the big story
(this post is a follow on from previous - 'applications & operating systems')
As we think through reaching a generation with the gospel, it has made sense for us to ask ourselves the question “what do we mean by ‘the gospel’?”
Probably the most helpful book for me in wrestling through this question has been McKnight’s “The King Jesus Gospel” where he succinctly helps us make the important distinction between the gospel and salvation - without dismissing the latter.
The gospel - the good news of Jesus - is not primarily about my personal salvation. It is the story of God making all things right under the reign of Jesus - the Anointed One.
A welcome consequence of this story is that Jesus is the way for me to be made right with God - personally.
It won’t really be a surprise to say that we’re seeking to reach a generation who have no idea who Jesus is. Sure, they might hear the name thrown around as an expletive once in awhile, but aside from that, there’s no real familiarity with Him or His story.
So, in the face of broad-scale biblical illiteracy the church has brought out some really cool “apps” to help engage the emerging generation. It’s been so encouraging to see really good resources emerge that present “the whole story of God” - but app development without an upgrade of our operating system is always going to be a problem.
For some years, missiologists and leaders have stressed the importance of “telling the whole story” when we present the gospel - helping those far from God hear the message of Jesus in a larger context. But this needs to be more than just a neat gospel tract, this is more about our operating system than it is our applications.
Something needs to change inside us.
Often we are trying to convince people of their need to step into God’s story when we ourselves are hardwired with a “bridge to life” or “four spiritual laws” operating system alone. A true presentation of the gospel as the whole story of God will only have integrity if those presenting it have wrestled with the gospel as the whole story of God themselves.
If we truly desire to reach a post-post-Christian generation, then our discipleship and equipping should reflect a framework that accounts for the entire narrative of Scripture. The gospels and the book of Romans should no doubt receive their deserved attention, but in the context of the whole story. We need to raise up a generation of “meta-narrative theologians” who are able to inherently discern how the story of God fits together, and how to engage those who are far from God and His story.
This is something we have discovered in facilitating Verge - when young people are given the space and permission to wrestle through the narrative of Scripture, it’s often like pressing the reset button.
You can see that in a Facebook message I received yesterday - Jed was keen to share with me his story from his current Bible College application:
“Around 2010 I went on a youth camp. The camp told the story of the bible, but instead of just viewing all the separate stories of the bible ... it linked them all together into a bigger picture, I hadn’t really thought of it that way before. The gospel was no longer just the story of Jesus Christ, but the story of God from beginning to end and the story of us. With this newfound understanding I spent my last two years at school being comfortable with who I am through Christ, caring more for how God saw me not the world, and stoked to be different.”(Thanks Jed!)
As people come away from our flagship experience, not only have they been able to engage with God, but they re-enter their own mission field with new eyes, new language, and renewed passion.
A primary feature of the new paradigm is seeing followers of Jesus equipped in “The Big Story.”