Saturday, September 30, 2006

DG Session #3: “How Do we Do Evangelism in a Post-Modern World?” (Tim Keller)

The Crisis in Post-Modernism

Lloyd-Jones did a series of lectures on revival in 1959. The first lecture is on Mark 9. “This kind only comes out with prayer” MLJ said that the demon was in too deep for ordinary application. The Doctor allegorizes and says the 12 were like the church and boy is the contemporary world. The spirit of this age is not like 100 years ago. The problem of this age is not apathy, but deeper than that.

The world is an ex-Christian mission field… the culture is inoculated. They have a little bit of the disease, but they cannot get the real thing.

After 1500 AD, all evangelism was, was a program – people believed in God, they had a Christian conscience and even though not saved this foundation was in place. It no longer works to say God, man, Christ, grace.

The demon is in too deep. The Christian background is gone.

There remains “Christ-haunted” pockets I the US culture, but these are smaller and smaller. They are traditional. They are losing influence.

What does this mean? The older evangelism bullets have lost their power. Billy Graham. Personal relational evangelism. Seeker-service. (Twenty-somethings are turning away from “traditional” seeker services.) The only magic bullet that people are looking to is the Alpha Program. It is communal and a process so it works better, putting aside some of the content.

We need a transformation of our personality and theology.(?)

Today: all truth claims are seen as power trips. There is a guilt problem – most presentations assume a consciousness of guilt. Postmodernism does not assume this. Pomo does not believe in words or texts to get meaning across. A meaning problem.

6 Points on an Approach to Do Evangelism

I want to look at Jonah.

1. Gospel theologizing

1:1 “the word of the Lord came to Jonah saying go and preach” I used to think of the Gospel as the Gerber of the Bible. All theology must be an exposition of the Gospel. You cannot separate gospel and theology.

People will not accept the preaching of the Word from a text because the text is not firm. An eternally happy God, though, gives of Himself to Himself – a sacrificial orientation. God does not need glory and adoration – this is within the Trinity. God does not create to get, but to spread the delight He has in Himself. How do you get? Through a word. When God speaks, it almost always gospel. Human language is the vehicle through which god speaks.

In a pomo society, where abstract speculation is not believed. Every loci of theology has to be an explanation of the Gospel. We need to work on our Gospel presentations. I have not seen a Gospel presentation yet, that addresses pomo people. The old versions had systematic theology, but not biblical theology. There was no story arc. They were almost consumeristic presentations. That is why Lordship issues arrived.

Go to the emerging church – all the emphasis is on the Kingdom of God. It is all done corporately. But you lose the emphasis on grace versus works. You lose penal substitutionary atonement. It ends up being a kind of liberal legalism. It is going to take our best theological thinking to merge systematic and biblical theology to come up with a simple gospel presentation.

2. Gospel realizing

Jonah 2:9 “salvation is of the Lord.” Ed Clowney says this is the central verse of the Bible. It is of the Lord. Jonah knew this, but did not know this! If you think you understand the Gospel – you don’t. If you think you don’t understand the basics of the gospel – you do.

Religion – I obey and I am accepted.

Christianity – I am accepted by Christ’s finished work therefore I obey

If salvation is by grace, there is nothing Christ cannot ask of me.

The fault mode of all our hearts is that we are trying to save our self by something we do. We are being justified by power or how well our kids are turning out, etc. Pastors can feel justified by their ministry.

Revivals are not programs. Revival is when corporately the pennies drop and the wonder of the Gospel and the implications of the gospel are recaptured.

3. Gospel urbanizing

Jonah “the great city Ninevah” “Should I not love this great city?” How in the world could Jonah not love so many lost people. Going to cities is strategic. Some mght say: If I go to the city to be a part of things, I will be ruined like Lot. I need to be in the country like Abraham.” Jeremiah 29 God said go in the city and bless the city – shalom it. Paul went to the cities. Historically, the Christians were the urbanites. As the city goes, so goes the culture. We need Christians and churches where there are people – but we need churches in the city.

David Brooks: “Bobo’s in _________”

4. Gospel communication formation incarnation

I believe in progressive communication. Think of Jonah 3:4. By 3:9, the king wonders if God will be gracious.

Intelligibility – worldview evangelism… see Acts 17. Paul lays out a biblical view of God and history and creates a Christian worldview. If your worldview is whatever works for you is truth, then they hear things like “Christ is the Truth” through that worldview. There needs to be a power encounter at worldview level.

Credibility – apologetics. A defeater is what makes “belief B” impossible. If things that contradict the Gospel are not attacked then they will not hear truth claims clearly. How do respond to statement: “All religions are equally valid.” The Six Men from Indostan… all grasp part of the elephant, but none see the whole. You can only tell this story if you see the entire elephant. You cannot say all religions have part of the truth unless you claim the superior knowledge that you alone know the whole Truth – you see the whole elephant. You are being exclusive. You are being just as exclusive as I am. You have to show the defeaters don’t work on their own times. These defeater beliefs are still in the mind of many – we need to expose them.

Plausibility – In the first two, you are showing what the non-negotiables of the gospel are. Now you are getting into their aspirations and hopes. This is contextualization. It sounds like you are adapting the gospel to what people want to hear. No, you are trying to show that the truth is contemporarily relevant. Who’s exclusive views lead to peace on the earth? At the heart of my beliefs is a man dying for his enemies. Is a gospel that humbles me before everyone else.


5. Gospel formation

God brings life out of death. An example of how Christ is sustaining us in weakness can give much credibility. You know you have met God when you limp – MLJ. “I don’t think he’s been humbled yet.” You don’t believe it in the depths of your being yet. You are not a strength out of weakness person. You are not a sign yet.

He quoted Newton’s great hymn: “I asked the Lord that I might grow.”

6. Gospel Incarnation

I believe Jonah is a set up for Jeremiah 29. God was getting them ready for another period of time. A time when they would do good to Babylon. They said to Jonah something like, “Use your private religion for some public good!” “You are so selfish you can sleep when we need to be loved.”

God puts Jonah on a boat with dirty pagans. The only way for Jonah to save the pagans is to sacrifice himself. Jonah went to the city but did not love them.

If you are Calvinist, faith is a gift. It is crucial for non-Christians to hear us talk about how we did not believe. We need to love them. We need to be the kind of the church the world does not rebuke. Do we press our value and heart into the city.

How do you get that kind of courage and love?

There was another sleeper in the storm. Jesus is awakened by the cry, “Lord, don’t you care?” There is one difference. Jesus is thrown into the real storm, the ultimate storm. He did this. See Psalm 22.

MLJ: We don’t need programs, we need revival that comes by prayer.

Are you insulting your Maker by your low expectations of evangelism in your neighborhood?


  1. I wish I was there! Thanks for liveblogging brother - you are quicker than Tim! : ) I like your notes man. Praying for the church to be impacted deeply through this conference! I would love to hear your thoughts on that at some point - what you think and hope the fruit will be here and in Canada and around the world.