Saturday, August 26, 2006



KG- “Thank you so much for taking the time to go through that description, that clarification, of Grace. I agree with you that we have grossly misunderstood Grace and then you said the second thing we need to understand is Salvation. Could you do the same thing for this concept also?”

DW- “Right. What it means to be saved is to be living a life of interaction with Jesus and that’s the only description of Eternal Life in the New Testament is John 17:3 where Jesus says, in his prayer, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent”. Now again, “Know” does not mean “to know about him”.

KG- “It’s not about knowledge”.

DW- “Biblically ‘Knowledge’ is interactive relationship. As Mary said to the angel, “But how can this be since I know not a man?” See that word ‘know’ is different than knowledge. What she meant is that she had not had sexual intercourse with a man, that is called ‘Carnal Knowledge’.

KG- “So, it’s an intimacy that conceives something then?”

DW- “It most certainly does. The intimacy is one of interaction. When the prophet says, on the behalf of Jehova to Israel, ‘You only have I known or all the peoples on the Earth’, he’s not saying he doesn’t know “about” the others, he’s saying ‘You’re the only one’s that I’ve entered into a covenantal relationship with, an interactive relationship’. So eternal life then is an interactive relationship with God. That’s what Salvation is.

“Now what about forgiveness? That’s a natural part of that interactive relationship when you trust Jesus you trust him for everything, including forgiveness. But God’s point of view, as Paul says in Romans about Abraham, ‘He believed God and it was accounted unto him as righteousness’, but if you trust Jesus Christ, God would rather have that than sinlessness. When God saw Abraham’s confidence in Him, God said, ‘I like this better’ and to be accounted as righteousness means that the proper relationship between a human being and God is now resumed. That is an ongoing relationship in which progress in understanding and practice of holiness and joy and obedience and all these things come together as a part of a life. So, you don’t get a little thing that says you get heaven when you die and you’re left with the option of saying, ‘Well, shall I obey?’ and then of course if you say, ‘I shall obey’ the next step is ‘I learn to obey’ because that isn’t done for me, though we do it with God it’s not something we do on our own and so that, too, is Grace. When the person comes to the place where they can actually love their enemies, that is Grace. But it’s not passive. That’s where we have to learn that true Grace is not opposed to effort. It’s opposed to earning, but not to effort. Earning is an attitude but effort is action.”

KG- “There is a connection then, as you describe Grace as ‘God helping me to accomplish the things I cannot accomplish on my own’…”

DW- “I would say, ‘God acting in my life..’, the wording there is very important.”

KG- “Ok. So, it seems that this is the necessary fuel for the spiritual formation of a person.”

DW- “Spiritual Formation is a word for the process you go through in a life.”

KG- “So, Spiritual Formation should not be optional. It is a natural process that would occur if you were completely trusting Christ.”

DW- “That’s exactly right. It’s the process of actually trusting Christ. If you really trust Christ then He will be your teacher and you will be His student. Where will He teach you? About everything that is going on in your life. You will come to the place where, as Colossians 3:17 says, ‘Whatsoever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father..’”

KG- “It seems that, for some people, the Spiritual Disciplines are too heavy. It’s like, ‘Fasting and Solitude are such a drudgery’ to most of us.”

DW- “No see, that is a person who, whether they know it or not, they are still living their life on their own. So, they come to something like these disciplines and they say, ‘Now this doesn’t fit into my plans, I couldn’t do this, or I don’t need to do this’, and it’s because they are living their life on their own. That of course is the basic sin, living your life your way, on your terms.”

KG- “So, in this case a complete surrender has not taken place?”

DW- “That’s right. Of course, they haven’t been taught what that would mean. They haven’t been given an opportunity to do that. So, it’s almost natural that they would be in that position.

“See, the ordinary preacher, when he goes to his church what he’s actually facing as he looks out at his congregation is a wall of unbelief. Now, of course you might say, it’s well-intentioned unbelief, and it is. Most of the folks you’re dealing with in churches, they have head knowledge of a lot of stuff. For example, they know there’s a Trinity perhaps but it has no connection with their lives. They never think, ‘I’m living in a Trinitarian Universe’, and that’s why it does no goods for ministers to moan and groan about the lack of involvement or obedience, about how they have to keep entertaining people so they’ll come back next week and keep giving and so on. That’s the situation these ministers are in. They’ve now accepted that as normal. Whereas that’s not normal.”

KG- “No. That’s not what Jesus works so hard for and died on the cross for and rose again for. Not to create this kind of mediocrity.”

DW- “Absolutely. We can sing a song about ‘Joy unspeakable and full of Glory” but nobody’s got it and the rest of the things that are talked about in scripture are missing. Even the social issues are fundamental to the Kingdom; loving our neighbor as ourself and so on, but they are not additional things we’re trying to tack on, they are more expressions of the kind of life that is moving in us appropriately under our discipleship to Jesus.”

KG- “I think we touched on this a little bit the last time we spoke, but it seems that the other factor is, not just that it’s not being preached in our churches, but it’s also not something that the average Christian could see a role a model for, to help him or her to get an idea for how to live this sort of life. I’m not saying it’s not happening, but I’m suggesting that the idea of mentoring or discipling one another is a bit of a lost art these days. I guess because it isn’t being taught from the pulpit then it therefore also isn’t being practiced either.”

DW- “Well, two things. One is, the kind of so-called fellowship we have in our churches does not allow people to know one another. If it did, they might actually find some people who are remarkably exemplifying life in the Kingdom of God. Second thing, we do have cases at a distance, for example people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or Billy Graham, or the late Pope, and I’m not talking about perfection here. That’s one thing you really have to stay away from in this discussion. We’re not talking about perfection, we’re talking about doing a lot better. The fact is, there are many people that Christians know at a distance that exemplify life in the Kingdom. They recognize this. They know this. They may even have to travel to Calcutta to be with Mother Teresa, and I’ve met many people who have made that trip, but they’re not going to do what she does. They come back and they talk about her, and maybe they are different in some respects, but they don’t do what she does. The same way you go to Francis of Assisi and all these people talk about him and what he did but you don’t see anyone doing what St. Francis did. At a distance we have these exemplars. Jesus Himself is “The” exemplar. We know about Paul and others in the New Testament, and sometimes with their imperfections because perfection is something you have to put out of your mind. You have to think in terms of learning to do the things that Jesus said to do. The models are there. The problem is, Keith, we have this automatic theological adjuster in our minds that says, ‘That’s not for me, that’s for special people’.

One of the most touching things I observe, as I come across people who have read Brother Lawrence’s book on Practicing Presence of God and immediately they translate that into feeling at peace and being calm and so on. They don’t translate that into obedience. They don’t look at the life that Brother Lawrence lived as essentially a servant in the kitchen and apply that to themselves. That’s because they have this little theological adjuster, it’s like one of these dimmer switches on the wall where it has a knob and you can turn it down. So, they turn it up so they can see Brother Lawrence but when it comes to themselves they turn it down, and they’ve accepted that, see? The main reason why they’ve accepted that is because they’ve accepted the idea that Salvation is about forgiveness of sins.”

KG- “Yes, I agree.”

DW- “Now on the Liberal side, they don’t talk about sin or heaven when you die, they don’t even talk about that. They talk about getting involved in social issues and then if you’re really serious you’ll join Sojourners and help out in the soup lines and protesting the war, and all sorts of things like that. But they’re not going to put their lives on the line for that. They have a mild little version of what they would call discipleship which is about being engaged, or at least concerned about, social issues.

“Both of these, in the whole spectrum, basically leave your life untouched. We need to communicate that, what you’re doing now is where God wants to be in your life and you can invite Him in and begin to expect Him to act, and you will know the Kingdom of God, you will know God in action, you will know Christ, and you will be inwardly transformed, progressively, by spiritual formation, as a disciple who is one who is learning to live his life as Jesus would lead his life is Jesus were that disciple.”

KG- “What I want to ask, now that we’ve identified this condition, what’s been going on in American Christian Culture, how do we turn this ship around?”

DW- “By preaching. This is really the heart of the matter and it’s very simple. I say this over and over to people, to pastors, ‘Just start with Matthew and just preach what Jesus preached’. Now that’s going to really jerk you around. You have to avoid things like going to your church and saying, ‘We’re going to keep doing things the same but now we’re going to really mean it’. That’s really what they think, but as long as they do that they’re really going to get nowhere. Spiritual formation, as a hope, will flame out within just a few years unless people understand that they really are doing something different than they’ve done before. So, I say to anyone who asks, ‘What do we do?’ I just suggest that you just start and teach what Jesus taught and begin to put your own life into it and progressively you will see people respond. It will take a little while to realize that you really are saying and doing something different. Then when they do that you’ll see various reactions, just like the Parable of the Sower, some people will say, ‘You’re not preaching the Truth anymore, brother’, or maybe that you’re teaching salvation by works..”

KG- “Yeah, that’s usually the first comment that rises up.”

DW- “So, you have to, as a Pastor, you have the Grace of God with you to deal with that. You have to show people that Grace doesn’t equal passivity, we still do things. My background is Baptist and I like to rib them a little bit so I’ll say, ‘We’ll preach to you for an hour telling you you can’t do anything to be saved and then sing to you for an hour trying to get you to do something to be saved”. It’s really confusing to tell you the truth.

