In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas’s last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor’s Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]
Okay everybody, before I get to this thing on this chart; the cycles of the Two Gospels, let me just say something. I am not going to have time to go through this on page 2. Will you turn to page 2 on that handout? This little idea is helpful when you are talking about VIM and when you are talking about The Golden Triangle because those are two wonderful frameworks for change.
Here is another one—this is a third thing you might want to consider. I say this, “There are two reasons why people seek life change or transformation and if we had time, we would do this. [You might want to write this down around that because this is what you would do with these two points.] Think of a time in your life where you went through some sort of a change—a radical change or a new way of thinking in your mind. It could be your own conversion. It could be another experience you had somewhere where something changed in you. Think about that and then—are yal thinking about that? What were the conditions of your life that propelled that change? What were the conditions of your life at that moment, at that time that propelled the change? Then what I would do with my classes and I do this all the time. Now, tell me what the conditions were. Somebody said, “Well, I had a very influential person come into my life.” Boom! We put that on the board. “I went through a divorce.” “I had somebody die in my life.” Those were the conditions that propelled a shift. Are you with me?
So, we would have on this board—all of us in this room with different conditions that would relate to that change and then I would go into this. There are only two reasons why people change. I got this in one of the DMIN classes I had when I was here. Change theorists say Number 1: The level of dissatisfaction, discomfort or pain of their current condition propels them to seek change. There are three words that go in that blank—dissatisfaction, discomfort or pain. So, the level of dissatisfaction, discomfort or pain of their current condition propels them to seek change in some way. Number Two: a new compelling vision for a different reality of life propels them to seek change. OK? [2:49]
Now, you want to think this through because I’ll tell you the truth, if we had put all the conditions of the folks in this room of change, I would guarantee you they would fit into one of those two categories. That’s it! So, the bottom line—my contention is that none of us really moves toward change unless a certain level of dissatisfaction, discomfort or pain of our current condition propels us towards something different. You will not move. In other words, when you are comfortable. When comfort is your chief end and if that is your paramount issue, you’ve now kind of “sunk” yourself from growth in any way. OK? The second thing is again a new compelling vision.
Now, what I will do often with my classes after this or have people do in the classroom or at the church. You would say, “Now, let’s talk about when you see Jesus in the Gospels, how does Jesus employ these two things in His ministry? And you see this all over the Gospels—the fact that He’s using parables, which have a subversive quality to them. They create this discomfort. Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom was a new compelling vision of a different reality. This is why He says, “People are pressing their way into the Kingdom” because now they were eligible. People that did not think they were eligible for life in God now got the door open and they were pressing in with that new knowledge. That’s a new compelling vision for a different reality. [4:45]
So, if you can put VIM, the triangle and this kind of teaching together, it creates a bit of a comprehensive view about how change works and I just don’t think people think about how this works for them at all. They don’t have any connections. So, this is where we have to teach; we’ve got to help give people an understanding that if they want to grow—it’s not rocket science. All the signs are right there in front of us, either in Scripture or in these ways that we can help people with that. Does that make sense? Now, we didn’t get to do that exercise. It’s very powerful when you put your story up on the board and you really actually deal with this. [5:34]
What I want to do is get to this little chart and this will probably upset some of you, I know that. It brings me great joy to upset you. I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I want you to know that this chart is a generalization; it’s not for everybody. In general, I believe—and this is a Gospel of the Right—we all know about the Gospel of the right. Some of you are Mainliners here and I guess I should probably go through those streams. Which page do I have those three streams? [Page 3] All right, this might be perfect before I do this.
