15 Aug, 2015 Three Reasons Why It’s No Longer Just About The Gospel
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Hi Pastor or Church Leader
The gospel is the good-news message that God has given us the job of sharing with every person on our planet — so they have the option of faith in Christ before them.
- Our mission is to communicate
- The Holy Spirit convicts the heart
- And the individual chooses for themselves.
However, in different cultural contexts the way we communicate needs contextualising — and adapting to our changing cultural context in the West has been a struggle for many New Zealand Christians.
In what ways has our culture changed?
Postmodernism is a word that is often used to describe it. To break it down, postmodernism means we are now beyond modernism. Whatever modernism was, we’re finished with it. This begs the question, what was modernism?
Modernism was the belief that we humans could solve our planets problems. It was the belief that scientists were well motivated, and would end disease. It was the belief that psychologists, with their various behavioural science programs in our schools, prisons and welfare systems would improve human behaviour. It was the belief that our Western politicians and preachers had our best interests at heart, and were honest men, speaking the truth…
…but then everyone messed up, promises were not fulfilled, and we all became sceptical of what these people called the ‘truth’ or the ‘answer’. We heard so many ‘truths’ and ‘answers’ that didn’t work out the lost faith in this thing they called the truth.
So we now think there is no real truth. Instead everyone has their own ‘truth’, and we group up into communities with people who think like us. You have your truth, and I have my truth, and I’m sure you have good reasons for believing your truth. I don’t want to disrespect you — so how about we just accept each other and our differences, because there are many truths, and we could exist happily together if we could do this.
Three tenants of postmodernism
(As adapted from an explanation by Dr David Geisler):
- A scepticism of truth claims
Our culture no longer trusts truth-claims. They are viewed with suspicion. What you say is the truth is really just your truth. And if you push it on someone, that’s called intolerance — which is one of the worst kinds of ‘evil’.
- A relativistic view of morality
It follows that, if there is no truth, there are no absolute morals. As such, the ‘old’ set of values we had based off Christian belief. We’re over them — which also means we’re ‘free’.
Our ‘liberation’ from traditional values regarding sex in particular has been central in discussions over the past few decades, during this changing in thinking in the West.
- A resulting indifference toward religion
It logically follows that, if there is no truth, then there is no reason to give any time to considering the various truth claims. This is why our culture is largely disinterested in investigating the truth claims of our faith.
How sincerely, or deeply, has this become the way people in our culture think?
Very deeply! Today, you could share your faith with a person today and they might happily listen, and even thank you afterwards — and when they walk away they are thinking, “I’m so glad that person found something that works for them. Isn’t that great!”
Our response to postmodernism
I suggest that evangelism can still be effective. It’s just that we need a broader perspective and skill-set than we did forty years ago. I see four key areas that I believe we need to equip our members in, if we are to see them engaging again with the non-church people around them discussing spiritual things in the course of every day life.
- The centrality of the Gospel
No matter what happens in culture, it remains that the gospel is unchanging. ‘The gospel is the power of God for salvation’ (Romans 1:16). God stands behind the message because it is the message of His love (John 3:16) and He is genuinely not wanting any to perish, instead for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Our people must know what the gospel is, and how to share it.
- A conversational approach
There is a skill-set here that can be learnt — and it is new to most church people. Through asking questions most Westerners are more than willing to engage certain conversations about spiritual things . People can be caused to re-think some of their beliefs or assumptions through this. It can be non-threatening and non-confrontational — and it can help people to take steps toward faith Christ. We can teach these skills and perspectives, and it can make a big difference.
- A team-based approach
There has been a lot of talk about relationship evangelism in the past — and I agree with its importance. But to make a simple point, the easiest way to mobilise relational outreach is to use our already existing relational groups — like the small groups in our churches. Within them the different members strengths and personalities, interests and resources can be used, and a lot can be achieved. It can be fun, and it can be effective.
- Dependence upon the Holy Spirit
While Jesus was an excellent conversationalist, I am convinced that the real key to his success in connecting with peoples hearts was his dependence upon the Holy Spirit. As much as it seems impossible for us to be as sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings as Jesus was, the fact is that the Holy Spirit is with us like he was with them. The Holy Spirit is with every believer to lead us and guide us and speak to us — if we can just learn to quieten our hearts and listen.
We can still be effective today — that is the encouragement.
But evangelism is no longer just about the gospel. Instead, because we are within a culture, we need to learn how to relate to people within our culture as it is today, so we can communicate in a way that they can understand and receive.
Conclusion: Pastors, please equip your members with these perspectives
As they come to understand more clearly why some approaches aren’t working — and why other approaches might work, new hope could be stirred in their hearts that THEY might yet be able to have a positive effect in encouraging the people they see every day to consider faith in Christ. This could bring a willingness to learn new things — and this could make a difference!
May the Lord make you effective in making your members effective!