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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

John Perkins has been saying lately that "we have over-evangelized the world too lightly." He is remarking on the contrast between the reported religiosity of the U. S. in comparison with the lack of fruit in the form of compassion, justice, and reconciliation. He is pointing out that the so-called evangelistic fervor of modern churches has asked less and less of the convert. A mere momentary statement of desire to know God becomes enough to be deemed "saved" or "Christian." He challenges evangelical and evangelistic churches to review the Great Commission, which says to go and make disciples through teaching and training in the ways of Jesus. What we have is Christian Lite, Church Lite, Jesus Lite.

A professor from another institution took me aside after my workshop at the Christian Community Development Association on Thursday. The workshop title was "On-the-Ground Theology: Seminaries Learning from Faithful Practices," and I was reporting on some parts of my research on exemplary churches and church-related organizations. This professor wanted to talk more about what I had said about how these churches understand the term "gospel." He said that he and another professor from his institution had discussed this same topic after hearing some speakers earlier in the program. If they were to accept what they were hearing at CCDA, and if they were to hope to teach it at their school, they would have to spend some time redefining "gospel" among their constituencies. He was right. Christian Community Development is not merely a set of techniques and programs. It's a theological renewal movement.

I have found myself over a number of years experimenting with ways to articulate this very issue. Gospel has been watered down so much in the U. S. churches that it often has little resemblance to the ways that it was used in stories told about Jesus and in his recorded sayings. It's almost a homeopathic gospel--like a solution so diluted that no more molecules of the active ingredient remain. Often, it seems the gospel comes down to following a four-step syllogism and repeating a prayer composed by someone else. That is considered by many the essence of bearing good news. The assumed result is an invisible transaction in a hidden place within a person.

The CCDA movement has been committed to sharing the whole gospel for the whole person and the whole community. They resist the temptation to boil down and dilute the gospel. They look to the word when it is spoken by Jesus (Luke 4:16-21), and find it to be inseparably linked with liberation of the poor and oppressed. John Perkins talks about how God finds us at our point of deepest need and brings good news to us. Those needs can take many forms, including physical needs, economic issues, and longings for justice. They also recognize that the redemptive work of Christ includes the establishment of loving community according to the pattern of God's intention for creation. Community itself is good news. That was Jesus' way of describing how people would know which group were his followers--because of the love they have for one another (John 13:34-35).

Why would we have settled for anything less than the full richness of the whole gospel? The beauty of the good news is far greater than many of us have ever heard in church. It's time we swear off Gospel Lite.


IndyChristian said...

Enjoyed finding your CCDA-related post. We've tagged a number of CCDA-bloggers at... del.icio.us/indychristian/ccda.

rudy said...

hey boss thanks for this

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