:: Monday, May 19, 2003 ::
A New Kind of Christian
I just wrapped up reading Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian. The dialogue format is classic. From time to time Neo comes off sounding like Socrates in Plato's dialogues: driving the conversation in the direction he wants through the issues and questions he raises. And while it is clear that McLaren has engaged in conversations of the sort reported in A New Kind of Christian, we should not take "Dan" to be more "Brian" than "Neo" may be.
Throughout the book, I could empathize with both main characters, but somehow I identified more with Neo. I don't know if I went through a "modern to postmodern transition," but somehow I made the transition from a more rigid "conservative evangelical rationalism" to something closer to McLaren's "New Kind of Christian" beginning sometime early in college and continuing to the present day.
As I found myself resonating with Neo's perspective, McLaren pushed me to take my philosophical perspectives one step further. Sometimes this evoked a statement such as "I never thought that this was a conclusion we could draw from that. Nonetheless, it makes sense." Other times I was surprised to find that McLaren had stated more succinctly something I had labored to come up with myself. And I thought I had come up something new!
In the chapter entitled "French Fries and the Kingdom of God," McLaren gave voice to my uneasiness with our current practice of evangelism.
[Dan asked,] "Isn't there a time when friendship evangelism has to move on to the evangelism?"
[Neo answered,] "Pardon me, Daniel, but I am not too fond of that expression, 'friendship evangelism.' It can prostitute friendship, which in my mind then invalidates the evangelism. If I'm going to pretend to be somebody's friend just so I can proselytize them, well, I might as well be selling soap. No, it's worse than that. At least when I'm selling soap, I'm not degrading the soap by exploiting the friendship. I can't tell you how much that term bothers me."
"Ok, I see your point. But Neo, won't a new kind of Christian be concerned about sharing the gospel?" I asked.
Neo answers the question by telling a story. His answer is yes, ultimately. But he redefines what it means to "share the gospel."
The Gospel (can we just say "good news", for Christ's sake?) is Jesus Christ. The Good News is "The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of the Heavens is available." When we say that the Good News is Jesus Christ we are no longer limited to an evangelism that merely changes someone's philosophy. It will do that. But evangelism is being Jesus Christ. As we continue as students of Jesus Christ we become more like him, and as we become more like him we are, in effect, the continuing presence of Christ in the world through the Holy Spirit. By grace we are transformed into people who look like Jesus and act like Jesus.
When this happens, we evangelize without even realizing it. We make friends with people because they are worth something to us, not because they are an evangelistic target. We go places where the good news is not known because it is such good news that we want everyone to have it - not to make them like us, but to give them a chance to have the kind of life that God has. And we end up "evangelizing" Christians as well because we engage with them from the perspective of good news.
New kind of Christian, old kind of Christian - whatever! I just want to be like Jesus.
:: Matt 5/19/2003 08:03:00 PM :: permalink ::