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Emerging Evangelism

posted by xscot mcknight

The new “EE” will not be like the old one. The quotations yesterday are from an emerging leader indeed, but he died long ago: his name is Walter Rauschenbusch. I want to contend that the emerging form of evangelism is presently following the path of Rauschenbusch (that is, strive for the kingdom of God in the here and now), and he is largely responsible for the creation of the so-called social gospel. Now some will say this is the kiss of death for emerging evangelism. I say, “Hold on a minute.”
Rauschenbusch contended in a multitude of writings that the gospel is more than personal salvation, more than individualistic redemption, and more than soul-salvation. Reared in a German pietist Lutheran Baptist family in New York State, Rauschenbusch was an independent thinker who was called to a Baptist church in NYC in a neighborhood called “Hell’s Kitchen.” There he came to the strong conviction that the gospel had better make an impact on the systemic injustices and systemic issues or it was nearly useless. So, he began a life of analyzing the Bible, thinking big thoughts, and constructing a gospel that addressed not only spiritual but also social issues.
Did he succeed? Depends on how you look at his life. More importantly for our day is this question: Will the emerging movement follow Rauschenbusch down the social-only gospel or will it take up his vision and actually bring about a full gospel? Will it reconstruct a kingdom gospel and then let a new kind of evangelism flow from its framing of the gospel?
Rauschenbusch’s quotations from yesterday are from his famous article in 1904 called “The New Evangelism,” which was published in The Independent 56 (Jan-June, 1904), 1054-1059, and which is now available in Walter Rauschenbusch: Selected Writings, ed. W.S. Hudson (NY: Paulist, 1984), 136-144.
The question comes down to this: If the emerging movement is dissatisfied with the content and method of evangelism in the evangelical and liberal movements of the Church, will it be able to develop a “purple” evangelism, one that frames a holistic gospel for a new generation but does so in such a way that non-followers of Jesus will learn to walk in the way of Jesus in a new era? Or, will it (1) give up evangelism all together, (2) re-frame evangelism into nothing but peace and justice issues, or (3) return to the evangelistic strategies and content of present-day evangelism by doing little more than adapting the old to new terms and new strategies?
When I first began investing the emerging movement, a friend e-mailed me and said point-blank that the emerging movement doesn’t evangelize and he accused it of being nothing more than a cover-up for liberalism (at least on that issue). Others contend that evangelism is being done, but (1) the emerging movement will not use the term “evangelism” for its efforts since that term provokes too much anger and cannot express the fullness of its vision of the gospel and (2) evangelism is too narrow and the term needs to be “missional.”
Its critics are asking this question: Are folks becoming followers of Jesus or not?
Tomorrow I’ll take a look at how some see the emerging movement’s practice of evangelism. Then next Monday I’ll offer reasons why we emerging types have problems with current practices of evangelism. Then we’ll turn to some missional evangelism, the New EE (Emerging Evangelism).



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Andrew

posted April 27, 2006 at 6:17 am


Wow. I guessed right but it was my 5th guess, and frankly, I included him as a bit of a lark. I did not think that you would pick him as a model of evangelism.
I am basing my knowledge of him largely on third party descriptions, not his orginal writings, so please correct me if I am wrong. But my understanding is that he denied certain key tenets of historic Christianity. His work with the poor is to be commended, but my understanding is that he also undermined the authority of Scripture and denied the atoning work of Christ on the cross.
Do you really want to hold him up as a model? Do you think that he has he been misunderstood?



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Duane Young

posted April 27, 2006 at 6:57 am


Dallas Willard has been contending for years for what he calls “discipleship evangelism” based on the injunction of the Great Comission to “make disciples” as compared to “make converts.” Is being or becoming “missional” to “make disciples” or is there a difference? Are the “new evangelists” doing something different than calling people to apprentice themselves to Jesus and joining (“stepping into”) his Guild/Kingdom because it is now in our midst (“available” Mk.1:15)? Willard’s admonition is to call people to do all Jesus commanded us to do in his character and power “learning to live my life as he would live my life if he were I.” How does the call to be “missional” differ?



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Scot McKnight

posted April 27, 2006 at 7:30 am


Andrew,
You’ll have to stick with us; I’m not quite sure I’m holding him up as a model but as a path-maker. Which path to follow is the question.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted April 27, 2006 at 8:07 am


Scot,
If you remember the story of the inner city pastor (Harry) in the introduction to my book, you won’t be surprised to learn that he is deeply influenced by Walter Rauschenbusch. It has shaped our ministry here.
One of my staff has spent his time on staff building relationships with crack addicts, prostitutes, broken families, refugees, etc. all in the inner city. Not only does he help feed and counsel them, he and his family have even opened their home to them when they are without a home themselves.
He is clear about his faith and that it is the motivating factor in his life. He prays for and with them, and introduces them to safe communities of faith in their neighbourhood. “Jesus” is not a rare word in their conversations. It is a rare sight, but it is a beautiful, missional, EE.
Knowing it can and does happen is both inspiring and convicting. Great posts, Scot.
Peace,
Jamie



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Anonymous

posted April 27, 2006 at 8:28 am


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tm

posted April 27, 2006 at 8:45 am


Rauschenbusch was a German Baptist, not a Lutheran. I have wondered at connections between the emerging movement and the Social Gospel. With talk of the Kingdom of God, holistic ministry, and a blurring of the secular and sacred there seem to be commonalities. The SG had the problem of being yoked to German higher criticism, to 19th c. ideas of human (evolutionary) progress (really to Anglo-Saxon Western ideas of progress), and a tendency, as the years went on, to hold those who did not follow it in a certain contempt. The individualistic and privatized faith SG leaders often stood against was worthy of some of that contempt. But it was an elite movement that did not bring the churches after it, at least until much later, and by very top down means. That is not to deny the necessity of a reply to the economic and social conditions at the end of the 19th c. or the creative thinking that went on among Social Gospel leaders. They had been struck both by the horror of industrial conditions and the ineffectualness of old evangelistic means to reach urban populations and the new european immigrants.
Rauschenbusch was influenced both by Ritschl and by Augustus Strong. He has been described as an evangelical liberal (“searching for a theology which could be believed by “intelligent moderns””), and scholars have claimed he held together a personal/pietistic and a social understanding of the gospel. In the years that followed after him a bifurcation between those understandings of the gospel arose that has hurt the church immensely.



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Glenn

posted April 27, 2006 at 9:39 am


TM is quite right, when the gospel was split between those who followed a social/gospel on the left versus those who teach atonement/gospel on the right, the depth of Rauschenbusch’s writings were taken for granted. I have read Rauschenbusch and found much to love as an evangelical. Readers will find themselves convicted in the way he challenges faith to be fully joined to the Kingdom, no doubt way ahead of his time. I wondered why he didn’t register on the evangelical radar screen, until Christianity Today gave The Kingdom Is Always but Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch by Christopher H. Evans it’s Award of Merit in 2005. Now with your blog, I’m hoping that’s about to change. Yet I’m still wondering, if we’ve had a consensus on the Kingdom as shown in the writings of Rauschenbusch or the scholarship of George Ladd, why has this never filtered down to those in the pews and how can EE actually make laypersons understand the kingdom as an essential? For example, John Wimber taught the Gospel of the Kingdom in a way that made the charismatic understandable and powerful. Now several years after his death many in the Vineyard have gone the seeker route and have not kept the Kingdom on the frontburner. Any thoughts?



