Friday, June 23, 2006

What is the Good News of the Gospel?

The gospel is good news. But what is the good news in North American culture? Is it different in African culture? Latin culture? Asian culture? What is the good news in an oppressed country like Sudan? How about a communist country like Vietnam or China? How about the impoverished regions of India?

In the West we quickly think like consumers - e.g. how will this improve my quality of life? We see ourselves as consumers whose sole purpose in life is to satify our "needs." This cultural mindset permeates the church in such deep and unconscious ways that we are oftentimes unable to distinguish and accurately reflect the gospel.

In our culture (Western) the gospel becomes all about serving me, helping me, and making my life better (e.g. meeting my needs.) When many churches talk about "meeting needs" what they are really talking about is "satisfying the customer." Is that what the gospel is about and for? James V. Brownson in his book Stormfront says "It is almost impossible for most people in North America even to imagine any other way of living."

This runs so deep in us that we have difficulty seeing that this contradicts biblical faith. The gospel is not "good news that Jesus will make you happy, healthy, wealthy, and without need." The gospel is not "good news that you can be self-actualized and independently satisfied." I want to think much more deeply about this. I plan to blog about this in the coming weeks. What do you think about my observation?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Faithful and Compelling Performance of the Gospel

I just finished reading an interesting book in which the authors state that there should be (as they describe it) “a faithful and compelling performance of the gospel.” I immediately reacted thinking “What is that?”

This phrase struck me because I have never thought in those terms (e.g. a “performance” of the gospel.) The authors were quick to point out that their usage of this term is not in the sense of entertainment. Nevertheless, it was both engaging and almost sacrilege for me to think of a “performance” of the gospel.

As I reflected on this, Romans 1:16 quickly came to mind, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” The gospel does perform, and it should perform powerfully! But how is this power manifest? Would that be the gospel’s performance? What does it look like for us to live the gospel? What does a faithful and compelling performance of the gospel look like? Does anyone know?

Maybe if we could answer these questions we might also be able to state what the “good news” really is. What is the gospel? What do you think?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The World Is Flat

One of the most intriguing books I've read lately is Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat. Friedman (who also did an excellent job with his previous book The Lexus and the Olive Tree) powerfully illustrates the reality of globalization. He identifies 10 "flatteners" that have connected us to the entire world, as well as important implications of this reality.

His first flattener is 11/9/89. That was one of the most significant dates of my lifetime - it was the day the Berlin wall was first breached which led to the fall of the Iron Curtain. That was the beginning of globalization.

Friedman points out that some thought that Ronald Reagan brought down the wall by bankrupting the Soviet Union through an arms race; others thought IBM, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates brought down the wall by empowering individuals with information. But a world away, in Muslim lands, many thought Osama bin Laden and his comrades brought down the Soviet Empire by their victory against the Russians in Afghanistan. Everyone was empowered by this - the good and the bad!

It was strange to me at times to experience the freedom I felt on my recent trip to Russia, with memories of the cold war in the back of my mind. For many, 11/9 marked the end of the 20th century, while 9/11 marked the beginning of the 21st century. The world is now flat, almost seamless! It will never be the same again, though I sometimes miss Mayberry!

The missional church must have a global vision! We must not just plant churches for a local community, but we must plant churches to reach the world. These are more exciting days and more dangerous days. There is great opportunity before us but it requires courage! Globalization is a reality that is here to stay. We must be global pastors, global church planters, and global disciples! I highly recommend Friedman's book to help us gain that perspective.