Three Streams in the Conversion Process—Scott McKnight has written a book called Turning to Jesus. It’s called sociology of conversion. It’s actually I think in that article that Richard Peace did critiquing this; yes, I think it’s in there. Here is what he says, “There are three streams in the broad Christian church—Evangelical Stream, so let’s use over on the left on that line, put Evangelical above, and then in the middle line, put Mainline—M/L (Mainline Church), and then on the right line, RC/Ortho, Roman Catholic/Orthodox—the broad church. His contention is that initiating into the church, that these three branches do initiation differently. OK? What he says the evangelicals do and this is our primary for many of us in this room. The primary way people initiate into the faith is personal decision. So, put personal decision on that line under Evangelical. Under Mainline, put socialization. Under Roman Catholic/Orthodox, liturgical acts. OK? [7:40]
So, those folks that initiate people into faith, the primary transaction that is critically important for an evangelical would be that you get people to make a personal decision. Now, what are the personal decisions? Let’s just flesh them out. What are they? It could be The Sinner’s prayer, an altar call; whatever means you employ to make a personal decision or transaction. That has been the norm. Now, let me just be honest here. How many of you come from traditions that that is a part of your tradition; raise your hand—okay, most of the folks in here. [8:21]
The next category—Mainlines are United Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, others, –you normally would not go into those church and will not see them have an invitation to come to the altar and say “the sinners prayer.” Often, you can push back at me, Tom but most often times, mainline churches don’t employ this methodology. It’s a socialization model. You come to our church and be a part of us and be embraced by us; look at what we believe and who we are, live with us and you will catch the virus. You will catch it. You will just catch what we’ve got. How many of you does that ring true for? OK; some.
Roman Catholic/Orthodox—your initiation into the life of the church is though the sacraments and catechism and all of those kinds of things; that’s how initiation occurs. So, how many of you came through that means? So, when I talk about the cycle of Two Gospels, I am talking about the evangelical piece here, okay because that’s the majority of us here but you can do this kind of thinking yourself about your own tribe, okay? And you should. You should know what does your tribe believe about initiating into faith. It will be very instructive for you. I do this with my class and we have kind of fun with it. [9:58]
I come from this group here [Evangelical] –but a conversion gospel is one that you need to come to Jesus, in order to be forgiven of your sins so you can go to Heaven. Simplification, but do you get that. That is that model. What does that model produce when that is done? When you take that transaction and it’s done, what do you become? A Christian. I think that’s the dominant identifying term that we have in our churches. You become a Christian. Now, again, we have adopted a term, and also this gospel when you think about it, the main focus of this gospel is the after life. If that’s our aim is to get people to Heaven, well, actually, it is a couple things: to get people forgiven and then get to Heaven. OK? So, that’s dominant and it’s really more focused to deal with that so you can get to Heaven when you die. And that’s why the question that is most asked in this Gospel is what? “If you were to die tonight, where would you be?” So, we set it up in those kinds of terms and then we play it out. It’s a great little default system. It is! It’s worked out. It’s so easy. You just go with it and us works, ya know. But it’s different in this side over here. But, let’s fill this side out. [11:45]
We produce Christians here and again, Christians, in our culture, we’ve got to get this clear with our folks. Christians don’t have any fuel in that identification. It wasn’t a term they adopted for themselves until they got down the road in the early church. The first disciples never said, “Hey, I’m a Christian.” I mean, that was what others called them. The term came as an outcome of their life. The term Christian was an outcome. It wasn’t a self-identifying term. “You little Christ” and it was a derogatory term. It wasn’t even a positive term; it was a negative term. “You little Christ—you little….” So most of our people that come in under this; once you make a Christian, it produces a cycle because this is really fully encompassing. Once you’ve prayed the prayer, essentially, you are done, right? Because if I come back later and say, “Alright, you’ve said the prayer but now, I want to talk to you about discipleship.” Well, wait a second, “why do I need to do that? If I’ve prayed and received Christ and am going to Heaven, why do I need to do that?” It becomes an “add-on.” People can figure that out over time so it’s so self-contained but what happens is the result of this Gospel in a cycle of church life is the first thing it produces is passivity. Now, why do I say passivity because really, there is noting more that I have to do in that model. So, passivity is where I begin. We may say, “Go ahead and do these things—go to church, read your Bible” but by in large, folks, really once you give them this Gospel; they really don’t have to do anything. They really don’t have to. So, it’s done. So, it creates somebody in the pew that is already set up for passivity. [14:02]
Passivity goes somewhere and turns into what do we do then at church. Well, I’m passive. We basically preach at them about doing things. We get them to do—do this, do that, do this then create “trying” and we talked about that. Trying generally moves to failure and this model, that’s the best we get when becoming a Christian is become now trying. You just try to do what the pastor says. Do what their message says. Try to read your Bible and do what it says. It’s just a thorough “trying” model and trying is dying and trying equals failure and what happens after failure? Where does failure go? Guilt. OK? People are guilty. We have a lot of folks that are guilty. Do you see this progression so far? I just need to know; is this looking familiar? [15:11]
OK; so people come in. They are trying. They are trying to do better with their marriage. They are trying to love their kids. They are trying to be a better employee. They are just doing their best and they fail. So, what is that producing? It produces guilt. After awhile, people say, “Well, you know, I like church though. I like the singing. I like the fellowship. I like all of that so I am not going to leave the church so what do I do with my guilt?”