“So, the pastor, as he preaches will begin to react in different ways. In nearly every case, if that pastor does his work from the Bible, the people will be joyously won over to what he is doing and they will say, within a short period of time, ‘Yes, we want to live in the Kingdom. We know what trusting Jesus means now. We want to make disciples. We want to be disciples. We want to teach people how to do everything He said’, but you can’t go there and start. You can’t go into the church and say ‘Now we’re all going to be disciples. If you’re not a disciple you’re not one of us’, and so forth. That’s just terribly misguided behavior and it doesn’t come from the love of Jesus. So, you accept the transition and you stay with it and eventually your people will come around, but you have to give them time to replace this whole string of concepts we’ve talked about like Salvation and Grace, and so on. The way to go about it is through teaching the Bible.

“Here’s what I found out years ago, and if I hadn’t I would’ve been out of the business thirty or forty years ago, and it’s this; You don’t have to make it happen. The little parable that Jesus tells in Mark about the farmer that goes out and sows the seed and then takes a nap? There’s a little phrase there that says, ‘the farmer knoweth not how this works’. There’s a plant coming up out of the dirt and pretty soon there’s something edible there. But although the farmer doesn’t know how it happens, you can be sure it’s going to happen and that takes the load off of you. You don’t have to make this happen. This is one of the most important thing for pastors to understand. Don’t try to get people to do anything, just speak the Word of the Gospel, live as a disciple, lovingly teach, be with people, and it will happen.”

KG- “It’s funny, last night I was getting ready for bed and I was reading a chapter from A.W. Tozer’s book “The Knowledge of the Holy”..”

DW- “Oh you can’t beat that!”

KG- “Yeah, it’s a wonderful book. There was a paragraph here that goes along with what you’re saying…if you don’t mind me reading this to you, ‘When viewed from the perspective of eternity, the most critical need of this hour may well be that the Church should be brought back from her long Babylonian captivity, and the name of God be Glorified in her again, as of old. Yet we must not think of the Church as an anonymous body, a mystical religious abstraction. We Christians are the Church and whatever we do is what the Church is doing. The matter, therefore, is for each of us, a personal one. Any forward step in the Church must begin with the individual.’”

DW- “That’s absolutely correct. The Church is a pretty ragged bunch of people and actually one of the surest signs that the Church is on the wrong path is when it tries not to be.”

KG- (laughs)

DW- “I’ve seen Churches die when they try to go around the neighborhood to collect the right sorts of people, when the wrong sorts of people were right under the shadow of the building but they would not reach out to them and say, ‘It’s ok for you to come. Jesus accepts you and we do too.’ Of course, Jesus got into more trouble for hanging out with the wrong kind of people than almost anything else, but of course those were the ones who were happy to hear. Those were the ones who were breaking down the wall to get in.”

KG- “That’s why Jesus had the response that it’s the sick that need a doctor. The point being that, all of us are sick and in need of a doctor, it’s just that some of us are more aware of our need for the Physician than others.”

DW- “As Jesus said to the Pharisess, it was because they claimed to see that they were guilty of sin. If they had not claimed to see they would not have been in sin. That’s the problem with the leaders of our churches because they say, ‘We see’, but they are not doing what Jesus says to do. The idea of doing it doesn’t even appear on the horizon of most of those who are leading others. They hammer away on righteousness but often righteousness is defined in terms of culture, (don’t smoke or drink, etc.), than in terms of how you live your life as a disciple of Jesus.”

KG- “Thank you so much, Dallas for taking the time to sit and talk to me about these very important issues. I’m very grateful to you for this.”

DW- “We can talk again.”

KG- “I’ll be in touch.”
TEST OF FAITH- The latest update on my current job search is at the main site. Thanks for your prayers.
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NEW ARTICLES BREWING- I've got a couple of new ideas for articles brewing now. One on the foolish pursuit of "Signs and Wonders", one on the evolution of social activism, and maybe a few recording our current adventures as missionaries to our neighborhood. Keep watching this space for new updates.

Monday, August 21, 2006



KG- “I have so many possible questions and directions we could go from here….so, I’ll just pick one. I’m curious how and when and in what way did this distinction of the Gospel of the Kingdom become clear to you? Have you just always understood this? Were you raised in a church that taught this? Or did you discover this over time?”

DW- “Well I can tell you very easily about that. First of all, anyone who goes through a theological education will be given a version of the Gospel and it will be said that it is different from the Gospel that we’re supposed to preach. On the Liberal side, the Kingdom of God was taken to be a condition of society towards which they were supposed to work. Both Left and Right, theologically, share the idea that Jesus was going to bring the Kingdom of God, but he didn’t. So, the Liberal version was that Jesus expected a political order to emerge among the Jewish people and instead they rejected it and so he was wrong because Jesus thought the Kingdom was going to come and it didn’t. The Conservative version was the one that was most common among the people in Jesus’ own day, namely that there was going to appear the King and the Kingdom would come, politically, because the King appeared. Well, the King appeared on the cross and so that’s where you get the dispensational teaching. You see it in the old Scofield Bible and elsewhere, the idea that we were then put into this odd thing called “The Church Age”. So, they believe that the Kingdom will come at the end of the Church Age and that’s where you get your Left Behind books and so on.

