NOC blog tour: first stop

I’ve been invited to lead a workshop at the National Outreach Convention 2009 on The Big Story. And Tell It Slant is the first stop on the NOC’s blog tour. They’ll post some questions, and I’ll reply to their questions and any that you might have throughout the day. So ask away!

View All

13 Comments

  1. James – we are looking forward to having you at NOC this year! What new insights are you discovering about evangelism and how we approach it, based on your experience ministering to students and in the classes you teach at Bethel Seminary?

    Reply

  2. That’s a huge question! And answers could easily fill an article, much less a response on a blog! So I can’t be extensive, but I’ll point to one major thing we’ve encountered as we’ve engaged the current culture — particularly on college campuses.

    One thing we’re learning is that the spiritual question of the day is changing. (And I’m heading into vast generalities here.) Two generations ago — when the Boomers were going to college — I think the spiritual question of the day was: what is true? People still cared about objective truth back then, so that was how what we discussed: did Jesus really live on the earth? Did he really die? Did he really come back to life? And it was assumed that if you found out what is true, then you would obviously change your life to live by that truth.

    But when I went to college — along with the Xers — the spiritual question changed. We thought the Boomers did a lot of damage to their families and others around the world based on the “truth” they were chasing. We asked a different question: what is real? Our generation has the gift of smelling a pile of what’s inauthentic from a mile away. We didn’t really care about what was true, but we wanted people to be honest and real with us. Don’t give us any propaganda, anything overtly marketed or programmatic — just be open. So we stopped arguing over the evidence of the gospel, and started sharing vulnerably about how broken we were and how Jesus meets us in authentic ways.

    College students today are different. The Millennials are much more civic, much more willing to jump in and try to solve the world’s problems. They’re pragmatic and optimistic, and were told they were special over and over again by their parents. They’re still postmodern: they still don’t think highly about truth. But they’re not as weepy as the Xers either. They want to know: what works? or what is good for the world?. In a time when Christianity is often seen as a source of intolerance and therefore an enemy of peace, they want to know the answer to this question.

    And the communication of our gospel then has to answer that question: what really is good news for a hurting, broken world? What’s great is that a biblical understanding of the gospel really can answer that question, but it’s going to have to go beyond a gospel that’s only about where we go when we die. It’ll have to also talk about the here and now, and thankfully, Jesus and the Scriptures are full of a gospel that speaks into everyday life.

    
That’s the biggest thing we’re learning, and it has completely revolutionized the way we talk about the gospel, though we pray and do our best to keep the core message deeply biblical and in line with Jesus’ teachings. And it’s great to see how God is using it to call more and more people to a more robust faith, that not merely concerned about our eternal destination when we die (though it’s important), but also about our mission in the world today.

    Reply

  3. It was a big question – but what a great overview in your answer. It’s so important for us to understand the real needs and real questions of every generation. Staying in touch with that keeps outreach relevant.

    Reply

  4. When we talk to people far from God, we continually hear that one of their greatest roadblocks to faith is the age-old question of suffering: How could a good God—a God who loves me–allow me/others to suffer like this? How does your four circle presentation address that question? How are you dealing with that question on campuses?

    Reply

  5. James,in your post, you say: “And the communication of our gospel then has to answer that question: what really is good news for a hurting, broken world?” When you communicate the Gospel and how it offers good news to our hurting world on campuses, how do most college students respond? What is their biggest roadblock or obstacle when presented with the Gospel in this way?

    Reply

  6. […] what they’ll do here? I see that they stopped by James Choung’s blog earlier today, and started a conversation there about what’s changing with evangelism. They invited James […]

    Reply

  7. Hi Lindy —

    College students respond far better to this than a gospel that seems divorced from seemingly everyday realities. In older versions, we had to convince people they were sinners because they broke God’s law, which just feels arbitrary to them. Now, we can help them see how their sin is contributing to the mess in the world. It makes sense to them: it’s what they’re learning in their classrooms, how as people with a great deal of resources and power, we often contribute to the mess.

