Wesleyan-Arminian in thought, Calvinist in practice?

Note: This post is designed to engage those who self-identify as Wesleyan-Arminian in theology

During a recent conversation after a Sunday worship gathering, a friend and I discussed the second/third/fourth (you get the idea) fiddle discipleship plays in many churches today.  Even with the renewed emphasis, attention, writing, questioning, etc. that has gone on recently in Evangelical circles about the topic, there doesn’t seem to be a reworking of the current model that people operate within.

The current model is aimed primarily at getting people saved.  Now don’t hear that I’m saying the being saved isn’t important, because it is.  The idea of being “born again” as Jesus coined, is foundational to the Christian life and experience.  The issue that many others before and I am reiterating here is that we don’t do so well after that.  Sure we have classes and small groups which are important too, but often we leave it at that. Again, not diminishing the value of any of this, but trying to recognize it only addresses a small part of the life of a disciple of Christ.

So we practically leave the Christian life after conversion to Sunday messages and knowledge transfer in a classroom setting.  Small groups often look to create more life on life discipleship, but accountability is often low as many fear creating an awkward situation or seen as “being judgy.”

Discipleship and growth is largely left to the individual and their ability to grow as well as discover is applauded but rarely well aided.  It also is largely unintentional and often just the case of meeting the right person at the right time to be a Paul or Barnabas to you.  Whether it’s Western Culture or something else, we let the individual drive their growth rather than the family and body.  If this were a human baby, we would do the most prep and attention to the birth and then leave it to the child’s desire to mature and grow.

This was apparent as I talked to a ministry leader this weekend.  They are going to be coming to a currently running outreach to do a few things and said they would only do it if they could “present the Gospel.”  I said that was obviously not a problem, but was their plan for those that responded?  Not what was the plan immediately but after the experience.  He said, “Well, I will invite them to our church and suggest they start attending or attend another church near by.  Hopefully then they will plug in and get discipled.”

All the planning is upfront and only hope for afterward.  This isn’t unique or unusual.

This leads me to the title of this post.  We Wesleyan’s have bought into and have been operating in this model, that is by practical accounts, Calvinist.  This would make us practical Calvinists in that a model that is primarily concerned with new birth and leaves everything else as an afterthought matches perfectly with an Eternal Security doctrine.  A doctrine that says once you are saved, you are always saved until and after death.  That doctrine produces things like a Billy Graham crusade that comes into town and is the highlight as people come to the altar and get saved.  (Again, not diminishing the way in which God has worked through my Calvinist brothers and sisters, nor Billy Graham.  I also understand that the crusades worked with local churches to try and have them bring new converts into the Body).

The issue is everything becomes not as important as conversion.  Why don’t people volunteer for things? Their saved, everything else is optional.  Why don’t some people chase after a closer relationship with Christ? Their saved, their ticket is punched and the other stuff is extra credit.

My suggestion is that discipleship and evangelism after new birth are very important, not afterthoughts that are minimally important.

First, Christ’s charge to the Church is to go and make disciples.  Not go and simply convert.  Go and make disciples.  Go and run alongside people as they grow and mature, not simply telling them what they do wrong but encouraging them as they grow in grace and obedience to Christ.  When do we see the disciples saying the Sinner’s Prayer and when in their time with Jesus are they “saved?”

Second, this creates an identity crisis within Wesleyan-Arminian circles because we have taught one theology (thought) but focused most of our efforts to a different doctrine (practice).  If we believe that salvation can be lost due to disobedience and continuing in sin without repentance, then we have to elevate the post-salvation experience.  Not at the expense of the conversion or diminishing it, but instead placing discipleship to be primary in attention, as well.

This is not a small undertaking, but I believe if we want to live out a theology that we say we believe, it is necessary.  A tearing the model down to the studs and foundation (Christ), is necessary.  Praying and seeking the heart of God about how we would practically live out the theology we believe, as a local community of faith, is necessary.  Can we as Wesleyan-Arminians stop being comfortable with simply perfecting our ways to lead someone to Christ and start asking God how to run alongside someone and let him use us in the process of making disciples?  Can we stop leaving discipleship to only mean classes and small groups?

