Throughout most of Christian history the introduction of the Good News to individuals took time and emphasised its relational and holistic nature. After the 1950’s, the Church was confronted by a new generation that was looking for quick change and quick answers, so American Evangelicals developed a communication method that was built on Reductionism: the practice of describing a complex set of ideas in the simplest of terms especially if it provides a sufficient explanation.
When it comes to the Good News there may be a place for reductionism as long as the practice doesn’t reach a point of minimising, obscuring, or distorting the key issue.
For example, Evangelical publishers in this era adopted reductionism and mass produced the idea. Publications like Bill Bright’s ‘Four Spiritual Laws’ tract epitomised this process of minimising (with some distorting). For those born after the 1970’s, the ‘Four Spiritual Laws’ is a small four page document that starts with a sketch of the throne of life with “self” on the throne and moves to where one puts “Jesus” on the throne. Then they are no longer separated from God and this is referred to as conversion.
The intentional, intensive three year journey of change instigated by Jesus with His disciples seemed to be reduced to reading a little picture booklet that highlighted one aspect of a relationship with God.
John Wesley said, ‘The Church changes the world not by making converts but by making disciples’.
Dallas Willard in ‘The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God’ says:
‘The idea of having faith in Jesus has come to be totally isolated from being his apprentice and learning how to do what he said’ and ‘We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true’.
What started out as an attempt at contextualisation instead started a process that often simplified the Good News to a commodity that emphasised a single decision.
If you struggle with communicating the Gospel message you might be interested in what Skye Jethani has to say in the book “with”. He suggests that people typically relate to God taking one of four postures – or a combination.
Here are the four postures he shares:
- Life Under God
- Life Over God
- Life From God
- Life For God
The title of his book suggests an alternative posture: Life with God.
If you want to learn more about the four postures in a 5-minute video – CLICK HERE.
If you are interested in reading “with” – CLICK HERE.