    The biggest roadblock, in my opinion, is over the exclusivity of Jesus’ claims. We say that it is only through Jesus that we will find the deepest solutions to the problems that we see — particularly because we need to “become the kind of good we want to see in the world,” and that’s impossible without Jesus. That is the sticking point for many.

    Reply

  8. And back to the NOC — that’s an important question!

    Often, when we have shared the gospel in the past, we have gone with essentially a two-circle presentation (essentially the 2nd and 3rd): we have sinned and thus need Jesus to save us from the penalty of that sin. One problem, as related to your question, is that there is no answer for the existence of evil in the presence of an all-powerful God.

    In a four-circle presentation, we actually have an answer. The 1st circle tells us that God didn’t make the world that way, and the evil that we see in the world today is not the way it was supposed to be. In that context, God then loves the world too much to leave it in its broken, hurting state, so he comes as Jesus to start a revolution of love and healing. And the fourth circle shows how we are supposed to be involved in healing the broken world — through the Spirit’s love, leading and power. God is doing something about the evil he hates, and he’s inviting us to participate! That’s an awesome privilege.

    When we don’t share a worldview that’s consistent not only with Scripture but also with what we all see — such as merely a mechanism for dealing with sin’s penalty — then it won’t connect with people outside of the church in any deep level even though it’s true. It’s just not the whole truth, and to share the whole truth, we need something closer to a four-circle approach (not just the Big Story, but in any form) to show that God loves the world too much to leave it and us in the mess we’re in.

    Reply

  9. Hi again James. Excellent posts here!

    Your statement I couldn’t agree with more:
    ‘When we don’t share a worldview that’s consistent not only with Scripture but also with what we all see — such as merely a mechanism for dealing with sin’s penalty — then it won’t connect with people outside of the church in any deep level even though it’s true.’

    And just trying to follow the explanation of this NOC comment…

    ‘One problem, as related to your question, is that there is no answer for the existence of evil in the presence of an all-powerful God.’

    So.

    God absolves himself from responsibility for evil (circle’s
    one and two) and God loves the world and henceforth comes as Jesus (circle three).

    You say: ‘in that context…’ So the world is not as it was supposed to be. God (as I take it) in effect weeps for it. And so in moving to heal the world (in the present and future) he is really actively demonstrating the opposite to the common objection mentioned above; that the existence of evil in the presence of an all-powerful God is really a work in progress rather than a sculpture already set in
    clay.

    So on this view God is only apparently awol. The reality is that God IS, indeed, operating for the good. And hence this is the explanation of evil in the presence of the omnipotent God.

    Is this in the ball park?

    Reply

  10. Hi Chris —

    Nice. And definitely in the ball park. Here’s a little more: God takes on the power of evil and says that it won’t be the final answer. Jesus’ death and resurrection say that death, sin nor evil will have the final say, but life will come out of death.

    As for a God who “absolves himself,” I’m not sure I would put it that way. I would say that he loves us too much to force his way: love never forces, it woos. So he has to give us the choice to really screw up all of creation and hurt each other, to allow for the choice to actually love him back. But he’s not passive: he sees the evil and damage in the world and stepped in to intervene.

    Reply

  11. Hi James.

    Ta for this!

    ‘love never forces, it woos.’

    Very good. Agree!

    But…
    Hell.
    Hmm…

    More later, hopefully – the comments here are really of interest to me.

    Reply

  12. Hi Chris —

    Thanks!

    What did you think about the response that Steve and I left about hell at another post?

    http://www.jameschoung.net/2008/01/31/the-big-story-part-2/

    Reply

  13. Thanks James!

    Honoured to be in contact with a big note US evangelist such as yourself! (Constantly brag about you to my evangelical friend, she just swoons.)

    Sure. Cool responses – measured, thoughtful.

    Reply soon.

    Good luck with the Convention and other stuff in between.

    Reply

Leave a Reply