Thursday, May 1, 2008

I'm jet lagged and I didn't fly...

I'm still tired. We didn't get home uber late last night or anything. I just am still tired. The Orange Conference was amazing. I was thrilled that Joe Pa let me tag along.

I had been telling people for weeks how excited I was to hang out with Donald Miller. Unfortunately, he's apparently very popular and was quite busy so I never got the chance to talk to him one-on-one. I did however get to hear him speak twice--once in a small breakout and the other in a main session. He's a writer, not a speaker. But the way he tells a story, the way he communicates, is amazing. You don't have much of a clue of where he's going for the first little bit, but when he gets there in the end, it knocks your socks off.

Francis Chan was great, too. He's really challenging. He talked about the church in Acts 2-4 and talked about it being the only model we should pursue as leaders in the church. He pretty much said that if you choose to call it idealistic then you're ignoring the way of Jesus and the early church. He set the bar high...

The surprise of the conference, for me, was Gabe Lyons. He started a few groups like Catalyst and the Fermi Project. He and David Kinnaman recently wrote a book title "unChristian" that talks about how 16-29 year olds perceive the church. Brittany's parents gave it to me for Christmas and its a brilliant book. I would say its a necessary read for anyone who is part of any type of Christian leadership.

He held a breakout session called "Cultured" that discussed church/gospel/future/culture. Basically, the premise was that culture has dramatically shifted in America and people's perception of the church has dramatically shifted. We need to be aware of what's changing to be relevant to the world around us. He made some very thought-provoking statements.

If you've had a discussion with me lately concerning theology, then you know I've really been wrestling with things like the gospel, salvation, being "saved," evangelism, prosetlyzing, etc etc... I haven't been willing to blog about my feelings for lots of reasons--but the main being that I haven't known how to articulate it well. (I haven't wanted to put a poor explanation of my thoughts up here and be misunderstood. It happens often enough even when I'm lucid in my writing...) Then Gabe Lyons puts this diagram up on the screen that sums up what's been bouncing around in my chest.

Basically, he talked about the fact that the American church has been proclaiming a Half Gospel for fifty years--that we start with the Fall and end with Redemption. Sadly, its true. We start with the fact that we're all screwed up (ie, "sinners") and that Jesus offers "salvation" if we would believe in him... and we leave it there. But that's only half of it!

The Gospel begins with creation. It begins with the fact that we are ALL created in the image of God. We all have the potential to do good. We are all a beloved creation. This is our starting point--not that we're "all sinners doomed for hell."

Our ending point isn't with Jesus' redemption either. It ends with restoration. If our final point in the Gospel is Jesus' death and resurrection, then we've totally left our purpose on the shelf. Everyone's all about quoting Ephesians 2:8-9 but tend to forget that the section ends with verse 10. We have a purpose for being here. Jesus offers new life because he wants us to take part in the reconciliation of the world--of all of creation. Taking part in helping fix this broken world IS taking part in the restoration process that God wants here... now.

This is my problem with most people's approach to evangelism--the use of overarching metanarratives that are inadequate to explain what they're talking about. I'm still working through lots of things--don't get me wrong. I am in a time of transition with lots of ideas in life. But this I know: the Half Gospel we've tried to push for so long doesn't stand up against competing world-views. It pales in comparison to many. But this Full story, this better understanding of the gospel of Jesus, changes everything... This Full story really is good news.


Saintdoc said...

Not to be argumentative but when people make overarching statements like, "the American church has been proclaiming a Half Gospel for fifty years" it really ticks me off. The emergent movement is nothing new though people have been proclaiming for years that they have a better way but those movements have not stood the test of time. I guess people like, Spurgeon, Edwards, Moody and the countless others who changed our world were all leading the world astray. All this time we have been following half the gospel. Now finally we can get to work spreading the real gospel we have been given by Gabe Lyons and others like him who has received this special revelation that Christendom somehow missed for 2000 years.

JD said...

Note how I didn't say anything about "two thousand years." More like 100-120 years. That's my next question I want to seek to answer: what happened at the end of the 19th century that screwed up the American church so much? Something did.

I was just saying the past fifty years have been especially bad.

This has nothing to do with the "Emergent" movement. This has everything to do with re-examining Scripture. Things haven't felt right inside my chest for some time now. And the puzzle pieces haven't all been fit together yet. I was just saying, for me, this is a huge step in the right direction. This makes sense. Do you really think things have been okay for the latter half of the 20th century? Do you really think only teaching fall/redemption holds up against other world-views?

Regardless of how you feel, I simply can't see how you think the American church has reflected the way of Jesus the past half century. I just don't. (And I'm obviously not saying certain current movements have it all figured out. Just that erroneous walls that have been built in the past are bring torn down.)

Joe said...


at last something that we agree upon!!! Though I know we don't agree about what the problem is we both think that there has diffenately been a problem in the last 100 years or so. I would say that it all started with the rise of the liberal movement in the late 19th century.

Secondly I don't think that any of these new movements are really "re-examening" scripture. They are just reiterating old Heresies (I know this term isn't very popular but that is what they were concidered) from hundreds to thousands of years ago.

You said that You are just speaking of the last 100-120 years but what has changed in the last 100-120 years is the rejection of things like "fall/redemption" view of things. All of the men that Saintdoc has mentioned are a testimony of that fact. And every man prior to him that were saints would have looked to a "fall/redemption" outlook on things. It is the rejection of these things that has messed up the American Church for so many years.

So I agree that we need to recover the Gospel. But we need to remember what the Gospel has been for the last 2000 years. It has been this "fall/redemption" thing.