If we’re going to say we’re Wesleyan-Arminian in thought, let us think practically what that means, and pray and move in that direction.  Otherwise, let’s stop the charade that we don’t believe in Eternal Security.  Let us not live a life of confused theological identity.

American Sniper Review & Giveaway

AMERICAN SNIPERIf you don’t already know, American Sniper is a movie based on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and releases today on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital media.  (You can purchase it here or your retailer of choice)

The synopsis from the press release says:

“From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield, and as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world.

Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no one behind.” But upon returning to his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.”

There are a lot of emotions that this movie evokes and I don’t know that I’ve fully unpacked them all.  To see a man so capable in warfare be virtually incapable of engaging life at home was difficult to come to terms with.  I found myself rooting for him to stay home and engage the very lives he is seemingly protecting.  But then the movie would show him again in Iraq, on his next tour.

You also had the times where his frustration at not being able to protect the Marines for which he acts as the “overwatch.”  Or the times the Iraqis who helped the US military are harmed.  I found this frustration and Cooper’s Kyle easy to identify and empathize with, in these times.

Make no mistake though, this movie is violent, the emotions are raw, and seeing Kyle wrestle with the decision to shoot or not shoot people, women and children included, that are intending to bring harm to troops, is not something I’ve seen many movies wrestle with.  You sense no satisfaction from Kyle to take these lives, but he does none-the-less take them.  He sees himself as what his father described as a sheep dog; one that protects the sheep from the wolves.

There are a lot of people who would say Kyle is an American hero.  There are some who would not say many flattering things about the war or Kyle, because of his involvement and their view on such things.  I don’t see this movie changing anyone’s minds on either of these points.  What this movie may do, however, is allow you into the toll war takes on the lives of the military and their families.  Maybe you’re familiar with this and maybe not, but the depth at which the impact of battle ripples and reverberates through lives long after the context is changed cannot be ignored (at least by me).

As bullets fly and souls die, the family is asleep at home
The shot is quick but the impact will stick, as wounds are felt on both sides
A man, a wife, children, and life, will never be the same
No love is lost, but counting the cost, takes years to unfold

I wrote that after watching the movie but I’m not sure why.  it’s not all that profound or developed and I’m no poet.  For some reason though, I could not walk away from this movie without those words echoing in my head.

Because of this, I recommend the movie to anyone interested.  Not so much for its entertainment value, but more so that you can get a glimpse of what families of veterans are probably all familiar with.  Maybe too, so that you will wrestle with the impact war has on both those in and out of the context of battle. It is rated “R” and the violence and language are what you would expect from a wartime movie.  Also of note, $1 from every sale of this movie will go to the Wounded Warriors Project.

Thanks to Grace Hill Media and Warner Bros., I was given this 3 copies of this movie.  One to watch for this review, one to give to a veteran, and one to give away to one of my readers.  If you are interested in winning a copy of this movie, leave a comment below about the best movie, series, or television show you’ve seen about war.  (A winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, May 21).


random CONGRATULATIONS to Veronica S!  You are the giveaway winner.  Thanks to everyone who read the review and entered the contest!

VeggieTales NOAH’S ARK – Review and GIVEAWAY

Imagine a world where vegetables build an ark made of wood from a fruit bearing tree, that is in the shape of a slice of that fruit, and the animals inside have an Old Testament version of Kalahari Water Resort to spend the duration of the rains and floods with Noah and his family.

Whether you can imagine it or not, your need for it stay in your mind is no more!  Dreamworks Animation has delivered a new VeggieTales adventure that happens in the context of the above paragraph.  The subtitle of this movie is “A Lesson in Trusting God” and you see that throughout the movie again and again.

Noah's Ark 1The general story is as Shem (voiced by Wayne Brady) and his new wife Sadie (voiced by Jaci Velasquez) return from their honeymoon they come face to face with Noah’s project giant ship being built in the exact place Shem had planned to start his new life.  He constantly questions the reasoning behind the plan and if he can add to the plan for the ark, but doesn’t embrace the plan from God until later in the film.  This is all set on the backdrop of the general story of the ark.

