Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Gospel Doesn't Need Help

Here's a good, but challenging, article by Matt Conner for Christianity Today.
An excerpt:
The problem is that we, as Christians, are falling for the belief that the gospel needs our help in some way. While we may not say that is true, our actions speak differently. We spend countless hours and dollars developing ways to be a unique and creative voice within the media landscape. Sometimes we even go the crazy route, all in an effort to attract attention to ourselves in the hope that our voice can be heard.

When we do this, we are attempting to add to the gospel. What we are saying is that the gospel is not enough to change lives—that it needs our help in some way to make it more acceptable or palatable. Our actions state, "Maybe if I present the gospel in a slick enough way, maybe someone will accept it."

It's quite a provocative piece, especially as it runs counter to standard approach in contemporary Christian culture.
From my own perspective, without denigrating the values of connecting to our culture and carrying out everything we do with excellence and authenticity, I would offer a couple of thoughts I personally believe quite firmly:
1. We can't make the Bible relevant. The Bible is already relevant.
2. We have to get to a point where, in our communication and presentation, we are not trusting ourselves for the salvation of others. We should do what we are called to do as well as we can, because we are really doing it for God, but we should trust the Holy Spirit for the results. Faithfulness always trumps cultural relevancy. Always.

(Hat tip: Common Grounds Online)


At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Dirk said...

Conner sounds quite elitist to me in this article. Is he suggesting that given the gospel's sufficiency it should just be read aloud and not expressed in any creative way? Of course not. Surely some minister along the way expressed the gospel in a way that reached Conner. So why shouldn't it be expressed in ways that are reaching thousands every weekend in this country? Is the point of the article then that it's possible to present the gospel inapproriately? That's only been going on for a couple thousand years.

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Is the point of the article then that it's possible to present the gospel inapproriately?

Only generally.
I think his point throughout is that too many Christians and too many churches adapt the Gospel to their marketing, rather than the other way around, that cultural relevancy becomes the primary aim ahead of biblical fidelity. (The article is called "Faithful, Not Crazy," after all.) He speaks directly of folks who water down or sidestep the stumbling blocks of the Gospel in order to attract people.
I think that's what he's talking about.

It may not be "news" per se, but as long as thousands are presenting inappropriately, the problem will continue to need being addressed. It would be elitist if Conner and others were saying we only need to read the Bible absent any creative expression or contextualization, but I don't think he's saying that at all.

He's making a call to the modern church to give up the tyranny of "results" and the primacy of cultural values and return to faithfulness of the Gospel. If that's elitist, I think the American Church needs more elitism. :-)

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Dirk said...

I agree with your position on the issue. I'm not sure Conner writes it that way. At least it doesn't read like that to me. I'm picturing him on the other side of grace trying to make the eye of the needle even more narrow. If he weren't elitist, he would also criticize church's that present the gospel in such a stale, philisophical and unexciting way. I've seen it done :)
Whether you sidestep the difficult parts of the gospel creatively or by brainwashing, on TV or on 8 track tape it's just bad theology. I think he's just got a high and mighty bone to pick with contemporary worship styles.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Maybe he does, I don't know.

He doesn't mention worship styles in the article, but I bet he does have pretty strong views on church worship too.

I think he's just reacting to the "by any means" standard running rampant in a lot of churches today. His words resonate a lot with me, anyway. Os Guinness' book "Prophetic Untimeliness" is pretty good on this subject too.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt Conner here...

I agree with your words about the need for creative means within the gospel, but the problem is that hardly anyone is making a stand for the opposite side. For every one book or article about holding on to the gospel, there are 10 or even 100 that talk about spicing up your services, buy this idea in a box, etc.

I think God can use anything yes, but that's an excuse we can use then to do anything we want under the banner of Christianity. And I just get tired of our need to draw a giant crowd...

Because honestly, i think our motives are more driven by pride than a true longing to reach everyone creatively with the gospel.


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