Archive for ‘March, 2010

Gimmicks and the Gospel: We Must Do Better

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I would dive out of a plane wearing only a parachute and a purple skirt if that helped people get the gospel. To me, being missional is more than a buzzword. I’ve given my life and all I have to it. Like Paul, it is my aim to become all things to all men that by all means I might win some. (I understand that statement from 1 Corinthians 9 exegetically to show the importance of contextualizing the gospel to a given audience, communicating it clearly and effectively, and removing as much as possible all man-made barriers to understanding the gospel.)

I would do anything for the gospel. Anything, that is, but exchange it.

I know what I am about to say may raise eyebrows and be received as insults by some. Knowing the risks, I offer it with humility and anguish of soul. I think it is high time evangelical churches and pastors re-think the way we do evangelism. Presenting the gospel is so much more than just attracting a crowd, pressing a few emotional buttons through sensational stories and images, using a couple key Christianese cliches, and telling people all they need to do to get to heaven is to repeat a magical prayer (like a spell?) and ask Jesus into their hearts (biblical basis please? and please don’t rip Revelation 3:10 out of context to be used as a prooftext).

Presenting the gospel means explaining humanity’s need (due to the fall) and our inability to do anything about it. It is showing God’s provision through Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures and his substitutionary atoning death and resurrection. That story, THE story, God’s story, is compelling. It needs to be the swimming pool, not a diving board, and certainly not the patio furniture. And the story needs to be concluded by calling for what the New Testament calls for—the only thing that justifies a person before God–authentic, repentant faith in Christ as Lord.

I’m suggesting we trade in ridiculous bait-and-switch tactics or terrorism evangelism and replace our gimmicks with the gospel. (I am especially burdened at the sloppy and careless way evangelism to children is often handled by churches and parents, but I will leave that to address at another time. For now I will only say that the souls of our children are precious and eternal and they need us to do better.)

Have we stopped believing that regeneration is a result of the convicting and quickening work of the Holy Spirit? Have we forgotten that faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of God? Why dilute the compelling and breath-taking gospel of Jesus, or replace it with what the Bible calls silly, irreverent myths? Do we really think the message is so dull that it needs our gimmicks to be effectual? It has been said by someone wiser than me regarding evangelism that what you win them by is what you win them to. I’m afraid that is true.

Contextualize? Yes!
Be clear? Without question.
Be creative? Absolutely.
But exchange the gospel for some watered-down, gimmicky counterfeit? Not just No!…

To borrow a line from Meat Loaf, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.

If the gospel is the hope of the world, it deserves the time and care to be handled well. You don’t have to make up mantras or invent non-biblical terminology or try to press sensational pressure points to evoke an emotional response. You don’t need a three-step strategy to manipulate people down an aisle. These are the tactics of cults, and I’m afraid they rarely result in real conversions. The gospel is powerful, like a lion. Just unleash it and watch!

Tell the story, tell people how the Bible says to respond, do it well and let the Spirit do his thing. You can do it hanging upside down from a tree on fire in a cat costume for all I care as long as you tell the truth. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Just get to the gospel. And then get out of the way.

Clint Wagnon is a church planter, pastor, family man and editor of the Underground Awakening. Clint lives in central Florida with his wife and four children.

Psalm 23 (Unwrapped)

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The Lord is my shepherd,
(that is identity)
I shall not be in want.
(that is necessity)
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
(that is serenity)
he leads me beside still waters,
(that is tranquility)
he restores my soul.
(that is energy)
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(that is clarity)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
(that is certainty)
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
(that is intimacy)
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
(that is security)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
(that is sanctuary)
You anoint my head with oil;
(that is mercy)
my cup overflows.
(that is plenty)
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
(that is charity)

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
(that is ecstasy)
(that is eternity)

For Dad. 2009 CHW.

Jesus Wants the Rose

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Fearless (Journey thru Philippians)

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How can you live in a world on the brink without losing your mind? In his letter to a group of believers in Philippi, the Apostle Paul (writing from a prison cell) teaches them the antidote for depression and anxiety and shows them how to live with unstoppable joy and indescribable peace even in the face of dark days and difficult circumstances.

This 16-part series can be found at iTunes or our sister blog, The Wire.

What is Love?

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What is LoveListenSubscribe in iTunes

A message by pastor Clint Wagnon on the litmus test of authentic Christianity.

Our Glorious Treasure (Ephesians)

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Jesus once described the kingdom of heaven as being like a man who uncovered a buried treasure in a field, and upon discovering it, sold everything he had and bought the field. This gift of the gospel is so consuming and valuable that it is worth everything we have and are. But we could never buy it or earn it. In fact, that’s what makes this treasure so glorious. It’s a gift. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul unpacks the mystery of the gospel by first explaining it, then applying it to the believer’s everyday life. Join us in our journey through Ephesians.

Click through to hear the series.