I don’t really want to do anÂ obligatory, “it’s been a while since I’ve blogged,” note so hopefully this will suffice. I’m getting the writing itch again and want to try blogging my way through a book. Here goes nothing.
A sucker for subversive subtitles
I picked up Scot McKnight’s latest book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, frankly because I’m a sucker for books that start with the premise that there’s something wrong with Evangelicalism in America. I’m particularly interested to see how Scot McKnight addresses this issue because it appears to me that he is voice speaking fromÂ insideÂ the Evangelical tribe, unlike people like Brian McLaren and Tony Jones who speak from the edges (at best)Â of Evangelicalism.
An intro and an opening lob
McKnight gives some background to his thesis by describing an awkward moment from high school when he tagged along with a deacon from his church during an evangelistic project and watchedÂ squeamishlyÂ as a man was hard-sold into making a “decision” to accept Christ. There’s something about the whole point of the gospel being turned into a one-time decision that has him irked:
Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples.
He goes on to touch on the church data showing that a high percentage of Americans claim to have made a decision for God while the percentage of Americans actually involved in church continues to be on the decline. WhileÂ acknowledgingÂ that church attendance doesn’t constitute discipleship, the data still begs the question: how has there become a disconnect between the gospel, evangelism, and discipleship?
Chapter 1: What is the gospel?
McKnight doesn’t actually attempt to answer the question in this chapter, but does lay out his thesis as straightforward as possible:
I think weâ€™ve got the gospel wrong, or at least our current understanding is only a pale reflection of the gospel of Jesus and the apostles. We need to go back to the Bible to find the original gospel.
Fair enough, but that leaves three obvious questions to answer:
- How do you know weâ€™ve got it wrong?
- What is the actual gospel of Jesus and the apostles?
- How should your new definition change the way we approach practicing Christianity?
He answers the first question right away with three examples that illustrate his point. The first is letter he received from someone who didn’t understand why Jesus being the Messiah of Israel was such good news. In other words, if the gospel is about personal salvation why do we really need the Israel story?
I believe the word gospel has been hijacked by what we believe about â€œpersonal salvation,â€ and the gospel itself has been reshaped to facilitate making â€œdecisions.â€ The result of this hijacking is that the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to either Jesus or the apostles.
These are not groundbreaking claims to anyone who has spent much time in evangelical ministry but important ones nonetheless. What will be interesting is to see how McKnight recasts the gospel beyond a simple means to get people into heaven after they die and what implications his recasting should have for our churches.