Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Gospel For iGen

Scot McKnight makes a great case for "gospeling" in a recent CT article. The basic premise of the article is that a generation raised on a robust diet of self-esteem may be less predisposed to accept personal responsibility for sin.

For a start McKnight exposes a constant myth:

Sometimes I think we forget that no where in the pages of the New Testament do we find what many of us heard when we were gospeled: God loves us, we are sinners, God still loves us and sent us his Son to die for our sins, and if we receive God's plan we will spend eternity with him and be empowered by grace for a new life now. I believe every line in that gospel to be true, but no one said it quite that way in the New Testament.

Just ask Jesus into your heart - it's true but its not true. Instead he points iGens to Jesus.

First with the vision of the Kingdom:

Nothing in my experience mesmerizes iGens like the kingdom vision of Jesus. One approach I use is to move through the Gospel of Luke. I begin with the preliminary expectations of Mary, Zechariah, and John the Baptist. I then focus on what Jesus wanted to bring about on earth (Luke 4:16-30; 6:20-26, and 7:18-23). Then I observe that Jesus knew the cross was the way to that kingdom (9:18-27). We move from there into the cross and resurrection, and then emerge on the other side of Easter with Pentecost and the apostolic church community (Acts 2:42-47).

He then vividly descibes the process by which community can draw someone to Christ (a far cry from the lampooning attempts of the anti-community brigade and it has to be said the "community is all" set):

Anyone who vividly sketches a community marked by justice, love, peace, and holiness has a message iGens want to hear. The self hidden behind the castle wall is now interested. And I have found that the self-in-a-castle feels shame about systemic sin, and their sensitivity to things like AIDS, poverty, and racism leads inevitably to recognizing the sin in each person. At some point in this movement to the castle door, the iGen will realize that systemic sin is linked to personal sin. Suddenly he or she feels accountable to God.

Perhaps its the inverse of the self-help guru approach that appeals to the iGen, but McKnight also sees discipleship as an attractive force with iGens:

Along with Jesus' kingdom vision, some iGens are awakened to faith by the discipleship demands of Jesus. I usually focus on the Sermon on the Mount, and not just because I'm an Anabaptist. This message of Jesus was the church's favorite and it remains a powerful sketch of a moral life that both creates a world of possibilities and—at the very core—unmasks pretence and sinfulness. Through the Sermon on the Mount, I find the self-in-a-castle lured to the castle door. In fact, rather than turning off iGens, the demand of Jesus for a life that matters and a morality that exceeds what they have experienced, is radically attractive. It challenges them to their core.

He concludes with an encouragement:

Like many young people in her generation, what finally led this student to embrace the gospel was being brought into the story of Jesus. Our task in gospeling iGens is following the example of Peter and Paul and helping them find their place—and themselves—in that remarkable story.

What I enjoyed about this article was cKnight putting some framework around some things I have observed in ministry, while still leaving room for a wide variety of responses and experiences. Not everyone is iGen in their makeup but for those who are McKnight offers some clues on reaching them. It resonates with what I see of God's grace drawing people in different ways to the point of commitment to Christ.

What was your experience? What drew you to Christ?


Al said...

I have been slowly drifting into a place where I totally know this is the way forward... There has been a deep unrest in my fundamental reasons I am involved in ministry for some time, and it primarily has been because we have been slowly creating consumer christians... Discipleship is great for them until you expect them to work through tough stuff... they then fly to the next church where they carry on until that church starts expecting them to grow... does this explain the huge growth in the Concert Church?

I have finally arrived at a place where I KNOW that my role in ministry is to be building God's Kingdom (That McKnight is talking about) here on Earth... and journeying with others that work toward that same goal... whether they know it or not...

I am sure I will have more thoughts soon... One week and I will be at a HUGE youth work conference! :)

Paul said...

I think for me the thing that changed everything was the call to a changed life and the accountability to God. I would agree with this but then I am kind of GenI I guess. It is definitely something to think about as I also think the gospel is not as well known as it used to be.

People reject the traditional gospel because it implicates personal sin first. Looking at it more this way is a bit more Rob Bell where you come along side what people are already doing and work from there. It allows the vision of the kingdom to come through and lets people discover Jesus, God and the Gospel through that vision.

Rhett said...

"What was your experience? What drew you to Christ?"

For me it was at a youth camp where a couple of guys challenged me that I had to make a commitment/decision/take owenership in regards to my beliefs. I was raised a Catholic so I knew a lot of the jargon but I suppose it was brain-deep, not life-deep.

It was just good old-fashioned witnessing on the part of those guys I think. They even used that illustration with humanity on one said of the chasm, God on the other, and the Cross as the bridge. It worked!

BJ said...

How interesting that in all 3 of your experiences, it was a call to discipleship, accountability and commitment to already held beliefs, that defines your experience. The third of McKnight's propositions. Thanks for putting it out there.

For me (and its been a useful exercise to reflect on) I think it was a lack of meaning and purpose in life that was the driver. I then looked at Christianity through that lens. I saw people who lived it which was important because had they not lived it, I would have dismissed it. There was a definite sense of alignment with the values of Christianity towards social action. And also, very importantly the elegance of the incarnation and the Cross - wouldn't have used those words then, but it just seemed right that the hero would die and turn out to be God.

Rhett said...

Cool story.

Just to be clear, I'm not sure "already held beliefs" is ENTIRELY correct in my case... maybe "mostly held beliefs". The cheesy cross-bridge image was a way of explaining that God accepted me because of Jesus finished work on the Cross. That's turned out to be pretty significant for me. I think my conception previously (I was only 13, mind you) went along the lines of: go to mass as often as possible, don't have sex before marriage, don't hurt anybody... and it will all be fine. I was also a budding universalist in that I can distinctly remember telling my mother at the age of 11 that I was sure Muslims were going to heaven too.

So as far as it's relevant for a 13 year old, there was a slight belief-shift too. But I suppose I was extra open to it since I was raised within the "Christian" tradition.

BJ said...

The way Melissa tackled Genesis 3 on Sunday was a beautiful example of doing exactly what McKnight proposes. Moving from corporate, social sin to personal, individual sin, the taking of personal responsibility and waving bye bye to the I'm OK, You're OK myth on the way past.

Flendolyn said...

Finally got around to reading this - loved it!

For me, I was drawn to Christ because I could see nothing good in life and no point to anything. Then he drew me in, first by soft whispers that I deliberately chose not to ignore, then through people who truly smoked what they were selling. Finally, in three different places (God always tells me things 3 times, just to make sure I get it!) he showed me the overarching story, the metanarrative of the entire Bible. That's what gave the purpose back to life. It put me in the story and made my actions, here and now, part of what it's all about.

Somewhere through that process, he confronted the sin in my life and continues to do so. But had I been told again a 'gospel' about how I was sinful would have just pushed me off the bridge. Literally.

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