God, he said, is like a small bit of yeast that affects the whole loaf.  A small bit of salt brings flavor to the whole meal.  We are right to help people to understand the seed/ yeast/ salt because it is essential in transformational growth and restoration.  But we tend to stop with that message, and we miss out on the kingdom expansiveness that comes as a result.


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