Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Classic: Missing

On yet another occasion teaching [a class on the Gospel and culture], I presented a form of the Gospel but left out a key element to see if they would notice. I told them in advance that I was going to leave out a critical element of the Gospel, and I asked them to listen carefully to figure out the missing piece.

I told them man was sinful, and this was obvious when we looked at the culture we lived in. I pointed out specific examples of depravity, including homosexuality, abortion, drug use, song lyrics on the radio, newspaper headlines & so on. Then I told the class that man must repent, and showed them Scriptures that spoke firmly to this idea.

Then I spoke of the beauty and rewards of living a moral life. I talked about heaven and told the students how their lives could be God-honoring and God-centered. Repenting, I said, would give them a sense of purity and a feeling of fulfillment on earth.

When I was done, I rested my case and asked the class if they could tell me what I had left out of this Gospel presentation. I waited as a class of Bible college students - all of who had taken an evangelism class only weeks before in which they went door-to-door to hundreds of homes and shared their faith - sat there for several minutes in uncomfortable silence.

None of the 45 students realized I had presented a Gospel without once mentioning the name of Jesus.

The story bears repeating. I presented a Gospel to Christian Bible college students and left out Jesus. Nobody noticed, even when I said I was neglecting something important, even when I asked the class to think very hard about what I had left out, even when I stood there for five minutes in silence.

To a culture of people that believe they "go to heaven" based on whether or not they're morally pure, or that they understand some theological ideas, or that they are very spiritual, Jesus is completely unnecessary. At best, He is an afterthought, a technicality by which we become morally pure, or a subject we know about, or a founding father of our woo-woo spirituality.

I assure you, these students loved Jesus very much. It's just that when they thought of the Gospel, they thought of the message in terms of a series of thoughts or principles, not mysterious relational dynamics.
The above story comes Donald Miller's book, Searching For God Knows What, which I can't recommend highly enough.

Here's the deal... how easy is it for you to join the Bible college students in doing your best "Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel" impression? Do we see Jesus as a means to an end (moral living, deeper spirituality) or as God who wants a relationship with us? Jesus died on the cross not simply to pay off your massive sin debt... but also to pave the way for a living, breathing, grace-filled relationship with Him.

Another way to think about this... when I got in an accident during college (gotta love L.A. stop'n'go traffic), I called my dad. His first question was, "Are you OK?" Only once he knew I was safe did we start discussing the car.

When we focus all our time & energy & spiritual "oomph" on what Dallas Willard calls "the gospel of sin management", it's like we care more about the car than the person driving it. My dad was more worried about the relationship than he was about a fender-bender. We should follow the example... and spend more of ourselves in pursuing an active relationship with God than we do trying to give our lives an "extreme home makeover."

This is not easy... building a relationship takes time & energy & spiritual "oomph". And it doesn't look very church-y when you're doing it. But the goal of Christianity isn't to produce to church-y people. Instead, we want Jesus-y people, who show the evidence of spending huge parts of their life with the Living God.

Quote of the Week
Becoming a Christian might look more like falling in love than baking cookies.
     Donald Miller, Searching For God Knows What

A version of this post originally appeared in the newsletter of NewLife Community Church back in January 2006.

No comments: