The Evangelical Untouchables are seven diverse evangelicals who will give us a window into what’s happening in evangelicalism today.
Who are the Evangelical Untouchables?
Michael Patton is the director of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries and is one of the teachers on The Theology Program.
Tony Kummer is on staff at a Southern Baptist Church in the midwest and blogs at SBC Voices.
Ryan Couch is a Calvary Chapel pastor in Oregon, and blogs at Small Town Preacher.
Kirk Cowell pastors a Church of Christ in North Carolina.
Lindsey Williams is planting a PCA Church in North Carolina, and blogs at From Acorns to Oaks.
Matt Edwards is a small groups pastor in a Non-denominational/Bible church in Washington, and blogs at Awaiting Redemption.
Darrell Young pastors a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church near Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Our first question: “If you had only two paragraphs to express the Gospel to an audience of secular twenty-somethings who don’t go to church, what would you say? Then tell us how you are promoting it in your church.
(Beware “TRs:” Ryan is clearly a disciple of Mark Driscoll!)
Michael Patton (Independent/Bible Church): The Gospel is â€œgood news.â€ It is good news only to the degree that the bad news can be understood first. The world is a mess-up place. It is not just our generation that is notices this, but every generation has had to deal with their share of problems. Today is not really any worse than it was 100 years ago or 1000 years ago. The good news is that God is fixing what is broken in every generation. This is called redemption. Redemption means to â€œbuy backâ€ or restore to a previous condition. God is in the process of putting his messed up creation back in order. The Gospel is the good news that that which was broken is being fixed.
But the brokenness had its genesis in us, mankind. God is different. He is perfect and demands perfection because of his character. In other words, as the Bible puts it, God is righteous. Our brokenness is due to choices that we have made. All of us have messed things up. This is called â€œsin.â€ We have sinned through our selfishness, pride, hatred, and perversion of his creation. It is not the way it was supposed to be. God allows us to reject him and suffer the consequences, but he also offers us hope. This hope is the Good news. It is the hope that God has not abandoned us. It is the hope for redemption. God loves us in spite of our perversion of good. God loves us in spite of our rejection of him. He did not wait for us to live up to his standard, which can never happen, but he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago to live a life that we could not. God the Son became man and never failed, never perverted, and showed us who God is. Because Christ lived a sinless life, he could take the place of man, creating a new race . . . a redeemed race. Christ was rejected and killed on a cross by man. But God allowed this so that Christ could take the punishment that man—that you and I—deserved. In doing this, he died instead of you. He took your penalty of death and separation from God on a execution cross. But since he was God the Son and since he never sinned, he did not stay dead. After three days he came back to life and proclaimed victory over all the death, perversion, sin, and penalties that man had afforded creation. But this Good News does not apply to everyone. It is only for those who believe and trust in what Christ did for them. If you believe in him, you will have life. If you trust in him, not in yourself or your works, but in him alone, you will live forever, witnessing and being a part of a redeemed creation. One day Christ will come back to call into account all people. You can either stand on your own, giving account for your own sin or you can accept the free gift of salvation and stand with Christ. The bad news is that without Christ, you stand alone and hopeless. The Good News—the Gospel—is that you can stand with Christ full of hope.
Promotion presumes and audience of some sort. Gaining an audience presumes that you have an audience. Just because people are standing or seated in front of you listening with their ears does not mean that you have an audience. Today, gaining an audience is more difficult than it has ever been. I truly believe this. People are full of suspicion and doubt. They either think you are a naÃ¯ve person who still holds to your old time traditions or you are trying to manipulate. Rarely do people grant audiences to people they donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t. In order to give the Gospel, we must have an audience. In order to have an audience, we must have their trust. In order to have trust, they must know you. It starts with real personal engagement. This does not mean that we have to be perfect, but that we are transparent and honest. But this is not the only preparatory ingredient. You must also convince people these days that you are not naÃ¯ve. In order to convince them of this, you must not be naive! Your faith must be real, not something handed down to you or outsourced to you pastor. This means you must have personally wrestled with the questions, concerns, and doubts that others are going to express. Our church is about preparing people—preparing believers—to engage the world themselves. Their lives are the greatest witness to the truths they will profess. We prepare them by being transparent ourselves. Letting our people know that it is ok to have problems. It is ok to have doubts. It is ok to be yourself. Itâ€™s ok to be weak. We also want to make sure that people are well prepared to share the Gospel. We prepare them through discipleship training, helping them to understand the essence of the Christian faith through biblical studies and historical studies. This is how we aspire to promote the Gospel, by preparing the people to do so in their lives everyday.