There is the typical VeggieTales humor and even a silly songs piece in the middle, but generally if you’ve seen a VeggieTales movie before you know what to expect from one of their movies.  Now that doesn’t mean it won’t entertain the little ones – my 2 1/2 year old has sat through the majority of it more than once.

So this movie is great for kids.  It had some humorous places for adults as well, but I found it on par with most kids shows where I wasn’t engaged the whole time.  No problem, as I’m not the target audience!

Some purists may have a beef with varying from the Biblical account in a few ways, but I think you may be missing the point of the story.  That doesn’t make you wrong – that just may mean you won’t enjoy it.

Noah's Ark 3Like I said though, if you have kids that enjoy cartoons, especially ones that enjoy VeggieTales, then this movie is a fun animated adaptation of the story in the Bible.  It had some different takes on things from a VeggieTales standpoint that kept it fresh and the subtext of trusting God was a good message to hang around even after the movie stopped.  I think kids will enjoy the movie and the parents will enjoy the message!

For the GIVEAWAY! Comment below what you remember most about Noah’s Ark from when you were a kid.  I will let Random.org select 1 lucky commenter (or maybe it’s commentator) to win a free DVD copy of this movie that releases on Tuesday, March 3 at retailers everywhere and for digital download.

** I was provided a free copy of this movie from Grace Hill Media and Dreamworks Animation.  I was asked to write a review and given a second copy of the DVD to give away.  Thank you GHM and Dreamworks Animation!

*** Randomized Winner Has Been Picked (after randomizing 40 times)!  Lisa Jennings was our winner!  Congrats Lisa!! random

But will it keep me from going to heaven?


When discussing the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ with many Christians there is often a question on the minds of those in the discussion.  They want to know if what you’re discussing is a requirement to go to heaven.

For example, I was in the middle of a discussion a while back about forgiveness and someone who has been a Christian for probably 30+ years said towards the end, “Ok, but do you think not forgiving is a hurdle to getting to heaven?”

Just to be honest, I hate that question and that line of thinking.

What I hear in that questions is, “Ok, I get the concept, but is it something I really have to do to get to heaven.”  Or “Thats great, but do I get what I want out of it?”

I don’t like it because it’s made the whole thing a “If I do ____ I’d better get _____ out of it.”  It’s a transaction.  It’s work for pay.  It’s a hope that the gratification I get is bigger than the sacrifice that concept requires.

I liken it to getting married just to have sex; only participating in something because in the end you’ll get something you really want.  A good marriage will have sex, but if that’s all it is, then it will usually fade and fall apart.  And if that is the motivation, then the relationship is a throwaway.

The same is true for a Christian.  If we’re only a Christian to protect us from some super scary image of a fiery hell that comes to mind, then you’re in it primarily for the afterlife.  Everything you do or don’t do is viewed through the context of “Does this put me in the queue for heaven or in the pit of hell?”

Getting back to the question from the gentlemen about forgiveness, you see how he’s primarily concerned about forgiveness as it relates to his status as the “in” crowd when he dies.  That doesn’t mean he’s not concerned with other facets of it, but he’s revealed his primary facet and that’s going to heaven.  That’s what motivates him, consciously or subconsciously.

My response was simply that unforgiveness is a hurdle to relationship, which is the primary issue.  It not only keeps us out of relationship with others, but in doing so, keeps us from a whole relationship with God.  Isn’t that what we always been told, it’s about relationship?  If Jesus says we must forgive to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14), then that makes it clear.  Not because it will keep you from heaven, which it will, but because it keeps you from relationship with God, which is the whole point of life now and the afterlife.

It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy.  In fact, the truth is that you cannot properly and wholly forgive everyone without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  But when you start to live out of the fact that you can forgive because you have been forgiven by God (despite being set against him in your will versus his will, making your king instead of him in your life, before surrendering to him in your repentance) and that it’s not about your rights and what you deserve, but about His glory then the door is opened to forgiveness for the “unforgivable.”

Jesus said eternal life is to know the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3).

I emphasized that word because it means an intimate knowledge born out of an intimate relationship, like what you see in a marriage.  A relationship that grows and deepens over time.  A relationship that you treasure and would give anything to keep healthy and whole.  A relationship that requires you to take your eyes off yourself, to put them on what the other party needs and wants, and joins you to one another – two becoming one.

