Monday

Fixing the Gospel

There’s something wrong with the gospel.

Think about it for a minute: It used to be that when people declared the gospel, it “turned the world upside down.”

I live in North America. I don’t see any part of my homeland turned upside down by the gospel. I see parts of my society being heavily impacted by liberals or by conservatives in politics. I see a self-centeredness infecting a generation, and I see influxes of Islam, Hinduism (in several forms) and Deism, but I don’t see the gospel turning anything upside down.

There’s something wrong with the gospel.

But I hear reports from other continents and they’re amazing. Indonesia has more Muslims than any other nation in our little planet, and more persecution of Christians. It also seems to have more natural disasters than any other planet. But Indonesia is also home to a move of God that really is turning their world upside down. And have you heard the stories from Africa? They boggle my mind. I hear wonders from India, from Mongolia, from South America. The gospel is turning other places upside down.

But North America remains unchanged.

There’s something wrong with the gospel. No, there’s something wrong with our gospel.

I wonder if we preach the wrong gospel. We preach the gospel of salvation. Jesus and the apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom.

They taught, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” It’s in reach. Then they healed the sick to demonstrate. They cast out demons. Once in a while, they’d raise someone from the dead for variety.

The people they raised from the dead were certainly convinced that the gospel was real. The lives of those-formerly-known-as-lepers were transformed: these former outcasts were suddenly productive members of society and they had a following, a following that was listening to them talk about Jesus.

We preach the gospel of salvation. We have special Easter services where we bait the hook of the gospel of salvation with pop music and a “culturally relevant” message, and we invite the world to come look at our bait. We preach a “You need Jesus” message and everybody closes their eyes while some raise their hands – or not – and we never see them again. Once in a while, someone is changed, but mostly, they’re just immunized from the Gospel of the Kingdom. “I already did that!” they tell the next Christian they encounter.

And North America remains unchanged.

When Jesus modeled the gospel, he went to where the people were. He proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom, and he healed their sick.

Then he taught the boys to do what He did. Go to where they are. Proclaim the Kingdom. Heal the sick.

I have to admit: that this model scares me. It’s much easier to wait for the fish to swim into my church, and to give them a low-fat gospel that requires nothing more than to raise their hand when nobody’s looking. It doesn’t require me to look stupid, though, and so I and my brethren by the millions have chosen this pattern.

We’ve been scared to death by the risk that Jesus has asked of us, and as a result we really are pretty much dead. We’re safe, but we’re not alive. I’m not alive.

And North America remains unchanged.

When Jesus commissioned us as He left, he gave us the same model: Go. Preach. Heal.

(OK, He actually said “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and raise the dead,” but it all fits under the general category of “heal.”)

We don’t usually go to the people. We don’t go to the fish, we advertise for the fish to come to us. We don’t preach the gospel of the kingdom, most of us, and we don’t heal their sick.

And North America remains unchanged.

The reports I’ve heard out of Africa say that it’s the healing that capture people’s attention. A friend reported that he attended a church service there recently. A man got up and started his message by saying, “For these three days last month I was dead.” He had their complete and undivided attention for the rest of the day.

So I am repenting from my shallowness. I am repenting from preaching the gospel of salvation when I preached anything at all. I’ve started to embarrass myself by asking people if they want prayer. I’m not ready yet for the “Such as I have I give unto you” thing that Peter did, but I can at least pray for people who are sick or unclean, or have demons.

Maybe I’ll take my time before I raise the dead too. Except for me. I think I need to be raised from the dead first.

And maybe North America can be changed.

(If you’re interested, there’s a PowerPoint presentation of some of these thoughts here.)

2 comments:

The Sellars Family said...

AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! and again I say- no, scream- AMEN!!! I'm just wondering when you climbed into my heart and decided to write about what you found there?!?! =o> This is exactly what I'm struggling with... and not just in America, but in Europe, too, at least in Germany. We're getting absolutely no where, well maybe just one baby step forward a month, with our current "if you build it they will come" mentality. When are we-- heck, when am I!-- going to be brave enough to GO TO THE MULTITUDES? When are we going to finally learn to LIVE as Jesus did and BE his movers and shakers... instead of just work, work, work and do, do, do (pun applies) the ministry. Oh, I want it to just flow out of me!! To just happen. Why all the huge programs that rob of us of our time, joy and energy and keep us so inbred, so busy with each other that we can't even begin to invite our neighbor to supper? Do we fear the world that much?... Man, it's time to quit hiding behind the ministry and finally minister! Why try to make a difference when we can BE the difference??!