Kirk Cowell (Church of Christ): “One thing we can say with certainty is that the power structures of the world repeatedly engage in abusive practices that harm and dehumanize. Governments will displace native peoples, indulge in slavery, and commit war crimes. Accounting firms will cook the books; banks will risk our money for a chance to enrich themselves; churches will loudly decry certain sins while covering up their own. And then the people who caused the most harm will be offered bonuses. Not all power structures will do this, and not all the time, but it’s definitely the general trend.
“The good news of Jesus is that the one with the most power–ultimate power–chose to become a servant. And he taught a way of living the rejects personal power and privilege while subverting the power structures of the world. It’s no secret to anyone that the institutional structure called ‘church’ has often missed the mark on this, trying to impose its will through petitions, politicians, and the personality of the pastor. But I want you to know that those kinds of power grabs reveal the nature of our humanity, not our Lord. When you’ve seen churches act like that and wanted to pull your hair out, I don’t think it was because God is a lie. I think it’s because we, as God’s creation, sometimes have a gut-level response to harmful distortions of the God who is True. Jesus called his disciples to deny themselves and take up the cross. To be baptized is to die on the cross with Jesus, and rise into a new kind of life centered on love of God and of others. The good news–in part–is that the Spirit of Christ can empower us to live a life modeled on his own. Following his example, we don’t run into the world trying to conquer it, and we don’t run away from the world into a protective isolation. We engage the world to join God’s work of helping the hurting and fixing what is broken–including all those broken power structures.”
I think the best thing we can do to promote the gospel is to live the crucified life with joy and purpose. For my ministry this year, I have a few simple goals: we enjoy each other’s company, we serve our neighbors, and we tell each other our stories. Any attempt to evangelize that has the slightest hint of coercion is going to fall flat–and it should. Anything based on being the coolest church with the hippest preacher is going to convert people to something other than the cross of the servant God (and we couldn’t pull it off, anyway!) I don’t think we are called to anything other than pooling our Spirit-given gifts to continue the work that Jesus began and promised to finish.
Tony Kummer (Southern Baptist): You did not make yourself. Instead, the all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good God of the Bible made you to show his glory. Even so, you have not lived for Him, and I would guess you have ignored Him much of your life. Deep down inside you know there is something very wrong with that â€“ and with you. If you are like me, you cannot even live up to your own definition of right & wrong. Even worse, you have rejected what you do know about God. You are not alone in doing that, all people have done the same and together we have made a mess out of this world. Think about all the injustice and suffering caused by human choices â€“ even by our choices. God is right to be angry with us. He is right to bring final justice to this world.
God still loved us, even when we rejected Him. He did not give up on humanity, but did something radical to make us right again. He sent a man we call Jesus Christ, but He was much more than an ordinary man. Jesus lived a life in complete submission to the will of God. He lived up to the standards God had set. He spent every moment loving God and loving other people. Eventually, a conspiracy of religious leaders put Him to death. However, God was working behind this evil act to rescue us. Both Jesus and the Old Testament had predicted it. His death was a freedom payment for Godâ€™s enemies. On the cross, God punished Jesus in place of sinners. Jesus received in his body the anger of God against evil. Because of his holy life and death in our place, we can have a right relationship with God. Then Jesus rose back to life and proved himself to be the Son of God. His resurrection was a real historical event witnessed by hundreds of 1st century people. This same Jesus now rules from Heaven and is working through his followers to build a new people of God. His people are the first hints of a new world to come. They follow the teaching of Jesus by loving God and serving all people out of love. Knowing all this, it leaves each of us with a choice. We can continue to rebel against God and act as if we are independent of Him. Or we can believe in the message about Jesus and be reconciled to God. This belief in Jesus will lead us to give up anything that does not belong to his kingdom. It will also lead us to spend our lives learning from his teachings.
In our church, we are working to clarify the message of the Gospel and spread it through our community. The content of the good news is more than â€œsay this prayerâ€ or â€œwalk this isleâ€ or â€œGod loves you.â€ It is a message about Jesus and his real work in history to purchase our salvation. Telling the Gospel begins with knowing it well. This means thinking about the Gospel story (biblical theology) and the Gospel doctrine (systematic theology). We also want to live out the consequences of the good news. We are aware of our daily need for Godâ€™s grace and the power of the Gospel message to change our hearts.
