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Missional MovesExponential Series
By Rob Wegner Jack Magruder
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2012 Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFROM SAVED SOULS TO SAVED WHOLES
Missional Move 1
What is the gospel? This is the most important question a local church must answer. To put it lightly, the word gospel is a big word. In fact, you could argue that it's in the running for the title of Biggest Word in the Entire Lexicon of the Human Language.
Just how big is it?
While on vacation a number of years back, I (Rob) took my kids to the circus for the first time. One of the clowns dragged a huge trunk out into the middle of the center ring. He opened it up and began pulling out enough clothes to fill up a bin at the Salvation Army store. Then he pulled out four chairs, a table, and a huge feast of food to place on the table. Just as we thought he was finished, he reached in and pulled out an entire army of clowns, who filled up the center ring. My kids, who were little tikes at the time, were spellbound. My daughter asked with wonder, "How does he do it, Dad?" It was a magical moment. That is, until I responded, "There's a hole in the floor."
My wife slugged me.
What if I told you that the gospel is so big you could pull the transformation and healing of the entire cosmos out of it? What if the gospel is so big you could pull the redemption of every tribe and every nation out of it—billions of transformed people?
Unlike a clown trunk, there's no catch to the gospel, no gimmicks or hole in the floor to fool you into believing something that isn't real. The gospel is worthy, like nothing else, of genuine, childlike, spellbound wonder. That's why our first missional move begins with the expansion of our understanding, communication, and embodiment of the gospel.
The very first missional move that any church can make is to expand the gospel from a message of saved souls to one of "saved wholes." We've experienced the power of this simple but powerful tectonic shift here at Granger. Over the past decade, Granger has seen thousands of people released on mission, involved in redemptive movements both locally and globally. These include expressions like the Monroe Circle Community Center (something we call MC3), a hub for neighborhood renewal in the inner city of South Bend. It includes a movement of more than one thousand reproducing church plants in southern India, churches that are now becoming hubs for community development. Granger also has had the privilege of coordinating church-planting movements in places like Sudan, China, and Cambodia, where an additional one thousand new church plants have joined partners, pastors, planters, and people on the ground in each of those locales to work together for the advancement of God's kingdom. And it all starts with this first missional move. If we miss this one, none of the others will be effective. But if we get this one right, it will become the impetus and sustaining force for all of the other moves we make.
The truth is that for far too long we've settled for a wafer-thin, low-calorie, radically reduced understanding of the gospel. We call this the Saved Souls Gospel.
SAVED SOULS GOSPEL = THE PLAN OF SALVATION
For many churches, the gospel is only about saving souls. Whether it's presented as four laws in a tract handed to someone or preached as a fire escape from hell through a walk down the aisle, it presents a quick solution that solves the problem of securing your final destination for eternity. It's a gospel that sounds something like this: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. But you have a problem with sin and death. Jesus died on the cross to take care of that problem. Accept Jesus and you'll have forgiveness of sin and assurance of a place in heaven when you die." Sometimes this summary is called the Plan of Salvation, and to be clear, we do not intend to diminish or downplay the truth contained in this summary. We thank God that in Jesus we can be washed clean from sin. We thank God that in Jesus we have the confident hope of life eternal beyond the grave. It's not that this version of the gospel is incorrect or untrue. It's just incomplete.
We notice this when we study how Jesus communicated the gospel. He described it using two simple words: good news. "The time has come.... The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15). However, many of us assume Jesus really meant to say, "The time has come. Heaven is available to all who accept me in their heart as their personal Savior. Believe the four spiritual laws, say the sinner's prayer, and you will get a cosmic Get out of Jail Free card when you die."
Without minimizing the message of personal salvation and our need for forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life, we still want to stress that this is not the whole story. The problem with the Saved Souls Gospel is that it is primarily concerned with our future in heaven. But is that all there is to the good news that Jesus came to share? By contrast, the Saved Wholes Gospel is concerned about both heaven and earth, and is a story that ends with the ultimate merging of these two worlds. Jesus' good news—his "gospel" message—was an announcement of a new social, political, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual order. A revolution had begun that ultimately would give birth to a new world, the kingdom of God.
