This is the last in the series of ‘everyday theology’ talks I gave at the Total Church Conference 2010, Sheffield, UK.
This is a talk I gave at the Total Church Conference 2010, in Sheffield, UK.
I gave this talk at the Total Church Conference in Sheffield, 2010.
Jonny Woodrow shows how the framework of creation, fall, redemption and consummation can be used to connect the stories of our culture with the gospel story. He applies this approach to slimming and dieting.
Jonny is a church planter with The Crowded House (www.thecrowdedhouse.org) and a tutor for the Northern Training Institute (www.northerntraininginstitute.org). This video clip is from the 2010 Total Church Conference in Sheffield, UK. The full conference media are available here.
Here are two frameworks that may help talk about the gospel in the context of ordinary conversations.
Four points of intersection
Everyone has their own version of the ‘gospel’ story:
creation – who I am or who I should be
fall – what’s wrong with me and the world
redemption – what’s the solution
consummation – what I hope for
When we hear people expressing their version of creation, fall, redemption or consummation, we can talk about the gospel story. Talking about Jesus begins with listening to other people’s stories and sharing our own story of Jesus.
Four liberating truths
Everyone’s behaviour is shaped by what they believe. We can listen out for the beliefs that shape people’s behaviour and shape their hurts and hopes. This then allows us to speak of the liberating truth of God which counters the lies upon which people build their lives and which eventually fail them in some way:
God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves
Great little post from Donald Whitney …
Over and over I’ve seen one simple question open people’s hearts to hear the gospel. Until I asked this question, they showed no interest in spiritual matters. But then after six words—only seventeen letters in English—I’ve seen people suddenly begin to weep and their resistance fall. The question is, “How can I pray for you?” …
This question is similar to one that Jesus Himself sometimes asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32). For what we are really asking is, “What do you want me to ask Jesus to do for you?” And by means of this question, we can show the love of Christ to people and open hearts previously closed to the gospel.
I had tried to talk about the things of God many times to a business-hardened, retired executive who lived next door. He was a pro at hiding his feelings and keeping conversations at a superficial level. But the day we stood between our homes and I asked, “How can I pray for you?” his eyes filled with tears as his façade of self-sufficiency melted. For the first time in seven years he let me speak with him about Jesus.
It’s a short, easily remembered question. You can use it with longtime friends or with people you’ve just met. It doesn’t seem too personal or pushy for those who’d rather give you a shallow answer just now, and yet it often leads to a full hearing of the gospel. You can ask it of people nearly every time you speak with them and it doesn’t get old. Just simply and sincerely ask, “How can I pray for you?” You’ll be surprised at the results.
The context for church, mission, community, discipleship, pastoral care, training, growth is ordinary life. Shopping, chores, meals, sports, journeys. This is how Jesus did discipleship and community: walking along the road or around a meal. See also Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and 1 Thessalonians 2:8.
It is also about doing ordinary life together – having our lives intersect. So we’re not talking about house groups or small groups. Home groups are usually a meeting. You have ‘home group night’. It’s an event. We’re talking about a community of people who share life together.
Gospel intentionality is the mentality or habit or culture in which, as you share lives, you look for opportunities to talk about Jesus, to encourage, to challenge, to pray, to praise. Without this all you are doing is ordinary life and everyone does that!
Many of us are confident we’ll be justified on the last day – acquitted before God through the death of Jesus. But what about justification today and tomorrow? Are you still trying to prove yourself?
- Do you ever get angry or brood because you want to prove you’re in the right?
- Does your Christian service feel like joyless duty?
- Do you ever feel the pressure to perform?
- Do you serve others so you can feel good about yourself or impress people?
- Do you look down on others or exaggerate their failings?
- Do you worry that you won’t make the grade in life?
- Do you enjoy conversations about the shortcomings of others?
Read Luke 15:11-32. The attitude and behaviour of the father is a picture of God’s grace to us in Christ. Look at the behaviour of the older brother. How do we behave when we don’t grasp God’s grace and our status as his children?
‘The older brother became angry and refused to go in.’ (28) We view life as a contract: we do good works and in return God blesses us. When things go well we’re filled with pride. When things go badly we either blame ourselves = guilt (anger against ourselves) or we blame God = bitterness (anger against God).
‘All these years I’ve been slaving for you.’ (29) The older son doesn’t see himself as a son at all, but as a servant. The father has his obedience, but not his love. Joyless duty will characterise our attitude if we think of God as an uncaring boss. But when we see him as a gracious Father our attitude will joyful service. Does God the Father have your obedience, but not your love?
‘I never disobeyed your orders.’ (29) There are people trying to perform day after day in a desperate attempt to prove themselves. They live in a constant state of stress and busyness, always striving to put in another great performance.
‘This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes’ (30). We highlight other people’s faults so we can look better ourselves.
There are acts that look like good works, but in fact reflect a belief that I’m a better saviour than Jesus. That’s why Jesus says: ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6:29) There’s only one thing God wants us to do: have faith in his Son. Everything else will flow from that.
All is not lost. The father goes out to plead with the older brother (28). He welcomes his dissolute son and he welcomes his self-righteous son.
When our actions are not characterized by joy, it is usually because they are driven by false motives:
1. To prove ourselves to God
We obey so God will be impressed with us or bless us. We want to become our own saviours instead of looking to God for salvation.
2. To prove ourselves to other people
We want people to be impressed by us, to fit in or win approval. One result is other people set the standard. We live in obedience to people rather than to God.
3. To prove yourself to yourself
We want to feel good about ourselves. Sin becomes an offence against me, against my self-esteem rather than an offence against God.
What’s wrong with wanting to obey so we can prove ourselves to God or people or ourselves?
First, it makes obedience about me looking good. It is done for my glory. And that’s pretty much the definition of sin. Sin is living my way for me instead of living God’s way for God. Often that means rejecting God as Lord and wanting to be our own lord, but it can also involve rejecting God as Saviour and wanting to be our own saviour. Pharisees do good works and repent of bad works. But gospel repentance includes repenting of good works done for bad reasons. We repent of trying to be our own saviour.
Second, it denies the cross. Jesus died on the cross, separated from his Father, bearing the full weight of God’s wrath so that we can be accepted by God. When we try to prove ourselves by our good works we’re saying, in effect, that the cross wasn’t enough.
The justifying work of Christ on our behalf leads to:
humility (3:27) because we have all fallen short of God’s glory (3:23) and all depend completely on Christ
confidence (8:1, 31-39) because our hope is Christ’s finished work and not in us
Here’s the draft programme for The Total Church Conference.
Total Church Conference
Friday 19 – Saturday 20 February 2010
Day One: Everyday Gospel
- Loving God, loving other (Steve Timmis)
- A theology of washing up (Tim Chester)
- Everyday pastoral care (Tim Chester)
Day Two: Everyday Mission
- Church under the radar (Steve Timmis)
- Everyday evangelism (Tim Chester)
- Mission by being a good neighbour – church planting without trying (Steve Timmis)
Plus a variety of break out sessions.
The cost is £60 (waged) and £40 (unwaged) with a 15% discount for group bookings over five people. If you have any questions or want to book then please contact Becs Wells – rebecca [dot] wells [at] thecrowdedhouse [dot] org or 0114 267 6704. You can also find more information and book online here. Group bookings must be made with Becs.