Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do we change the Gospel Model to Reach Newer Generations?

People who are stanch advocates of the veracity of the Christian Gospel will find it difficult to entertain the notion that a modified gospel may be necessary to reach different generations. After all, the celebrated good news is only ‘good’ because it remedies something so horribly ‘bad.’ Allow me to describe first the conventional understanding of the Gospel, and then suggest a conversation point.

Here is an abbreviated gospel summary. God is holy and created the first human creatures with the capacity to obey or defy God’s command. Although the consequence of disobedience was unambiguous, the insubordination of early humans infected all humanity subjecting it to God’s wrath and the punishment of death and hell after physical death. The good news comes because God’s mercy provided His divine Son Jesus Christ as a stand-in to experience God’s punishment and all who with simple trust in Christ as God’s Son and personal Saviour are exempted from this punishment because they are adjudicated as righteous now.

That’s the model with which the Christian Church has developed. What if the newest generations, like the iGens do not identify with the presenting issues that compel people to respond to God’s grace? What if iGens do not possess a sense of morality, which is a robust sense of right and wrong? That is the premise of Alan Mann’s book, Atonement for a Sinless Society. If you are going to stake you eternal hope of Jesus based on a sense that without him we are wrong and sinful and condemned, Mann argues that the iGen doesn’t feel that need. He believes that iGens do not feel guilt for sin as much as they feel ashamed when they don’t achieve something they should accomplish.

So the notion then develops that a different model of the gospel and of evangelism is required to reach these generations. Instead of heaping on the guilt, inundate them with the life of Jesus. Teach the life of Jesus, live out the life of Jesus and ultimately make him real. This is Jesus as seen in the lives of people genuinely filled with compassion rather than Jesus as revealed by institutional religion. They will like Jesus but perhaps not the church. The church may be too political, judgmental, organized, fundamentalist and chauvinistic whereas Jesus is obvious and real in the lives of believers who listen, help, serve, and heal.

Alan Mann, Atonement for a Sinless Society
Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus But Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations. Kimball on Youtube
Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet
Images of Jesus personality profile designed by North England Institute for Christian Education

Read Scot McKnight’s article The Gospel for iGens in the summer issue of Leadership Journal at LeadershipJournal.net

What are the real lessons here? I am pretty sure I don't have to answer this for you. I have to pull up my socks.

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