Is the American church in the middle of a transformation? Over the last couple years, there are an increasing number of pastors who are rethinking church and Christianity. Many of these shifts were recently expressed by The Gospel Coalition. These three shifts will radically change the face of the church (quotes from The Gospel Coalition):
1. The Bible as Story (Normative) – The Church is being transformed to see the Bible as a redemptive story, which competes with the cultures worldview. It is holistic and involves all of someone's life. Compartmental Christianity doesn't work if this is being taught. This type of reading positions itself against individualism and consumerism, two of the biggest idols of our culture.
To read along the whole Bible is to discern the single basic plot-line of the Bible as God’s story of redemption (e.g., Luke 24:44) as well as the themes of the Bible (e.g., covenant, kingship, temple) that run through every stage of history and every part of the canon, climaxing in Jesus Christ. In this perspective, the gospel appears as creation, fall, redemption, restoration. It brings out the purpose of salvation, namely, a renewed creation.
2. The Gospel as bigger than an salvational entry-ticket (Existential) – Could the "10 Tips of Being a Better Husband" era be coming to a close? Will the gospel be seen as a solution of more than an individual's personal problems? The Church will begin to expand it's vision of God's redemptive plan both in terms of how this shapes a person's motivation and how they see the plan of redemption. The grace-renewal of this radically changes a person's desires and how they live. This type of gospel battles the idol of religion & legalism, common in our churches.
This gospel fills Christians with humility and hope, meekness and boldness, in a unique way. The biblical gospel differs markedly from traditional religions as well as from secularism. Religions operate on the principle: “I obey, therefore I am accepted,” but the gospel principle is: “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey.” So the gospel differs from both irreligion and religion. You can seek to be your own “lord and savior” by breaking the law of God, but you can also do so by keeping the law in order to earn your salvation.
3. A Missional posture towards the culture (Situational) – The idea of being missional is now everywhere. People realize, sin is not a disease we can catch. We are called to be in not of the world. (Yet if #1 & 2 aren't what drive the mission, it will have less or little impact.) Being on mission also moves past the self-obsessed depressive culture we swim in to be radically other-centered. It is a natural outflow of the first two points being lived out.
We want to be a church that not only gives support to individual Christians in their personal walks with God, but one that also shapes them into the alternative human society God creates by his Word and Spirit.
A church that embodies all three of these is part of the Gospel Awakening that is taking place. The Gospel Coalition states (Also read The Error of the Uniperspectival Church ):
"The ministry we have outlined is relatively rare. There are many seeker-driven churches that help many people find Christ. There are many churches seeking to engage the culture through political activism. There is a fast-growing charismatic movement with emphasis on glorious, passionate, corporate worship. There are many congregations with strong concern for doctrinal rigor and purity and who work very hard to keep themselves separate from the world. There are many churches with a radical commitment to the poor and marginalized."
More and more, churches and leaders will be challenged to re-think how they are being the church through the broader lens of the Gospel. Is it part of a larger transformation that will lead to The Gospel Awakening? Only time will tell….