Jesus without walls means Jesus without the “boundaries” we place on what it means “to believe in Jesus” or trust in God. And, the subtitle speaks to the idea that we need to work out our idea of the Gospel at home before we go abroad and spread it.

IF we really believe God is sovereign[1], then certain logical implications follow this conclusion.  If we believe that God has revealed God’s self through logos and/or reason,[2] then we should conduct ourselves accordingly to what is revealed through reason.  The thesis of this blog will hinge on these two statements just made, because these two statements can help guide us into what is next. In the context of missions, the mission’s discussion needs to begin not with what the church should do, or what a missionary must believe (or do), but with what God has done and what God is doing. Our role, as we participate with God in his mission to his creation, is to respond in obedience, gratitude, and joy.[3]

It is very important to understand how big of a factor relevance is when you spread the gospel to people who have not heard or already have a preconceived idea of what it is you want to tell them. Especially in our society today, the world (I will primarily focus on America in this blog post) has advanced very fast and the church has yet to keep up with the culture,[4] in terms of being relevant with the message of Christ. [5] Because of the rapid developments in a globalized economically driven world we face new issues today that require us to think forward and act in new ways that the church has never had to act.

Reexamine

If we start with loving people we encounter God in our neighbor. When we love people, we see that they are broken. And that gives way for us to realize that we are broken. Which gives way for us to really love ourselves. And when we love our neighbor and love ourselves we encounter God and in doing so, we love God.  But it all starts with loving people. God loves all people; Muslims, Satanists, GBT[6], fundamentalists, if it’s not love it’s not Christianity.

From this thinking is where I am coming from when writing this. The way some Christian’s have been “spreading the Gospel” has put walls around Jesus and has made it difficult or out of sight for modern day or postmodern day peoples to have a real encounter with the risen Christ. Given that 1 out of 3 US workers are millennials (18-34)[7], and the US population is about 83 million millennials[8], the Church must take advantage of this large number and the potential influence factor that comes with a group this large. If not, we as Christians risk losing even more ground in the influential sectors of society.

The Wall

Earlier this week rapper Lecrae made a quote that really shows the “spirit” of Christianity that this paper is trying to address. Lecrae who is a very influential Christian Hip Hop artist is known for his outspokenness on other Christians trying to box “Christian hip hop” in by rules and standards. Lecrae says:

“We’ve created rules where there are no rules. You have to rap about this, you have to say that, this is how it’s supposed to be… If you weren’t a believer, we wouldn’t take a beat from you…if you weren’t our denomination, we wouldn’t take a beat from you. Where do we get these rules from?”[9]

There exists this idea within Christianity that you need to ascend to some absolute affirmation of propositions that must be taken on certainty, sola fide, –faith alone is becoming ever so unpopular in exclusive communities. This is what Lecrae is saying in his comment. When beliefs become a primary marker for belonging, religious gatekeepers gain one of humanity’s greatest powers: to excommunicate or expel[10]. And, when signs of exclusivity show its face you will see the scattering of millennials. This must change, it has been causing a bad taste in the mouth of the millennials[11].

Brian McLaren, a leader in the emergent church[12] made this comment on this matter, when he said: “What would it mean for Christians to rediscover their faith not as a problematic system of beliefs, but as a just and generous way of life, rooted in contemplation and expressed in compassion, that makes amends for its mistakes and is dedicated to beloved community for all? Could Christians migrate from defining their faith as a system of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life? Could Christian faith lose the bitter taste of colonialism, exclusion, judgment, hypocrisy, and oppression, and regain the sweet and nourishing flavor of justice, joy, and peace?”[13]

What Can We Do?

