Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Gospel According to Campbell's

“A NonModern Manifesto on Church Planting and Evangelism” (Part 2) (See Part 1 here)

As we look at the fundamental problems in the way we do church, the first thing we need to address is the common understanding of evangelism and what that has done to the Gospel.

I remember well the first time I encountered (and immediately questioned) what my evangelism professor, Dr. Fish, would later call a “canned presentation” of the Gospel. I was in middle school in Temuco, Chile. I had just arrived there and was sort of getting to know people, which was a little hard because my Spanish was still terrible. I met an Australian named Phil, a fellow missionary kid, and we of course quickly became friends. One day we are running around the school and we encountered a man whom, to my memory, was another missionary from Australia. Phil introduced us and the man said little-to-nothing. Instead he held out a small round button and indicated that I should look at it. It read: “God loves.”

“Do you understand?” he asked me.

I nodded. He flipped the button over, and on the other side was a mirror. His face lit up and he waited for me to make the connection. I was way ahead of him. He smiled and, without a word, turned and walked away.

I remember at the time being quite disturbed. That moment has impacted the rest of my life. Understand that I didn’t have a problem that the guy wanted to share the good news with me. The fact that I was a missionary kid in a Baptist school was no guarantee that I was in a relationship with God. However, that man didn’t know the first thing about me! He didn’t know that I was a believer that I had been for years, that I wanted to share my faith with others, and that I wasn’t quite sure how to do that. Only, now I knew one way I wouldn’t.

Somewhere along the way the church distilled the story of the good news—that God desires and has made all the necessary efforts to establish a repaired relationship with people—down into what it deemed were its fewest, vital talking points. I’m sure it did so in an effort to help people share that good news, but somehow it ended up destroying the message.

For one thing this “canning” effort was done in a time and place where people had a basic understanding of the Bible message and simply needed to be forced into a moment of decision. As a result, most of our simple Gospel presentations are incomplete and we hope that people can fill in the gaps with common knowledge that is no longer there.

On the other hand, the way we have presented the message for decades has distorted the Gospel in such a way that it would not be surprising if a MAJORITY of people in churches today do not have a relationship with God. They are quite simply not believers.

Canning food is a good way to ease its distribution. However, there are times when the process is flawed and a contaminate is introduced. When that is something like botulism, the results can be deadly.

Whether we as a church have poisoned generations of people or simply removed all the “nutritional value” from the evangelism process doesn’t matter. We have largely dropped the ball where disciple making is concerned.

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