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Makeesha

posted April 27, 2006 at 9:56 am


I too am concerned about a possible trend toward social justice only type “evangelism” that doesn’t produce the fruit of making disciples – I’m interested to read further.



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Andrew

posted April 27, 2006 at 10:43 am


Following up on my previous comment, I now have a post on my blog about Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel, with some quotes from George Marsden on his overall impact on the church.
One quote:
Religious morality,” said Walter Rauschenbusch, is “the only thing God cares about.
Here is the link:
http://thegreatdanceblog.blogspot.com/2006/04/walter-rauschenbusch-and-social-gospel.html
or try this:
http://thegreatdanceblog.blogspot.com/



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Scot McKnight

posted April 27, 2006 at 11:36 am


Well, I’ve read Evans and enough of Rauschenbusch himself to question whether he kept the balance that some think he maintained. His past kept him at certain levels; his mentor, Augustus Strong, wasn’t all that happy with where Rauschenbusch’s ideas were taking him at times. But, I will say that he says things that have to be heard.
I think my bigger point is not about Rauschenbusch himself, but about the direction of the emerging movement’s vision. There is clearly an element of him in that movement. Of course, he was in a different time, but the focus here is on his capturing of a gospel that had clear and undeniable social penetration.



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tm

posted April 27, 2006 at 11:43 am


Andrew, much as I love Marsden’s work and much as I find his book on fundamentalism formative, his use of the quotation by Rauschenbusch there is awful. He took it out of the middle of a sentence discussing the OT prophets that reads in full – “This insistence on religious morality as the only thing God cares about is of fundamental importance for the question before us.” (p. 6 of Christianity and the Social Crisis) To use it as shorthand for all of R’s thought is far from fair.



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john lunt

posted April 27, 2006 at 12:01 pm


Great topic. I hope that we as the church will do both. When I started out – I started the hard way passing out tracts, holding signs and even preaching a bit on the streets. Some people “prayed the sinners prayer”. But I almost always left wondering if there was any change – if there was even a seed of relationship developing. And I was concerned about the situation some of them found themselves in.
Now, I’m more interested in finding ways to develop relationships so that I have the chance to disciple someone or at least move them toward discipleship. I’m just not interested in carving a notch in the gospel gun.
I have to believe the Church of Jesus Christ can do both, make people disciples ( for kingdom now – and definitely for the kingdom in eternity) and also impact the society.
One of the models I like for this is the Dream Center in Los Angeles. It is not “emerging” but the leadership loves people and they are doing an incredible work. I’ve read their stuff (The Church that Never Sleeps by Matthew Barnett the pastor). I also know those that have been there -one who spent a year there. The stories of transformation in the lives of people and the local community are incredible.
Their website is http://www.dreamcenter.org/index.shtml
This church really never does sleep. They have a 24 hour a day youth center. They have ministries out ministering and reaching out to the homeless kids in LA and to the prostitutes throughout the night.
They have a mobile medical clinic with Doctors who make sure that homeless AIDS patients get their meds every day.
They bought the Queen of Angels hospitals, and while most Assembly of God churches shun Gays or people with AIDS, one whole floor has been converted to an AIDS hospice. Another floor is a home for unwed mothers.
At the same time, they are loving people into the Kingdom of God, because people know they are loved. They preach the gospel. They care about eternity -and now. If this is what Scott means by purple evangelism… I’m in



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John Wiers

posted April 27, 2006 at 12:12 pm


While I haven’t yet read Evans’ book on Rauschenbusch (it’s on my short shelf of biographies to be read), all who would want to follow in the path of Rauschenbusch need to be aware of the larger historical context. This is my speciality area as a pastor who has also done gradudate work in American religous history and some who worked in the actual trenches in that era are often forgotten. It’s true that Rauschenbusch had pastored in the Hell’s Kitchen area of NYC, but he spent the last few years of his life as a seminary professor in Rochester, NY. This doesn’t mean that his theories are useless, but Norris Magnuson’s (who taught at Bethel Seminary for years)seminal, Salvation in the Slums, demonstrated it was actually traditional evangelical ministries that did far more really effective social work in the blighted areas of cities of that era than most of the middle class devotees of the Social Gospel who were reading Rauschenbusch. Most of those who worked in the slums may not have had as well thought out theological program as Rauschenbusch did, but this may have actually kept them from divorcing the individual from the societal empahases. The many evangelicals who worked in the slums of that era, as Magnuson shows, fed many, clothed many, helped many find gainful employment, etc, without downplaying the need for individual conversion. This was also the era of the institutional church, such as Bethany Presbyterian in Philadelphia, which was pastored by missions enthusiast A. T. Pierson and funded by department store magnate John Wannamaker. Institutional churches such as Bethany continued to proclaim, as they would have put it, “the old fashioned gospel,” while starting savings banks for those of limited means, teaching literacry classes, etc. Such churches were open from early in the morning until late at night, not with programs that would resemble today’s busy churches, but what were genuinely helpful social programs that worked both for individual as well as societal changes. Yet very few of these churches imbibed much of the Social Gospel, as far as I can tell. In fact some historians have aruged that the Social Gospel was essentially a middle class affair that talked far more about societal change, than acutally changing society. The Social Gospel’s biggest impact may have been in provding some of the theoretical underpinnings for the Progressive Movement in politics, but as far as actually affecting the poorer areas of the cities themselves, the effects of the Social Gospel are not really all that clear to historians.



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Jordan

posted April 27, 2006 at 12:27 pm


Scot – it’s sounding as though the EC is redoing all sorts of things (church in general, worship, evangelism, etc.) in order to appeal to culture. I do believe the church will wither if it doesn’t remain somewhat flexible to it’s culture, but how far does this go? What kind of boundaries do you see the EC putting up in terms of appealing and what appears as submitting to the culture we live in? Or has the EC yet to set any boundaries?



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Scot McKnight

posted April 27, 2006 at 12:32 pm


Jordan,
Again, not quite that simple: it is a part of culture, yes, but so are all expressions of the Church. It is the attempt to let the gospel come to expression in a genuine form in a new (pomo) culture.



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Dana Ames

posted April 27, 2006 at 12:45 pm


Glenn#7,
as a six year veteran of the Wimber-era Vineyard, I can affirm that the Kingdom was indeed on John’s front burner all the time. John was interested in focusing on Jesus, because Jesus was not “theoretical” in the same way Paul was. Jesus took action, and that was what John was interested in: doing things the way Jesus did. If Jesus talked about the Kindgom, then Wimber was going to talk about it too. Wimber did a good thing turning the focus to Jesus and connecting the idea of Kingdom with Jesus’ acts, particularly the miracles. Proclaiming, teaching and manifesting- this is what Wimber focused on, and it is a key point in Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy”, pp 288-90. (I think this is one reason why Willard’s current church is my old Vineyard, pastored by another Wimber-era veteran.)
I think the Vineyard has pushed the Kingdom to the back burner because 1) Wimber had neither the temperament nor the training to pursue what “Kingdom of God” meant to the first century Jews, Jesus’ audience. He died before Willard’s DC was published, or Wright’s books really hit the US scene. I do think he would be in deep conversation with Willard and other Emerging thinker/practitioner -types had he lived. 2) The Vineyard arose out of Calvary Chapel. Absent Wimber’s continued presence, it has fallen back on its “late modernist” evangelical roots as default. Again, if Wimber were still alive, I believe the Vineyard would be moving, if not firmly into the Emerging stream, at least in close parallel to it.
Dana



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Andrew

posted April 27, 2006 at 1:12 pm


TM-
Thanks for the clarification on the quote, although one full sentence is not much context either.
You said regarding the quote: “To use it as shorthand for all of R’s thought is far from fair.” I am not doing that, and Marsden is not either, which I think is clear if you read my full post and the longer quote from Marsden there. (Link in comment #9 above)
Do you disagree with the overall points that Marsden is suggesting? For example, “that the Social Gospel emphasized social concern in an exclusivistic way which seemed to undercut the relevance of the message of eternal salvation through trust in Christ’s atoning work”?



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Julie

posted April 27, 2006 at 1:12 pm


Hi Dana.
I worked for John Wimber during his last years (his ghost writer and editor). He had backed up considerably from the more Kingdom driven practice of the early years of the Vineyard, though affirming all those principles through writing and speaking. While he attempted to continue to teach the Kingdom principles, following the Toronto Blessing and the KC Fellowship, the flagship church in Anaheim retrenched quite a bit into that modernist evangelical model you speak of, even before JRW died.
Still, I agree with you in principle that the Vineyard really was in some ways the “emergent” model in charismatic clothing, seeking to marry the evangelistic task to the supernatural Kingdom of God ministry as modeled by Jesus. And perhaps had John been healthy and his son had not died of cancer and, and, and, he may have been a participant in the emergent conversation. Also, the Vineyard has been active in promoting ministry to the poor as a constitutive element of its evangelistic orientation.
Loved John. He was truly a unique voice in his time.



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John Frye

posted April 27, 2006 at 1:13 pm


Jordan,
You write as if the EC is an homogeneous, clearly bounded movement. For many of us the “C” in EC stands for “conversation,” not a church or an organized body of doctrinally defined people. With its penchant for analysis, modernism dissected everything and put it on the glass slide to be scutinized…including religion and spirituality. The EC is a conversation about reconciling pieces of reality that fit with a vigorous Trinitarian God truly interacting with free human beings living in authentic community as kingdom of God (an eschatological)people. These reconciled configurations of reality look and feel different, of course, but this does not mean that they are necessarily suspect or are capitulating to culture.



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Bob Robinson

posted April 27, 2006 at 2:09 pm


Scot,
I was fascinated to read this post!
I just posted about Marvin Olasky’s WORLD magazine and how the conservative old guard (which is perfectly represented by Olasky) is till playing the old tune of “Conservative/Individualistic Gospel” vs. “Liberal/Social Gospel,” as if the two must be at polar opposites. In the most recent issue of WORLD, Olasky says that when William Sloane Coffin, Jr. died, “that’s what has happened to the social gospel as well. A few Coffin epigones talk on in an attempt to keep that ol’ time religion alive, but evangelicals rely on the most important change agent of all: the grace of Jesus Christ.”
But I have news for Olasky: That ain’t gonna play anymore.
Olasky seems ignorant of the resurgence in popularity of people like Ron Sider and Jim Wallis. He seems uninformed about the whole new generation of leaders who make up “the emerging church” that see themselves as “post-conservative and post-liberal,” refusing to say it must be “either-or,” but rather “both-and.” These emerging leaders are more appreciative of a Gospel that focuses in on “The Kingdom of God,” which has implications not only for our personal lives but for society as well.
I wrote, “It is almost a revival of the theology of Walter Rauschenbusch, who made the Kingdom of God the basis for his ‘Social Gospel,’ in which ‘humankind [is] organized according to the will of God.'”



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Alan Streett

posted April 27, 2006 at 2:35 pm


For Scot,
Emergent? Yes, when dealing with postmoderns. But the Kingdom of God always and under all circumstances. The missional church must be kingdom-focused. This is what made Rauschenbush stand heads and shoulders above his contemporaries. He had been captured by the Kingdom of God. Recently, I wrote two book reviews for CTR, in which I compare and contrast the life and ministries of A. T. Pierson and Walter Rauschenbush, the former a fundamentalist and the latter a modernist, but both fully committed to the Gospel of the kingdom. To add to the dialogue, I am have posted the reviews on my blog at http://already-not-yet.blogspot.com/



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RJS

posted April 27, 2006 at 3:01 pm


Scot,
First – what was Biblical Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1904 or did you take some liberty with the quote?
Second – I don’t know enough of the history of the social gospel, or the theology of Rauschenbusch, to comment intelligently about much of this. However I am fascinated by it, because it had a deep impact on my family background.
My Grandfather was a Baptist missionary/pastor (born in working class Philadelphia ca. 1900) who was caught up in the liberal/social vs conservative fights among the Baptists in the Northeast. He wound up in some sense in the bad graces of both for refusing to take an either/or stand, although he was theologically conservative. This resulted in financial hardship and at one point he had to mow lawns for a living (with six kids to support). At the time he died (a year before I was born) he was Superintendent(?) of the Denver Rescue Mission and teaching part time at what is now Denver Seminary. This whole history had an enormous impact on my father and hence on my upbringing.
On this blog many months ago I commented for the first time complaining about the emphasis in the discussion on the emerging church on “This Generation” and how “This Generation is different/new/…”. I felt strongly about this in part because I knew the family history. Perhaps you are now making my point – this is part of the necessary, recurring, and continual renewal of the church. But we need to be careful not to stereotype the past, to keep the history in perspective, and to avoid repeating mistakes while building on the positive.
RJS
(P.S. Interestingly enough, when we lived in the Philadelphia area we attended Bethany Collegiate Presbyterian Church – which grew out of Bethany Presbyterian in Philadelphia funded by department store magnate John Wannamaker)



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Jordan

posted April 27, 2006 at 3:57 pm


John Frye (#19),
I appreciate your thoughts. I am aware that the EC calls itself a conversation and that it is full of diversity. I don’t expect there to be a set of doctrinal standards, but I do see general trends that can be found within many of the participants. Be that as it may, my question was more directed at the way Scot defined “EE” in terms of it’s close connection with culture and it’s desire to reformulate aspects of the faith to reach this culture.
Anyways, I did not mean to come off as suspect or even skeptical of the EC. I think it’s good to ask questions about the things we believe and to try and do such things as evangelism more effectively. I will say this though: I asked questions in hope to gain clarity, which it seems I’m finding that there is a lack of this in the EC. A lack in that anytime someone tries to make a general claim a hand goes up and says, “wait a second, we don’t ALL believe this, but, we’re still part of the EC.” And this bothers me. If this “conversation” is just a bunch of peopel conversing, then cool. But things are happening – things are changing, or even more appropriate, ‘emerging’. It’s no longer just a conversation. But within what boundaries? I’m not talking about denominational boundaries, or dare I even say evangelical boundaries. But no one seems to know, nor are they willing to say. With that I am suspect. Sorry if I got too off topic.



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tm

posted April 27, 2006 at 4:27 pm


Andrew, don’t know if this will be a sufficient answer, but I wanted to give it a shot. Marsden’s chapter focuses on the fundamentalist viewpoint of the Social Gospel. In this understanding, the “Great Reversal,” the evangelical withdrawl from social action came as a result of the linkage of the Social Gospel with theological liberalism in the minds of those who would become fundamentalists. But Marsden’s book is an attempt to understand fundamentalism, not to do justice to the Social Gospel or understand its context or motivations (which are a bit more complex or maybe convoluted than his simple one paragraph portrayal). SG proponents saw themselves reacting to an inward, individualistic turn in evangelical thought and action. Still, on the ground in the 1880s through the 1910s it was a little more difficult to tell those who would be fundamentalists and those who would be liberals apart (Moody for one hung around with both). And historians like William Hutchinson and C. Howard Hopkins have made a clear point that “not all liberals were social gospelers, and not all social gospelers were liberal.”
So the SG saw itself as a corrective to the heavily individual and conversionary focus of the evangelicalism of the time – a focus that made the church entirely ineffectual in reaching urban folks and immigrants. Correctives often swing the pendelum too far in the other direction. I am not an apologist for the SG, I would just claim that it has been too quickly dismissed by evangelicals in the past, because it has been equated too entirely with theological liberalism. I think it offers examples and maybe more importantly warnings to the emerging movement.
What the Social Gospel sought was a more complete and holistic approach to human salvation and human flourishing. Evangelicals at the time were certainly interested in ministering to the poor (Magnuson is compelling on that point), but the SG difference came in the understanding of sin and salvation- was it entirely individual or were there structural aspects that must be addressed as well? The Social Gospel sought to change more than the individual, reaching the environment/society as well.
Its success in altering church and society is debatable (the former more than the latter certainly) and a lot of its thought is time bound. Its major leaders died during WWI and the movement died with Progressivism after WWI, to be reborn in much more radical forms in the 20s and 30s. But its failure, tied to particular political and cultural beliefs, is instructive. And so for the church both its thoughts and its limitations remain important. Is our understanding of the gospel too individualistic? How should the gospel (or how the church understands and embodies the gospel) change in response to social and intellectual/cultural changes? I’ll stop now.



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Jordan

posted April 27, 2006 at 4:41 pm


On a note of hopeful clarity, I’m not trying to say that I want the EC to nail down beliefs. Nor do I want to box it up, make it look pretty, and the like. Yet, it appears to reject anything that reeks of a title, movement, or religious viewpoint (e.g. evangelical, liberal, etc.) that it simply makes me nervous. Maybe I’m wrong in this, and if so, I hope I will learn that. But doing theology without boundaries is scary to me. Perhaps the simple answer is that the EC does theology within the boundaries of Scripture. I expect to hear that, but it’s hard for me to see it.



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Matt

posted April 27, 2006 at 10:34 pm


This idea of the Gospel impacting the social sphere (just one of Willard’s focuses) is appealing and important. However, the question to me seems to be one of rank or priority. Are we saying that IF the systemic structures of our present world are left unconverted that the Gospel has not been developed to God’s intended purpose; despite where our eternal destinies lie or how we have actually impacted the spheres of influence like family that are given us? Also, along those lines, what does Hebrews 11 speak to, if anything, when we consider our present world’s condition compared the eternal? If we are supposed to see the “Kingdom of God” brought to fruition, measured in terms of our systemic cultural environments, what is the point of looking forward to a heavenly city? If it’s just one of saying, “let’s not throw out our heavenly future, but let’s also include our earthly present;” I get that for the most part, but are we saying that the social gospel is just as important as the eternal type of impact? If so, that seems to be a bit reactionary.



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Andrew

posted April 28, 2006 at 5:28 am


tm- Thanks. My question went to the issue of whether WR and the other SG folks found the right balance. I am not sure of your bottom line, but you said this:
“I think it offers examples and maybe more importantly warnings to the emerging movement.”
I agree with the second part. Regarding the first part, I am sure that there were examples that could enlighten and inspire us. But I think that there are better role models who did a better job of finding the right balance. I am so familiar with the bad aspects of WR’s legacy- spiritually dead mainline churches.
Scot said:
“You’ll have to stick with us; I’m not quite sure I’m holding him up as a model but as a path-maker. Which path to follow is the question.”
You are losing me with the path metaphor. What good is a path-maker if we do not take his path? Or are you saying that he showed us a path that we shouldn’t take?
I will stick with you to find out.