If the relationship is the point, you don’t have to wait to “get into heaven” for that to begin.  You can have that now.  You can have that today.  If you are a Christian, you have been grafted into the family of God as co-heirs with Christ.  Now.  Today.  You don’t have to wait until you die to begin celebrating and have your actions demonstrate that truth.

In John 10:10 we read Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Life abundantly starts the moment you enter into the relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life, not just when you die.  He didn’t say so you could have abundant afterlife!

Sure, heaven will be fantastic, but if that’s the point to you, then I think you’ve missed the point.  You’ve missed years to celebrate what has already been done, hoping for what is to still come, and live out of the identity and abundant life Christ gives.

Don’t ask if this or that is a hurdle to heaven.  Instead, ask if it is keeping you from relationship – whole, deep, intimate relationship – right now.  Then ask God to source you to forgive, to bring reconciliation, and redemption to this life.  Ask God for His Kingdom to be seen here on earth, in your relationships, as it is in heaven.

“Noah” movie thoughts and giveaway

I was recently offered the chance to get a free BluRay/DVD copy of the movie “Noah” in exchange for reviewing it and also giving a copy away (details after my take.)

So I sat down and watched this movie expecting the worst, based on some reviews I had read. I thought it was going to be ridiculously ignorant of the Biblical text and probably completely unwatchable.

I was wrong in a few different ways.

First, it wasn’t the worst.  It wasn’t the worst movie I had seen.  It wasn’t the worst movie “inspired” by the Bible.  It honestly wasn’t even that bad.  And by “that bad” I mean in the aspect of entertainment and special effects and other things I would rate any other movie on.

Second, it wasn’t “ridiculously ignorant of the Biblical text.”  Was it spot on? No.  Was it way off on everything? No.  Rarely have I seen depicted the sinful nature of man captured so well.  Rarely too have I seen an all too familiar attitude of Christians in their purpose to subdue the earth, held up to a critical light.

Along these lines, let me also say I grew up watching Christian cartoons for kids that were as “extra-Biblical” if not more in some regards.  Side stories were added to these childhood cartoons to involve characters from the future or maybe just to interact with the main Biblical characters and no one batted an eye.

Third, it wasn’t unwatchable.  I was interested in a good part of it, but I also checked out on a couple of things (checking email, FB, thinking about Gladiator, etc.)  That being said, it was long.  At times it was a little “out there” with an environmental and vegetarian message that could be felt as heavy handed.  The rock monsters/fallen angels and possible baby killing also weren’t highlights.

I came away wondering what the big fuss was.  I get that God was only referred to as “The Creator” but that’s more than many making films might give God.  Methuselah seems to have performed a miracle but there was no mention of it being God sourced, but that was more confusing to me than anything.

It filled 2 hours from a small portion of Scripture and while a lot of the movie was obviously expanded and “extra-Biblical,” I think some of the narrative of the flood – especially the sinfulness of man and God’s promise afterwards – make it through the movie, sometimes powerfully.

You might watch it and think it is dull.  You might watch it and keep a scorecard of what’s not in the Bible or what’s different than the Bible (you’d have a lot to work with).  You might watch it and find out someone’s take on the story of Noah – from it’s main themes and characters, to the main message from God, The Creator.  You may be able to watch it and think about sin and man’s depravity in a new way. Maybe you’ll decide you have no interest or you may decide you cannot watch it.  Whatever the case may be, I’m not sure the reaction we’ve heard in Christian circles matches the material.

Maybe I’m looking too hard for what’s redeemable rather than what’s condemnable, but I think there’s a possibility for conversation.  What do you think?

**ENTRY INFO: If you want to get a copy yourself for free, leave a comment here or on my facebook share of this link (if we’re facebook friends) about why you want a copy of the movie and what you’ve heard other people say about it. **  Entry deadline has been extended to Wednesday, August 6, at noon EST.

**Note: Noah was provided free from Grace Hill Media for review and give away purposes.


** UPDATE ** Congrats to Corey on winning the drawing based on Random.org random selection.

Maybe we’re in exile?