Lindsey Williams (Presbyterian Church in America): n order to truly know a person we need to know their story. In fact, our family background (like it or not) plays a very big role in helping to shape our personal stories. If I have one hour to spend with a person, I would spend the majority of my time getting to know their story which has led them to the present day. This is no less true when it comes to the gospel. The gospel is not set forth primarily through a set of principles, but it is a story that has been played out even before we personally came into this world. We as humans have a story. Our ability to embrace the essence and beauty of the gospel is directly tied to our ability to grasp the story that led to our need for the gospel. And this requires us spending the majority of our time in the first 3 chapters of Genesis. I would go back to the beginning of the human story and the fact that we are created in the image of God, and as a result are created to find our ultimate rest and fulfillment in relationship with Him (which our human ancestors originally experienced). However, in disobeying Godâ€™s command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve made a conscious choice to begin seeking fulfillment outside of their relationship with God. This choice not only affected Adam and Eve, but it was a generational sin that was passed down to all humanity (not unlike both the good and bad characteristics we often get from our parents), such that all mankind has a natural proclivity to seek fulfillment and ultimate happiness outside of a relationship with God. Furthermore, this choice resulted not only in our alienation from God (which led to both a spiritual and physical death), but it resulted in our alienation from creation (Genesis 3:17-19), with fellow man (Genesis 3:16), and even from ourselves (Genesis 3:7). From that day forward all humanity is born with a longing to connect with their Maker and recover the beginning of the human story, but we are continually â€œlooking for love in all the wrong placesâ€. We look for fulfillment in sex, materialism, work, autonomy, and even religion, but none of them will fulfill us because we canâ€™t change the fact that we were made for relationship with God. All of the pain, depravity, and alienation we experience is at its core a result of our alienation from God from both Adamâ€™s original failure to trust in God and all of our subsequent failures to seek fulfillment in Him. Even our attempts to be â€œreligiousâ€ and â€œchristianâ€ people apart from God only serve to further that very alienation.
But we are told that while we were still looking for fulfillment outside of God (whether through religion or irreligion), Jesus came to pay the penalty of our alienation from God (being death) through his own death on the cross. His death was a means of removing the alienation between us and God (clearing the slate of our mistakes), and restoring us to the rightful place of being the crown of his creation and his royal sons and daughters. The gospel first comes through recognizing that our actions to look for fulfillment outside of God is the source of our alienation from God. Secondly, it comes through trusting that when Jesus died on the cross he did so to fix that very alienation. The gospel is simply an effort to bring the human story full circle and repair those past events in our human story. While the gospel takes root through our restored relationship with God, the reaches of the gospel go well beyond. In fact the gospel goes as deep and as wide as the worldâ€™s problems extend. Wherever the curse of the fall is found in this world, Jesus seeks to bring the power of the cross to those areas. The gospel story is the story of God repairing and recovering all that was lost in the garden, and ultimately it is a story of restoration of our relationship with the one person in whom we find our most enduring happiness and fulfillment.
I have found that one of the best ways to promote the gospel in my church is by simply being willing to embrace both my need for the gospel and experience of the gospel, and to do so openly and authentically. As their pastor, I have to be willing to share my personal story with the congregation, including those areas of shame and how I am seeing Jesus move in the midst of those areas. The gospel is contrary to pretense, and so the gospel must come first and foremost from the pulpit. A pastor can only take people as far as he himself has gone. The story of the gospel has 3 key chapters: creation, fall, redemption. In all our relationships, we seek to honor those ways in which we reflect the image of God (creation), mourn those areas where we fall short of his image (fall), and look to the one who can renew us in his image (redemption). Simply put, we seek to share and stories and we invite people into them. And we even invite people to help us to see & promote the gospel in each of our stories. The gospel actually requires a community of faith, because Jesus never intended for us to see the gospel apart from community with others.
Darrell Young (Christians and Missionary Alliance): With this kind of group I would not be able to resist the temptation to ask them what THEY think of Jesus. Then I would like to hear what they think about our modern society and the heart of humanity. Is there evil? Then I would personalize it and talk about my own heart, and how I have thought of far worse than I have actually done. For example, I have had murderous thoughts, but I’ve never actually done it. Still, Jesus says this makes me a murderer. This is important because most people think that deep down they are pretty good. I want to direct them to their biggest need in life. The story of Jesus and the paralytic who was lowered through the roof could serve well. He obviously needed physical healing. But Jesus shocked everyone there by saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Our biggest need is to be forgiven our rebellion. So I would then take them to the cross and resurrection as an initiating, loving, sacrificial, forgiving action on the part of Jesus. He had the power and the love to create a wonderful exchange. He died so we could live. God treated His own son like a rebel so He could treat rebels like His own sons and daughters. I would emphasize the goodness of this and tell them that anyone who wants in on it must simply walk away from rebellion and see Jesus as the hope and focus of their earthly and eternal destiny.
Our gospel ‘promotion’ is best pictured from an analogy lifted from Mark Dever. We have to have two things: the preached word and some people. The Word goes out like a fountain, and the people are like a bowl to capture the Word and display it for the glory of God. We preach the gospel every week from whatever text we are in. This comes from the conviction that the Bible has a “Gospel Shape”. By this we mean that every text in both testaments ultimately speaks of Jesus. Then we need a people, an intergenerational family of brothers, sisters, parents, uncles, nieces, grandparents, kids, and friends to form the ‘bowl.’ This makes everyone necessary and all the activities and programs are really just ways to gather as a family and be what we’re supposed be: a disciplemaking community.
