May 27, 2008
Why We're Rethinking the Gospel
The desire to reach out and a new focus on spiritual formation are changing the way we preach the gospel.
Our friends over at Preaching Today have launched a new series on preaching the gospel. They're asking, "Is our gospel too small, or is it too big?" and "What does it mean to preach the gospel in today's culture." They've begun with an interview with Leadership's own Skye Jethani. Below is an excerpt. You can read the entire interview here.
Preaching Today: A number of Christian authors, pastors, and theologians are raising critical questions about our understanding of the nature of the gospel. What do you think has stirred such passion?
Skye Jethani: A lot of passion has been fueled by the angst produced from conversations about how to reach younger, postmodern generations. Two schools of thought emerged from the beginning. One group opted for the conservative approach: we just need to be more relevant, repackaging the same gospel message in a manner or style that's going to be appealing to the next generation. Another group insisted the church needed to go deeper than repackaging the content. They felt we needed to rethink the content. A lot of today's conversations about the gospel were born out of the early tension between the two schools of thought.
Our gospel arsenal is a lot bigger than it used to be. We can choose to preach the Good News from a number of different angles, according to the audience we've been given.These two groups were not unlike the two groups that formed during the modernist/fundamentalist split that happened a hundred years ago. Think about the massive cultural changes that were going on: Darwinism, Marxism, textual criticism of the Bible, psychology. Many Christians looked at that tangled mess and concluded they needed to adjust the gospel. In doing so they ended up forming mainline, liberal theology. The fundamentalists among them said, "I don't care what's happening to the culture. The gospel's the gospel, and we're not changing it!"
It's quite similar today. One side prides themselves on not changing the gospel but only the style in which it is preached. In their eyes, anyone who adjusts their perspective on the gospel represents a new liberalism. The other side responds with a certain degree of disdain over what they feel is stodgy fundamentalism blind to its own modernist bias.
Another factor that explains why we're currently engaged in gospel-oriented conversations is the revival of interest in spiritual formation. Decades ago, Richard Foster and others at Renovar? were not asking, "How do we reach younger generations?" They were asking questions like: "Why aren't we seeing Christians living in Christ-like ways?" "Why is the church so culturally captivated?" "If we've been preaching the gospel all these years, why aren't we seeing much change in people?" Their conclusion was that we had been preaching a limited gospel - one that didn't bring about radical transformation. Foster and others were questioning whether or not we were preaching a gospel of transformation for the here and now and not just for life after death.
Read the full interview at PreachingToday.com.