“There’s no New Testament scholar who would ever tell you that the Gospel of Jesus was about anything other than the Kingdom of God. What they don’t understand is how that connects to the development in the book of Acts, and later in the Church, where people come to understand The Kingdom through Jesus and that’s where, if you do an inductive study on The Kingdom of God in the book of Acts, or of “The Kingdom”, you’ll see how that develops. So, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul spells out the Gospel he preaches, it is presenting The Kingdom, in the form of Jesus. That’s the way we’re supposed to do it. We’re not supposed to say, ‘Won’t it be wonderful when the Kingdom of God comes?’ or whatever.

“My theological education took all that in and I began to serve as a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, in the Church, as a young man. As I did that I began to see something strange. I spent a lot of time trying to get people to come to church. I looked at Jesus and I saw that He spent a lot of His time trying to get away from people.”

KG- (laughs) “Because he had so many people following Him around?”

DW- “Absolutely. When you read the Gospels you see people walking on one another in Luke to just get to hear Him and be around Him. It wasn’t just a signs and wonders show, they came because of His teaching. Publicans and sinners thronged around Him, flocked to Him and to hear Him present the Kingdom of God because, again, that’s all Jesus talked about. But it wasn’t a political thing, it was a reality that is here now and you can, by trusting Him, live in that Kingdom.”

“So, all of these zany things He talks about; the birds and the flowers and so forth, that’s the presence of the Kingdom and that’s what He taught. So, I knew I must find out about this. I knew I must preach what Jesus preached. Although I was far from having His effect. Once I began preaching this way, then this issue of trying to pump people up and come to church and trying to get people to do things, that just disappeared.

“I began to say to people, ‘The real issue is your life when you’re not in church and what are you going to do with that?’ Now, then if you want to know how to do that you begin to become a disciple of Jesus. You trust Him to the extent that you believe that He knows the best about everything and you want to learn from Him. That means how to run your business, how to run your home, personal relations of all sorts, etc., come under His control and authority. That’s the path of a disciple.

“So, to put that long story simply, I just realized that what Jesus was saying in the Gospels is for us now. But to access it we have to trust Him with our whole life and then the whole New Testament lights up and the great passages like Ephesians chapter 3 and 4 and Galatians 5 and Colossians 3, all those you suddenly realize, ‘Well, this is talking about life in the Kingdom of God’. So, it ceases to be Laws and becomes an expression of the life you live in Christ.”

KG- “So, forgive me if this seems like a loaded question but, is discipleship to Christ necessary for salvation?”

DW- “If you mean life in the Kingdom, it is. If you mean going to heaven when you die, I think a lot of people are going to be in Heaven who don’t understand this. I think they may have to wear a dunce cap for several million years but uh…”

KG- (laughs)

DW- “…but I think people are going to go to heaven in different conditions. I do think that what Paul the Apostle says, that ‘whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ includes that, and you don’t have to understand everything perfectly to be on Jesus’ side. See, our situation now is one where we are under a severe mis-teaching and I don’t think that people under that teaching are going to be automatically condemned for it. God knows their hearts and I’m sure that many people who wouldn’t know how to talk Kingdom language if their lives depended on it will be in heaven. But of course the question that faces us is, ‘What are we going to do until we go?’ and is that all just lost?

“Many people treat the time before you die as if somehow it had nothing to do with God. God has nothing to do with your life here, we’re just hanging on, trying not to sin and we all fail and we have a whole teaching that you never make any progress, and that you don’t have to make any progress, because you’re saved by Grace. Grace, to them, relates only to forgiveness it doesn’t relate to life.”

KG- “This leads right into what I was going to ask you next which is the whole fascination we seem to have, as a culture, with Grace. Although, it seems that the version of Grace that we’re so enamored with isn’t the complete, Biblical version of Grace.”