BLESSINGS IN EXCESS... and mucho thank yous for a fantastic blog!!

shronimo said...

Fixing the Gospel eh...

Well, it's not working cause it is just as you said "our gospel". We are only giving the world we encounter a piece, rather than the whole. All we are doing is praying for them to be drawn in, and when the few stragglers end up wandering into our churches, we preach to them. No wonder they don't hang around, I wouldn't. Just as we are hungry for God...so is the world, and we are the link for them, and we aren't giving God to them. We go to Him and ask Him for more, but the world comes to us looking for Him, cause they haven't met Him yet...and we preach to them?!? Come on church! Wake up! They are starving for something of worth, and we preach to them?!? Seriously.

Words don't feed the need. You forget what people say, but you never forget how someone made you feel. The world needs to feel God. They are looking for an experience with Him, an encounter. That's why they come in, and then they walk out saying "I've tried that, and it's not for me". If I didn't know God, I would walk away too, feeling emptier than when I walked in. We (the church) are telling people they need Jesus, but we are keeping Him to ourselves. Because why...? Fear. We're too scared. "Perfect love casts out fear". Why don't we try acting out of love, instead of fear?
An athiest once asked my brother if he believed what he preached, my brother obviously answered yes, and then he told my brother "If I believed that Jesus is who you say He is, I would crawl on my hands and knees over continents of broken glass just to tell one more person". I want to scream at the church (and yes, I am a part of her) "WAKE UP! OPEN YOUR EYES!". The world around us is dying, we have the cure, and we are too afraid?!?! Get over it!

The whole Gospel is what they need. Look around, the world is dying without it. What is the "whole Gospel" then...? “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and raise the dead”. That's what God told us to do. But no, we chose to "preach" instead, 'cause it's easier. What if Jesus chose the "easier" gospel? Think about that.
He was not a wimp, He set out to save humanity, and then, He passed it on to us.

"Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can't believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I'll do it. That's how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I'll do." ~John 14:11-14

"If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you(“heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, raise the dead”). I will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!" ~John 14:15-17

What are we doing with It?
It's time to stand up.

According to dictionary.com ( http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/christian )
a "Christian" is
"a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ"
"following the teachings or manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus Christ"
"One who professes belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus"
...And still...
"One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus"

Come on church, this is from "dictionary.com". Don't we know this yet? The world knows who we are, it's time for us to learn it.

It's time to start actually being "Christians". It's time to give the world what they're asking for, what they need. Jesus.

Tough luck if it's hard, you're the one who signed up. Jesus never forced you. All He did was love you, and with that, you've either fallen in love with Him, or you haven't.
Being a Christian isn't "easy", but seriously, if you are out for the easy road, don't claim to be a "Christian". It's people like that that turn away the hungry. They are the reason the world is still lost. After an encounter with a "christian" like that, they are left with a bitter taste in their mouth, and all Jesus wants to do is feed them milk and honey, but He can't get close enough 'cause when they see what they think is Jesus, they run..."they've already tried that".

Look.
When someone gets healed, delivered, set free, or raised from the dead, you don't have to convince them of anything, they KNOW God is real, and they'll tell everyone they know. They then turn into evangelists and pull everyone around them to God, cause they've experienced Him. No preaching required. When someone genuinely experiences God, there is no one that can convince them He isn't real. They know, cause He just healed them! Does that not have the sound of revival to it?

We need to stop "preaching" to people, and we need to let them experience Him. Stop being so apathetic and get over your fears. We were COMMANDED to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and raise the dead”! So start doing it! The world is dying, and we know what to do about it.

Give them Substance, and there's no "convincing" needed. Our "job" is then made easy.

We can't save anyone, but the Jesus in us can. Get full of Him, and He'll do our job for us (thru us).

"The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that's who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him." ~John 14:21

C'mon church, lets turn this world upside down with the Gospel!