When I began writing my reflections on this paper, it was only supposed to be a brief blog post. However, it quickly evolved into about seven pages. So, now, I’ve decided to break it up into seven distinct posts. So, today will mark the first of seven days of posts in response to the Lausanne Theology Working Group paper. It won’t be the only thing I’ll be posting, of course. But I hope you enjoy and benefit from the series. Each post will feature a key question that I actually really want to hear from you on. I’m not just putting the question there as a decoration. So, please to leave your comments.
Before I launch off into my own thoughts on this subject, let me first say that I've taken the liberty of creating a place on the Lausanne Global Conversation for the express purpose of generating broad and global conversation surrounding this important paper. You can go to that place and join the conversation by clicking here.
Now, what I'm talking about today is the paper that has been officially submitted by the Lausanne Theology Working Group for the 3rd Congress on World Evangelization taking place very soon in Cape Town, South Africa. The paper is the fruit of a tremendous amount of work by many of the great theologians and leaders in the global Church and is designed to sort of "fill out" the famous Lausanne Movement slogan, "The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World." This they have done primarily by reflecting Biblically on the phrases, "whole gospel", "whole Church", and "whole world." Asking basically, what does the Bible say these things are? The LTWG has done an impressive job and, by God's grace, has really provided the Church with an invaluable piece of theological reflection. I strongly recommend to my readers that you read this paper yourself and consider sharing it with your various circles of influence. I can testify that the Sunday night we spent at TIBM studying this just recently was one of our more fruitful times in God's Word as a church.
You can read this profound and stimulating paper by follow either of these links:
"The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World: Reflections of the Lausanne Theology Working Group" (condensed version)
"The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World: Reflections of the Lausanne Theology Working Group" (full version)
Now I'd like to move on to raising a few of the specific questions and reflections that I have regarding the LTWG paper.
1. Regarding the "Whole Gospel"
For me, this first section was the most helpful (out of three extremely helpful sections), because it did the difficult work of providing a broad Biblical answer to the question, "What is the Gospel?" The insight that the term "gospel" (Gk. εὐαγγέλιον) often means at least slightly different things at different times in Scripture is invaluable. If we are to give a full answer to the question, "What is the Gospel?", we must pay attention to and adequately represent all of these nuances. When the Bible as a whole is enabled to answer this question, we find the following (which I've reworded from the LTWG paper):
- The Gospel is the story of Jesus Christ in whole Biblical context.
- The Gospel is the reality of the new, reconciled humanity manifest in the existence of the Church.
- The Gospel is the saving message of Christ's death and resurrection and all God accomplished in that.
- The Gospel is the fact that we can be changed, transformed by the power of God.
- The Gospel is the proclamation of truth and the exposure of evil.
- The Gospel is that God is as He is.
While it is true that these six answers are quite overlapping, they nevertheless each highlight an important dimension of the gospel which much not be neglected. Oh that God would permit that this broader and more Biblical definition of the Gospel overwhelm the Church and overtake the all-too-popular and dangerously narrow simplifications of the good news!
Question #1- How do we effectively challenge deficient definitions/explanations of the Gospel which are often so deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of individual Christians and even built into the infrastructures of denominations and mission agencies? (for example - "word of faith" or "prosperity" gospels, or the overemphasis on making converts at the expense of true discipleship)