I was discussing a few thoughts with a friend recently about the things facing the Church in America and it hit me; maybe we’re in exile.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, you have the Kingdom of Judah exiled in Babylon.  There is a lot to be said for why that happened, mostly it centered around Judah’s inability to care about their covenantal relationship with God, as a whole, but the what resulted was that Jerusalem is destroyed and many Jews are carried off to Babylon.

Add to that the fact that the western world is, by and large, coming out from a long established period of Christendom, where Christianity was the dominant force in culture and held influential sway over everything.  This has led many in the last few years to say today in our culture is closer to Babylon than Jerusalem.

So what’s my point?  What if instead of lamenting where America has gone and how the church is no longer holding the majority of cultural sway, we looked to engage society and culture from the point of view of someone exiled?  Instead of saying we need to recreate 1945 what if we started having conversations about engaging 2014?

The thought that struck me is that instead of being carried off to exile, basically exile has come to us.  Babylon has grown up all around us but we as the Church keep acting like we’re in our version of Jerusalem.  A lot of what we decide to do is window dressing as we paint the same structure with different colored paint, thinking that makes it different.

More and more we, the Church, not just those with the title “pastor” are going to have to think as if they were in Babylon.  More and more, Christians are going to have to see things through the lens of reality and that we are exiles.  I believe, more and more, we are going to have to realize we are missionaries to a culture that doesn’t know God through Jesus Christ; our culture all around us in America.

So are we as the Church in exile?  Did we get so comfortable in growing our churches, becoming affluent and similar to our culture that we missed being in the dynamic Kingdom partnership God created us for and sent Jesus Christ to pave the way for?  Has the King of Babylon laid siege to our strongholds because we’ve put our safety and comfort above the Mission of Christ?

It was a powerful thought for me and maybe it’ll open you to thinking about ministry a little more.  These questions aren’t perfectly answered but feel free to offer your thought in the comments.

Happy enough with being good


I sat and heard a story from a Christian who talked about his boss who previously “cursed like a sailor.”  He talked about how that boss started by not cursing around him because he knew he was a Christian and he didn’t want to offend him.  He talked about how over time the boss stopped cursing all together and that brought this Christian joy.  He said he recognized that his boss wasn’t a Christian, but basically, at least he didn’t curse any more.

Few things pain me as much as hearing how happy Christians are with people being good.  Happy to the point of contentment.  Happy to the point of satisfaction.  Happy that people’s behaviors are not offensive.

The problem is that you are reinforcing a different religion.  Now, those practicing that religion might not call it that, but that’s essentially what it is – a religion of humanistic moralism.  (Maybe you prefer I call it humanism or something else to be technical, but this is not a technical blog).

The neo-atheistic movement claims that people can be pretty good and overly moral without religion.  I wouldn’t disagree completely.  So why is this such a powerful statement?  It is because we’ve made Christianity, and all religions, about being good.

So when Christians are happy to have “good kids” come out of years of sunday school, children’s church, and youth group, we’ve settled for being moral over being Christian.  For many, being good equals being Christian but in anything that is not fueled by Christ we cannot call Christianity.  It may look similar to Christianity from the outside, but that’s just the behavior.  It may even look better than some Christians, nicer, more graceful, but it’s not Christian; it’s being good.  It’s being nice.  It’s reliant on your ability to be these things.  It ignores Jesus in John 15:5.

Being a Christian means you are reliant on Christ not only for your salvation, but as the whole motivation and transforming power in your life.  He changes you on the inside and that works it way out into your behaviours.  There are behavioral implications of being a Christian, but they are the outworkings of an inward working.  They are secondary to what primarily is happening, ongoing, to your heart and mind as you are filled with Christ by the Holy Spirit.

If you’re good, that’s great.  But I want you to know Christ.  I want you to behold Him and rely on Him.  I want you to lay down your ways, to turn from the path you’re on, even if it’s a good path, for The Way – Jesus Christ.  Give up good for the greatness of God.  I am interested in you becoming a follower of Christ.  Maybe you’ll be a good person, but that’s because Christ has transformed you, motivating you inwardly, empowering you through the Holy Spirit, to act differently.