DW- “It has almost nothing to do with it. But, see again, that follows this basic line, which I believe is inspired by evil to keep our lives out of touch with God. If you do an inductive study of Grace, in the Bible, you would never come to the idea that it has only to do with forgiveness. I have heard nationally-known speakers say, and these are the exact words, ‘Grace is only for guilt’. Now, if you take that and, for example the words of Paul the Apostle in Ephesians, “..unto me, who is the least of all saints, is this Grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Now just take that context. Does this mean that all that is involved here is forgiveness? Not at all. What Paul was referring to is that Grace was a gift of a ministry of life to the Gentiles. The general idea that fits all the contexts of Grace found in the both the Old and the New Testaments, is that Grace is God acting in my life to accomplish what I cannot accomplish on my own. Now then, if you take that idea and you go back to all the passages about Grace you will see that suddenly things begin to light up. Paul in Colossians 15 is talking about he was the last one who witnessed the resurrected Jesus. He says he doesn’t deserve to be an Apostle, even though he was late, he says, “I have labored more abundantly than they all” and he catches himself then and adds, “yet not I but the Grace of God that is in me.” Now, that wasn’t forgiveness. That was God acting in Paul and then you watch his life and you see what that means. So that when Paul acted he knew that God was acting with him and through him. Again, Grace is God acting in my life to accomplish what I cannot on my own. Of course, it’s much bigger than that because it also has, not just an individual but a social presence in history. Now you come to the very famous passage in 2 Peter 3:18- “Grow in Grace” (and that means to grow in the presence of God in your life, doing what you cannot do on your own), “and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. Now, knowledge, Biblically, always refers to interactive relationship and that’s Grace. So now, that I would say that, of all the things that we have to go back and re-do the vocabulary, to get it right, Grace is the big thing and the next thing is Salvation, or what does it mean to be saved?

“Once you get those right then you see a picture of a life lived in the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God is God in action. It’s God reigning. I often say it’s where what God wants done is done. Now all that comes together and you get a coherent picture of what it means to trust Jesus, enter the Kingdom, be saved and live by Grace.”

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Saturday, August 12, 2006



*Note: About a year ago I did an interview with author and theologian, Dallas Willard ("The Divine Conspiracy"). This was supposed to be for the second issue of "The Noise" magazine, however a second issue never materialized. This was also the "last" interview that Mr. Willard was to make for at least a year while he turned his attention to a new book project.

So, I've written up the interview and left it in the conversational style, breaking it into three equal parts. I hope you enjoy it!


Keith Giles- “Dallas, can you explain the difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the more popular, Gospel of the Atonement for us?”

Dallas Willard – “The Gospel of the Kingdom is that you can now live in the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of the Atonement is that your sins can be forgiven. Those are the, respective, ‘Good Newses’, I suppose.”

KG- “So, are you saying there are two Gospels? Are my sins not forgiven if I live in the Kingdom? Or am I not in the Kingdom of God if I accept the Gospel of the Atonement?”

DW- “The way it practically works out is this, if you have the Gospel of the Atonement, and that’s all you’ve heard, the rest of your life you will run on your own and you may or may not think of being a disciple of Jesus or of obeying him or of devoting your life to the Kingdom of God. You can still do that, but those things are all optional for you. That is where we really stand in our Christian culture today. Anything more than forgiveness of sins, and by that I mean ‘Heaven when you die’, is optional and most of our professed believers now do not know that they can live in the Kingdom of God now.

“By contrast, anyone who is alive in the Kingdom of God now knows that their sins are forgiven because they have the life of Heaven in them now. So Heaven and forgiveness are natural parts of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God whereas discipleship and holiness and power and other scriptural evidences are not a natural part of the Gospel of the Atonement. I want to emphasize that sense of being a natural part.

“Here’s one of the ways I try to help ministers understand this difference. I ask them, ‘Does the Gospel you preach truly lead to discipleship to Jesus?’ and the Gospel of the Kingdom has that natural connection. It’s not trusting the Kingdom, it’s about trusting Jesus and living in the Kingdom with Him. So then, for example, the New Birth is the birth from above and as Jesus was telling Nicodemus, “You must be born again..”, now that’s about new life that isn’t just Atonement. One of the strange things that has happened is that verses like John 3:16 is treated as if it were a forgiveness verse whereas it is really a new life verse. The whole context is about having the life of The Kingdom. Nicodemus came saying he could see it and Jesus said, ‘No, you can’t see it’, and helped him to understand why he couldn’t.

“So, it’s the idea of a natural part of The Kingdom containing forgiveness, and if you’re trusting Jesus, and not just his death on the cross alone, but the person of Jesus, then life in the Kingdom comes with that and, as a natural part, also comes discipleship, forgiveness, all of the things that any good theology would cover.”

KG- “So, it seems to me that the reason why the Gospel of the Atonement is the most readily accepted and understood version of the Gospel today, especially in America, is because it’s sort of the fruit of the style of Evangelism we have employed.

DW- “Yes, that’s absolutely right. Now the reason for that, however, is the theology that’s in back of it. We do not evangelize for disciples, we evangelize to make Christians and then, maybe, later try to raise the issue of discipleship. Frankly, that’s like ‘bait and switch’ in advertising. You’ll hear people express that to their pastors and say, ‘Why are you talking about discipleship? I’m right with God. Why are you talking about obedience?’ It’s like I talk about in one of the chapters of my book about an upright citizen of the Church who came to his pastor and said ‘I’m going to divorce my wife because I’ve fallen in love with someone else’ and the pastor, of course, turned purple and said, ‘You can’t do this’, and the man said, ‘Of course I can, you’ve said that Jesus will forgive my sins if I believe he died on the cross.’ There’s honestly no response to this from the theology of atonement only.”