SAVED WHOLES GOSPEL = JESUS IS LORD!
A robust understanding of the gospel includes three elements: the whole story, the whole expression, and the whole life.
The Whole Story. Jesus is the center of the story of God. All of creation and the story of Israel find their fulfillment in Jesus. At his return, Jesus will bring about the consummation of God's plan to heal and redeem the entire creation. Jesus has created an alternative covenant community of people, the church, who are called to join God in this great work. Before Jesus, Israel was designed to be this new community. Since Jesus, through his saving work on the cross, all are invited to join, not based on their merits but by God's grace.
The Whole Expression. The gospel announcement "Jesus is Lord" includes both a verbal proclamation and a demonstration proclamation.
The Whole Life. The gospel announcement "Jesus is Lord" is what some have called a three-word worldview. The lordship of Jesus requires that the life and mission of Jesus be expressed in every area of life.
More extensive scholarly analysis of this idea can be found in the works of N. T. Wright, Scot McKnight, Dallas Willard, Timothy Keller, Alan Hirsch, Brian McLaren, and a host of other contemporary church leaders. Our goal in presenting this first missional move is to present some ways of making a more comprehensive understanding of the gospel portable at the grassroots church level. To do this, we begin by explaining how the statement that "Jesus is Lord" affects the story that we live and the expression of that story in all of life.
THE WHOLE STORY
The gospel makes sense to us as "good news" only if we first understand that the gospel belongs to a much bigger story, the biblical narrative. We can call this sweeping biblical narrative God's story, and we would argue that the gospel only makes sense when it is announced as part of God's story. This story has six parts: Creation, Rebellion, Redemptive Covenant Community, Christ, Church, and Re-creation.
1. Creation (Genesis 1–2). God creates us and makes this world as his temple. He places humanity there as his image bearers and representatives, to serve as co-creators, priests, and kings.
2. Rebellion (Genesis 3). Humanity rebels, bringing decay and death. Now disharmony and separation crack our relationship with God, creation, each other, and even our own selves.
3. Redemptive Covenant Community (Genesis 4–Malachi 4). God works out a way of transforming these broken people by covenanting with them. Israel is invited to join God in his plan to redeem all nations and all things, but they lose sight of this mission over and over again. Ultimately, they end up in exile. To reclaim a people to fulfill this mission, God sends the one great Israelite, the true Israelite, Jesus Christ.
4. Christ (Matthew–John). When Jesus speaks of "good news," he is tapping into the entire story of redemptive history up to that point in time. Simultaneously, he is also reaching out to God's future, the re-creation of all things, when the world will finally be as it should be.
In the time of Christ, the hope for the Messiah reaches a fever pitch. Why? For four hundred years the Jews have been waiting with an intense longing and frustration and expectation for the story of God to be fulfilled in the Messiah.
At the synagogue, after the inauguration of his ministry at his baptism, Jesus reads these words from the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news," and then says, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:18, 21). The "good news" tied into all of the Jews' deepest hopes and imaginations and sense of identity. Jesus is saying to them, "The story is all coming true in me. Right here. Right now."
Jesus begins to preach the "good news of the kingdom" and to demonstrate it with his life and his miracles. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus blows open the doors to the kingdom for anyone to come in. That leads us to the last two parts of the story.
5. Church (Acts–Revelation). Israel was designed to be the community that God would use to bless the world. In his life, Jesus fulfills God's intentions for Israel. Through the saving work of Jesus on the cross, all people are now invited to belong to the people of God. Their acceptance is based not on their ethnicity or their merits but solely on the saving work of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Jesus has created the church for the universal mission of making disciples in all nations and manifesting the kingdom in all of the earth. The Bible makes the audacious claim that the Spirit of Jesus is now physically present on earth through this new community, through his body, through the church. As the church, the body of Christ, we represent Jesus in our words and actions, and in this sense serve as the hands and feet of Christ.
6. Re-creation (Revelation 20–21). We now wait for the return of Christ. The full healing of the world will be completed only at the return of Jesus. At the second coming, evil will be judged and decisively defeated. In the words of Jesus, "I am making everything new!" (Rev. 21:5). Heaven and earth will collide and commingle. The world will finally be as it should be.
