Are we doing something wrong in Evangelicalism? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Recently, I finished reading Scot McKnight’s book “The King Jesus Gospel.” (By the way, if anyone wants to know about what I’m reading, just head over to GoodReads and feel free to add me. I regularly update it.) I had heard much good about the book and with N.T. Wright pointing out what a good book it was, I knew I was in for a treat.
The book is telling us that we are doing something wrong in evangelicalism. McKnight starts by sharing how he went door to door with someone from his church shortly after his “conversion” (I say it that way because I hate the term) and they spent an hour with the guy who had visited their church and really wasn’t interested, but eventually he did accept Christ as Lord, though most likely from McKnight’s perspective, it was an outward show. They went back to church and there was much celebration. The man was never seen at the church at all.
McKnight wants us to think about what has happened.
We have got to a point in our society where we have the message of salvation, which is really part of the gospel, and made it the whole gospel. This fits in well with our individualistic culture where the question then becomes “What is God going to do to take care of my problems?”
In this kind of society, people can make decisions quickly, but McKnight wants us to konw that the apostles were not sent out to get people to make decisions, but were sent out to make disciples. If we can get someone to “convert” and then not have anything required of them or any incentive for them, then we’re pretty much getting them to just say “Yes. You’re right.” We are not instilling in them a desire for Christlikeness.
When it becomes about our problems, then McKnight takes the saying from Dallas Willard that the gospel becomes simply “sin-management.” Of course, no one would say we need to downplay the importance of dealing with our sins. We certainly must deal with them. We just must make sure they are not the only aspect of reality that we deal with.
McKnight proposes we do that by broadening our picture. The coming of Jesus is not about getting someone to come and deal with our problems. It’s about God dealing with the problem. Interestingly, I just today started reading “Bart Ehrman’s book ‘God’s Problem.’ ” It is Ehrman’s work on the problem of evil and why he thinks the Bible doesn’t address it.
Ehrman is partially right. Evil is the problem. It is what the cross and the empty tomb are there to deal with, but part of the reason that problem is not taken care of is that we’re so fixated on our problems. Now of course we all have problems to deal with, but even our own problems can be seen in a different light when we place them under the kingship of Christ.
Could it be that when we start dealing with God’s problem, that we’ll find out not only do our problems get taken care of, but so does God’s problem? Could it be that if the church were to start acting the way that Christ had meant for us to act that maybe the problem of evil would not have been as severe? There are aspects we cannot change. There would still be hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis, but there would be more Christians to help those in need and more resources to help them.
McKnight wants us to see that the gospel is about the story of Israel reaching a fruition. It is about the Messiah, the rightful king, coming and taking the throne and when He takes the throne, He begins working out the problem to the proper solution. We are so busy looking at ourselves that we are not aware that God is at work in the universe and bringing about His mission.
We send people out to make decisions, but we don’t instruct them in what it means to be a disciple of Christ. It is as if we seek to get someone to an emotional high and then assume that our work is done. You might as well say that when a woman goes through the labor of childbirth and gives birth to a child, that she can then leave and go her own way. Her work is done. That does not work in parenting. It will not work in discipling.
McKnight urges us to return to the Old Testament also and see about the life of Israel. Don’t just look to see how it relates to Israel for the time-being. Look and see about the story itself. What is Israel dealing with? Why is God using these people? What is His overall purpose? Is it just a random thing, or is there some purpose to Israel?
Lately as I go to sleep, I’ve been trying to think through the OT and get the story of Israel in my mind. My mind has to have something to think on serious usually to get any peace and this is a great aid to me. It’s fascinating to see how the story of Israel could play itself out. I’ve been doing this for a few days and I’m not even through Genesis yet!
Upon reading this book, I have realized that this is the kind of book that every pastor needs to read. We are giving our people only part of the story. We are giving them forgiveness, but giving them the impression that God is there to deal with their problems instead of this idea that God wants something from His people. He wants them to be seeking Him continually and acknowledging His Son as the king of their lives.
The only downside I can think of is that with a place like Amazon, I cannot give this book six stars. Five is just not enough.