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Dennis Martin

posted April 29, 2006 at 9:29 am


I find it odd, amusing, sad, really that so much of this Emerging Church conversation simply reinvents the wheel. Interaction of the Gospel with culture has been going on for 2000 years. There are only a few basic types and if Niebuhr’s categories don’t get all of them down exactly perfectly, he’s got most of it down.
From what I’ve read here and elsewhere, the EC movement is a variant on Kulturprotestantismus, that is, you are taking your cues far too much from the current cultural setting, which is a mere blip on the entire radar screen of history. If you were able to back off a bit and really study the entire 2000 year span, you might notice that much of what is being written (I understand that EC has many variants, but my point is that even the variants fall into basic commonalities when viewed against the entire 2000 years) about EC comes across as a variant on the original Church growth movement of the ’70s.
It seems to me that the main possibilities are
(1) totally countercultural (Christ against culture), but beware because what was supposedly “countercultural” in the 1970s was not really and Ron Sider and Jim Wallis today are as establishment as they come, given the triumph of the 1970s movements in the press and academia and even in many sectors of government; and a second “beware”: today extreme Fundies, traditional Catholics today, some Evangelicals, esp. the pro-lifers–these are now countercultural but only because the “culture” that dominates is an anti-culture (culture of death) so those who hold out for natural law, universal culture true for all times and all men appear countercultural in a world that assumes everything is malleable, socially constructed, hence spinnable and marketable
(2) total capitulation to culture (Kulturprotestantismus, Harnack, Modernists of the late 19thc, some aspects of Byzantine Christendom, some aspects of medieval Catholicism, nearly all of 16thc magisterial Protestants etc. In a postmodern “culture” (as noted above) Kulturchristianismus would be capitulation to market-research, taking one’s cues from “what people want” without first establishing what the universally true, non-negotiables are.
(3) Christ transforming culture–where “Culture” is truly understood as deriving simply from the way God made us, with universally true facts about what it means to be a man, a woman, a society–perennial philosophy, in other words, which was present even in the ancient Greeks and certainly in the Church Fathers and medieval theology and philosophy. (Even though leaders of society in both the medieval Byzantine East and Catholic West often abandoned perennial truths for political expediency and the desire for power and domination–but at least the perennial philosophy principles condemned them for their timeserving expediency and they continued it only by ignoring what they knew, being ignorant in the first place or silencing their consciences.)
The whole story of the rise of modernity is the triumph of process (Technique in Jacques Ellul’s and George Parkin Grant’s terms) over substance, in other words, of the decline and marginalization of the pursuit of perennial things, perennial culture (which doesn’t mean stasis or unchanging, non-developing culture, but does mean that culture must always assess its development according to perennial truths and make corrections) in the name of “it’s better, more efficient, it works” this way.
Post-modernism is not a new, anti-modern development. It represents simply the triumph of efficiency, utility, process-over-perennial-culture gone to seed. The Enlightenment tried to have it both ways: yes, we believe in universal Justice, Truth, Natural Law but we also believe in Progress, Technique, Technology, Watchmaker-technique. Inexorably the latter won out over the former. Kant already abandoned perennial/universal knowledge of truth in the noumenal realm but thought he could hold on to it in the practical realm; Nietzsche blew that pipe-dream to smithereens and said, look, it’s all about technique, power and we’d be best to admit it.
The challenge before Christians today is the same as it was in Paul’s day or Gregory of Nyssa’s day or Augustine’s day: how to proclaim the timeless truth of the Incarnation of the Creator of the Cosmos to redeem Man and take human nature up into the inner life of the Trinity (Theosis) in the language of the host culture (going into Hellenistic culture from Hebraic, then from Hellenistic into Latin-Western, then into Germanic-Latin and so on down the line) without abandonining any of the perennial truth. If the Creator God truly became Incarnate, then Perennial Truth has been revealed once and for all, absolutely. History cannot then move in a forward line, progressively (whether Hegel’s version or the present PoMo version) but rather the Incarnation is the absolute Center of all History; Meaning is given once for all–it’s just that it will take us forever to fully understand it and it will have to be translated, adapted to each culture.
But in the process of translating/adapting, one first must truly understand, critically, the host culture. If cultural truths are perennial and if we live in a fallen world, then many aspects of any given culture will be manifestations of falsehood, lies, untruth. They cannot be permitted to govern the translation/adaptation process. Other aspects of the host culture will be partially in line with perennial truths and need only to be fleshed out, fulfilled, brought to fuller visibility.
There is a lot of solid cultural critique out there that ECers need to engage. Perhaps they are–I don’t claim to know what all of them are saying. Ellul, Grant, MacIntyre, John Paul II, Ratzinger, Kirk, to name only a few. Each of these has done their assessment of culture, but not narrowly on the narrow basis of “postmodernity” and reaction to the initial wave of Church Growth (market-driven evanglism–very captive to a particular moment in history), rather, more full-orbedly on the basis of the full sweep of cultural phillosophy going back to the ancient Hebrews and Greeks and Romans and forward to the present.
Is it perhaps true that certain forms of worship or church government, for example, are more perennial than others, which are more peripheral? Did Aristotle and Plato and Origen and Augustine perhaps lay out the most basic matters of art, communication, worship, hermeneutics etc. in the fundamental analytical categories? Does Postmodernism really offer anything, anything at all that is really different and thus really needs to be taken into account? Or is PoMo merely a short-term, tunnel-vision variant on a much longer history of basic idealism and nominalism, perennial philoosphy and Technique?
If the latter is true, then the challenge would be to discover what the most basic forms of language, styles of music or art, means of communication are, because deep down, that would be what all people are hungering for. They may on the surface be attracted by this or that surface wrinkle in music: in the 1960s it was pop-folk, in the Church Growth mega-church era of the 1970s-1990s it was Christian rock; now that is passe, we are told–but what if pop-folk and rock are merely tiny protuberances, pimples, as it were, on much deeper, long-term, perennial ways of expressing ourselves musically–look at the universality of chant for instance, across religions, across history people have always fallen into some form of sacred chant (and timeless, hieratic, sacred language for their texts) when they want rise above the mundane and give expression with finite resources to the infinite Truth (Revelation in Christian-Jewish terms) about God.
Are there canons of artistic or linguistic or philosophical expression that provide the deep structure of human life and culture and thus underlie whatever any successful, valid surface expressions might be? If so, then surface expressions can be assessed as to how well or how poorly they conform with and express the deeper currents. Some of what people “hunger for” might be merely superficial and thus won’t last and it would be counterproductive to tailor one’s “evangelism” to it. Some of it might even be destructive of the message we proclaim. Some of it might be amenable to that message. It seems to me the task of evangelism is to figure out which is which.
But to do that one has to engage the entire sweep of the history of culture. Thankfully, a lot of minds much greater than mine have done a lot of that (some of the names I listed above). And I recognize that many leaders in the EC movement don’t have time to read and digest MacIntyre or Kirk or Ellul. Fine. But practically speaking, the perennial, lasting, effective means of communication, manner or worship, music, hermeneutics may very well have been hit upon, developed, incorporated in relatively timeless ways in the “classic” eras of the Church’s history–patristic and medieval, both East and West. They may benefit from some cautious “updating” but even to do the “updating” one would first have to burrow deeply into them to begin to understand how they functioned and function, why they became classic and, perhaps, to try to figure out why they were abandoned by some (but not all) in the 16thc, in the wake of Vatican II, in the 19thc etc.
It seems to me that this would be more helpful evangelistically in the long run than taking one’s cues from market science (which is effectively what Evangelicals have been doing now for 40 years–beginning with Church Growth but then the mainstream as represented by Christianity Today Inc. adopted basically a marketing approach after a lag of a decade or two) or “social justice” politics.
Social justice, for heaven’s sake, has always been a concern, centrally, of Christendom. Jim Wallis and Ron Sider have no monopoly on “social justice.” When one talks about the need to do social justice rather than merely individualistic cheap grace gospel, which is very true, but then names Wallis and Sider as the go-to-guys, one has right there revealed a captivity to contemporary culture and a tunnel vision.
Libertarian conservativecs have a social justice policy–of laissez-faire. I think it’s wrong, but not because it lacks a concern for social justice but becaues it has a false, wrong approach to achieving social justice. Small-business democratic capitalism (Novak, much of the Republican Party platform ca. 1995, before the capitulation to “compassionate conservativism”) has a social justice policy. It may be the wrong one, but it is one. I must say the cavalier dismissal of Olasky on some of the posts on this thread annoys me. Olasky represents a valid voice in the entire debate. To dismiss him as simply old guard and hold up Sider/Wallis as a breath of fresh air–give me a break. Olasky is the new kid on the block compared to them. They are throwbacks to the days 30 years ago when I was a fresh-faced evangelical know-it-all. But since then Olasky has offered alternatives (with Gilder, Kudlow, Novak, JPII). And George W. started out Olaskian but, as far as I can see, left him in the dust to stake out something that is neither Wallis-fish nor Olasky-fowl. And now along comes
Sam Brownback trying to bring back a Wilberforcian approach that avoids some of the hog-through pork-barrel foolishness of Frist/G.W.Bush and shares some aspects of Sider/Wallis but agressively rejects the warmed-over Marxian-Green collectivism that hovers on the edge of Sider-Wallis.
I’m not endorsing any of the above. I just want us to realize that all of these are social justice approaches. Everyone cares about social justice, we just disagree about how to achieve it. One of the biggest frauds perpetrated on our body politic is the success advocates of the socialistic/”progressive” wing of politics have had in claiming “social justice” for their policies alone and demonizing the other side of the poltiical spectrum as mean and unconcerned about social justice. As a result, we rarely have public debate about just which policies have a track record of success in achieving social justice and which, if never tried, might be most likely to succeed.
To get beyond the tunnel vision in which Sider/Wallis alone stand for social justice Evangelical-style, Evangelicals have to learn something about Chrysostom’s approach, Augustine’s approach, Louis IX of France’s approach, the montes di pieta of early modern Catholic Italy, the Distributist approach of the early 20thc, the Kirkean vision, the Burkean vision and so on and so forth.
To sum it all up: why reinvent the wheel? For the life of me, I cannot understand why EC has to invent something new, create a new “movement.” Surely the major confessions and denominational families of the 2000-year history of Christianity have tried just about all the variants on Christ and culture. Surely some of them have gotten it more right in more aspects than others. Why turn one’s back on all of them and have the hubris to think ECers are going to get it more right than any of them? Why not carefully evaluate the major variations, choose what one believes to be the best among them, get on board and help shape and steer it (Orthodoxy, traditional Catholicism, classic Neo-Protestantism)? Liberal Protestantism and liberal Catholicism (an ephemeral phenomenon that can’t even survive from it’s initial generation to a second and is dying, exhausted, as I write) aren’t really to be taken seriously. Evangelicalism was only ever a reaction against–against classic Protestantism, against liberal Modernism etc.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 29, 2006 at 11:30 am


