Someone asked me once at a conference what is the greatest lack in the missional churches I’ve been around. I said “proclaiming gospel.” To which this person became offended because they thought I meant that missional people don’t carry around the 4 Spiritual Laws booklets enough. It was like I was suggesting missional people should be forcing people into making more decisions for Christ which guarentees they will know where they are going when they die.
Of course that’s not what I was talking about. But it nonetheless reveals a reaction symptomatic of the problem. We are reacting against a coercive decontextualized manipulation of the gospel, so we therefore often give up on it altogether?
Instead I am talking about the proclaiming of gospel contextually noncoercively offering hope into everyday life situations whereby we invite people to enter the Kingdom where Jesus is Lord and transforms all things.
Three things are needed for this:
1.) An understanding of applying gospel to context. The gospel must be contextualized. By this I don’t mean “relativized.” The gospel is wide, deep and huge. What God has done in Christ for the world is more than simply forgiving us our sin and restoring us positionally before God as pardoned (although it is that too!). And so in Prodigal Christianity we give 4 ways we did this at Life on the Vine church back in 2008.
2.) An understanding of what it means “to proclaim.” There’s an epistemological shift here that goes way beyond the cognitive enlightenment modes of communication most Americans are addicted to. To proclaim means to “declare” the way the world is as it is under Jesus as Lord. It is not an attempt to persuade. It is not an attempt to win an argument or even explain. This can all come later. To proclaim is to do so humbly owning the place from which I stand living within the Story from which this proclamation makes compelling sense. It must come from my life not just a propositional truth. It is an offering never demanding assent. It is to fund imagination for people to see a reality that they aren’t seeing. It is to bring hope. It is to invite people into an alternative story that changes everything. It is always spoken in love into situations that need hope, the good news. It is done therefore when there is an opening. Never forced. The Spirit prompts amidst a person’s hurt, pain and lostness. This is the place where the Holy Spirit can illumine eyes.
3.) An understanding of what it means to be with people, so as to listen long enough to create the opening whereby you are invited to proclaim the gospel as it most makes most direct sense within this person’s life.
Life on the Vine Church’s current Preaching Series explores ten different aspects of the gospel for the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. It explores what God has done in the world through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. It is an attempt to broaden and provide new avenues for their congregation to proclaim gospel. It’s just one example of trying to nurture the skill of proclaiming gospel among a people.
Our Life in Christ
Sept 15th – Abides (John 15:1-8)
Sept. 22nd – Justifies (Rom. 3: 21-26)
Sept. 29th – Cleanses (Heb. 10:19-23)
Oct. 6th – Redeems (Col. 1:13-20)
Oct. 13th – Reconciles (Col. 1:19-23)
Oct. 20th – Conquers (Col. 2:13-15)
Oct. 27th – Adopts (Rom. 8:14-17
Nov. 3th – Loves (Rom. 8: 31-39)
Nov. 10rd – Frees (Gal. 4:1-7
Nov. 17th – Re-Creates (Gal. 6:11-16)
We’re talking about all this at the Missional Learning Commons this year. Register for it HERE. Find out more and join it here at FB page.
What are the issues you encounter in proclaiming gospel in a post-Christianizing culture? What reticence (and there is much of this) do you have in proclaioming the gospel? How do you address this?
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