That is one of the questions that is asked in this book…for the answer you’ll have to wade through some material that will make you take the question more seriously than you might otherwise have been tempted to.
As I read McKnight’s book I was reminded of two events, one in college and the other in seminary. In seminary I took a course called “Indigenous Church”…after spending a semester discussing contextualization, culture, etc., the class determined that we had a pretty good understanding of “indigenous” but we were fairly murky on the meaning of “church.” That realization encouraged me to take a deeper look at the New Testament’s understanding of “church”.
The other event was also in a class and the professor said something I thought was profound…he said that, “the problem with our evangelization is that it is anthropocentric (human-centered)…what would it look like if it were theocentric (God-centered)?" Unfortunately he left it as an unanswered question…and at the time I found it unanswerable…to borrow from some of McKnight’s language I was thoroughly enmeshed in a “salvation culture” and I couldn’t see how the Gospel could be otherwise. Like many in a “salvation culture”, the “plan of salvation” and the “Gospel” were essentially one and the same for me.
In contrast to the anthropocentric approach I deeply appreciate McKnight’s Christ-centered gospeling. At one point he makes a strong statement (that I agree with),”Anyone who can preach the gospel and not make Jesus’ exalted lordship the focal point simply isn’t preaching the apostolic gospel.” (134). And that summarizes one of the main points of the book…the story and proclamation of Jesus’ lordship is absolutely essential to the Gospel. At one level this doesn’t seem all that novel…at another level it is amazing that we ever lost it.
Tomorrow we’ll look at how McKnight defines a “salvation culture” and how a “gospel culture” solves some of the problems we are currently facing in transforming those who have made decisions into those who are disciples.