Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

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Much has been made in recent times of the church’s need to understand embrace the strengths and ministry directions needed to include introverts. Much of Western church culture has been formed on the ideal of the extroverted pastor and church member. As an openly recognized and admitted introvert this has felt like welcome acceptance and vindication. All this being said though, I’ve been thinking lately if just the ecclesiology of the church being readjusted to include space for the quiet and thoughtful goes far enough. What if our very understanding of the gospel itself has become so culturally bound to an extroverted relational way of understanding that we need to re-evaluate that as well? Is there room in our understanding and explanation of the gospel to make it meaningful for those who are introverted and task oriented rather than naturally relational?

The common way of explaining and understanding the gospel in Western Christianity often sounds something like this:

God is love and the parts of the trinity began in perfect relationship with each other. Out of love and God’s relational nature, he created humans in his image to be included in this love relationship with him. Humans at some point broke off this relationship through sin and God sought to reconcile that relationship through covenant relationships. Humans continually failed God and lacked the ability to  reconcile things through their works, and as such God reached out to humanity in Jesus – coming in person to live amongst us. He came and lived out love and the message of forgiveness and reconciliation for creation with their creator. The greatest love of all was shown in Jesus willing death at the hands of those created in his image to in some way reconcile them with God. We now have hope for healed relationships with God and the rest of creation in this life and a life to come after death or when Jesus returns.
Now given this may not explain every denomination ‘s particulars and I’ve attempted to leave the details as broad as possible to include as many in the thoughts as possible, but I think this is a fair portrayal of the story. Relationship is good, tasks are insufficient at best and evil at worst.

Some of my thoughts and struggle with this came to a head a few months ago as I sat in church listening to a friend preaching and heard the message of, “Stop doing and stop trying to do anything to get God’s love. Just let yourself fall in love with the person of Jesus. (loosely quoted)” At that moment instead of feeling at peace and full of joy as the message was intended to do, I felt sad and helpless. I don’t disagree with the message in principle, but I wonder if there isn’t more to it than that. You see, I’m introverted and task oriented: I have little idea what to do with that message. Even in my most loving and intimate relationships everything is processed in the form of lists of things to do, to not do, and to work on getting better at. For me love does. There is always a next step to take, a plan to be made, a thing to do. Love is an action plan made with passion. To not work or seek towards doing something is to not love. This is the filter that everything has been processed through for me for as long as I can remember. Trying to conceive of relating to someone outside the context of task is confusing and borderline terrifying. When the task is clear the anxiety fades and life works. This doesn’t make the love any less real, it’s just a different frame of reference.

So, how can the gospel be explained in a way that is meaningful, and full of life, hope and love in this context?

I hope this gives you some things to ponder as you follow Jesus and share his gospel, and maybe even as you talk and think along with me. I have a number of more thoughts I plan on sharing and getting your input on hopefully in the weeks to come. I believe deeply in community hermeneutics, not just me figuring out alone with a bible in a broom closet. Is there a gospel for the task oriented?

This coming weekend marks my first foray into official MB Manitoba business.  After being a member of the Saskatchewan conference board for the previous two and a half years, meetings there felt pretty comfortable and I felt like I always had a handle on what was going on.  Going into my first meetings in a new province has a very different feel to it though as I do not have a board position, know few to none of the pastors attending the meetings, and generally feel like the new kid in class.

Beyond just the normal meetings and duties though this weekend, I have been asked to be a part of a panel presentation on sharing the story of Jesus in the context we live and minister in.  I’ll be one of three pastors from our conference that will have five minutes to share a story from this past year in which our faith community uniquely shared the message of Jesus.  I am glad to have the opportunity to share a little about my/our philosophy regarding sharing the message of Jesus with the world we live, and at the same time it is a pretty daunting task to think about sharing on that subject in five minutes or less.

I’m leaning towards sharing about how we handled advent this year and the great opportunities that came as a result of it, but even that will be hard to fit into five minutes.  This past year rather than do the traditional advent schtick (shepherds, magi, the star, and the Christ) we focused on laying out the biblical narrative over the course of four weeks in terms of The Problem, The Promise, The Waiting, and The Answer (creation/sin, covenants, exile, and the work of Christ and the Church).  I have not been a big believer in trusting Sunday morning monologue sermons as a great source of evangelism, but out of that advent season I know of a few people who were personally ministered to and decided to start following Jesus, and also a partnership was formed with a Spanish congregation in town looking for an established church to work with.

All this though I think raises a really important subject of how and what we share as the gospel.  When we share about God what is the content of what we share and what are the most effective means in your context to share it?  Many people would like to say the content of the gospel message should be never changing just the way in which it is presented should be tapered, but history shows us that this is never the case.  Our understandings of the message of Jesus seem to be a constantly growing and unfolding thing and every generation seems to focus to greater and lesser extents on different parts of Jesus message and what it means to be a follower of God.  What is the essential contents of the gospel to you and what are some of the most effective ways you have found to share it in your context?

Well, today was my turn to preach again, and as always I love the process of getting there and delivering the message.  I always feel blessed to have the opportunity to study and prepare for a week and then share what I’ve learned and been challenged by with a few hundred people on Sunday morning.  This morning was Galatians 3:6-9.  I was challenged again this week that the heart of God’s covenant with his people isn’t just about blessing his people, but making them a blessing to all those around them.  I always think it’s interesting how we can turn Jesus message of hope for the whole of creation and turn it solely into a message of personal salvation.  Our culture is becoming more and more social and community oriented and yet the message many of our churches are trying to sell is that Jesus came to save individuals.  Now it may not be completely untrue, but I think there’s so much more to it than that and maybe a revisiting of how we’re packaging Jesus message to our culture is probably warranted.

All that being said, now that the task is done for another week, I’m finding myself in a far from unfamiliar place.  Kind of like that smell that your pillow takes on when you don’t wash it for a while but you just get used to.  It’s not a good smell, and realistically you’d be happier without it, but it’s not altogether nauseous and so you just get used to it.  It would take quite a bit of work to do the wash when you have other things in life to accomplish so you just kind of carry on and live with it.  That’s what my post sermon blues are like: it’s not altogether debilitating and I know they’ll pass so I just kind of learn to deal with them.  With great regularity after preaching I find myself quite exhausted for the rest of the day and am left with an overall bedgraggled feeling: a kind of mix of weariness, insecurity, and depression.  This is far from an overwhelming feeling but it often does color the rest of my waking hours with an hue on the blue part of the spectrum.

I think it probably stems from the perfectionist part of me that wishes a few thoughts had come out better, the self-conscious part of me that wonders what people thought of what I said, the defeatest part of me that wonders if it really made any difference, and likely just the overall physical exertion that comes from verbally “opening a vein and bleeding for the congregation” for half an hour as I once read it put.  I know that with some sleep and a “day off” tomorrow the world will look much different, but tonight I’m sitting here typing, getting ready for bed, drinking a decaf mocha and listening to Alanis Morrissette’s acoustic re-recording of her “Jagged Little Pill” album.  I know I’m dating myself with this, but I still think it’s one of the best albums recorded.

With that I’ll bid you farewell, adieu, and all that other stuff.