A very wise man said “you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”[14] This is exactly why we have to reexamine what it is we are teaching about the gospel and come up with new ways of teaching the timeless truths our tradition has embraced and embodied throughout Church history. The emerging church movement that currently exists led by McLaren and others have posited some good ideas that I think can help us moving forward in finding the best ways to communicate the message of the Gospel. McLaren juxtaposes the idea of a “Messianic Jew” with the idea of giving Jesus to everyone but allowing them to keep their own religion. McLaren brilliantly says: “I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.”[15]

“The emerging church movement has come to believe that the ultimate context of the spiritual aspirations of a follower of Jesus Christ is not Christianity but rather the kingdom of God . . . to believe that God is limited to it [Christianity] would be an attempt to manage God. If one holds that Christ is confined to Christianity, one has chosen a god that is not sovereign”[16]

At the surface view of this idea, it may seem like an extreme step in the direction of syncretism and in some respect, it is. Others may argue this view is an attempt to modernize a contextualization of the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. But, in other respects it is a progression into inclusivity, which one could argue the kingdom of God is a kingdom of inclusivity. When we don’t put so much worry into what it looks like to “show someone Jesus” we get incredible results like the one’s Herbert Hoefer has reported, saying:

“Research undertaken in the mid-eighties and published in 1991, Herbert E. Hoefer found that the people of Madras City are far closer to historic Christianity than the populace of any cities in the western Christian world could ever claim to be. Yet these are not Christians, but rather Hindus and Muslims. In their midst is a significant number of true believers in Christ…yet remain outside the institutional church.”[17]

He goes on further to say:

“Some might argue that this [the “smothering embrace of Hinduism”] is the danger with the ishta devata strategy I am proposing. It will lead not to an indigenous Christianity but to a Christianized Hinduism. Perhaps more accurately we should say a Christ-ized Hinduism. I would suggest that really both are the same, and therefore we should not worry about it. We do not want to change the culture or the religious genius of India. We simply want to bring Christ and His Gospel into the center of it.”[18]

Jesus, The Center of it All

If we truly believe God is sovereign and God chose to come into this world as a human, then there should be no problem in giving a community of people Jesus and allowing them to recontextualize it within their own religious traditions. But it seems like the religious gatekeepers want it all or nothing, saying “you believe these certain propositional beliefs, or you’re not a Christian”. Even to go as far as saying “you either believe all of the Bible or you can’t have Jesus,”[19] but it seems to me if one takes the Biblical narrative as literally historically true then guys like Abraham, Moses, Enoch, ect, had no way to affirm intellectual propositions about Jesus. This point changes the entire conversation and these are just a few examples of why we need to change the way we are thinking about spreading the gospel because the propositional gospel[20] is not working. One author writes what he believes the direction the church needs to go is:

“. . . seek to bring progressive Jews, Christians, Muslims, and spiritual seekers of no faith to become an interfaith community for the good of the world. We have one world and one God… Is our religion [Christianity] the only one that understands the true meaning of life? Or does God place his truth in others too? Well, God decides, and not us. The gospel is not our gospel, but the gospel of the kingdom of God, and what belongs to the kingdom of God cannot be hijacked by Christianity.”[21]

This does not mean we get rid of Christianity; humans need a narrative to give meaning to one’s life. We need to have faith in our narrative. The story of Christianity, told within its right context has the power to allow people to reflect and grow from engaging the different parts of the Christian story. There is no such thing as just a story. A story is always charged with meaning…And we can be sure that if we know a story well enough to tell it, it carries meaning for us.[22] But, when we tell the story in ways that violate justice[23],  or come with a baggage load of dogma, then the story is not able to penetrate the heart. When we tell the story in ways that hurt people or help fuel the idea of exclusion –the story now has become poison.

“People always assume that the church’s primary business is to teach morality. But it isn’t; it’s to proclaim grace, forgiveness, and the free party for all. It’s to announce the reconciling relationship of God to everybody and to invite them simply to believe it and celebrate it. Morality, law, rules, prescriptions – those are all the world’s business. And the world keeps up a steady drumbeat on those subjects: you must do this; you mustn’t do that; you’re out until you can prove yourself worthy of being let in.”[24]

Variations and Diversity

When we make beliefs the marker for belonging we miss out on the beautiful effects that diversity can have on us. The good thing about encountering someone with different ideas is variation. Variation gives us the chance to work out our own stereotypes of other people. But what happens when we get into “communities” that agree with each other on everything or the atmosphere that things are taught in is one that makes people feel they must or have to agree with the teachings, and that challenging ideas are bad? I believe this is not only the state of our politics in America but it is the state of the churches too. Churches have chosen to all gather around one set of ideas and this has blocked off the good effects that variation and diversity of communities can have one us. This has got to change because it is doing the church a disservice. When we create communities that seek “doctrinal unity” this kind of community misses out on the experience of interacting with others and our differences. When we interact with people that have differences in their “beliefs” or interpretations we really must humble ourselves to listen to them and consider their position. This act among members of the community strengthens the bond of the members as a community and strengthens the individual’s ability to maximize relationship communication. Maximizing relationship communication is the seedbed for the Gospel. And, if we set up communities without ideological differences we miss out on this practical, real life experience that can teach so much.

