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The Gospel and Unity

Greetings All,

This week's 'thought' comes from David Wells in his book, "Above All Earthly Pow'rs - Christ in a Postmodern World." In it he addresses God's intended purpose, and the Gospel's inherent power, to break down barriers between people, and how the niche-marketing approach of exploiting social and generational distinctives in trying to sell the Gospel to different groups actually rebuilds the walls Christ came to break down. Enjoy!

"The gospel declares that there is no natural merit, no human standing, which advances a person toward God and his salvation, or makes one person more acceptable to God than another. All of the ways in life in which people seek importance and seek preeminence over one another are irrelevant to their standing before God. This is true of ethnicity, wealth, class, power, privileged birth, connections, profession, generation and religion. If this is the truth upon which the gospel rests, then it is the truth which the Church is obliged to model. So it is that Paul declares that there 'is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus' (Gal. 3:28). And by extension, should we not also say that because we are all one in Jesus Christ, there is neither Builder nor Boomer, neither Xer nor child of the Millennium, city dweller or suburbanite, Westerner or Third Worlder? Exploiting generational distinctions in the pursuit of success, which is what is at the heart of the seeker church movement, should be as offensive as exploiting racial differences for personal advantage....

(W)hen we set out with a methodology which we know will create churches that will be culturally, generationally, economically, and racially monolithic and monochromatic, something is amiss. The logic of the gospel as Paul understood it, and the logic of the marketing of the Church as we are practicing it today, are simply at loggerheads... Churches are successfully catering to the tastes of Boomers and Xers, filling the seats, creating a show each Sunday, orchestrating warm feelings, but leaving entirely unattended the much larger world which exists outside the generational shelters...

The gospel calls for the Church to exhibit in itself the fact that what typically divides people has been overcome in Christ; marketing frequently leads the Church to capitalize on what divides people in order to exploit the niches of class and generation.

What is at stake here, as Paul argued, is nothing less than the gospel. What is at stake is also nothing less than the work of the Trinity. To the Ephesians, Paul argued that there "is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all who is above all and through all and in all' (Eph. 4:4-6).

Paul's argument is compelling for its simplicity. There is only one body because there is only one Spirit; there is only one faith because there is only one Lord; there is only one family because there is only one Father. The unity of the people of God is as secure as the unity of the trinity. The Church's responsibility, therefore, is not to create unity, as the ecumenical movement proposed, but to preserve the unity that God himself has already created in Christ...

The fact that the line between commerce and belief is eroding makes it easy for people to think there may be a market for religion even as there is for goods and services and that these two markets work in similar ways. This is not an entirely aberrant observation. Yet the parallels are now being pressed so injudiciously, so unwisely, that the promotion of (imperishable) faith has come to be indistinguishable from the promotion of (perishable) products (I Pet. 1:4-5, 18-19) as if the dynamic of success in the one naturally duplicates itself in the other.

Seekers become consumers, pastors become business tycoons, churches become marketing outlets, the gospel becomes a product, faith becomes its purchase, and increasingly the outcome in people's lives is no different than if they had made any other purchase."

Just a little food for thought.
In The service of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff