September 17, 2014

iMonk: The Jesus Disconnect (1)

Disconnected

Note from CM: Back in 2009, Michael Spencer some posts exploring what he called, “The Jesus Disconnect.” Here is an edited version of the first post in that series.

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Nothing has impressed me more in my last few years of writing, reading and discussion than the disconnect the average Christian believer feels from the ministry of Jesus, specifically his miracles, exorcisms, teachings, training of disciples and encounters with individuals as described in the first half of the Gospels.

For many Christians, their view of Jesus is much like the movie Passion of the Christ. The story of Jesus begins with the suffering of Jesus, with the ministry of Jesus fading anonymously into the background, appearing occasionally in a few moralistic or sentimentally devotional flashbacks.

This disconnect leaves me with the feeling that many Jesus-followers are almost cynical regarding the relevance of the ministry of Jesus for anything other than preaching “lessons” from the example of Jesus. The actual significance of this major portion of scripture seems to be confusing to many Christians.

The disconnection from the ministry of Jesus takes several different forms.

1. At times, it is a stated preference for Jesus as presented in the Pauline epistles. This preference can be modest, defensive or hostile. In its more extreme forms, the person wanting to serious consider the place of the ministry of Jesus in an overall approach to Christianity may be accused of denying the Gospel, or of replacing a Gospel of justification with a Gospel of “the Kingdom.”

2. The disconnect may be a belief that the ministry of Jesus actually is an inspiration to liberal, socialistic misunderstandings and abuses of the Gospel.

3. The disconnect may grow out of a belief that the church Jesus founded and its current ministry in the world is the goal toward which all of Jesus’ words and actions pointed. To take Jesus’ ministry seriously is to wrongly emphasize the “seed” stage over the more mature “plant” or “tree.”

4. Others who are disconnected from the ministry of Jesus simply do not know what to do with the example, teachings and significance of Jesus’ ministry today. They are frequently quick to state that we don’t follow Jesus’ teaching literally and have no real need to do so.

5. Most evangelicals are operating off an outline of the Gospel that gives no real significance to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus death and resurrection have significance in personal evangelism, but the ministry of Jesus does not, so this part of the Biblical presentation of Jesus is easy to disconnect.

Disconnected-colorThere may be other reasons for this disconnect from the ministry of Jesus, but these seem to me to be the primary responses that I hear, read and observe.

These are the questions that catch my interest as I think about “The Jesus Disconnect”:

  • First, how do we view the ministry of Jesus in an overall consideration of Jesus?
  • Second, how does the ministry of Jesus participate in the Gospel and all that the Gospel does?
  • Third, how can we access the ministry of Jesus in a Jesus shaped Christian life?
  • Finally, what are the implications for evangelicals of recovering the entirety of Jesus as presented in the scripture?

Comments

  1. I think that the problem is that we have turn the Gospel of Jesus into “fire insurance” instead of “the amazing wonderfull life giving, full of hope, full of joy, restoring of the heart, life and life to the full, comdeming of sin yet forgiving the sinner” Gospel that Jesus came to bring us. The reason why the church in general is having this Jesus Disconnect is because Jesus makes things messy! and very messy!!! It does not fit in a box and you can’t control it. When we preach the Gospel we need to preach the full Gospel, not just “pray and be save from hell” this is the worst thing that we can do to the Gospel, making something that is so rich into something cheap

    If a church we want to success in the next couple of years we are going to have to buy into the Gospel that Jesus preached and not the one that we have been preaching for the last 100 years or so. It is hard to say this, but as a church in general we care more about programs, buildings and numbers that we care about Jesus and His ministry

    • “If the church wants…” sorry for the error

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think that the problem is that we have turn the Gospel of Jesus into “fire insurance” instead of “the amazing wonderfull life giving, full of hope, full of joy, restoring of the heart, life and life to the full, comdeming of sin yet forgiving the sinner” Gospel that Jesus came to bring us.

      And the Evangelical emphasis on a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation hasn’t helped. Not that much distance between that kind of limited Gospel and Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Gospel of Utter Selfishness; especially after entropy has a few decades to set in.

  2. I agree very much with Marko. I think in the Evangelical circles that we are too quick to take a new Christian and pound into them that their responsibility it is to “win others to Christ”. So we push them out the door figuratively telling them to multiply themselves. I have been on both sides believe me. The problem with that type of thinking is that the individual never gets the time to establish roots, to truly journey with Jesus, to really absorb and take time to truly live within the Gospel. It is, as Marco so beautifully pointed out, a way of life. But in our driven culture, much as with our biological children, we never give the young believer time to be just that – young. We want them to go from born to mature in one week. That is what I appreciate about the liturgical church. Because it is plain old old it walks leisurely, calmly, truly trusting God to provide all that’s needed for growth if they remain faithful to the “rituals”. There is no manic urgency.

    A friend who has just left a large Evangelical church for a liturgical one was just laughing with me and saying how “funny” it feels for her and her husband. They have been at their new church for about 2 months and no one has approached them to get involved in any group or to “get busy” and that they seemed totally unconcerned about church growth. I am ahead of them by a few years and I told them it would be a true culture shock.

    So as Michael Spencer’s post says, “To take Jesus’ ministry seriously is to wrongly emphasize the “seed” stage over the more mature “plant” or “tree.” We want fire and radical when in fact the Scripture says, tell your children the stories when you walk along the way, when you sit down to a meal etc. In the everydayness of life talk about Jesus, tell them His story, immerse yourself and them in it. Don’t beat them over the head about salvation. As one young teenager said when being baptized, “I’m here because my Dad made me.” Ooops! Not the “testimony” Dad was hoping for.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I agree very much with Marko. I think in the Evangelical circles that we are too quick to take a new Christian and pound into them that their responsibility it is to “win others to Christ”. So we push them out the door figuratively telling them to multiply themselves.

      In two words from another IMonk Classic:
      WRETCHED URGENCY.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      So as Michael Spencer’s post says, “To take Jesus’ ministry seriously is to wrongly emphasize the “seed” stage over the more mature “plant” or “tree.” We want fire and radical when in fact the Scripture says, tell your children the stories when you walk along the way, when you sit down to a meal etc.

      In other words, “The Little Way” of St Threrese, God in everyday routine.

      Or the Jewish emphasis on “Keep My Commandments, but Live Your Life!”

      And if we want “fire and radical”, what happens when non-Christian faiths or secular movements offer more Fire and more Radical? Because Extreme Islam, Communism, and Objectivism can all get very Fiery and Radical.

  3. I think Jesus did and said things that do not fit with the theologies that we have built. In my own experience I had been living a one dimensional faith, when I re-discovered Jesus it was like waking up to the real world. I found someone irresistible.

  4. I have to admit I’m puzzled by point 2 above,

    “2. The disconnect may be a belief that the ministry of Jesus actually is an inspiration to liberal, socialistic misunderstandings and abuses of the Gospel.”

    COuld anyone explain what Michael is getting at here? It almost seems to contradict point 5.

    • Many conservative churches grew shy of using the Gospels because they saw that the more liberal churches were using them to advance their “social gospel.”

      • Thanks, CM. I read it wrong. The more I read the Gospel accounts, the more I think that Jesus was trying to get us to imitate him and practice love, compassion, justice and righteousness. He even showed us some ways in which we might do this in our own small ways, like forgiving, caring for the oppressed, seeking the Kingdom rather than the kingdom…