The Missional Nature of the Gospel
As Christians began to drink deeply from the wells of modernity, they began to place a much higher value on things like objectivity and human reason. Additionally, the Biblical text and even the gospel itself seemed to be presented in a manner that proved unwieldy, cumbersome, and frankly inefficient. With modernity’s lenses firmly in place, thinkers began to mine the text for eternal truths in the form of propositions. These propositions were then systematized in an effort to make them more accessible and understandable. Thus, the tendency was toward a simplified gospel that articulated how individuals can make sure that their souls can go to Heaven (and/or not Hell) after they die because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Such an approach is problematic to say the least. While, proponents of such a definition can point to key passages in Scripture that (devoid of context) seem to support their case, the meaning of the death, burial and resurrection (not to mention life, teaching, and ministry) of Jesus is virtually incomprehensible outside the context of the broader scriptural narrative spanning from creation to consummation. Additionally, it is difficult to reconcile such an individualistic focus with the God who is revealed in Jesus. Indeed, as Dallas Willard quips in a discussion of what he calls “the Gospel of Sin Management”,
“Can we seriously believe that God would establish a plan for us that essentially bypasses the awesome needs of present human life and leaves human character untouched? Would he leave us even temporarily marooned with no help in our kind of world, with our kinds of problems: psychological, emotional, social, and global? Can we believe that the essence of Christian faith and salvation covers nothing but death and after?”Such an unconcerned, escapist gospel seems not to be very good news for a lost and dying world. Indeed, it seems to require one to become convinced of contextualizing “bad news” before it can even be heard as “good”.
The Biblical accounts of the life of Jesus repeatedly tell us that he and his disciples preached “the gospel”. This is quite significant, since none of the disciples really understood what was going to happen with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus yet (as evidenced by their confusion when it actually happened). Additionally, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, “gospel” is routinely associated with the concept of the Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of the Heavens). For Jesus, the Good News seems to be that God’s Kingdom is breaking through. It seems to be that God has not given up on us, or his dream for all Creation. It seems to be that through Jesus, things are being set right. Some might object that Paul doesn’t use this “Kingdom language”, but as Brian McLaren rightly points out (after pointing out 13 overt references in Paul’s writing to the Kingdom message),
“…we should consider that Paul may be dealing faithfully with the new situation Jesus has created. In this light, we can read Paul carefully and see if his message actually does deal with new problems and opportunities created by Jesus’ success.”Additionally, we find all of this language rooted in the OT scriptures, and particularly in the prophets. Language permeates most of the NT documents that points to the “restoration” “reconciliation” of “all things”. The gospel is essentially a true story that begins with God creating all things out of love, including human beings who are charged with bearing his image. It is a story of humanity’s selfish choices that shatter the harmony of God’s creation, and of the God who calls humanity back into relationship with Himself so that they may partner with Him in the restoration of all things. It is the story of a God who becomes a human being in order to free them from sin, death, fear, and their own selfishness so that they might embrace their destiny as the children of God and their mission as partners in God’s dream of restoration. It’s a story that ends with God making “all things new”, the lifting of a curse, and the healing of the nations. It’s a story of hope, peace, and abundant, eternal life. Chris Wright astutely reminds us that:
“…we must not rest content until we have included within our own missional response the wholeness of God’s missional response to the human predicament—and that of course includes the good news of Christ, the cross and resurrection, the forgiveness of sin, the gift of eternal life that is offered to men and women through our witness to the gospel and the hope of God’s new creation…Mission may not always begin with evangelism. But mission that does not ultimately include declaring the Word and the name of Christ, the call to repentance, and faith and obedience has not completed its task. It is defective mission, not holistic mission.”
 for example, 2 Tim. 2:8-9
 Willard, The divine conspiracy, 38.
 McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, 94.
 Wright, The Mission of God, 319.
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 3, 2009 at Thursday, September 03, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .