Thursday, March 16, 2006

"The world disdains the empty message..."

Blog related comments and emails this week have taken too much of my blog allocation of time! So just time for a short quote from Steve Courts Be a Hero.

Mercy and Justice are what move people. For too long we have been pushing a message devoid of the guts of the kingdom. For too long we've been giving them thoughts to get them saved, and then let them die. The world disdains the empty message. If we will only do the works of Jesus, we won't have to speak much.

Court, S and Campbell, W. (2004) Be a Hero: The Battle for Mercy and Social Justice


Anonymous said...

Very true statement. We have a philosophy of loving people into the kingdom of God, we dont preach at them we just love them and soon they meet Jesus.


Matt Clifton said...

Ah - couldn't resist...

I love Steve's take on most things, but this paragraph slips towards the old dichotomy - needlessly inflating actions and deflating words.

The NT model (especially in the ministry of Jesus) is so clear: we do action and words together flowing from a heart of love.

Gordon said...

Matt .. I really think we agree - to a certain extent :o)I know there is always a danger in throwing quotes but Newbigin sums it up.

In the mission of Jesus we see that there is both the presence of the kingdom and also the proclamation of the kingdom. Jesus himself is the presence of the Kingdom; but Jesus also preaches the kingdom. It is present, but it has to be preached. But if it is not present, then the preaching is empty words.

Demonstration of kingdom values and proclamation shouldn't be seperated - we agree?

The tough question is - how is the kingdom present if the reason for giving food, clothes shelter for the Tsunami victim is merely to get the opportunity to evangelise? Have we failed if we rehouse 2500 families in Sri Lanka and none have signed on the Billy Graham dotted line :o) - AB would probably say yes (sorry AB ;o) - if you are lurking)

Actions have value in themselves, and give credibility to the gospel and provoke intrigue and questions.

What weight or credibility is there to this ploy I heard a church employ. Bar-b-q for the community which was sold to me as evangelistic in that it was discovered that there was just enough time to preach the gospel in the time there was to eat a burger!?

What is that demonstrating... unconditional love hmmm!?

needlessly inflating actions and deflating words. I don't think so when the balance is right I think it seriously amplifies the word!


Matt incidently, I am really enjoying the conversation and I hope that the medium doesn't in anyway convey any defensiveness on my part. The other thing we need to avoid each other at officer's councils - we'd never get any sleep!!!

What did I do with my life before you burst onto the blog scene!! :o)

Matt Clifton said...

Yep - it has been great to have this dialogue!

I think there is enough in the posts to make it very clear where we are each coming from. Of course I go with the Newbigin quote - it's a tidy piece of dichotomy-closure.

You'll see no trace of my being into devious ploys to get the gospel in. But you'll also find deep unease with social service that abdicates on proclamation. The bottom line is that charitable work for its own sake is a plain deviation from NT mission. It is a keeping to ourselves of the greatest antidote to human need ever known. So, yep, your Sri Lanka example is a dubious set up - we want them all to find Christ.

Of course, in some places we are absolutely prohibited from preaching the gospel, and I can envisage a preparing of the ground through compassionate social care. As I outlined before, 'means to an end' is sometimes how mission has to be done. In that context, we are being as loving as we are allowed to be.

I'm basically against any dichotomising of word and action - proclamation and demonstration, whether implicit or explicit. Your original blog post that kicked off my epistle was a hugely polemical inflation of action over word, so that's why I've been a-prodding and a-probing! Looking through your blog, including your personal profile ('show' and 'demonstrate'), I still have the clear impression that your love for demonstration outweighs your love for proclamation. Fair? My ideal (admittedly not always met) is for a seamless blend of both.

BTW, 1 Corinthians 2:4 will perhaps have to be saved for a future debate!

Probably time to wrap up this line of enquiry for now!

Thanks again for such a helpful kicking around of key issues :O)

Gordon said...

Matt this line of enquiry can never end :o) - it points to the heart of the gospel and therefore our engagement in our communities as the hands of Christ... but I take your point, us trading blogs might be a bit tedious to others!

I do think you have misrepresented me by saying "I still have the clear impression that your love for demonstration outweighs your love for proclamation" and there is much more we could debate regarding the emptiness of words that does not have behind it a costly 'grace infused' engagement.

There is much more we could chat about in that my feeling is that we speak of two issues. You rightly speak of any dichotomising of 'word and action' - I have no debate with that and agree with Tomlin when he says "Provoking questions that the gospel is the answer unites gospel-as-life and gospel-as-deed with gospel-as-word. Our witness depends on our living lives so that the Holy Spirit may evoke questions to which our faith is the answer”.

The debate I have is with those that can not see the spiritual, sacramental and kingdom value of meeting needs in the name of Christ and reduce that to a secular expression of social work that represents a waste of time for the church - or the reason for my initial 'polemical inflation' use it as the maggot to disguise the hook - I've found that the world is suspicious of the disembodied truth this engenders. Incidently I must apologise though if you feel I have pointed the finger at you and in anyway accused you as being devious – that hasn’t been my point at all!

Always happy to be involved in the kicking around of key issues, always happy to be wrong!

Matt Clifton said...

Agreed - there are few more important topics to wrestle with, given its immediate application to what we are doing when we're not sitting at a PC.

I'm glad to be mistaken in my impression of where your heart lies! Happy to accept the correction :O)

I can see that the vigour of your celebration of gospel-as-life-and-deed (and its sometimes polemical flavour) springs from deep and right concern about the damage done by empty words. We're driven to write about our passionate concerns.

I feel deeply that the denigration of preaching and muted witness of the church in this country is at least as big a tragedy, so that maybe explains the passion with which I come to this debate.

I can't quite align myself with your Tomlin quote in that I love to use proclamation together with demonstration (again, closing a dichotomy!) as a means to provoke questions to which faith is the answer.

I see this, for example in a ministry like Ravi Zacharias, and attempt it myself in a different way, for example, in the two school assemblies I lead each week.

Often, it is a case of teasing out questions that are already hardwired into every human heart (e.g. Zacharias; origins, purpose, meaning, destiny).

So I say (provocatively) that even Tomlin is a dichotomiser!

Gordon said...

Matt with that you have the last word. Sorry tho' I mis-referenced. It was Myers and not Tomlin

Matt Clifton said...

No bait-biting today then.


Until next time.