KG- I was teaching on this recently in our home group and I had a woman, innocently, not trying to be argumentative, but honestly puzzled with me on the subject who asked me, ‘What would you say to someone if you wanted to evangelize them? If it’s not about going to heaven when you die, then what is it about?’ It just seems that once you diffuse the idea of the Gospel of the Atonement as being an incomplete version of the Gospel, it kind of leaves us unequipped now. So, how do we witness if the language of the Gospel of the Atonement is not part of my script?

DW- That’s really an excellent question and I hope we can get a very clear answer to it because it naturally comes up because of what people have been taught all their lives. The appropriate question then is, ‘If you don’t die tonight what are you going to do tomorrow?’ and the answer should be, ‘I’m going to trust Jesus with all of my life, with everything, and that will allow you to live in the Kingdom of God.’ Now, if you do die tonight you may go to Heaven, but you see most people are not going to die tonight. They, like the rest of us, have to face life tomorrow and the day after and the day after.

“The big question is, ‘Are you going to live life on your own tomorrow and the day after?’ and if you do then you’re not trusting Jesus. The evangelistic question needs to be varied a bit and I use various formulations for it. For example, if it is appropriate I will say to someone, ‘How are you doing with your Kingdom?’ and that usually opens up the discussion about how they’re handling their lives. I will then let them know that there’s a Kingdom they can live in that belongs to Jesus and that if they will turn their lives over to Him, then they will prosper for time and for eternity, in His Kingdom. That’s the difference.

“It opens up a different landscape on evangelism because it turns out that the people that need to hear the Gospel of Jesus the most are the people who are well off and in charge of a lot of things, not just the guy living in the box in the alley, or the person who is living the life of debauchery. All people desperately need to know about the Kingdom of the Heavens and their life in it. So, that’s how you evangelize, you call people to discipleship by announcing the availability of the Kingdom now. That’s what Jesus did and then when people understood him they also understood that He was the King.”

“The simple Gospel is; ‘Jesus is available to trust and what you need to do is to trust Jesus’. Once you begin to teach this fully then you begin to realize how great Jesus is and that He is actually running the World and that the Cosmos is under His charge. So then, the invitation is to become involved as a disciple.

“One way I try to express what Salvation is is to say ‘It is participating in the life that Jesus is now living on Earth.’ That is why Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 15, for example, ‘If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain and you’re still in your sins’.

KG- “Right, and also that “ is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me..”

DW- “Exactly. So, it’s participating in the life that Jesus is now living. Christ in me, the hope of Glory. That was the message to the Gentiles, as reported in Colossians, and that’s the message to everyone. The “Hope of Glory” is the living Christ in you and that’s another way of describing life in the Kingdom of God.

PRAYER REQUEST: Please send up a prayer for me as I search for a new full-time job. So far all my leads have come up zero. I need to start working very soon in order to cover our bills and rent for September. I know God has a plan for us, I just pray that I can discover it soon. Thanks for your prayers!

ARTICLE ALERT: Over at my article "NOBODY FOLLOWS JESUS" is posted. Go check it out.

NEW WEBSITE UPDATES: Be sure to check out the main site at now and again. I've been a posting machine lately. Lots of free time on my hands. There's even a link on the main site to check out a little [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] t-shirt site, if you're curious.

TO RESPOND to me directly try my email address at:
elysiansky (at) hotmail (dot) com


Monday, August 07, 2006

[subversive underground] PART 6- "THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO?"

By Keith Giles

One of the most disheartening things, when you listen to non-believers talk about why they are not followers of Jesus, is to hear things like, “My boss is a Christian and he’s the meanest person I know”, or “Our neighbors are Christians but they are just as screwed up as we are, why would I want to join them?”

One thing that’s clear when we look at the early church is the fact that they were living radically different lives from those Jews and pagans around them. It was the curiousity such living provoked that drew the majority of early converts to the Jesus Way of life.

Early Christians did not pass out printed tracts about salvation, they did not market their religion, and everyone knew that to join them meant becoming an outcast within the culture, possibly even arrested and put to death because of aligning oneself with Christ.

Yet the early church grew by leaps and bounds. Hundreds of thousands of people gave up their lives to follow this Jesus, in spite of the lack of evangelistic crusades and the threat of persecution. Why is that?

Many scholars are convinced that the lifestyle of those first and second century disciples was, in itself, the main reason. Some even suggest that their lives of service to the poor and their inclusive nature was as important as the miracles performed in their midst by the Apostles, perhaps even more important.

