Dluxe's World

Thursday, November 9

Thinking caps at the ready!

Ok... It's no secret that this blog is rather limited in its popularity. I know almost all of y'all and y'all almost know most of me.... Uh, or something like that.

I always intended to write here just to a chronicle of my many struggles, few victories, and other miscellaneous ramblings re: my life in Christ. If you've been reading, thanks! You're the best. If something here was worth coming back for, that's a sure evidence of God's grace.

But now, I wanna put us to work... I've been chewing on something for some time and thought it'd be neat to bat it around with you. There won't be nearly as many of us exchanging ideas as there would be if I were Phil Johnson and this was the vaunted TeamPyro site. This is more like Team Micro. Still, the ones of you I know personally are all wicked smart folks (casting me the role of lovable, tag-along ignoramus)...

Here's the question:

At this year's Desiring God conference, Tim Keller discussed* the way postmodern thinking and an increasingly post-Christian culture is impacting the presentation of the Gospel. Citing Lloyd-Jones and others, he posits that the challenge of evangelism in previous generations was 'awakening' people to the Gospel. Christian concepts of morality and God's existence were, to a large degree, deeply woven into our individual and cultural fabric. Even the people who weren't Christian were likely "Christ-haunted".

As post-Christian culture rises, the West has become a mission field again where people need to be taught the Gospel again rather than simply awakened to it. Add the influence of postmodernism in on top of it all and the 'Four Spiritual Laws' or 'Evangelism Explosion' style of presentation just don't seem to get the same traction as they once did.

So, Keller puts the challenge this way:
It's going to take all our best theological thinking ... to develop user-friendly Gospel presentations that merge both systematic theology and biblical theology in such ways that people can grasp [the message] rather quickly... We have to do theology if we're going to get the Gospel across.

I don't have anything to bring to the table of 'best theological thinking'... But some of you do. So I put these questions to you:
  • If "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" is no longer the right 'elevator pitch' for Christianity in this culture, what do you think is?
  • How do we construct a presentation of the Gospel that weaves both the systematic theological elements (God, Sin, Christ, Grace, Faith) and the 'story arc' elements of Biblical Theology (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration)?
Well... What do you think? [read this as a call for a fun discussion in the comments!]

Download the lecture here[Right-click, Save As, etc]. The whole thing is fabulous, but if you wanna zone in on the just the 'challenge' jump to 21:00 thru 30:30. As a supplement, you could also digest Tim Challies fabulous liveblog notes here or New Attitude's excellent summary post.

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  • With more time, I could develop the following more fully, but maybe this will at least generate some thoughts.

    If we are in a culture that is Biblically illiterate, then doesn't that mean it is basically like the NT times? In which case, we would simply minister the way Paul did (use the book of Acts). Note that Carson said that evangelism on college campus is, in some respects, easier today than in the past, because Christian ideas are so foreign, they are not ridiculed as they were 25-30 years ago.

    The more difficult idea is those areas that are "Christ-haunted" or, to use another phrase, places that have been innoculated by having a weak form of Christianity induced. In either case, I think the solution is presentation of the gospel similar to Paul's in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.

    By Blogger Taliesin, at 7:19 PM, November 09, 2006  

  • Matt Chandler has often said it is harder to evangelize a group of people who have just enough of the gospel to innoculte against the idea of needing Jesus than to evangelize a group of totally lost people.

    Showing people that you care about them and want to help them, meaning, showing them the Christ in you, is huge. I think showing people that they need Christ is one of the key. Meaning, Christ is not just an option on the great buffet of postmodernism, but that he is the only way, and we need Him.

    That is not entirely worked out, but just some thoughts

    By Blogger Luke, at 6:26 PM, November 11, 2006  

  • First of all, I can't believe your question only has 2 comments so far. This is a great question -- perhaps the greatest one to come out of the DGM conference this year.

    Since I have an opinion about everything, let me give you my opinion about this. :-)

    I think Pastor Keller's point that we have a different job today than grandpappy-in-the-faith did is exactly right in that we are living in a post-Christian culture. But in that, as I have mulled this over, I think that problem is often paired with post-modernity -- and I think that's a mistake.