I’m sure your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers are all happier when you’re moral and good.  I’m sure you feel some self satisfaction at your comparative goodness when you look around.  But my brothers and sisters in Christ, we call that self-righteousness because you are righteous in and by your self.  This is not Christianity, and if Christianity is your banner and your claim, then you cannot be simply be happy enough in being good.  If you could, why did Jesus have to come and die on the cross?  If you do, you’re missing the transforming power of Christ.

“Son of God” movie giveaway

SON OF GOD - Prize Pack Graphic

SON OF GOD comes to us from producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the husband-and-wife team responsible for the record-setting and award-winning miniseries THE BIBLE. It’s the first major studio film about Jesus’ teachings and ministry in over half a century!

In honor of the film’s release, we’d love to provide you with an official SON OF GOD prize pack. Each package will include a copy of the SON OF GOD soundtrack, the SON OF GOD companion novel, as well as a 1000 piece puzzle that is sure to entertain the entire family! – Grace Hill Media

The film comes out tomorrow, do you think you’re going to see it?  What interests you about the movie?  Leave a comment below and one randomly selected person will receive the prizepack!

Entry deadline is tomorrow, February 28, 2014 at 7 AM EST.

Good luck!


“The King Jesus Gospel” Review

The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight

In the introduction to Scot McKnight’s “The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited”, N.T. Wright speaks of John Stott saying, “Who wants an irreducible minimum gospel?”[Stott] asked.  “I want the full, biblical gospel.”

McKnight sets out to do that with this book; to unpack the “full, biblical gospel.”  His main reason for doing this, as he argues throughout the book, is two-fold.  First, it is to stem the tide of current church culture where “the gospel” is focused solely on a personal decision at salvation.  McKnight writes, “What has happened is that we have created a ‘salvation culture’ and mistakenly assumed it is a ‘gospel culture'” (p. 29).

Second, it is to know, discuss, preach, teach, and proclaim the full gospel that Jesus taught, that Paul taught, that Peter taught, and that was handed down through the apostolic tradition.  McKnight says the best representation of this is found in 1 Corinthians 15.

McKnight takes his time getting to what the gospel should be.  Instead of diving into what the solution is, he spends the few first chapters outlining the problem the Church currently is facing.  He begins with his own experience in coming up through the church and the focus, no “obsession” we have with getting people to make a decision.  He holds that this is not producing the results we would hope.

One particularly startling example is found in statistics from Barna Group’s David Kinnaman, demonstrating the lack of correlation between making a decision and becoming a disciple of Christ.  It goes something like this:

  • Percentage of teenagers (13-17) who have made a “commitment to Jesus”
    • General population: 60%
    • Protestants: 80%
    • Nonmainline Protestants: 90%
  • Percentage of young adults (18-35) who would be considered disciples
    • General population: 6%
    • Protestants: <20%
    • Nonmainline Protestants: 20%

Based on this, McKnight says, “We cannot help but conclude that making a decision is not the vital element that leads to a life of discipleship” (p. 19).  He continues with that line of thinking, “I would contend there is a minimal difference in correlation between evangelical children and teenagers who make a decision for Christ and who later become genuine disciples, and Roman Catholics who are baptized as infants and who as adults become faithful and devout Catholic disciples” (p. 20).

This challenges the way many in church think and behave.  Often when we say the gospel, we mean salvation.  The “Good News of Jesus Christ” for most of us, is that Jesus lived, died, and resurrected so we don’t have to pay for our sin and we get to go to heaven.  Even if we wouldn’t articulate it that way, that’s what most in the Christian church believe, discuss, teach, and live.  McKnight, however, would and does echo what Dallas Willard called this, which was the “gospel of sin management” (p.27).  He contends, “If the gospel isn’t about transformation, it isn’t the gospel of the Bible” (p.27).

The main resulting problem, McKnight contends, is that a focus only on salvation creates a culture that “does not require The Members or The Decided to become The Discipled for salvation.  Why not?  Because it’s gospel is a gospel shaped entirely with the “in and out” issue of salvation.  Because it’s about making a decision” (p.33).

