Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What Went Wrong?

Christ, the Church, and the Gospel (Pt. 2)

Let’s continue to explore the message of Jesus Christ and the church he has commissioned to share this good news in order to change the world. When we look at the anemic expression of the church today, one has to ask, “What went wrong with our interpretation?” In order to find out, we have to go back to the message itself. What went wrong with the gospel?

The Domestication of the Gospel
I believe what’s taken place has been a domestication of the Gospel. The modern mindset, with it's value of individualism, has reduced the gospel and conversion to the experience of the individual. The reality of it being “man-centered” is revealed with such common ideas like “receiving Jesus as your personal savior” and “doing your personal devotions”. The apostle John clearly makes the gospel a communal experience…
"What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands" (I John 1: 1).
The gospel story has also been reduced to the experience of death and eternity (thought of in spatial or chronological terms). For example, "Say this prayer so that when you die, you can go to heaven." This all leads to a certain way of doing church. The church essentially becomes a warehouse of people waiting until they die. Eternal life is not now, but future and over there.

This domesticated approach is devastating to our churches and doesn't compel people to become serious followers of Jesus. Discipleship is optional and for the committed few or ultra-committed core. Something has to change from what has become the large crowd of Sunday morning pew warmers to those in the “minority core” (those who attend prayer meetings).
The Church has been devastated by this “discipleship as optional” situation.

Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, asks three questions:
a.) Does the Gospel we teach and preach have a natural tendency to cause the people who hear it to become full-time disciples of Jesus?

b.) Would those who believe it become his apprentices as a natural next step?

c.) What can we reasonable expect would result from people actually believing the substance of our message?
We must examine whether the gospel we teach has been domesticated and therefore not reflective of the radical message Jesus taught and represents. This effects how people live out the implications of the gospel in real life. We can not and should not live out the Gospel of the Kingdom from the "receive Jesus and when you die…" gospel.

Christians are clear about how sins are taken care of by justification through faith by the grace of God. Lest you fear a works approach or legalism here, we live as a disciple of Christ through the same grace by the power of the Spirit. There are things for us to do, but it is not through merit but rather by simple cooperation with the Spirit’s active work.
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove in vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (I Corinthians 15:10, see also Philippians 3: 4b-17).
People will not move from zeroed accounts of forgiveness into discipleship. A "forgiveness only" message doesn't move us toward discipleship. A rule-bound, propositional approach to the gospel does not have the ability to be compelling or winning in contemporary society.

This domesticated gospel today has easily become linked to the American marketing machine. Remember the slogans, catch phrases and bumper stickers: "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven"? Is this really all there is? JUST forgiven and nothing more?

In reality, the gospel of Jesus is a large, all-encompassing story. But more on this in my following posts…

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bob Stricker: A Friend and Father of Many

In Memory of Bob Stricker

It is with a mixture of sadness and deep gratitude when I learned that Bob Stricker had died after his battle with cancer. Sadness, because I will miss his wisdom, wit and counsel in my life, but having gratitude that I have been privileged to know Bob for 25 years. His influence continues as a result of his investment in so many people and this influence is a mark of a life well lived. Bob was instrumental in starting three different Bible colleges and served churches and leaders in the Midwest and west coast of the United States, as well as in Canada.

Bob served on my apostolic team in Newfrontiers USA for several years. His willingness to move and reside in various cities in order to assist us in developing Newfrontiers churches and leaders has had profound impact on so many leaders. He extensively served several of our churches in the Midwest for protracted periods of time. Many of our leaders were developed under Bob's wise and fatherly hands. Without question our Newfrontiers family of churches would not be where we are today without Bob's patient investment in so many.

I cannot possibly overvalue what Bob has meant to me personally as I planted churches and led our family of churches. Bob was a mentor, a dear friend and a father to me. It was a joy to be with him and share memories this past summer on my trip to the Pacific northwest. His faith and calm demeanor throughout his years of service to us was clearly evident as he faced death. He never wavered, remaining constant in faith and having great courage in the face of suffering. He continued to teach me not only how to live but how to die. I spoke with Bob a few days before his death and, although very weak, his steady voice and words displayed his great faith. As we concluded our conversation, it was a joy to say "I'll see you in heaven, Bob." I am grateful for that opportunity to say goodbye to a true hero who was an example to our family of churches and to me.

Bob Stricker Memorial Mission Fund
Bob Stricker was a dear friend and key member of the Newfrontiers USA leadership team for many years. His mature leadership was a vital resource for the Newfrontiers family of churches. The Stricker family has established a memorial fund to support the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ and this fund will provide support to Newfrontiers USA missional efforts in Zimbabwe and other parts of the world.


Checks may be made out to Newfrontiers USA.

Please write "Stricker Memorial Fund" on the memo line.

Donations can be mailed to:
Newfrontiers USA

PO Box 2626

St. Louis, MO. 63116