Lastly, I don't think that it only teaching fall/redemption is what we are called to do, But this is the Gospel. All of the other things like our sanctification, how we live, how we engage the culture, how we help the poor and needy, how we love our neighbor, These all come out of the Gospel. They are not the Gospel. The Gospel is that "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Anything else comes as a result of it or is fullfilled in it.

In Christ

Honest Words at Night said...

When talking about truth, it's always a dangerous thing. To assume that we have the absolute truth assumes we are in tune with God, and we aren't perfectly. To assume we can't know the absolute truth means we can't know an absolutely true God, and thus God would become distant and non-existant in our world, which isn't true.

This gospel/salvation/culture question has been very important to me for some time now... and despite it all, I still have more questions. But I have heard one thing that has helped me see the situation of what "gospel" or "salvation" is. We tend to read the Bible 2 ways: Diachronically and Synchronically.

To read it synchronically is to take each story and see it in its own context. Take David and Goliath for example. When read synchronically, by taking that story as its own slice from scripture, we learn that we can do all things in God who strengthens us. The story is about God making the weak strong in this interpretation. Now, if we read it diachronically, taking into account the story of the whole of the Bible, we see that the story of David and the giant really isn't about God giving strength to the weak, but that God was using David to point to a savior, to Jesus. David is the Jesus figure, defeating the goliath, and saving the people.

Diachronically, we read the bible from beginning to end, essentially 4 points-Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. Synchronically, we read the Bible in segments, gaining the nuggets of wisdom we can from each story. The thought of the Gospel here then becomes something like this-Sin, Salvation, Heaven.

Is it wrong to read the Bible one way over the other? The conclusion I've come to is that we have to read the Bible in both ways. This understanding has completely transformed the way I read scripture and look at the Church. Jesus came to begin the restoration of this world through His redemption, and we are called to be agents of that change. I get the feeling at a lot of churches that all theyre selling is half of the gospel. It's always a focus on either "evangelism" or "social justice", whatever those things mean. But maybe, what if these two things really aren't so different? What would happen if we understood social justice to mean that true restoration could not be accomplished without sharing Jesus? or what about if we realized the truly healing power of Jesus' death for the here-and-now as well as life after death?

I'm convinced that if the Church has been missing something for the past X number of years, and i'm not quite willing to say that it has just yet, this has to be it. Gospel vs. Social Justice. Why did we ever make the divide?

Saintdoc said...

The answer to what happened to the church is simple the people stopped being the church and started going to church. I for one however have never shared half a gospel. We have to stop looking for new answers and go back to the truth of the scripture that is timeless. I am a little confused about what you are trying to say about the gospel. It has not changed. Granted some congregations have changed it but please don’t lump everyone in with these congregations. I have dedicated my life to sharing the gospel and trying to disciple those under my care. I know I have made many mistakes but I am trying daily to be a living example of the gospel.

JD said...

I'm not making any claims on truth. Atleast, I don't mean to. See it however you like. To me, this isn't about "truth." Its another term I have too many thoughts on/issues with.

Heresy is a fairly ridiculous term. Its incredibly subjective the majority of the time its used. All too often, its one group of people saying the other group is wrong.

I was simply saying that I feel like the we've taken a reductionist view of the Gospel and speak only of fall/redemption. To me, that's not the Gospel of Jesus. Its just not.

To me, the Gospel is four-fold. It always has been, always will be. It must include creation/fall/redemption/restoration to be a Christ centered world view. If it doesn't include all four, to me, its not the way of Jesus. (Like I said early, I don't think fall/redemption stands up against competing world views. Why do about 3 out of every 4 Christians who enter college abandon their faith system? I don't think its a lack of programs for youth...This just makes sense.)

I always make it clear this is my opinion. But Mike, you know how I feel about the institution of the American church: its screwed up (as a whole, not just congregationally). Change has to happen. And its not a "them" vs "me" thing--its an "us" thing. I include me in this. Hundreds of thousands of people feel a lot of the same things I do: I love Jesus, I love people, I have issues with the institution of church. We need to atleast attempt to figure out why. That's a huge part of what this is about: trying to figure out why I feel the way I do. I want to understand...

Joe said...

I guess what I see as a whole in scripture (and if you see otherwise point to the passages) is that it emphasises fall and redemption and not creation and restoration. Whenever the epistles talk about the gospel they take long periods of time to talk about what Christ actually acomplishes on the cross and if creation is talked about (which no passages come to mind on this one) then it is in passing. They same is true about restoration (if you could define what you mean by this term it would helpful. I read it in a lot of emergent books that make it sound very much like universalism, which I know that you reject so if you could give me a better idea if I use it wrong here). It seems that if it mentions this then it is a result of what the Gospel has accomplished not something that was actually bought on the cross. Does this make sense?

and I used heresy as a subjective term. But we all have to wonder if we want to allign ourselves with people that the breadth of christianity has concidered them heretics. People like Pelagius, Arius, Socinus. These people have by in large ( except for their own groups) have been and still are called heretics,

In Christ
Joe hussung

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

sorry the last part cut off.

JD said...

I wanted to add: I didn't set out to write a scathing review of the church of the past fifty years. I simply added that I thought it was a beautiful way of thinking: that when we share the story of God, it should include how it began, the conflict, the climax (the solution to the problem), and the resolution.

Its not some "far out there" thought that Gabe Lyons is the first to have. He was restating what so many others have written and talked about. It was just the first time I had thought about it in those terms. It was an "ah-ha!" kinda moment for me. It makes sense. Like the first time someone told me what the Bible says happens to us when we die. When you look at Scripture, it makes a whole lot more sense than some of the things I've been told over my lifetime.