Dennis,
This is another lengthy comment, but I would say this: of all the Protestants, it is perhaps the emerging crowd you’d enjoy the most — they are striving for a genuine catholicity (they’re not, however, in danger of crossing the Tiber). I’ll say it again: it is not “new” in the way of something never heard of, but new in the way of finding something in a drawer long forgotten and now bringing much of the picture back into view.



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john la grou

posted April 29, 2006 at 12:08 pm


[Comment ID #17519 Will Be Quoted Here]
Funny.. just minutes before reading your post, I had e-mailed an old friend on how the emerging conversation “…gives life to many faith ideals I had buried years ago. Hugely inspiring and freeing. I feel like doing something again as part of the church — only this time in a missional context.”



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Ken

posted April 29, 2006 at 1:42 pm


I’ve read the comments here with interest and I want to take up on e point, and that is the emphasis upon the “Kingdom of God.” The kingdom, which is not defined in teh NT as “social justice” and appears, in my reading, as something that Jesus unqiuely brings, as manifested through healings and exorcisims as expressions oof the mighty acts of Yahweh. This is true in the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a focus of John’s Gospel, gets scant mention in Acts (though appearing at the beginning and end of the narrative is important) and figures little in teh epistles or John’s Apocalypse in the sense one sees in Mattthew, mark and Luke. This suggests to me that the early church did not see the “Kingdom of God” as the paradigmatic way to understand its existence or mission. Why would we now, 1900 years later, want to do so, especially if we are not seeking to do it the way jesus did it? (I’m reminded of the conversation between the pope and Thomas Aquinas. The pope, showing Aquinas the beauty of the Vatican, if I recall correclty, says “we can no longer say, ‘silver and gold have I none’. To this Aquinas replied, “Neither can we say, ‘rise and walk’.” We can’t bring in the kingdom the way Jesus did and we don’t reflect the early church’s emphases if we do try to preach a powerless Kingdom. There may be places in the world where the church does bring the kingdom with power, but the U.S. is not it.
Ken



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Scot McKnight

posted April 29, 2006 at 2:14 pm


Ken,
Great questions.
It is not possible here to engage in that age-old debate of the relationship of Jesus and Paul (or any other NT figure), but a serious mistake in that debate can be stated simply: it is a mistake to reduce the message of the NT to a term (like Kingdom, or justification, or eternal life). What I see is a linguistic exploration by NT figures/authors, and Jesus lighted upon kingdom as the way to express his vision. Paul felt no compunction to use that term; in fact, he landed upon it rarely, and mostly as an eschatological condition/state/place. (Not always, though.)
So, using kingdom today is just to use one of the experimental linguistic games of the NT. There is no reason to reduce the debate to terms. What we need is to explore all the big terms of the NT in each age. Many today like to use kingdom for two reasons: Jesus used it and because (mistakenly) they think it is broader and bigger than “church” or Pauline soteriology.
Now to a quick point: I see Paul’s virtual equivalent in “church.” That is, he sees church as the society in which God’s will was to be established and fleshed out. Which is what Jesus meant by it.



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Ken

posted April 30, 2006 at 12:00 am


Scot,
I agree this should not be a debate about terminology. I would aasert, however, that what Paul intends for the church to do, as in the Pastorals, which primarily focuses on living blameless lives and doing good within the church and a little for those outside seems to stand in stark contrast with what I hear from some. For example, I’ve got more than one CD with lectures on them from N. T. Wright and to listen to him, the advancement of the Kingdom of God is resolving the problem of Third World debt. While I would certainly not accuse Wright of not being concerned with people hearing about Jesus, what he says about Third World debt or ecology or other issues that he relats to advancing the Kingdom are spoken of as being done by the Church but there’s nothing distinctive abu the church that equips it to handle Third World debt better than others. In fact, in recent days I’ve had hte impression that those Christian and celebrity voices calling for the fixing of the problem of Third World debt might no as little about it as I do, which isn’t much and certainly not enough to devise a fair and reasonable solution. Is he Kingdom advanced by the church doing what the world could do with solutions that are based on a gut reaction versus solutions from the world based on carful study of the issues? Is that the gospel Emergents want people to hear? I can remove your debt but I have no plans for addressing the state of your soul? Is that what it comes down to?
Ken



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Keith

posted April 30, 2006 at 4:54 am


Evangelism is the term assigned to the process of making disciples. Making disciples has never been about conversions, declarations, intellectual assent, or Dale Carnegie-esque sales tactics. It’s about individual believers modelling the love they learned from Christ to the world.
Eastern teaching style is quite different from western. Being a disciple meant living up close to the Rabbi who showed you what their lessons meant practically, day to day by modelling them.
Evangelism needs to be based on love for God, and from God.
Evangelism is only ever about love. Discipleship has always, and will always, take a lifetime.



