bits from bob....
Can Our Nation Hear the Gospel?
by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]
We must restudy how people hear the gospel. Why do some listen when others do not How does one come to grips with contemporary culture and present the unchanging gospel to a changing world. The question is not should or will, but can. Can our nation hear the gospel we proclaim? Given the problem of contextualization--the fact that people generally understand the Bible through personal preference, biases, and preunderstandings, how shall we relate the gospel to those who hear?
William Dyrness (How Does America Hear the Gospel?) suggests that the distinctiveness of the American culture can be described as pragmatic, optimistic, and individualistic. He argues that rather than buying into (selling out to?) Any or all of these approaches, the basic need of the twentieth century church in America is to redefine who we are.
Four identifying concepts frame the possibility of fresh interaction with our culture.
- Spiritual Growth. Christians must learn to admit to self, to others, and to God that we share the stresses and struggles of society. We are not spiritual giants, spiritual superpersons, above temptation and sin. Redefinitions of discipleship, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus, must recognize the reality of the struggle with sin, and the power of God as the sole source of victory.
- Worship. Our culture is "into" transcendence--New Age, charismatic expression, UFOs, spiritualism, even occultism. Our culture recognizes, yea seeks, something other-worldly beyond the meaninglessness of this world. Our fundamental incapacity and dependence must be admitted. We must share transcendence. We are weak, frustrated, futile in our humanity. People will never understand their need for salvation until they see their inadequacy. Christians must lead in admitting inadequacy. Our sufficiency is of God. Therefore, we worship. Worship is relinquishment. It is as much something we are as something we do.
- Evangelism. Many in our culture view God's redemptive offer through Jesus Christ as unnecessary, unlikely, and even sadistic. The church has lost the fundamental gospel message-- death, burial, and resurrection. The gospel has been replaced with denominational distinctives. Proclaiming the gospel to confront this world is both challenging and necessary. We must rethink, restudy, and live accordingly. Why did Jesus die? What benefits accrue to your life as a result? Is the benefit only spiritual? What difference does Jesus make as you live life daily? Until Christians can affirm, "Jesus makes all the difference every day," evangelism will be weak and ineffective.
- Fellowship. Obedience to God demands direct involvement with the lost, dying world and with the saved, living church. We cannot ignore one another and follow God. Concepts of church must be redefined. What does it mean to be called out, to be fellowship, to be community?
As we rethink these areas, we must not simply capitulate to the whims and fancies of our world. The challenge is to make the gospel both right and relevant. A good first step would be to eliminate any nonessentials that divide us and turn the world away from the message. Spiritual growth, worship, evangelism, and fellowship rooted in the stable, unchanging faith of Scripture and not on unyielding opinions or cultural expressions will go a long way toward answering the question, "Can America hear the gospel?" YES!
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Last updated January 7, 2002.