In this model, the best I have next is pretending. This pretending can lead in a couple directions because the church has tried to deal with this. I think we’ve all realized that we don’t want to do that and want people to be just pretending but how many people do you know that are absolutely suffering at church but they go to church and smile and say, “I’m doing alright” and they play the game because they don’t want to look out of step or like they’ve got problems. They don’t want to bleed on people. They don’t have tight relationships so you just pretend and say, “I’ll make it and I’m doing alright.” [16:25]
That can go two ways. From here, it can go to just living a life that is futility or mediocrity. That’s where that leads and there are tons of people that sit in church; that’s where they are. There is a sense of futility or mediocrity. “I know God loves me and I’ll just do the best I can and I’ll just suffer through my job. I’ll just bare it the best I can.” There are countless people that that are where they are. But, oftentimes, when it gets down to this level of guilt and pretending, there is a way that people go and that is what we’ve talked about. One of our answers in evangelicalism is that we’ve now embraced the whole idea of authenticity and under authenticity I would put honesty and brokenness and this is where I think a lot of churches now have like Christian 12 Step Groups, Celebrate Recovery and all of those things. We’ve realized that it is not—our people have struggles. Many churches realize it. We are not doing it. People aren’t being transformed but we do know that there is a place they can go and be honest. Oftentimes, this group is the stepchild over in the corner of the church, ya’ know. Oh, those are those recovery folks over there. There is vibrancy there and something happening there but we don’t necessarily jump on over there. [18:11]
But, you see, here’s what happens. This is meant to be a wall here and what we were trying to get at when we were talking about Yancey. I love Yancey and when I first started reading Phillip Yancey, I loved Yancey because, for me, he articulated the reality of the areas where church hasn’t really done the job. You could read him and say, “Yea, Phillip, you are right on. I can relate with that. The saddest part of Philip—you see, I’ve been around Dallas too long. Philip never got me through this wall. I couldn’t’ break through that wall. The best I could do was just keep being authentic, broken and honest but I keep bumping up against this wall. I want to get over this wall to Christ like transformation. It just never quite gets us through that wall. Do you know what I am saying? So, this is oftentimes the cycle that we have to discuss and then we come back over here. This is the cycle of what this brings. [19:12]
Now, give me a little feedback. Does that cycle look familiar? Willow Creek—The Reveal Study—an example. They counted on their excitement. The Reveal Study—what it really showed when you get to the bottom line is they thought that if I use that basic gospel—if I get people in that have made a commitment to Christ, and I get them in a small group and I get them busy at church and I get them committed here and excited and growing, that that will grow them—that was what The Reveal Study was about and guess what The Reveal Study said? All of those things—it revealed to them that that did not make somebody a mature disciple. It did not get them to the point of transformation. That was what that whole study was about. [20:01]
Now, let’s go to the Whole Life gospel. What do you think this produces? Disciples and we know the power of that word. To me, this has very clear fuel and this deals with present life and to come. You know? The question you would ask in this one is different than this one. This one you ask, “If you were to die tonight, would God let you into Heaven?” And this one you might say, “If you knew you could live forever, what kind of person would you like to be?” That’s a good question to ask, isn’t it? If you knew you were going to live forever, what kind of person would you like to be? What kind of person are you becoming or what kind of person would you like to be? It’s about becoming a different kind of person.
The results of this by being a disciple; and remember a disciple is linked to a teacher. It’s not a disciple necessarily of just ideology; it’s a person we are talking about. This is something we clearly bring to give clarity to folks—your attachment to Jesus. Again, when I talk about discipleship, I am not talking about discipleship to me. If you are a Senior Pastor, your job is not to be necessarily disciplining to you, you are disciplining people in attachment to Jesus. That’s where that attachment geos. So, really, the results of this is trusting Jesus, operative word as Rabbi and teacher. [21:47]
Now, I put down at the bottom of this little portrait here the four terms. Renovare uses these four terms or roles of Jesus. We all know these in the church. Lord, Savior, Teacher, Friend—those four ways that we relate to Jesus. I would say that for people to get a magnificent view of Jesus, we really need all of these. They have to have all of this magnificent view of Jesus. [22:21]
On this side of the ledger, we have focused Jesus on two terms—Lord and Savior. These are the operative terms on this side. Primarily, we say Savior. Obviously, He is my Savior and forgives me of my sins. If people relate to Jesus primarily as their Savior, the only time they need Jesus is when they sin or they are in need. There is really no need for Jesus outside of those kinds of things and that’s why people “live their life.” They live their life, “my life’s my life. Oh, but when I sin and when I am conscious of that or when I am needy, I go to Jesus.”—if you don’t give them this holistic picture of Jesus and the role He plays. If we see Him as Lord, oftentimes in that one, it’s about duty. It’s about here is this master or this taskmaster oftentimes if we don’t present that in a right way.
But, these are the dominant terms. You don’t hear much on this side about Jesus as Teacher and we’ve talked about this already. It’s really because when evangelicalism and fundamentalism tried to distinguish themselves form liberalism, they jettison teacher to the liberals. Jesus, as Teacher—they jettisoned that over there and said you can have that but we will take Jesus as Lord and Savior. We want the big guns. The thought that’s the big guns but I see teacher as something that is about my everyday life. See, when you really teach about Jesus being their Teacher—actually, all of these really but they have to understand the role of Jesus being their Rabbi, their Teacher and that relates to being—and why do we bring that up? Because they are a disciple. Jesus is their teacher. He is going to teach them how to live life in the Kingdom of God. So I wake up each day and say, “Jesus, teach me how to live this life. Teach me in my job. You know more about my job as a mathematician and an engineer or a schoolteacher—I trust you because you have all wisdom and knowledge as my teacher to teach me. You are not just my Savior who forgives me of sin and you are not just my Lord who I am just supposed to obey. I actually relate to you.” So, teacher is big. So, you find these two kind of primarily ending up over here. [24:49]
So, we begin—the result of being disciples is we trust Jesus as Teacher and Rabbi. Secondly, daily discipleship to Jesus. That’s what the next thing leads to. That’s what the next thing leads to. This goes this way here–daily discipleship to Jesus.
Then this moves from there—training. How does that discipleship look? It’s about training. This is where these two now are very different. We have training over here. We have trying over here and what kind of training is it? It’s personal and corporate. This is where honesty, brokenness, all of that occurs in this training piece on this side of the ledger. It’s not that we are not into this; we are, but this is where it happens. The biggest thing I say to some of the groups that I am in and in church especially is, “My goal in regard to your transformation or at least thinking about change and growth is I want to get you to change from a Sunday to Sunday model paradigm of growth to a Monday to Monday paradigm. I want you to think about that and what that means. You are shifting now from a Sunday-to-Sunday model of spiritual growth to a Monday-to-Monday model. What do you think I mean by that? Every day. See, people are operating and we’ve run church on a basically a Sunday to Sunday model. Your growth is dependent on you coming on Sunday and you go out and live your life and good luck if it actually works out. When people shift from a Sunday-to-Sunday paradigm and they’ve now gone to Monday, wow. Sunday is in the Monday-to-Monday paradigm, you see that? Their formation is now 24/7. Their job is critical; people work 60 hours a week at a place and we don’t even have messages on how to talk about living transformationally in their job or seeing their job as a place of transformation. You see, we’ve got to make some of these shift but you get that over there. This is where honesty and brokenness comes in but it doesn’t end here. [27:22]
Here is a piece of the Gospel that you never get on the side. On this side, there is a reason for this training. There is a reason for this transformation. We are not just into transformation and Christlikeness for an end in itself. We’re training for reigning. We’re training for something beyond ourselves so this Gospel goes from here to here to here and this training is for fulfilling God’s agenda for the world. So, you see the different trajectory and then this fulfilling of God’s agenda for the world is all about formation. We are not blocked off now from this transformation. They are very different in kind of their approaches, aren’t’ they? Is this helpful?—visual to work with or at least talk about? Now, it has it’s holes but again, by talking about it, by teaching, by putting something up for people to see, you can get some conversation—people say, “Oh, wow!” Lights go on. Right? “There is something there I never realized that this is what it meant to be a disciples or how it works” so, these are some things. [28:51]
I invite you to do is to take these pages, look it over and I will be around if you want more clarification on some of this stuff, you know; obviously, we only have another day but I’ll be around all afternoon and this evening and we can talk some more but I hope that some of this material—the thinking that we’ve done has been practical and helpful. Is that all right?
Now, I also gave you a little article there by Deiter Zander. The greatest help I have had over the past 25 years are little articles like The Great Omission stuff—like this little thing by Deiter. Getting it in front of folks and having them think through concepts, articles can be very, very helpful. Read that. Take a look at it. There’s incredible mileage you can get out of some of these things in conversation and teaching.
I guess I want to end by just challenging you. Find a place where you can teach this stuff and run with those ready to run. Run with those ready to run and you will start a fire. It takes these embers and they get going and boom, it will start a fire. I’ve been very grateful over the years even the hard churches that I was at; I saw incredible fruit in folks that were ready to go. I really did and I cherish God’s use in all the places that I have been because of this material and what we have done. It’s probably what has kept me in ministry to be honest with you. I don’t think I could have made it without this in my pocket. So, thank you. Thanks everybody. I’ll pass it back to Dallas. [30:38]
Dallas: I have put this book up here and this is an attempt by a Methodist to talk about discipleship and we are going to talk about some of the original stuff from the Methodists shortly but if you have a chance to read it—it’s a good book and I like this man a lot but there is something missing. And you are not going to see an outbreak of Methodism in the contemporary world if this is all you have and I’d like for you to think about what is missing and when we look at some stuff from Wesley this afternoon that is in your notebook, perhaps we can discuss that. [Comment from student] I’m sorry. Michael Henderson’s A Model for Making Disciples—and so let me say bluntly, “It won’t work and it won’t work because the VIM model is not all there” and you may want to think about what’s missing.
Let me say, you’d be much better to do what he says than what most of us wind up doing anyway in our churches so please don’t. Remember that and in the fellowship of Christ, criticism is loving insight shared speaking the truth in love. We have to do that. [32:18]
Another thing I wanted to say is you can have conversion here. [He points to the “other” side of the chart Keith was referring to.] This does not exclude conversion and some of our greatest Christians through the ages have actually been people with “ripping” conversions and they were here. St. Augustine is one of the clearest illustrations of that. Boy, did he ever have a conversion, right? Now, it’s worth studying in his Confessions—a book called Confessions. So, there is no problem with conversion on these two cases. The problem is that we equate conversion with that magical moment of mental ascent that translates the merits of Christ into our bank account. That’s not the only model of conversion, right? So, remember that. [33:21]
Now, final point and I don’t think any of this is contrary to what Keith is saying—you and I have known people for whom this was the whole story and they have been marvelous saints. That’s the “blind hog with the acorn” but the truth is, God blesses us even if we are wrong and that’s really a challenging thought for us as we think in terms of going forward and we look at people and say, “Well, you know, I think you are wrong.” And is that the same things as, “I’m out of here. You’re wrong!” Well, I’ll tell you, there is appoint at which it is that, right? And you have to think about all the things we are fighting about currently in the religious camp and I hesitate to go into illustrative examples because they are so contentious.
For example, are your beliefs about the Bible determinative of whether or not you’re here or here? See, we get these discussions going about can women be ordained and you dig a little big and you find it’s really about do you believe the Bible and that will show up pretty fast in many contexts. Well, if you believe that woman could be ordained, you don’t believe the Bible, right? So, now that’s now.
Did Jesus rise from the dead? OK: that’s one where I am ready at a certain point to walk out because now that is really—if you don’t believe that—that’s going to affect everything in your life. Well, what about the Virgin Birth? Well, it’s interesting to think about that and certainly, if you believe there was not a Virgin Birth, then what does that mean? Well, for some people, that means that Christ was not divine. OK: that’s one story. Others, it’s actually a discussion about whether or not you can trust two texts as a basis for serious—but, I’ll tell you this; if you believe the universe is not a place where there could be a Virgin Birth, you’ve got troubles. And if you believe the Universe is a place where there could be a Virgin Birth, you’ve got some real stuff to stand for and work with at that point. [36:24]
But, you don’t think of it as a “brownie point.” Excuse the crude language. It isn’t like check that off and you check off a certain number and you get into Heaven. It’s the difference that what we believe makes in our life. Now, that’s a major issue and we may want to fight about that because many people think that being right with God is like you know your driver’s test—miss three and your are out, right? [37:00]
So, now I have raised a lot of scary stuff here but this is so helpful and I did think we needed to just push it a little further because it is so helpful. And we have got to come to grips somehow with this issue of security of the saints and grace and how that all works and the relationship between grace and what you do and falling from grace and all of that. I personally don’t believe in the perseverance of the Saints. I believe in the perseverance of the Savior and I really do believe that but now then, who has got it? How do you know? You walk down front or you did something or you went through being baptized as a baby and you went through catechism and you really do accept the stuff, you know? Well, does that mean that you got it?
Now, as a Baptist preacher, I was taught that one of my main businesses was to convince people that they were saved and I really don’t think that’s our business. Now, I think we can help people who are troubled on that point. We can do that but we have to be careful and the famous Roman road—many people have got on board the train by following that Roman road. Sorry I’m mixing metaphors but—so, you don’t want to say to someone, “Well, you did this and ehhh, that doesn’t look right to me” because what really matters is what went on between God and the individual, right? And we are not really in a position to check that off if I may say so. You know if someone wants to know if they are saved, I can find evidence that they are. Finding evidence that they aren’t is harder. See, a person that is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and the character of Christ, listen, “they ain’t no problem.” But you see, we’ve created a culture where that’s not the standard—where you can be a Christian without doing that. That creates problems. OK. I’d better give you a chance to say something. [Laughter] So, say something. Richard, say something. [39:50]
Q: Are you able to move from one side of the chart to the other?
A: Well, they can move to the right. Now, if you start talking about 2 Peter 1, which we’ve talked about, you know—“the glorious promises, being delivered from the corruption that is in the world through lusts and then add to your faith, virtue and to your virtue knowledge and all the way up through Philadelphia to agape”—it seems to me it would be rather hard not to move over here because that person is going to be living a whole life Gospel. Now, maybe they’ve never heard of whole life Gospel and maybe they’ve just heard this one but they really love Jesus and they think He is absolutely the greatest. I don’t see how they can not move over there. [40:51]
Q: Could you explain the role of the Spirit in this?
A: There is a lot to be said about that—you know, “the hound of Heaven” picture that God is pursuing you. Of course, the Holy Spirit and other instrumentalities would be involved in that. The crucial point is that it is the Holy Spirit that imparts life from above. Now, you have a new life in you, okay? That’s the crucial element and now then, the Holy Spirit continues to work with you and you have different statements about this in the Bible –baptism, anointing, filling, fruit of the spirit, gifts of the spirit and so on. So, now, in affect, the life of the person who has been brought to new life: the option is to have your new life surrounded and filled with the Holy Spirit and that would manifest it in various ways but that will not be automatic.