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Julie

posted April 30, 2006 at 9:11 am


Hey Ken!
I appreciate your comments here as they seem to expand and unpack some of my misgivings about this particular emphasis on social justice as the equivalent of the kingdom message. Here’s the thing. I am all for social justice, for political activism, for resolving the Third World debt and so on.
But I continue to feel this uneasiness as I read about those goals related to evangelical witness or faithfulness to God. My uneasiness may be in part that some of the motivating language (as expressed by Jim Wallis, for instance, or even Brian McLaren, who I really like!) reminds me too much of the same kind of language used to promote commitment to missions (reaching all the hidden people groups for Christ by year 2000 anyone?) back in the 80s.
I had a professor last semester who is deeply involved in things like GAT and international trade/debt discussions (highest level type stuff). He talked about the need for religious people to become smart/expert in the fields of economics and aid etc. if they care about their values being a part of these globlization type discussions. Local churches who set up hospices for AIDS in Africa sometimes completely miss the wider context and wind up being out of step with the goals of the ones who are working from a much greater/wider understanding of the complexity of the issues.
In other words, I wonder if in redirecting the mission of the church to social justice, if we won’t wind up with an exhausted church in twenty years when the “poor are still with us” and we’ll have simply translated our evangelism fatigue into doing good… but perhaps not doing good all that well.
I am not as concerned as you might be, Ken, with “saving souls” (just to clarify – btdt). I am interested in an expression of faith, however, that is rooted in conscientiousness, not hype, devotion, not mania, love, not heroics. At that point, I am a bit Calvinist (shudder) about the whole thing – it’s not my business to convert anyone.
I don’t really know what the answer is, but these are some of my questions.



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john la grou

posted April 30, 2006 at 11:49 am


Ken asks:
“is the Kingdom advanced by the church doing what the world could do?”
Xlnt question, Ken.
I think there’s a broader question — one of governance. At one extreme is theocracy. On the other extreme is cultural isolationism. One of the (many) encouraging ideas flowing out of today’s emerging conversations is a scriptural reconsideration of faith in politics.
As we Christians disconnect our values from “that which is Caesar’s” we become less attracted to political partisanship and more focused on God’s heart for people. We begin to see that the political left and political right have done far more to polarize the church than to unify it; that by its very nature, partisan politics will tend to obfuscate the essential gospel; that the Kingdom of God is not found in political kingdoms.
So how does our faith play out on a world stage? What is the faith response to AIDS, poverty, injustice? The gospels seem pretty clear (anyone?) that our essential focus should be on union with Christ, not good social works. Good works will always follow a God-infused heart, not always visa versa.
There’s a sort of dynamic tension of faith priority. I’ve seen it in my life many times. I tend to get ahead of God in my activity, rather than allowing God to be ahead of my activity. In practical terms, it means I’m spending less quiet time before God, and more busy time “doing good works” (or chatting on some blog).
I believe that, until “the church” is more concerned about teaching and modeling a deep and abiding union with Christ, it will instead turn to other power centers to achieve its mission – politics being chief among these power centers. And that will ultimately fail, as historically it always has.
JL



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Julie

posted April 30, 2006 at 3:23 pm


JL: what does this mean? Good works will always follow a God-infused heart, not always visa versa.
Red flag: always.
And honestly, I’ve heard teaching about how to have union with Christ for twenty-five years. Not sure that has prompted a corresponding amount of social action or even a much evangelism among those in the pews…
What do you imagine union with Christ looks like that prompts the kind of outward works you consider good and worthy?



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Ken

posted April 30, 2006 at 5:51 pm


Keith,
While the precise connection between evangelism and discipleship is not, I think, spelled out in Scripture anywhere, let me ask you a question. Is Peter’s effort in Act 2 an example f evangelism? It certainly isn’t about a lifestyle. It isn’t explicitly about love. It is about getting Peter’s audience to change its view about Jesus, confess that its view is a sin, and change its mind (repent) about Jesus and act on that change right now.
Tha same could be said for Peter’s speech in Acts 3 or Paul’s preaching in the synagogue in Acts 13. It may well be that a canned approach using the Four Spiritual Laws is problematic, but the rejection of preaching and asking for repentance right here right now absolutely positively betrays the gospel. I realize that’s not an EE concept because so far as I can tell, the Emergent conversation doesn’t need repentance. Jesus’ death wasn’t substitutionary, there’s no problem to solve. We just need to relate better. But in my understanding of Scripture, which has primacy way way over any interpretation of how to relate to Postmoderns, Jesus’ death was a necessity, there is a problem, and it’s appropriate to present people with the news about that problem and that necessity and call upon them to respond. Given the great divide I see between what I’ve raed by,sya, Brian McLaren, and what I read in Acts, perhaps there is no way to have a “conversation” between the Emergent and the non-Emergent.



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john la grou

posted April 30, 2006 at 11:16 pm


Julie wrote “Red flag:always / what do you imagine union with Christ looks like that prompts the kind of outward works you consider good and worthy”
When I re-read my message, I winced at the second use of the word “always.” Thanks for the astute reading.
As for the first use, yes — “good works always follow a God-infused heart.” How can it be any other way? That “work” could be as simple as the natural, outward example of God’s abiding peace in one’s life. Or an attitude of mindful prayer for others as we go about our day. Not everyone is designed for the same kinds of “works.”
I won’t mind if you disagree, but I’m convinced that even solitary Christ followers, those far removed from conventional “social action” networks and activity, can nevertheless have an enormous impact on this planet. If you don’t believe in the power of faith and prayer, this may not make sense.



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Andrew

posted May 1, 2006 at 5:13 am


Does anyone know Walter Rauschenbusch’s view of Scriptural authority? Does anyone know if his ministry was truly holistic?- I know about his social action, but was he also effective in combining that with liberating people from their bondage to sin and death through personal faith in Christ?
Until I know more about these kinds of questions (that would change my current understanding of him), I believe that it would be better to look to other historical figures as “emerging leader” role models or path-makers. I think others had many of his strengths, without the other theological baggage.



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Pastor Troy

posted May 4, 2006 at 12:03 am


GOSPEL BEGINS WITH “GO”
It was three years ago when the Lord Jesus spoke to Melanie and I and said, “Go to New Orleans.” We had labored there in Amarillo, Texas for thirteen years; pastoring the church that we had planted, reaching the lost, feeding the hungry and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.
Our families were there. Our closest friends were there. Our fondest memories were there. The only thing that was not there was God’s will for what He desired us to do next. In just three months time from announcing to the church that we were leaving, we had loaded all of our earthly possessions in a school bus and began ministering full time in the streets of New Orleans.
I have discovered that each step and each place that God takes us is typically a wonderful learning experience and time of preparation for the next step in which He will have us take.
Many in the Body of Christ though grow too comfortable “camped out” in the experience and never truly get to experience the true realization of God’s destiny for their lives. We experience a tremendous move of God in our midst and instead of taking what He has taught us through that experience and using it to reach a lost and dying world, we instead “build a memorial” to the experience and spend the next 25 years trying to remind ourselves of what once was.
Across this nation there is a trend towards the Mega-Church (churches with membership over 1,000). There are even churches in the US that boast membership at 30,000 or more! With that many Mega-Churches being pastored by Mega-Ministers one would think that the Mega-Problems in our cities would be quickly solved by a mobilized army of high-powered, Holy Ghost filled disciples being churned out in these faith factories!
But therein lies the problem: Churches, or more accurately “leaders of churches” are no longer “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry”, but have instead adopted a “come and watch me minister” mentality.
On the basketball court it is referred to as being a “ball hog.” There is one person taking (or calling) all the shots and getting all the points on his personal stat sheet, but the team is suffering through yet another losing season. Friends, the time is too short for the Body of Christ to suffer through another losing season! We have got to start functioning like the CHURCH was meant to function.
SAVED
SANCTIFIED
SENT
Pastors, ministers, elders, leaders (or whatever is in vogue this week in regards to titles) have got to get back to the true work of the ministry!
Ephesians 4:11-12 “It was He (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Instead of spending multi-millions on state of the art, multi-media comfort centers for the spiritually impotent—why not use the resources to reach the lost, equip them (discipleship) for the ministry, and then send them out to win more people to Jesus before they get too comfortable and too convinced that the GOSPEL message is somebody else’s responsibility to share with the world!
Last year in the NBA (National Basketball Association) a young player for the Phoenix Suns won the award as the leagues Most Valuable Player.
The player, Steve Nash, was the teams point guard. He was the one who called the plays on the court, he was the one who the ball came to first, and he was the leader of the team. Yet, if you looked at Nash’s statistics you would see that there were other players in the league who had better numbers in one area or another.
Nash did not lead the league in scoring or in rebounding—but he did what an MVP should do, he made everyone around him better! The one area that Nash was the very best in the league was that of assists. For those unfamiliar with that term, it means the number of times he passed to others so that they could score instead of him taking the shot!
For the season Nash had 861 total assists. The second best in the league had 668. That is 193 more than his closest competitor! The true MVP’s (most valuable preachers) in the Church today are those who make others better. Nash did such a great job that there were other members of his team that some thought might eventually be league MVPs themselves. He ELEVATED the play of his team mates.
Philippians 2:3-5 says “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Rarely, if ever, in professional basketball has the team with the leagues highest scorer ever won the championship. While the individual may boast great accomplishments on his own—he is not able to win the whole thing by himself.
This is the picture of the church of today. There is very little if any genuine equipping the saints for the Gospel Ministry. I qualify that by inserting the word Gospel, because there is much going on in the Church-but very little of it results in people taking the Gospel to a lost and dying world.
While there are many activities filling the schedules of a great many in the Christian Church of today; meetings, conferences, retreats, and even a great many Bible studies and prayer gatherings—how is it that with all of these activities being done in the Name of Jesus that so few people are out doing the actual work of Jesus?
“The Son of Man (Jesus) came for only one reason, and that was to seek out and to save lost people.” Matthew 19:10
That sounds pretty clear to me!
Some of the greatest coaches in any sport will often say, “We have got to work on the fundamentals. The game is won or lost based upon the fundamentals.” This is the same with the Gospel. It all will really come down to whether or not we are raising up people (a team) that is solid in the fundamentals. The fundamentals are pretty simple:
Love God with all your heart and life.
Then tell as many people about Him as you possibly can.
If I, as a minister, do not lead the league in assists, then I am really not my teams MVP. The church, and especially those in leadership have got to get back to the basics (fundamentals) of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry of reaching people for HIS KINGDOM and not just establishing another flesh-based, low-impact, man-centered program that might make the “spiritual highlight reel,” but will never make the type of eternal impact that HEAVEN DEMANDS.
“Ball-Hog” Christianity may fill up stadiums (or sanctuaries) but it will NEVER win the ultimate prize: “Well done My good and faithful servant.”
Jesus raised up (12) and then told them, “You will do even greater things than I have done.” That was His goal– to teach them how to take it to the next level. Yet, a “have your best life now” mentality has slipped into the church under the guise of positive Christianity that has been the death knell to global evangelization. Instead of raising up a generation of blood bought, word taught, Holy Spirit filled warriors of the Cross– the church at large has cloned a brood of spineless, powerless pew-sitters with no urgency for those outside of the walls who have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel themselves!
2 Cor 4:3-5 “But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;
Bigger buildings, more luxurious surroundings, a more relevant approach and a more welcome atmosphere seem to be the mantras being chimed by today’s diminished standards.
Jesus said the “fields are white and ready to be harvested”, yet the “fields” that He spoke of where the harvest fields of souls filling street corners and the market places of this world-that demand that we GO and take His message to the masses.
Today the “harvest field” has instead become the proverbial “field of dreams” and the empty promise is “if you build it…they will come.” Buildings, programs, pizza parties, lattes, and grinning greeters will never draw a person into His presence. These things are things that man has power over! These things are man-made and man-centered.
Romans 1:21-23 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man…”.
The GOSPEL demands GOING. The GOSPEL demands DYING to SELF and LIVING for JESUS. This is rarely a comfortable situation! Can you imagine these book titles in your local Christian Bookstore:
“Go through hell NOW so that you can experience heaven LATER.”
(Rom 5:3, Rom 8:18, Phil 1:21, Phil 3:10-11)
Or perhaps this one
“How To Be Hated”
(Matt 10:22, James 4:4, John 17:14)
These titles would obviously have a more scriptural foundation! Now am I saying that living the Christian life is just some hard, negative, drudgery? Not in the slightest way! It is the GREATEST LIFE that one could ever know and experience-but with it there are GREAT DEMANDS and great CONSEQUENCES involved.
To see someone’s heart miraculously changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit upon hearing and receiving the Word of God is indescribable!
Watching an alcoholic pour out the drink he just paid for in the street and then kneel down in front of thousands weeping before Jesus defies description.
Suddenly seeing a light come on in the darkened soul of a young man set free from years of homosexuality is the most amazing thing!
All THESE things require GOING out where the broken and bruised are. If your Gospel doesn’t REQUIRE you to GO, then it is not GO-SPEL, but just a SPELL!
Galatians 3:1 “Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross.” NLT
It is time to break free from the spell and then GO do that which God has repeatedly commanded in His Word.
Most Christians would readily agree that “this world is not our home” and that we are all just “strangers and pilgrims” in this place—–yet why is it that the core of our time and investments are made in those things that are so temporary and this-worldly? I lay it squarely upon the shoulders of pastors and teachers who have failed to equip, empower and release His people into their God-given and God-required mandates to reach people for HIS KINGDOM.
As long as winning the lost (with the Gospel—not a bounce house, hot dog or cappuccino machine) remains on the backburner of Christendom and not our primary purpose in this life, then the church will remain a place of “ball hogs” and “bloated statistics” with no true victories.
If we genuinely believe that our stay is temporary, then why not “pass the ball” and get other people involved in the game rather than building more coliseums to showcase our religious superstars.
Church buildings, gymnasiums, air conditioning—there is nothing inherently wrong with those things—but once THEY become the focus, THEY become the idols that testify against us and set us in difference toward the TRUE Gospel of GO.



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Ken

posted May 4, 2006 at 4:00 pm


I want to make an addendum to my own comments by saying that they do not reflect all that Scot has said on the subject of sin or atonement, and therefore I should have been more careful in distinguishing what he said that I commented upon from the larger whole and from what other Emergent voices might be saying. Scot and I disagree on the subject of atonement but that doesn’t make it appropriate to present one item as his whole view. I still have the perception from reading McLaren that sin isn’t a problem and I guess the problem with a “conversation” is that there’s no one “view” present.
Ken



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