    I think Pomo is a wall me must climb over, but it is far more scalable than the pagan world which the first 300 years of Christians were evangelizing. Some would say that because the Roman empire was inherently religious, Christianity was able to present them a better religion, and therefore their job was somewhat a gimme.

    The problem, of course, is that religion was a tool of the state in those days, and demanding that the Emperor's religion was not just different but false was a death sentence. Yet Christianity thrived -- it literally overcame the world. And in the place of the kind of religion they practiced -- one which was really about art and epic communication of values more than explaining how the world really works -- the Christians were presenting this Gid who intersects with reality in the man Christ Jesus, and is working out History for His glory and the salvation of us lousy sinners.

    The truth is this: we have to break through the wall of "true for you" ethics that pollutes the intellectual environment we live in. But we can't do that by capitulating to the culture.

    I could probably do another 1000 words on this topic, but I think the right approach is the one Mark Dever uses at Captial Hill Baptist Church. If you haven't listened to him preach to his congregation, you have missed something important.

    By Blogger centuri0n, at 8:01 AM, November 12, 2006  

  • BTW, Heavy, you're supposed to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you're trying to figure that out (as I read in your profile), resolve it and move on.

    You know: Elijah knew he was a prophet of God, but he thought that meant that he would bring repentence to Israel like a flood and he'd get to be a megachurch pastor -- but what he got when he burned up the prophets of Baal was more persecution and threats against his life. It depressed him so much that he ran away and started complaining to God -- but God set him straight that this wasn't about who Elijah got to be in society. It was about doing, right now, the work God set before him.

    That's who you are supposed to be. That's who I am supposed to be. The crazy thing, in retrospect, is that we walk around saying to ourselves today, "Gosh! If only I could be like Elijah!" Eljiah would say we were crazy for wanting such a thing -- but that's what God wants. And if someone says you'll get earthly rich for doing it, that person doesn't know what he's talking about.

    By Blogger centuri0n, at 8:13 AM, November 12, 2006  

  • It's facinating to consider how our culture compares to that faced by the first century church. Thanks for instigating this challenging topic. Here are my 2 cents (and worth what you paid for them):

    First, reality and truth is situated in and flows from a Holy Trinity. Regardless of how this is contextualized and communicated the message must at some point come back to this fundamental truth.

    Secondly, perhaps we begin with a multitude of entry points that appeal to the hunger and thirst of people consumed by and rabidly consuming a postmodern culture. Whether it is a desire for authentic relationship, being known by another, finding connection in community, stuggling with addition, seeking meaning in life, we must identify the driving need and desire in the other. And each of those desires or needs finds it's answer in some point of theology. For instance, we all know that we are created as reltional creatures in a way that reflects the perfect community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Can I convey to a woman who has been wounded repeatedly that her desire for deep intimacy is very real and woven into her inner being by a triune God who embodies perfection in relationship?

    Third, we must live in the Biblical text. We must be so immersed in the stories and narratives of the Biblical text that as we go through our own stuggles and victories we do so along side of those who went before us. In essence we become an extention of that story. To live like this requires a tremendous commitment by pastors and leaders to equip those under their care. This includes a commitment to learning Christian and Jewish history, delving into the Biblical text and tossing in a hearty serving of theology that provides structure and foundation. Often in my own life the story gets messy and cloudy and by reaching out and grasping a bit of truth I find the stability and light to move forward. For every trial and tribulation that a postmodern may face, there is a Biblical storyline that parallels or intersects with it.

    Fourth we cannot soft-pedal or dilute the message of the Gospel. We are radically corrupt in our sin and wonderfully saved by grace through faith in Chirst. Regardless of the path, we must get to the Gospel message in all it's fullness. Let us trust God and the power of his Word. I don't think this process is easy and indeed there are many challenges (Personally I think that conveying the concept of a Holy God will indeed be the most difficult, but perhaps the most important.) It is work and there are no easy answers so I look forward to watching this ongoing discussion.

    By Blogger nancy, at 9:43 PM, November 12, 2006  

  • Hi everyone! Thanks for so much stopping in. I've tried to pull these comments up into another post along with some further musings from me (it's my blog after all). I hope the comments will bump over there.