The Goal

The goal then of missionary work is to impact the culture through a real relationship by a long-term show of love. Being imbedded in a “cross culture” will give the experience of “variation”. Variation of a lifestyle and variation of other culture’s way of life. We must not lose sight of the goal .

Conclusions

This has been my attempt to persuade the reader to evaluate the current status of how “Christianity” is spreading the Gospel and to help tear down these walls that have been made. The church should be in a state of constant reform, always trying to remain relevant while maintaining to be a place of sacred space, a place of commercial activity, and a place of safety and social order.[26] If the current trend of younger generations leaving the church and religion all together is not a sign that we, as Christians –as the Church, need to change our approach to the way we are spreading the Gospel…then I don’t know what is. Let us please take this serious and begin to fully deconstruct the temples we have built which are blotting out the Son.

Jesus without barriers!

Lettttsssss Gooooo!!

[1] I would agree with most, that God is sovereign but I would disagree with most interpretations of what this term means because I would say that sovereignty is to be defined in the way that Jesus, assuming He is God in some way, displays power. Jesus in the gospels shows sovereignty is to lay down power, to give it up for the chance of love. Relational love requires two parties to freely choose each other and when God gives up power to God’s creation the ability for real love is a possibility. The possibility becomes an actuality because God first loved us (1 John 4:19)

[2] The doctrine of general revelation presupposes that we can trust our sense to know God, so we are created to know God through our sense, namely reason.

[3] Sunquist, Scott W.. Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory (p. 8). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[4] the term ‘culture’ will refer to the common ideas, feelings, and values that guide community and personal behavior, that organize and regulate what a community thinks, feels, and does about God, creation, and humanity.

[5] Sunquist, Scott W.. Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory (p. 8). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders

[7] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/

[8] http://genhq.com/just-how-many-millennials-are-there/

[9] http://rapzilla.com/rz/news/38-backstage/15224-lecrae-says-he-supports-christian-hip-hop-but-not-the-rules-limitations-it-may-create

[10] Mclaren, Brian D.. The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Kindle Locations 582-583). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] Some people choose to ignore this but if we do not act, the sheer number alone of millennials will influence the country in a profound direction. There is actually tons of social science’s data on this fact because the millennial generation has grown up in an environment of inclusivity and plurality.

[12] Most compromising of older progressive’s and their children/younger millennials who gravitated that direction

[13] Mclaren, Brian D.. The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Kindle Locations 178-182). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[14] Mclaren, Brian D.. The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Kindle Locations 572-573). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[15] Oakland, Roger. The New Missiology: Doing Missions without the Gospel (Kindle Locations 35-38). Lighthouse Trails Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[16] ‘’  ‘’

[17] Herbert Hoefer, Churchless Christianity (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2001 edition), p. xii.

[18] ‘’ ‘’

[19] This was told to me by a Professor

[20] Beliefism: “Believe this, this, and that, and you’re one of us”

[21] Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope p. 194.

[22] Michaels, F.S.. Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything (p. 1). Red Clover Press. Kindle Edition.

[23] “If God’s standard of justice is so fundamentally different from ours that physical abuse and the slaughter of babies can be considered just, then it no longer seems possible to have meaningful conversation about what constitutes justice. “Eric Seibert, Disturbing Divine Behavior, in Gregory A. Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, p. 386

[24] Robert Farrar Capon, The Mystery of Christ… & Why We Don’t Get It

[25] “short term mission” may be understood better as a “cross cultural short term experience”

[26] Sunquist, Scott W.. Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory (p. 351). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.