Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where does “church” fit in to the gospel?

Dr. Scot McKnight offers these thoughts from his blog:

Many readers of the Bible read the whole Bible through the lens of the gospel they believe and this is what that gospel looks like:

  • God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
  • But you have a sin problem that separates you from God.
  • The good news is that Jesus came to die for your sins.
  • If you accept Jesus' death, you can be reconnected to God.
  • Those who are reconnected to God will live in heaven with God.

Every line of that statement is more or less true. It is the sequencing of those lines, the "story" of that gospel if you will, that concerns me and that turns Jesus' message of the kingdom into a blue parakeet. And it is not only the sequencing, it is the omitting of major themes in the Bible that concerns me. What most shocks the one who reads the Bible as Story, where the focus is overwhelmingly on God forming a covenant community, is that this outline of the gospel above does two things: it eliminates community and it turns the entire gospel into a "me and God" or "God and me" gospel. Who needs a church if this is the gospel? (Answer: no one.) What becomes of the church for this gospel? (Answer: an organization for those who want to do that sort of thing.) While every line in this gospel is more or less true, what concerns many of us today is that this gospel makes the church unimportant.

I believe this gospel can deconstruct, is deconstructing, and will deconstruct the church if we don't change it now. Our churches are filled with Christians who don't give a rip about church life and we have a young generation who, in some cases, care so much about the Church they can't attend a local church because too many local churches are shaped too much by the gospel I outlined above. To be truthful, the gospel above is a distortion of Romans. More and more of us, because we are reading the Bible as Story, are seeing the centrality of the church in God's plan and the gospel being preached too often is out of touch with the Bible's Story.

For a culture who “likes Jesus but not the church”, this is a real problem.  If we suggest that any sort of community (another word for “organized religion” whenever anyone ever actually sees it up close) is somehow essential to participation in the gospel, then it’s going to make it a different sort of conversation about what it means to live life as a follower of Jesus.  We’ve instantly taken personal investment in an ideal and broadened it into commitment to other people on a mission.  A larger gospel indeed.

How do you speak of the communal component of the gospel?  Is it tied to the “front end” or the “back end?”  As in, do you speak of community as the result of gospel or does the community (*gasp*) somehow mediate that gospel in an important way?

1 comment:

Jake Shore said...

If truth was a Reeses Peanut Butter cup, I would eat Scot McKnight.

Wow. Does he get it or what? Great post. I'm going to start following McKnight's blog. He's like Yoda, only taller, less green and without all the Buddhist philosophy.