You can grieve the Holy Spirit and not cooperate with him; resist Him, right? So, you always want to remember that. Just the fact that you’ve been born again doesn’t mean now, it will be taken care of. You still have to have intelligent engagement, well informed scripturally and you have to act on it and that’s where things like disciplines come in. I hope that you have been developing an understanding of disciplines that is rich enough. Remember that one of the things I said—the reason why human beings require disciplines, not only in their religion, but in everything is because God has determined that they should be responsible for the kind of person they become. Now, so some one, says, “Without the Holy Spirit?” No, no, no, not without the Holy Spirit, but if they won’t act, the Holy Spirit won’t do it. [42:57]
Q: How do we discern between a life truly transformed by the Gospel and one, which is based on a “social” Gospel?
A: Well, this is deep work and we have to start by saying, “There is no Gospel that is not social.” That’s where we have to start. The idea that there could be a Gospel, which was not social is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Jesus is about and all of the material that comes under the heading of what comes to be the “social “ Gospel is simply the outworking of the commandment to love God and your neighbor.
See, that has been left out of the Gospel. You don’t have to love God. You don’t have to love your neighbor. Now, then great need presents itself and we live in a time where God is at work in technology because He’s got in mind global transformation and technology is God at work and you could get a lot of different things out of that. For example, terrorism as we know it is the result of the advances of technology but also the ability to make trips—mission trips, you know? It’s hard to do that in a covered wagon. You need some different forms of transportation, a way of moving money around and so on. So, God is on the move and our young people look at that and they say, “Hey, something needs to be done.” The basic moral motivation of human beings “steps up” in young people and they begin to want to do something and I watch this with my students at USC all the time. Very often, they are in fact devout Christians but sometimes they are not. They just say, “Hey, we need to do something about this.” And so then we have to talk about what can actually do something about it. Is it mission trips? Is it charity? Is it government action? What is it that can actually do something about the condition that the world is in? And then you have some really wonderful moves like the International Justice Mission. I don’t know if you are familiar with that. See, they work with the system—the police and the lawyers and the government people in Cambodia about sexual slavery for children and so on. See, that’s a different level because they are now going after the structures in the country and they are educating and they are saving people and charity is a part of it but they don’t just do that. So, the first move is to get over the idea that there is a Gospel that is not social. There isn’t any such thing and the move to that is simply a part of a larger set of misunderstandings but there is also no social without Gospel. You gonna do social? You better go to the Gospel first and that will enable you to do something like genuinely love people and maybe surrender your whole life to changing circumstances. [46:34]
Q: What is the vision that provides the motivation for these Gospels?
A: John 3:16—God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whoever believes in Him would not lead a futile and failing existence but would lead an eternal kind of life. Now, see you have to get over the idea that that is a forgiveness of sins thing. John 3 is not about forgiveness of sins; it is about new life from above and God so loved the world that He sent His Son into the world and, by the end of the New Testament, people have begun to have some good ideas about who that guy was, you know? It’s like the old Lone Ranger thing—“Who was that masked man?” And that’s what people say, “Who was that Jesus guy?” And John says at the end of his narrative in the Gospel, “I’ve written these things that you might understand who Jesus is” and, we are still in the process. [47:45]
Q: Would you call the spiral of the Gospel being “I see Jesus working in this moment?”
A: Yeah and the spiral tends–hopefully, it’s an upward spiral and it gives you an elevated view of what has gone below and the spiral will do that and eventually, it should be that the church or the people of Christ are sustaining a vision of the whole world.
Now, see, we went through this in various ways. For example, the great missionary movement that came some time ago—1700-1800’s—where you had people going out and taking their coffins with them and so that was one form of that but now, we are in a different place and so, we need to rise with the spiral and need to give that vision to the church and what we are looking for is the creation of a wave. And you all can be part of that—a wave of Christ coming evermore fully into the world through people. And you have to create a wave; not just a person here and there and that’s what happened in the early church was a person here and there and then pretty soon, we had a wave and pretty soon we had a wave that nothing could stand against and that is what we are looking for now.
Bill, ask the blessing for us!