This is God's story. History is really his story. And Jesus is the central character, the hero of God's story. We believe that the gospel can be fully understood only within the telling of God's story, but to be clear, we are not suggesting that God's story and the gospel are the same. Some have suggested that this six-part retelling of God's story (or some other version of it) is actually the gospel. But the gospel is an announcement, a declaration that Jesus is Lord. This gospel announcement includes both a verbal proclamation and a demonstration proclamation, and as we announce that Jesus is Lord, in both word and deed, we find the whole expression of the gospel.
THE WHOLE EXPRESSION
Local churches are filled with well-meaning Christians who would disagree with what we are saying about the gospel. Because many in the church have been taught only the Saved Souls version of the gospel, they are convinced that the gospel is about only one thing: How do we get out of trouble with God? John Ortberg refers to this reductionist understanding of the gospel as "the minimal requirements to get to heaven when we die." But when we study the Scriptures, we find little evidence that Jesus ever talked about this.
If this wasn't what Jesus preached, what did he talk about? What is the gospel Jesus preached?
"After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'" (Mark 1:14–15).
"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people" (Matt. 4:23).
"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness" (Matt. 9:35).
"After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him" (Luke 8:1).
"When Jesus had called the Twelve together ... he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:1–2).
"The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them ... 'When you enter a town ... tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you'" (Luke 10:1, 2, 8–9).
When Jesus spoke and preached, he had one message that united all of his teaching. This was the message of "good news" that he shared wherever he went. In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly links the phrase "good news" with the kingdom of God. In more than one hundred passages where Jesus refers to the kingdom of God, you quickly notice that the kingdom of God is the core of Jesus' message. It's more than a single volume on his proverbial bookshelf (somewhere between Forgiveness and Money). Rather, the kingdom of God is the bookshelf that holds all of the other volumes. The kingdom of God is Jesus' key paradigm. It is the framework that unites all of his teaching and preaching. All other topics are simply descriptions of or explanations about entering and living in the kingdom of God.
After rising from the dead, Jesus spent forty days with his followers. Ask yourself, If I had one month to live, what would I want to communicate to the people I love? It's likely that you would use this time wisely, passing along the things that you hold to be most valuable, the sacred and immutable message you want your loved ones to hear and understand. So what was this irreducible core for Jesus? "He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
This is the very same message the early church carried to the world. The last glimpse we have of the early church in the last chapter of the book of Acts confirms this. The apostle Paul is under house arrest in Rome, and the book of Acts ends with this summation of the apostle's life and ministry: "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!" (Acts 28:30–31).
For Paul and the early followers of Jesus, the message they shared—the good news of the gospel—came down to two things: the proclamation that "Jesus is Lord" and the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Because Jesus is Lord (the king and appointed ruler of the kingdom), these messages are essentially the same.
When you study what the Old Testament prophets say about the kingdom when it comes in its fullness, you quickly realize that in addition to the good news of the forgiveness of our sin and the promise of indestructible life beyond the grave (the resurrection), the good news is about far more than you or me as individuals. The gospel of the kingdom touches every sphere of human concern and engagement, motivating care for the poor, bringing justice to the oppressed, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, fostering education, providing decent housing, and creating art and beauty. The gospel changes everything.
Since the good news is about the kingdom of God, it helps if we understand what Jesus means when he talks about the kingdom. What is the kingdom of God, according to Jesus?
In Matthew 6:9, Jesus prays, "Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The kingdom of God is the answer to Jesus' prayer. It's whenever and wherever God's will is done here on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom of God is revealed whenever we join the work of Jesus in bringing what's "up there" down here. It's what the Old Testament prophets called shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word that often is translated as "peace," but it refers to more than a vague sense of well-being. It speaks of the complete restoration of wholeness in every area of a person's life and surroundings. Neal Plantinga, in his book Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, describes the biblical idea of shalom: "The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call Shalom.... In the Bible, Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be."
Excerpted from Missional Moves by Rob Wegner Jack Magruder Copyright © 2012 by Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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