    I do want to respond to Frank's personal admonition here, though... Saith centuri0n:
    BTW, Heavy, you're supposed to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you're trying to figure that out (as I read in your profile), resolve it and move on.

    By God's grace, that part has never been in doubt! The Gospel of Christ took hold on me young and He has graciously kept me safe thus far.

    Before I took off for college, I always felt like God was leading me towards pastoral ministry. However, I grew up with some pretty wacky ideas about what it meant to be 'called' to ministry thank to my church.

    The last 6 years or so have been a tremendous period of growth for me... Around the time I started this blog, I was beginning to reinvestigate whether or not God was leading me towards being a pastor, missionary, etc. Hence why I said I was "slowing figuring out who I am supposed to be."

    The broad-brush strokes are clear... And I've started preparing myself to respond once the Lord gets some of the particulars through my thick skull.

    All that said, I covet your prayers and thank you for cutting to the chase!

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 12:27 AM, November 13, 2006  

  • Awsome discussion, I can't wait to see what comes of it.
    The way I see it, the bigest dificulty with evangilizing this POMO culture is getting past moral realitivity. What is true for you may not be true for me. Once you get past that, the gospel is the gospel: we are sinners who cannot posibly help ourselves but God can. Mere Christianity starts with a wounderful discussion on "moral law" which I think all who deal with POMOs would do good to read. The basic idea is, we all have an inherint desire to do what is right, and we all know of certain things which we ought to do. This being true, there must be a moral law writen on our hearts that we, when we are honest, we do not always follow. I didn't do it justice but it is a place to start from.
    Also, we must, in the end, rely more then ever on the Holy Spirit to convict the heart. He is the only one that can break through the intelectualism. We only cast the seed he must make it grow.

    By Blogger HeWhoIsCalledTom, at 2:30 PM, November 13, 2006  

  • Tom:

    As a card-carrying Calvinist, let me say a couple of things.

    It has to do with the phrase "rely more than ever on the Holy Spirit to convict the Heart". All things being equal, I agree that the work of the parakletois is out of our hands, and I agree about the problem of conscience for the non-Christian.

    Is the "way of the Master" method (demonstrating to people that they know they are breakers of God's law in order to tell them about Grace) the categorical method of evangelism in the New Testament? For example, is that what Peter did on Pentecost?

    I think that the Law/Grace method is useful and relevant -- but I also think it's not the only way to evangelize, and I also think that there are some situations in which it would be utterly useless.

    Let me give you an example: let's say I belong to a church that has a 20% attendance ratio on Sundays -- that is, 80% of the membership never comes to church. I think that's an indicator of the spiritual state of that church.

    If I used the Way of the Master on these people, they'd say something like, "oh yeah -- Amen. I'm a liar and a thief. Thank God for Jesus -- but I have other things to do on Sunday."

    So my question is this: these people can make the confession that they need a savior -- and they have, intellectually, "prayed the prayer". But where's the fruit? These people wouldn't go to the firing squad for Jesus -- they won't even miss the pre-game for Jesus. There is a place where we have got to be more than simple rhetoriticians with a clever way to get people to agree with what Scripture says: we have to preach the Gospel.

    Here's what I mean by that: while it is unquestionable that it is the work of God to regenerate men, faith comes by hearing; hearing comes by the word of God; nobody can hear unless someone tells them, and nobody can tell unless they are sent.

    Mark Driscoll (warts and all) says we need to be preaching at the top of our voices, and then we get to sleep like Calvinists. But unless we are doing the former, we ought to sleep like Calvinists who never did anything for God -- which, it seems to me, would be some pretty sleepless Calvinists.

    By Blogger centuri0n, at 9:36 AM, November 14, 2006  

  • Good point Cent.
    I was into POMOism before I became a Christian. So, I'm trying to look back at what drew me. I like to say I was scared straight, so that is where I started. Now that I think back, I really became a servant when I experienced real Christians serving a real God. Authenticity is so important for all evangelism of course.

    By Blogger HeWhoIsCalledTom, at 7:17 PM, November 14, 2006  

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