Historian, Henry Chadwick, for example, attributes the practical application of Christian charity as the “most potent single cause of Christian success in the ancient world..” and German theologian George Krestschmar has said that it was not so much the miraculous signs and wonders that followed the early church but unbelievable conduct of the Christians that had such an impact on the world of its day. He calls this, “the propaganda of the deed” where the generosity of the early church spoke louder than the doctrine or the healing of the infirmed.

It was the overwhelmingly generous lifestyle of those early believers that transformed the world and overcame persecution. Their lives demonstrated that Christ was more than powerful enough to change their hearts and the evidence was their ongoing care for others.

The sad truth is that, in our day, especially here in America, the line separating the pagan and the self-proclaimed Christian is difficult to see.

You don’t have to read too many Barna or Gallup polls to see that attending church services and proclaiming oneself to be “Born Again” doesn’t make any noticeable difference in the sort of life you may live on a daily basis. Many experts on Church Growth and Evangelism see a direct correlation between the lower ethical standards of those who claim to be Christian and the kind of evangelism we’ve been practicing for the last century.

“They’ve simply believed the story we told them,” says Todd Hunter, President of ALPHA Ministries USA. “We’ve made the story of the Gospel reductive in the absurd,” he says. “It’s like that old bumper sticker that says, ‘Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven’. Is that all we are? Just Forgiven? What about living a life of radical transformation where we are learning to live our lives like Jesus?”

Granted, the sound-byte culture we live in has encouraged the Church to present a watered-down version of the Gospel to the world around us. Most have heard our story over and over again and have decided that it doesn’t work.

The real question is what sort of Christianity are we calling people to? Are we really calling people to surrender their lives to Christ? Do we even really know what we mean when we say this?

Sadly, most of us do not think of conversion as a surrendered life to Jesus as our Lord and (yes), our Savior.

Most of us think of salvation as the answer to the question, “If you died tonight do you know you’d be in heaven tomorrow?” and perhaps the better question we should ask is, “If you knew you’d be alive tomorrow (and most of us will be), then whom will you follow and how would you live your life?”

Christianity is a way of life. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves in order to walk in his path.

Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions? If so, we’re offering the wrong answers too.
This would explain why the majority of people, both inside and outside the Church misunderstand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Nothing illustrates this better than a comment made by the son of former President Ronald Reagan after the death of his famous father. In a New York Times exclusive, Ron Reagan Jr. was asked about his outspokenly Christian father and his own opinion of Christianity in general. Here’s what he said:

Q: Now that the country is awash in Reagan nostalgia, some observers are predicting that you will enter politics. Would you like to be president of the United States?

Ron Reagan Jr. (RRJ): I would be unelectable. I'm an atheist. As we all know, that is something people won't accept.

Q: Do you ever go to church?

RRJ: No. I visit my wife's sangha.

Q: So you sometimes practice Buddhism?

RRJ: I don't claim anything. But my sympathies would be in that direction. I admire the fact that the central core of Buddhist teaching involves mindfulness and loving kindness and compassion. ... One thing that Buddhism teaches you is that every moment is an opportunity to change.

The sad truth is that, in the private life of his Christian father, Ron Jr. saw nothing about Christianity that felt real to him, or relevant. Furthermore, he didn’t think of Christianity as a religion that promoted compassion or loving kindness.

While we might blame the first part on Ron Junior’s parents, we have to take the blame for the second part ourselves.

It would have been virtually impossible for an unbeliever living in those first three hundred years of Church History to ever reject Christianity on the grounds that it lacked compassionate people or failed to teach loving kindness.

In fact, we have testimony from many of the most hostile pagans who lived during the first three hundred years of Christianity who were put to shame because of the overwhelming generosity of the Church. Julian, the Apostate wrote of this frustrating situation when he said, “..The godless Galileans feed not only their poor, but ours also.”

Christian philosopher Aristides (125 AD) wrote about the radical charity of the early Church also, recording the fact that, “…if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast for three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”

Radical compassion indeed.

Where have we gone wrong? Perhaps we’ve forgotten that our first and greatest command was to love.

One quote which has always haunted me comes from a great man of peace named Mohatmas Gandhi who said this about Jesus Christ; “(He was) a man (Jesus Christ) who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”

As encouraging as those words may be however, Gandhi had little good to say about those who call themselves the followers of Jesus. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” he said. “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”

Have we missed our opportunity to change a nation for Christ because of our inability to live out the Gospel on a daily basis?

Mike Pilavachi, the founder of Soul Survivor Ministries, uses a great illustration of our modern evangelistic efforts when he describes the Church as a great castle that, out of guilt, lowers the drawbridge annually to embark on an evangelistic crusade. Traveling in large groups, (for safety), we pass out tracts, launch “Bible Bombs” at people, play Christian music or perform pre-recorded puppet shows for those poor, lost people. Somehow, by sheer luck, we manage to convince one or two of them to pray a prayer and join us inside the castle where we raise the drawbridge and begin to teach them our quirky “Christianese” so that, a year later when we launch out again, they can’t talk to non-Christians either.

