Monday, March 9, 2015

Encounter the Person of Jesus, Not the Formula

Rick McKenley, a pastor of Imago Dei Church in Portland writes this in David Kinnaman’s UnChristian, “In trying to communicate the Gospel to the masses, the message was eventually reduced to a partial story: humans are sinful and need Jesus in order to go to heaven. This made Christianity lose some of its life because the full description of God’s activity – such as creation, his plan for restoration, his sovereignty – was left out. It was ultimate reduction, “renounce your sins and place your hope in Jesus.” This phrase is not wrong per se but it is insufficient, particularly as our culture becomes more and more pluralistic. As a result of this mindset, one can easily accept Jesus and Buddha (and Allah) and a form of Wicca and have not the slightest problem with the significant contradictions. By reducing the Gospel to a what’s-in-it-for-me message, people feel Jesus exists for their benefit.

The greatest problem with this model of communication is that God does not have to honour it. Just because someone prayed a prayer does not mean they put their faith in Jesus, were regenerated by the Spirit of God, and became a new creation in Christ. It may be helpful tool for some, but it could be a point of departure and confusion for others.

Sometimes we believe the greatest Christian virtue is leading someone else to Christ. Scripture teaches followers of Christ that they should love their neighbours and make disciples along the way. Making disciples is a long process. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important that people make decisions to follow Jesus – I just believe it need to happen in a context of love and not to be reduced to feed the consumer’s mindset of finding spiritual comfort. The Gospels portray a grand, multifaceted picture of Jesus. I think we should really interact with this portrait in sharing Christ with others. Read through the Gospels with them and let them encounter the Person rather than the formula. I just think that asking someone to commit to a major way of life like following Christ deserves much more respect than simple spiritual formulas.

The sad thing is that when we (Imago Dei Church) go out and love people in Portland without an agenda of getting a “return” for our time – this is considered revolutionary. I think this should be the norm, and we have so much to learn in doing it better. If we share the Gospel and people reject Jesus, do we quit loving them?”

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