I saw this video on YouTube the other day about a guy who calls himself the Guerilla Gardener. He finds neglected areas in his city and sneaks out at night to plant flowers, herbs, and shrubs to beautify the landscape. His work is technically criminal mischief, but no one can deny the positive impact that his covert operations have on the surrounding neighborhoods. As I watched the video, I thought, â€œThis is what God is doing in our world.â€ He is transforming the darkness one area at a time. The Apostle Paul wrote, â€œ[God] delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.â€ (Colossians 1:13â€“14 NET) God is in the rescuing business. He infiltrates our world, grabs people out of the darkness, and teaches them a better way to live.
The Scriptures teach that there is something wrong with our world. I donâ€™t think many of us would dispute that. All around us we hear stories of injustice, hate, selfishness, and greed. Thatâ€™s the darkness, and the Scriptures call this darkness sin. Paul described sin as the cosmic force that is at work in each and every one of us. We see sinâ€™s symptoms on the six oâ€™clock news, and we see it in our own inability to live like we feel we should. But the Scriptures have good newsâ€”the world is not as God intended it, and itâ€™s not the way Heâ€™s leaving it. God is redeeming the world from sin. The redemption mission started 2000 years ago when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus died on a Roman cross for our sin, and three days later He rose from the dead. When Jesus rose, Godâ€™s rescue mission went into full tilt. God separated for himself a community, called the church, and He sent the Holy Spirit to empower this community to live the way we were created to live. God calls each and every one of us to become a part of this rescue effort. He calls us to leave the darkness and follow Jesus. Will you follow?
Believers Fellowship and The Gospel
Leo Tolstoy wrote, â€œEveryone wants to change the world, but nobody wants to change himself.â€ Changing the world means changing people, and we believe that the primary means by which the Holy Spirit changes people is the proclaimed Word of God. Paul wrote, â€œFor I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.â€ (Rom 1:16 NET) Because there is power in the proclaimed Word, biblical teaching is a key element to our ministry. But since we canâ€™t proclaim a message that we havenâ€™t embraced ourselves, we also emphasize living the Gospel. Our church partners with other organizations to promote compassion, community development, and social justice. Our most recent project partnered us with Tacoma Youth for Christ. We helped them with a remodel project that will transform an old tavern into a youth and family center for the residents of Tillicum, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Tacoma area.
I would say something like thisâ€¦
Life is a real bitch. Have you noticed? But you what to know something? God never intended it to be that way. He created you to have a perfect life with no dysfunctional families, heartache, sickness, money problems, or death but our rebellion against Godâ€™s perfect plan screwed it all up. Now we are faced with the repurcussions of our rebellious heartsâ€¦separation. Separation from all that God intended us to enjoy in this worldâ€¦separation from true community with othersâ€¦separation from true loveâ€¦separation from authentic peaceâ€¦separation from lasting fulfillment. Because of our love for self and hatred of God we have now isolated ourselves from the only source of meaning and purpose in this life. So where do we go from here?
This same God with whom weâ€™ve consistently turned our back on and spit in His face; stepped out of heaven, condescended to mankind and ultimately gave His life on a criminalâ€™s cross and was then raised from the dead three days later. Jesusâ€¦the Son of Godâ€¦your Creatorâ€¦became like you and took the punishment your sin and rebellion deserved. In so doing Godâ€™s holy wrath has been assuaged and relationship with Him has been made available to anyone who will call on Him, by recognizing their sinful condition, realizing that He offers the only solution to that condition, and then confessing Him as your Lord.
We are working to promote the gospel in three waysâ€¦
1. Preaching the gospel in every message from the pulpit – Every Christian message should be rooted in Christ and ultimately in the gospel.
2. Equipping our people to be preachers of the gospel in our community â€“ Every Christian should see themselves as on a mission and representing Christ in their context.
3. Providing venues for our church to preach the gospel â€“ We hold both small and large outreach events where we provide resources for our people to tangibly show the love of Christ to their friends and neighbors. A few examples would be:
a. Sportmanâ€™s Banquets
b. Summer Festivals
c. Soup Kitchen (www.oasissoupkitchen.com) We serve about 50 meals per day, 6 days a week.
d. Clothing Give aways
e. Work projects
f. Street Evangelism â€“ it doesnâ€™t always have to be consdescending and obnoxious.
g. Crook County Connect: An event we are hosting where we are gathering practical resources (medical, dental, food, clothing, counseling, etc) for the needy of our community.