It may be funny, in some ways, but it’s the Truth. We have to change the way we think of non-Christians and we have to start changing our approach now.

First, I believe we need to lose the “drawbridge” mentality. The Church in current times desperately needs to stop treating non-believers as if they have social leprosy. We need to lower our defenses and learn to express the love of Jesus in practical ways to those in need.

Secondly, we need to expand our concept of evangelism to include an intentional discipleship to this person known as Jesus. As long as discipleship is optional, all our efforts at evangelism will lack the necessary proof that the kind of life Jesus offers is worth a dime.

Third, we have to take the calling to love others personally. It’s not “The Church” that needs to have a reformation of the heart, it’s you and I.

The only formula I can see, at a basic level begins with conversation, which at some point leads to community and relationship, and then, somewhere in the course of all this, conversion takes place. Our role is simply obedience and the practice of unconditional love towards everyone God leads into our path.

Recently, my wife and I left our role as pastors at a local church we had helped to plant more than three years earlier. Our dream was to start a new sort of a church. One where everyone took following Jesus seriously. One where the practice of compassion to others was expressed in the giving of 100% of the tithe to the poor and the needy.

Our conviction was that everyone who called themselves a follower of Jesus was, by default, a missionary to their culture. Because we wanted to be reminded of this, we called our new church, “The Mission”.

Just a few weeks ago, we started a Sunday Morning “Kids Club” in our neighborhood. Four elementary-aged children came, along with our two young boys, to spend five weeks studying the life of Jesus. We sing songs, play games, and have fun together while we learn more about how Jesus loves us and can change our lives.

For over a decade my wife and I have taught Children’s Ministry in the local church, and many of those children came to faith in Christ as a result. We are thrilled for that experience and we applaud all of those who serve in this way. However, we felt a tugging in our hearts for those children who played with our sons every weekend and yet did not know Christ. So, we decided to host a Sunday School program in our living room on Sunday mornings for all those children who weren’t going to church anywhere.

Now our plan is to get to know the parents of these children and to eventually invite them to join us all on Sunday Morning for a few songs, some Bible Study and free coffee and bagels in our living room.

This is the way my wife and I have felt called to express our calling as missionaries in our neighborhood. Your talents are probably different than ours. Your area of ministry is probably a little different too. But your calling to “Go” is exactly the same.

Our challenge has been to inspire this sort of activity within our own weekly house church gathering. While we’ve called ourselves, “The Mission”, not everyone has come to the place where they have their calling figured out completely. This is where discipleship comes in. Our goal is to lovingly assist everyone in our house church to discover their gifts, their talents, and their mission field.

So far, the experience of house church has been amazing. We patterned our group after that of the early Christians, gathering in homes, breaking bread together, and sharing and ministering to one another in the power of the Holy Spirit, with God as our leader and teacher, not as a select group of qualified professionals.

So far we’ve enjoyed the simple joys of being the family of God. We’ve seen healings, we’ve seen miracles, and better yet, we’re all learning how to “be the Church” and not how to simply attend one.

Whether or not you decide to start a house church is beside the point. The issue of who we are as Christians is still just as important, if not more important, than what we say we believe in our heads. However we decide to express this, the truth is that we must begin to live out the truth and the power of the Gospel in our everyday lives. We must begin today.

Evangelism, like following Jesus, is all about going to where the broken and the lost and the forgotten are and loving them as Christ loved us. It’s not, I am convinced, about finding new ways to get them to come to us on our terms and to learn to believe the way we believe.

Jesus commanded us to “Go” and the command is still valid today. If we have any hope of accomplishing this command, it will only be as we go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and as we cooperate with Him in the process.

I encourage you to engage others in conversation. Tell your story, and listen to their story. Share your experiences with God in natural ways, not rehearsed speeches, but with a genuine voice of concern and compassion. Love others the way Jesus loved you. Invest in people. Trust that God loves them far more than you ever will, but ask God to teach you to love them more anyway.

And, whatever you do, “Go”!


*TO REPLY TO THIS ARTICLE or to contact me for any reason, please send email to

*"LIVING STONES"- An article on the early it's guaranteed to create controversy. Go check it out on the main site:

*A WORD FOR JOSH- An article about something amazing that happened at The Mission a few weeks ago. Also on the main site.

*COMING SOON- My interviews with DEREK WEBB (Musician/Activist), and DALLAS WILLARD (Theologian, author of "Renovation of the Heart", etc.) will be posted soon. Either here or on the main for'em.

*ALONE AGAIN.... - I've got the next 2 and a half weeks to myself to focus on writing projects, and to find a new job!! Pray that I finish the books and that I find a great new job very soon. Thanks for your prayers.