Archive for the tag “holistic gospel”

Is the ‘missional’ movement missing the point?

Brandon Hatmaker writes:

We’ve fallen so far from a biblical understanding of “living on mission”, that we’ve had to reduce our instruction to the lowest form of Sentness. We do this to help baby-step people into their mission field. Because, well… because people don’t really want to do this.

But I’m NOT convinced that we DON’T know how to make friends or to be a blessing (yes, that was a double negative). I’m pretty sure we know how to be nice. We know how to be a friend. We know how to not be selfish. It’s just that we are.

… Is it possible we’re missing the point?

If you’ve read my book Barefoot Church, you know I’m not a guy who just likes to deconstruct the church. I love the church. I will fight for the church. There is always hope for her. But it starts with repentance and transparency about where we truly are, not an illusion of where we think we are.

Today, I’m simply peeling back another layer of scales off my own eyes. While there are amazing leaders and churches out there who are truly teaching and living a holistic gospel and who are making disciples who live on mission, it’s still the vast minority. I’m thrilled that we are in a moment of time that we’re entertaining new and innovative thinking in regards to mission… but as we start leaning that way… my prayer is that we identify a true biblical mission centered on Christ and His Gospel, one that loves mercy and seeks justice, and one that doesn’t settle with just being “nice”.

All this to say… keep going. Keep teaching people to cross the street and cross the tracks. Encourage random acts of kindness and city-wide service projects. They are necessary steps in getting us off center and moving us towards biblical discipleship and true mission. But don’t stop there. Paint a bigger picture from the beginning. Help people know their trajectory. Point them towards a Gospel that saves, a Gospel that transforms, and a Gospel that renews a very broken and desperate world in need of Good News.

Read the full article by clicking here.

Check out Brandon’s book, Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture.

Gospel or justice — which?

By Russell D. Moore

Some evangelicals talk as though personal evangelism and public justice are contradictory concerns, or, at least, that one is part of the mission of the church and the other isn’t. I think otherwise, and I think the issue is one of the most important facing the church these days.

First of all, the mission of the church is the mission of Jesus. This mission doesn’t start with the giving of the Great Commission or at Pentecost. The Great Commission is when Jesus sends the church to the world with the authority he already has (Matt. 28:18), and Pentecost is when he bestows the power to carry this commission out (Acts 1:8).

The content of this mission is not just personal regeneration but disciple-making (Matt. 28:19). It is not just teaching, but teaching “them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

This mission is not inconsistent with what we have seen already in the life of Jesus. His mission is defined by Old Testament expectation (for instance, Ps. 72), and in the gospel accounts in terms of redemptive love for the whole person, both body and soul. From the literally embryonic moments of the Incarnation, such terms are present in Mary’s prayer about the coming of her Messiah (Lk. 1:46-55), and then in Jesus’ own inaugural words about his kingdom’s arrival (Lk. 4:18-19).

This mission is summed up in the gospel as a message of reconciliation that is both vertical and horizontal, establishing peace with both God and neighbor. The Scripture tells us to love neighbor “as yourself” (Lk. 10:27-28).

This is not simply a “spiritual” ministry, as the example Jesus gives us is of a holistic caring for physical and economic needs of a wounded person, not to mention the transcending of steep ethnic hostilities. As theologian Carl F.H. Henry reminded evangelicals a generation ago, one does not love oneself simply in “spiritual ways” but holistically.

Of course, Jesus’ ministry would be about such things. After all, the Bible shows us, from the beginning, that the scope of the curse is holistic in its destruction—personal, cosmic, social, vocational (Gen. 3-11) and that the gospel is holistic in its restoration—personal, cosmic, social, vocational (Rev. 21-22).

Moreover, the biblical prophetic witness consistently speaks in such terms. Is Ahab’s acquisition of Naboth’s land (1 Kings 21:1-19) a matter of personal sin or social injustice? Well, it was both. Was the sin of Sodom a conglomeration of personal sins or societal unrighteousness? It was both (Gen. 18:26; Ezek. 16:49).

The prophets never divided up issues of righteousness as neatly as we do in the “personal” and the “social.” Isaiah speaks of God’s judgment both on personal pride and idolatry (Isa. 2:11) and the “grinding” of the faces of the poor (Isa. 3:14-15). Onward to Joel and Micah and Malachi right through John the Baptist the witness is the same.

The new covenant church continues this witness. Even after the public ministry of Jesus, his apostolic church continues a message of both personal justification and interpersonal justice. James directs the churches of the dispersion both in terms of their personal speech (Jas. 3:1-12) and the unjust treatment of wage-earners (Jas. 5:1-6).

James defines “pure and undefiled religion” as that which cares for the widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27). Of course he does. His brother already has (Matt. 25:40).

For those who might seek to pit James against Paul, the New Testament allows no such skirmish, either on personal redemption or on ministry to the vulnerable. When they received Paul, the apostles, Paul says, were concerned, of course, that he proclaims the correct gospel but also that he remember the poor. This was, Paul testifies, “the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10).

So how does the church “balance” a concern for evangelism with a concern for justice? A church does so in the same way it “balances” the gospel with personal morality. Sure, there have been churches that have emphasized public justice without the call to personal conversion. Such churches have abandoned the gospel.

But there are also churches that have emphasized personal righteousness (sexual morality, for instance) without a clear emphasis on the gospel. And there are churches that have taught personal morality as a means of earning favor with God. Such also contradicts the gospel.

We do not, though, counteract legalism in the realm of personal morality with an antinomianism. And we do not react to the persistent “social gospels” (of both Left and Right) by pretending that Jesus does not call his churches to act on behalf of the poor, the sojourner, the fatherless, the vulnerable, the hungry, the sex-trafficked, the unborn. We act in the framework of the gospel, never apart from it, either in verbal proclamation or in active demonstration.

The short answer to how churches should “balance” such things is simple: follow Jesus. We are Christians. This means that as we grow in Christlikeness, we are concerned about the things that concern him. Jesus is the king of his kingdom, and he loves whole persons, bodies as well as souls.

Christ Jesus never sends away the hungry with, “Be warmed and filled” (Jas. 2:16). What he says, instead, as he points to the love of both God and neighbor, to the care of both body and soul, is: “You go, and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37).

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Russell D. Moore is dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column is cross-posted from russellmoore.com and was originally posted at The Gospel Coalition site.

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The unpopular true gospel

By Kevin Blue

The word ‘gospel’ is used only fifteen times in all the Gospels combined. And none of those verses define it very clearly. In several it is referred to as “the good news of the kingdom.” In several it is associated with the poor — good news specifically for them. If Jesus’ central concern was to distribute the good news to people, then his many sermons as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John should give us a glimpse of what that good news is.

The most frequent single topic in Jesus’ teaching seems to be the kingdom of God. He is centrally concerned that people understand what this kingdom is about and that they enter the kingdom.

This kingdom of God, which is supposed to be good news particularly to the poor, is not well received by everyone. It is true that before Jesus’ trial and death, many people followed him. But these were mostly the poor, the blue-collar workers, not the economically or socially elite, not the politically powerful. The gospel that Jesus preached did not generally seem to be heard by such people as good news. A few prominent people did receive his teaching, but many others viewed it as such a threat that they killed him for it.

Down through ensuing generations of humanity, the true gospel has never been popular among those who have found great success in the world. The “gospel” that has been popular is a version that allows and commands no substantive change in the way we live, think and relate. In the United States today, divorce rates, sexual practices and consumer lifestyle choices are largely the same for those who claim Christian faith and those who do not. Few are disturbed by the “gospels” that are commonly preached, for these syncretistic versions of the Christian faith have been co-opted by our world of idols. Love of money, individualism, materialism and consumerism have polluted our Christian spirituality.

These versions don’t match up well with the economic hardship, substantial persecution, and real pain and suffering that the New Testament church underwent. Frequently what we have instead of Jesus’ good news is news that is good for allowing us to continue to do as we please. It is good news for just us. It is not good news for the poor, since we have the habit of supporting economic policies (domestic and international) that exploit the poor for our benefit. It is not about entering God’s kingdom through great difficulty and suffering, since many of our habits and strategies aim toward making ourselves comfortable. It is not about hating one’s own life or about living simply, since we indulge freely in self-realization groups and the pursuit of riches. It can’t be about making a choice of allegiances between the state, our own family and God since we are rarely forced to make these hard choices.

Though Jesus says the gospel is about justice for the poor, abandoning everything else for God’s kingdom, and hating our lives, we frequently seem to define it otherwise. The gospel apparently has become the good news that we don’t have to change and can look forward to a bright future in the world.

Yes, the kingdom of God is about evangelism: it seeks new members who desire to live under God’s direction and guidance, who are willing to be retrained in life. Yes, the kingdom of God is about healing, sometimes of a very personal and emotional nature. Yes, the kingdom of God is about power — the power of God’s Spirit ministering to finite people. And yes, the kingdom of God is about dealing with the evil and injustice in the world. Those who have become part of God’s kingdom will speak out about injustice, even as Jesus did.

Most fundamentally for us, the kingdom of God is not just about us. It is not about justifying a lifestyle that we want to live at the expense of the rest of the world. It is not just about having an ecstatic experience that would justify the way we live and help us forget our conscience and the heart of God.

Jesus is very clear that concern for those in need is a litmus test of faith, not to be failed by any who hope to enter his kingdom. God has not forgotten about the poor. The question for us is whether we have forgotten about God.

The kingdom of God is about justice. It is about people being drawn back to worship God and choosing to act faithfully. It is about personal and corporate righteousness. It is about the justice of God, the justice that his people are to pursue by his means. It is about justice and not just us. This vision, the vision of shalom, is not new, but it is news. Some of us are rediscovering it in the Scriptures and in life in the church.

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Kevin Blue is the author of Practical Justice: Living Off-Center in a Self-Centered World, a director with Servant Partners, and lead pastor at the multi-ethnic Church of the Redeemer in south central Los Angeles.

Adapted from Practical Justice: Living Off-Center in a Self-Centered World by Kevin Blue. Copyright © 2006 by Kevin Blue. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.

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