Scot McKnight 4 Gospel Categories

Moving on then, to make his case for a fuller gospel, McKnight lays out his four main categories.  These are The Story of Israel, The Story of Jesus, The Plan of Salvation, and The Method of Persuasion.  If you stopped to consider, which of these categories you would apply the word Gospel, as McKnight suggests (p.33) then most of us would apply it to the “Plan of Salvation.”  It is McKnight’s contention, however, that all of these comprise the Gospel and each “layer” flows from the previous category as it is connected to the foundation below it.

The King Jesus Gospel never leaves this imagery far behind, either.  It most often finds it way multiple times into each chapter with some variation of the phrase we read in Chapter 3.  There, McKnight writes, “The Story of Jesus, though, is first and foremost a resolution of Israel’s Story and because the Jesus Story completes Israel’s Story, it saves” (p.37).

On the contrary, McKnight holds that stripped of its proper place in the larger picture of the four categories, the Plan of Salvation “isn’t discipleship or justice or obedience” and “leads to one thing and one thing only: salvation” (p.40).  He further states how this is disjointed from the rest of the story of the Bible with the following observation; “One reason why so many Christians today don’t know the Old Testament is because their ‘gospel’ doesn’t even need it” (p.43).

McKnight continually challenges us to consider the gospel to those in the time of Jesus, Peter, and Paul.  Not to understand it in our context, but in the context of those hearing about it.  Also, as already stated, understand it through the lens of people who had the Torah memorized, who had only the Old Testament as their Scriptures instead of readers of today who have the New Testament.  Think of the excitement that would be induced at the realization of who Jesus was – namely the Messiah who would rescue Israel and establish His Kingdom.  How can understand those things without the Old Testament and the Story of Israel?

ChristTheKing2013McKnight focuses on 1 Corinthians 15 as a blue print for the outlining of the whole Gospel by Paul.  He also I’ve only touched on what McKnight writes about but these are the things that stirred me to read on.  Why do we have such a hard time making disciples today?  Is it simply that we get it wrong by obsessing only with salvation?  I’m sure, as McKnight contends, the culture it creates allows for an underlying secret that the rest is optional in many of the subconscious thoughts of those sitting in the pews.  Is that the only problem facing the church? Of course not.  

I really liked this book.  It challenged me and my thinking about what the “gospel” is and what that word implies.  I began thinking recently about our focus on a decision and how heaven is often what everyone is sitting around waiting on.  This book came and smacked that point right out of the park for me.

I did come away from the book feeling as though there were holes in what was being put forth as the solution.  I don’t know why, honestly, but there was a nagging feeling that his thrust wasn’t as full as I expected.

I also didn’t agree with his contention that God had wanted Abraham, then Israel, then David to be what Adam and Eve originally were, and that God ultimately sent Jesus when they failed.  The reason is that I kept coming back to what God said in Genesis 3:15 or the protoevangelium.  His point seems to be at odds with that.

I also wasn’t a fan of the way McKnight lumped on a bunch of stuff at the end.  He adds in suggestions about the creeds, spiritual formation, and the Christian calendar.  It was almost like “Hey, if you made it this far, let me go ahead and lop on some of this other stuff, while you’re buying.”  That doesn’t diminish those things suggested, but the manor seemed odd.

But, overall I would recommend this to anyone who wants a challenging read about the theology of the gospel.  A lot of what he said connected with me and stirred my mind.  A lot of what he said will have to be parsed as I come to understand it more over time.  A little of what he said didn’t sit with me, but that’s ok; it doesn’t undermine the body of work.

Many tutors, not many fathers…

“For though you have countless (ten thousand) guides in Christ,
you do not have many fathers.” –
 1 Cor. 15 ESV

I realized on Saturday, that I stand in some pretty large shadows.  I have been the benefactor of men who have encouraged me, poured what they had into me, and were an endless fountain of love to me (and others). They were advocates on my behalf to others, they prayed for and with me, and they went (and continue to go) out of their way, countless times,  to serve me in many different ways.  These men have been fathers to me in Christ and that is rare.

