moving goalposts 2

(evolving from goalposts 1 comments.) So while some of you continue debate on ‘goalposts 1’ entry, I have been thinking about this idea of ‘tipping the balance too far’ in terms of our evangelism. in-case you missed this part Evangelism is sometimes seen as a scale with ‘speaking the gospel’ at one end and ‘living the gospel’ at the other end. To emphasise one side more than the other is considered dangerous, and so we need to live in the middle where we have the balance of both speaking and living the gospel.

I really do appreciate that this idea is rooted in the concern that the gospel needs to be ‘proclaimed’ I agree. But I’m not actually sure what the ‘danger’ is in focusing on living the gospel? The only way there is a danger is if ‘speaking the gospel’ is somehow separate to ‘living it’. I am not at all convinced that it is. And yet when we put the two on opposite ends of the scale we are creating that very separation. This, i fear is the real danger.

If we think that it is possible to live the gospel and not speak it then our idea of living the gospel is distorted. But the words and conversations that flow out of our incarnational lives are different to the kind of words and conversations that flow out of our felt need to ‘speak’. The former i believe is a far truer proclamation. Im not sure we should be settling for anything less.

My fear is that the proclamations born out of a sense that we have to ‘proclaim’ are not proclamations at all. These are forced and often detached conversations. This does not feel like love to me. If we are speaking the gospel or encouraging others to do so in order to keep this ‘balanced’ life then surely the focus is on us not the person we speak to? Why do we put pressure on each other to have these kind of conversations? I think these kind of conversations are the very reason that many people think they are scared of ‘speaking the gospel’.

But ask people if they are scared of a conversation with their best friend, or their dad or their next door neighbour that is natural, and honest, a conversation that seeks answers to deep questions, that wrestles, that cries and laughs and wonders. The kind of conversation that spills out of our mouths rather than being draged out kicking and screaming. I don’t think we are as hesitant to speak the gospel as we think we are, we are often simply resistant to words that settle for anything less that true proclamations. In my (not fully formed) opinion, rightly so, for a proclamation that is disconcected from incarnation is perhaps no proclamation at all.

i reckon speaking and living are not so much opposite ends of a scale as they are on the same end of the scale (or as zoomy so beautifully put it “one lives inside the other”).

ready to hear your thoughts and arguments and willing to be wrong…

(i’m getting the hang of this paragraph thing!)

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7 Comments on “moving goalposts 2”

  1. soapbox Says:

    Real Live Preacher has some slightly related thoughts in his disillusionment chronicles – more focused on goalposts part one perhaps –

    I agree with you, in many ways to speak of ‘balance’ is to emphasise the false dichotomy. The formation of the phrase ‘integral mission’ from Latin America was an attempt to move beyond this false dichotomy.

    I once remember Jayber pointing out that if you read Paul’s epistles carefully the trend seems to be – he explains the gospel then moves on to say OK, so here is the gospel, here then is how you should live out this liberating message. Yes he preached, but his focus to the little communities of Christ followers seemed to be on living ‘good news’ lives out of which flowed those conversations you speak of. Perhaps some of our problems with a disproportionate emphasis on words is that we live in a results obsessed society and an age where we have seen too much hypocrisy. I know how easily I often say the right words but yet my heart and life is living a different reality.
    So I think I’ve just thought onto a screen and said what you said…

  2. zoomy Says:

    Soapy, I agree as well. 🙂

    Congrats on the paragraphs. But maybe if you can capitalise your next post…. 😉

  3. mark Says:

    I have to say after reading all these posting – I agree.

    I probably didn’t express myself too well last time, with my mechanical type analogies. I know you guys don’t like it, but I wonder if I simply had the balance labelled wrong – the two extremes should be proclamation and social gospel, with the mid point being integral mission or incarnational mission to use a buzz word 😉

    But you are right Transfarmer, the biblical pattern is to live and to speak.

    On the results issue which Alip was commenting on in part one, I am with you in the need to be faithful to God’s mission where you are, leaving results to Him. However I found personally that this attitude can lead to my expectation of God working dropping. Whilst being faithful, we must desire and expect God to work (Romans 9:1-4; 10:1, John 15).

  4. transfarmer Says:

    i’m not sure what you mean when you say social gospel so you might need to explain that one for me. but if when you say social gospel you are referring to social action then i think i still disagree. A wise friend recently challenged me when he said that he cannot find a distinction between the gospel and social action. The issue is not what the extremes are, it’s that we create the idea of extremes at all. The idea that the christian life is about striking a perfect balance causes me confusion.

  5. mark Says:

    ‘The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ the Son of God’ Mark 1:1. Our aim and purpise in spreading the gospel should be to tell people this good news about Jesus. From my understanding of the social gospel (in the 60’s and 70’s) this aim was missing, there was no real desire to get beyond doing good works to Jesus. Without this aim, I would see any social action as being fundementally different from the gospel, in fact such social action is on a level of that provided by the state and many other volunteer bodies.

    As for balance – I do think there is a completeness, a wholeness, a maturity which we should be aiming for in the Christian life… indeed I would say that God’s spirit is shaping us into it. So in the past I simply wanted to tell people, now I understand more (and hopefully live) the need for relationships, loving care, physical action etc. In the past my emphasis was ‘unbalanced’ now I am more whole?

    Weather such talk of balance can be brought out into other realms appropraitely or is even appropiate in the manner I have suggested above is another question. I find it helpful, it is interesting to see that you don’t transfarmer (and others), and something I guess I should remember when communicating to larger audiences than this blog!

  6. deadpoetonline Says:

    I have been following this debate with some interest for the past few days. As I have been reading the previous couple of posts, I am left with a question circling in my head. What is this good news that we are talking about? Is it the good news of Jesus or social action? I have a feeling that there may be another lens through which to view this seeming dichotomy or implicit hierarchy of ‘spreading the gospel’ and ‘social action’ and that makes sense of both. That lens is the Kingdom of God.

    Mark, I don’t mean to be presumptuous (please correct me if I am reading into your comment) but often when I hear folk talk about spreading the gospel, this means telling people about their need for a Saviour and of pointing them to the cross of Jesus. So, the gospel has been boiled down to individual salvation. But when Jesus started his ministry in Galilee, his message was ‘Repent and believe, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’. Jesus’ message was the good news of the kingdom of God which should also be our message.

    I not casting doubt over the need for a personal response to Jesus as our Lord and Saviour but it is merely entry into His glorious Kingdom and the joining in on his mission of reconciliation and restoration of all creation. The gospel is more than individual salvation but the good news of the Kingdom which comfortably includes social action and a personal response to Jesus as Saviour.

  7. mark Says:

    Glad your enjoying the debate deadpoet.

    Your comment highlights that we probably are just arguing over words… which I believe we are warned not to do (2 Tim 2:14). I don’t think we would have huge differences in practice.

    I’ll stick with my definition of the gospel given in the previous post… but as you point out this should not be reduced simply to the cross of Christ, but must include everything in his life. We define the Gospel by all that Mark has recorded, not just the last couple of chapters.

    I also believe that the kingdom of God/heaven is being built on the earth now, it was established at the death of Christ, and shall be fully brought about upon his return. As you point out in building the kingdom we can particapte in social action, political action and various other things that some would not call gospel work. However we must realise, as you have implied, that people do not fully particapte in the kingdom until they name Jesua as their king.

    So is this simply over words… I think transfarmer was orignally concerened about motivation, but the debate seems to have moved on from their… probably my fault.

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