7.24.2007

How to reach the culture (by Tim Keller)

First, remember that post-everything people like narrative and story. They tend not to like the older kind of preaching that simply enunciated doctrinal principles. Neither are they excited about the newer user-friendly sermons of seeker-churches on how to handle fear, how to balance your life, and so on. So, do we throw overboard everything we have done? Absolutely not. We turn to Geerhardus Vos who says that every single part of the Bible is really about Jesus. If you know how to do Christ-centered preaching, then you turn every single sermon into a kind of story. The plot of the human dilemma thickens, and the hero that comes to the rescue is Jesus. Christ-centered preaching converts doctrinal lectures or little how-to talks into true sermons. Post-everythings who are interested in narrative are reached by such preaching that is deeply Reformed.

Second, remember that post-everythings are experientially oriented. They do not just want intellectual propositions. For them lifes meaning is grounded in what they experience. Of course, as Reformed Christians we are very word-centered, and we know that eternal truth is not based on our subjective experience of it. But Reformed preachers have a tremendous resource for an experience-oriented generation in Jonathan Edwards. Edwards taught that a sermon should not only make truth clear, but also should make truth real. In Edwards we find ways to preach that are Reformed, committed to objective truth and, at the same time, deeply experiential.

Third, remember that post-everythings are very much against moralism and self-righteousness. But Reformed preachers have Martin Luther to help with this concern. Traditional gospel presentations assume that the people want to be good. But our kids generation wants to be free. Luther said, "Look, you want to be free? Good. It's good to be free. But you are not. You are living for something and, whatever that something is, it enslaves you." If a person lives for reputation, then he is a slave to what people think. If a person lives for achievement, then he will be a workaholic. As did Luther, we should tell such people, You want to be free? Fine. But you are not going to be free unless Jesus is your salvation. When post-everythings rejected Christianity they thought moralism and Christianity were the same thing. But we can show post-everythings that the two are not the same, and that freedom really is in Jesus.

Fourth, take note of post-everythings concern for social justice. They innately sense that the church is not credible without care for mercy and justice. We can address these concerns with the wisdom of Hermann Ridderbos and other Reformed theologians who stress the coming of and the presence of the Kingdom. The Reformed understanding of salvation is not simply that God is rescuing individual souls out of the material world, but rather he is also redeeming all of creation. God is going to bring complete healing and shalom to the material world eventually. This makes Christianity (as C.S. Lewis says)a fighting religion against poverty, hunger, and illiteracy. We must bring this Kingdom message of Reformed theology to post-everythings.

Fifth, recognize that post-everythings love art because they love the material world. Abraham Kuyper's understanding of Reformed theology enables us to say to post-everythings, Christianity is not just a way for you as an individual to get peace, love and groovy vibes in Heaven. Christianity is a comprehensive worldview. You can be a Christian artist, dancer, manager, or minister and these are all ways of living out the gospel. When post-everythings hear that, they get extremely excited. They have never considered that Christianity embraces the whole of life.

Finally, remember that post-everythings are not strongly swayed by evidences and proofs. If you start to present evidence for the deity of Christ or the proofs of God, post-everything eyes will glaze over. But the
presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til can work with post-everythings. I think Reformed theology provides us with tools for our culture that Josh McDowell's kind of evidential apologetics does not.

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3 comments:

Less Become The :x said...

well, i'm not sold on the label Reformed Theology, but the tactics are pretty solid. a minor response to the narrative tactic.

post-everything's see doctrinal principles and how-to sermons as one-of-many commands being thrown at us for how to live. so they are not convinced by the passion nor the eloquence of a speaker. rather, post-everything's need to feel connected to the narrative. that the story is not just someone else's, but their's as well. they need to see Jesus as a role model, a mentor, the crazy awesome uncle who always does cool stuff and i want to be just like him. post-everything's want to feel human, because they can't trust what people tell them what human is. too many people, too many voices. it becomes white noise. so the sermon itself needs to be experiential. that means the sermon needs to move from the pulpit to the coffee table. post everything's don't want to be preached at. they want to experience what's being taught with the pastor. so the church needs to be integrated in the culture we experience rather than being a haven from it (which is not to say that the church should corrupt itself and compromise on its cultural standards.) the haven should come in when people discover the peace that God brings in the face of all the evil and wickedness of the world. we don't have to create it, it's already there. it's the whole "two or three are gathered in My Name" thing: the haven that christianity brings is entirely dependent on being connected with/in the presence of the body of Christ (the church) through the Head, Jesus, and independent of every other environmental element. this frees the congregation of a church, it's people, to pretty much place itself any where it has the support and structure to exist.

sidenote: i'm still really fuzzy on internet community churches. if a church doesn't bring a person to some sort of physical contact, it isn't doing its job. but there's little to no accountability in the online world for that. it's like making an ad for television to tell people to go outside to play at least once a day.

Robbie said...

on the narrative side of things...

Redemptive history is a beautiful story, God really had a plan in mind when He created this world and saved ourselves from His wrath. Can we agree that the three major themes within Scripture are Creation, Fall and Redemption? If we add a fourth it would have to be glorification (i.e. eternity with Jesus Christ.) I would argue that this is how Jesus relates to us... You are absolutely right when you say "post everythings want to relate to Jesus Christ." I see this everyday around the mission, and that notion of relevance drives when I share the gospel. How can these people relate to Christ? Jesus humiliated himself to become man (Phil 2), paid the ransom for our sins all that we might enjoy eternity with him. All of Jesus life recorded in Matt, Mark, Luke and John emphasize this, and the epistle to the Hebrews wraps it up quite well saying that Christ endured much just so that we can relate to him... or more precisely.. that He can relate to us. You have to believe in the incarnation to believe this, and Christ's deity as well... So if you want to know the relevance of Christ's life and love for you, you need to know about his person - who He is and what He does.

Tim Keller does what you pointed out very well - as does John Piper and Mark Driscoll.

sdesocio said...

"it's the whole "two or three are gathered in My Name" thing: the haven that christianity brings is entirely dependent on being connected with/in the presence of the body of Christ (the church) through the Head, Jesus, and independent of every other environmental element."

The idea of being reformed is nto the idea that they are labeled as reformed, but that they chose to tie themselves with men that have stood before them. To be reformed is to be tied to the church historic, and specifically a group that said that the church must never give up the goal of refinement, and development.


less becomes said "it's the whole "two or three are gathered in My Name" thing: the haven that christianity brings is entirely dependent on being connected with/in the presence of the body of Christ (the church) through the Head, Jesus, and independent of every other environmental element."

But what if Jesus gave us information on how we should be gathered in his name?

We dont just come together, and Christ is a good side effect. Its a promise of the Presence of God. I think that we should see if Jesus has said what he would like us to do when we come together in his name.