Where the GPS takes us…

3 comments Written on November 10th, 2011     
Filed under: Uncategorized
Today’s post was written by Geoff Twigg, Adjunct Professor at North Park University in Chicago. Geoff is a pastor, singer/songwriter, worship leader and ministry consultant, and serves the ECC as a member of the denomination’s Commission on Worship.

In his latest book, ‘The King Jesus Gospel’, Scot McKnight suggests that evangelicals have reduced the gospel to a plan of salvation that is human-centered rather than focused on Christ. He contrasts the true ‘gospel culture’ with what we’ve created – a ‘salvation culture’. I think he’s on to something; and I think we may see it reflected in the content of our music and liturgy.

In an interview with Stan Friedman for Covenant News, McKnight goes on to say that when we follow our favorite sports team, many of us seem to be less engaged in the success of the real team and more interested in the individual performances of our own fantasy team players, to see what points they will score for us. He uses this to illustrate that our interest is primarily one of “what we can get”. He goes on to say, in a similar way, that “We have become fantasy Christians”. We’re in it for what we can get out of it.

Do these perceptions sound needlessly critical or harsh? McKnight’s tone is actually pastorally sensitive and caring, and I’d hope to reflect that warmth. These ideas are not mentioned to condemn us or make us feel guilty, so much as to point out a natural tendency to place ourselves in the picture… somewhere near the center…

A series of further ideas discusses our emphasis on ‘making a decision’ for Christ, rather than growing and developing disciples with Godly character. Again, I think the lack of depth in our song lyrics and our reluctance to ‘go deep’ in our services – often justified in our thinking by the need to accommodate newcomers and not frighten people away – points in the same direction. This, too often, leads us to a ‘lower common denominator’ approach to our faith.

“The point is this is a story about Jesus and we’ve made it into our personal happiness plan.”

The Bible declares God greatness, his majesty and holiness as absolutes; God is great on His own terms. However, when we express these truths, they seem to resonate more clearly if we relate them to our own experience, our testimony: “God is great because He did this for me” – “He thought of me, above all” – and so on. It’s almost as if we have a GPS (God Positioning System) that needs to be calibrated from our perspective, rooted in our testimony, in order to be real.

What do you think?

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3 comments “Where the GPS takes us…”

The gospel never existed outside culture. God’s fullest expression was a man, with skin and sandals and scars.  I think it then makes perfect sense that a deepening faith requires experience.  I’ve never met anybody who believed that said they’d never experienced God personally before; even those who say they accepted it as an intellectual axiom, if you prod them a little, will admit that there’s an emotional and experiential component to their belief.

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Thanks for your good words here, Geoff, and for bringing in Scot McKnight’s perspective. It is one that I have felt deeply for a number of years but have not shared too much with others – mostly for fear of being perceived as an evangelical who doesn’t think a “personal relationship with Jesus” is necessary or important. That’s not what I mean, of course, but too often it seems that when anything other than “having Jesus in your heart” is emphasized in evangelism, a leap is made that something more is being added to “salvation through faith alone.” The consequence of this reductionism is what we are facing in the Church today, not only in the U.S. but around the world: the crisis of discipleship in believers’ lives. Thankfully, this crisis is being acknowledged all over the place today (the entire Sept/Oct issue of “Mission Frontiers” was devoted to this topic). We are reaping the results of the “me-centeredness” of faith as well as from our individualistic culture. I am so glad this is finally being recognized more pervasively throughout the Church!

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Thanks, Daniel – you’re absolutely right. I think we all accept that a personal relationship is both necessary and important… and it’s difficult to try to keep a more balanced perspective on the gospel of the kingdom without being mis-heard or misunderstood.
I agree, Chris – but I want to take you back to paragraph 4 of the blog, where perhaps my point is made best. We need to be ‘in the picture’ – but our part keeps creeping evermore into the center, the area of focus, a decisive role. My testominy is vital, I’m called to be a witness; but God is great whether I’m in the picture or not.
Blessings, G

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