Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jesus-Keller-Pink-Christensen Mashup

Some would argue that the truth of Scripture must remain pure, unadulterated by the taint of culture. Others would remind us that the truth of Scripture can only be understood and expressed in the context of some specific culture.

When people fight for the “pure gospel,” they are always fighting for an expression of the gospel in a culture that they “feel at home” in.

The question is not whether to comprehend the gospel in cultural terms. The question is whether we do this intelligently or unwittingly. If we are not aware of this process, we tend to selectively adapt culture and the gospel to each other, keeping the parts that we find most comforting and comfortable.

When the gospel is expressed appropriately in a particular cultural context, it speaks both prophetically and reassuringly.

When this is done badly,
the result resembles neither the gospel nor the culture.

Inasmuch as all truth is God’s truth, I would like to pull together elements of truth expressed in several different contexts. So I suggest the following mashup of Jesus, Tim Keller, Daniel Pink & Clayton Christensen.

mashup is a song, video or web application that combines information from several sources and fashions it into a new article with added value.)

Some time ago
I did a post about a book by Daniel Pink called A Whole New Mind.

Pink says that nowadays people are looking for
  • Design as well as function
  • Story as well as argument
  • Synthesis as well as focus
  • Empathy as well as logic
  • Play as well as seriousness
  • Meaning more than material accumulation
I also mentioned that Tim Keller identifies these characteristics of a missional church:
  • They use vernacular language.
  • They engage the culture and re-tell the culture’s stories in the context of the gospel.
  • They train their people theologically for public life and vocation.
  • They create a Christian culture that is both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. (It cannot be neatly categorized as “liberal” or “conservative.”)
  • They practice Christian unity as much as possible in the community.
My previous post about the three books written by Clayton Christensen included the following ideas:
  • Look for people who are trying to solve the problem for which you have the solution.
  • Strategy evolves. The first version of the strategy is rarely effective.
  • Success kills off innovation.
  • Focus on the “low end.”
  • Keep things simple.
With this background, let’s look at some of Jesus’ statements and actions as they illustrate some of the same ideas.

Jesus used stories

Matthew 13:34 says, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.”

Jesus was a storyteller. Narrative was at the center of Hebrew life. The very identity of the Israelites was rooted in the account of Abraham, Moses and David. Yet today, Christianity is often thought of as a system of doctrine and regulations.

People are searching for compelling stories. In 2004, Americans spent
more than 33 billion on movie tickets and home movie rentals.

And so the church gives them
Seven Steps to Live at Your Full Potential and Nine Secrets of Healthy Relationships.

Jesus provided a solution to those who knew they had a problem

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

The religious establishment was expecting the Messiah to come with all the trappings of power and piety. But Jesus did not fulfill the cultural expectations of the insiders. He did not look for followers among the religious establishment. He sought out those who were at the margins of society, people who were not good enough, rich enough or connected enough to participate in the current system.

When Jesus encountered the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). The man answered, “I have no one to help me into the pool.”

The man thought he had a getting-into-the-pool-first problem. He was trying to solve that problem. Jesus provided a solution to his real problem. Notice the difference between the approach of Jesus and a market-driven approach.

Yet he doesn’t try to convince the satisfied to accept his solution.

In John 9, he encounters another man who is trying to solve his unable-to-work problem by begging. Jesus restores his sight even though his condition was congenital, once again solving the underlying the problem.

The Pharisees denied that they had an unable-to-see problem. Jesus replied that in that case he was could not help them.

Jesus emphasized meaning over material possessions

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Then he tells his listeners not to worry about food, drink or clothes. He calls them to focus on the Kingdom instead.

Jesus enjoyed life

Jesus was accused of too much partying (Luke 7:34). His first miracle was providing wine for a wedding celebration. Jesus told Martha to relax and enjoy his company (Luke 10:40­–42).

Jesus simplified God’s expectations

The religious establishment had erected an elaborate system that required experts to understand and keep the Law. The people were told that they could not please God without the assistance of these experts.

On one occasion, one of these experts tried to trap Jesus while asserting his own superiority in handling the Law (Matthew 22). Jesus cut through the conundrum with two simple commands: Love God and love your neighbor.

I’m sure we could find other examples of how Jesus embodied more of these concepts. If you can think of any, feel free to add them in the comments.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

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