What’s not as rare are the teachers of information, about Christ.  Go to any church, christian school, or conversation with many people and they’ll tell you something about Jesus.  Some of it is good, some of it is bad, some of it is knowledge without wisdom, and some times it is even great.  They may even help you out for a time to understand some concepts.  These would be the “guides in Christ” that Paul writes about in the above referenced verse.  There generally is no shortage of these, as the literal Greek points to with its use of “ten thousand.”

This idea of a teacher or guide is based on the Greek word paidagōgos. This word is defined by Blue Letter Bible as “a tutor i.e. a guardian and guide of boys. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class.”

There is no shame in this role.  I don’t want to disparage our teachers, instructors, or guides at all.  In fact, I have been and will continue to live portions of relationships in this role.  You most likely are this to some one or many people right now.

But when you understand what a true father is, you understand the deep relationship and investment of time and resources, that is being referred.  These are the people that live life with you.  These are people that give you access to everything they have.  These are the people that are interested in you reaching your potential.  These are people that do not consider you beneath them, but consider it a privilege and an honor to be entrusted with your life, and in this case, your soul.

The two best representations of this in my own life are my biological father (directly) and my uncle Phil Batten (both directly and indirectly).

These men cast enormous shadows in their love for others.  They cast enormous shadows with their willingness to serve others.  They case big shadows with their love of Jesus and dedication to surrender everything and go all out for Him.

My uncle Phil passed away last week.  As I reflected on this man of God, I was struck by his humility and love.  I remembered fondly staying with him during District Assembly on multiple occasions.  He would sit and talk with me and inundate the conversation with encouragement, love, and experiences that he thought might be helpful.  He drove over 6 hours to come and do a revival at a church with barely 40 people as a personal favor to me, even with deteriorating health.   I always felt he was always advocating for and using his connections to help me out in the world of ministry.  He offered to let me preach on Heaventrain.  He was always offering what he had, if it would some how help.

Both Phil’s sons, Jamey and Andy, have often been the face of a lot of other things that flow from who Phil was.  Jamey was the best man at my wedding and at some darker times, felt like my only friend.   It was Jamey who let me hang out at Circleville Bible College with his friends when I wasn’t a Christian.  It was Jamey who opened doors for me in getting my degree from Ohio Christian University and beginning the journey towards ordination in the Church of the Nazarene.  Andy has introduced me to more friends and pastors in and around Cleveland than I can possibly count.  Andy has spoken to people on my behalf and is in large part, responsible for the relationship I have that brought me to my assignment in Painesville.  Andy and his wife, Kristen, opened their house and lives to my wife for 2 weeks so she could experience Lighthouse, Inc. and Heaventrain.

I could go on and on… My point is though, these men were fathered well and they shared their father with me and countless others.

Seeing my uncle a few days before he passed and hearing him say how proud he was of me, will be a memory I keep forever.  Not because of the feeling that sprang up in my heart, but because even as this man was passing from this world to the next, he poured out, building up and giving love to everyone else.

And it didn’t stop at his passing.  I always thought that if I ever were ordained in the Church of the Nazarene it would be such an honor and privilege to ask Phil to pray the ordination prayer over me at the ceremony.   That won’t happen now as his passing comes before that part of my journey is accomplished.  What did happen though was that Phil requested a Pastor’s Choir at his funeral to sing “And Can it Be?” and “It Is Well.”  Usually at denominational gatherings, this is reserved for ordained elders.  However, Phil simply requested, that if enough pastors were there, that they would assemble them in a choir.  I had the honor and privilege to join the many ordained ministers in attendance in singing in that choir at Phil’s funeral.

I’m not a narcissist so I don’t believe that Phil requested that for me, specifically.  But what a joy it was, to stand with others, in honoring the wish of someone who was a father to me.  He afforded me that chance and I’ll never forget that, either.

Everything he did and said was all for the glory of God.  The Kingdom impact of Phil Batten will be reverberating for years, because he laid down his life to be used by God.  He was humbled to be used and loved because he got to (not because he was supposed to), all because of Jesus Christ.  He was a father to many and he will be missed.

Who are you fathering?  Who are you pouring your life out to?  Who are you loving unconditionally?  Who are you giving access to your life?  Who are you advocating for?  Who are you building up?  Who is God bringing into your life to move beyond a guide and tutor to?

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