Okay, I am struggling to get through the early chapters of “The Next Christians” by Gabe Lyons. Why am I reading it? I’m not sure, but I want to learn how people are thinking about culture and the gospel mission. He does an interesting job of categorizing different groups of believers into “Separatists,” “Culturals,” & “Restorers.” “Separatist’s” are those that cloister, and disengage from culture, mainly for purity reasons. “Culturals” are the blenders, those who don’t want to be seen as different. The “Restorers” are the one that get it right. They are the ones that engage culture for the purpose of redemption. I get it. I’m sure the book is going to have more to offer, than that simple assessment, however, I don’t know if Gabe can take me there.
After laying out those distinctions, Lyons takes the fundies to task over their definition and presentation of the gospel. No argument there, we do need to work on making the whole story of God understandable to a fallen world, not just sin and salvation. However as he presents his “whole story” of the gospel,… I choked. I’m not even sure why, but it didn’t sound right to me. The way he presents it, is authoritative, and a bit arrogant sounding. Like he is the master of succinctly presenting the “whole” enchilada that most people miss. Right before he presents this “complete gospel” he tags others that apparently “get it” as well. You know the currently popular players,… Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Scot McKnight, Chuck Colson, N.T. Wright, Michael Metzger, Todd Hunter, Nancy Pearcy, Chris Seay, Lauren Winner, Tim Keller, & Richard Stearns… all offering the “whole story of God.” After mentioning those names, how could anything be wrong with what he is about to say?
Here it is, the “Whole Story Of God” Take notes kids. I am numbering the paragraphs for our reference.
1. The story begins in the garden to God himself planted. It’s beautiful and bountiful and human beings flourish there. God wanted the human encounter of their world to be marked by elegance, simplicity, and beauty,– recognizing it was purposed and intentioned to be something great. It obviously isn’t that way anymore, but in its original state the creation was good, really good. No violence, no conflict, and no deceit. Peace, harmony, and beauty prevailed.
2. Utopia wouldn’t last. The serpent tempts the first couple to disobey God and pursue their own interests. Suddenly, perfection is corrupted and humans come into conflict with the world, God, and each other. Thistles begin to grow on flowers, and harvests suddenly required work. People began to pursue selfish relationships, and humans no longer walked alongside God. The world broke.
3. Even in the garden however God made a promise that brokenness wouldn’t reign forever. In Genesis 3:15, a promise is made that one day a rescuer would ride in to repair the corruption. Scholars refer to this foretelling as the “proto-evangelium” or “gospel beginning.” In the shadow of a good garden, we feel the first tremors of Christ’s coming.
4. He promised that eventually sin and destruction and death would be defeated. All humans could do was wait. Hundreds of years passed as God worked miracles among his people. He delivered them from cruel slave masters, and gave them a new bountiful land. He helped them defeat enemies, sent them prophets to guide them, and brought peace to their communities.
5. As humans often do, God’s people grew selfish and stubborn. They forgot their deliverer, and God responded with silence. Until one day, he shattered the silence when Jesus Christ was born in Israel. His life becomes an a impeccable example of what it means to image God. Every moment of his ministry is spent with the poor, sick, helpless, and hurting. Traveling from place to place, Christ leaves wake of healing and restoration.
6. His ministry was cut short, however as he offered himself up as a self described sacrifice for humanity. The evil that flooded the world in the beginning would again rear its head. Fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecies, Jesus brings peace to humanity’s corruption through suffering servanthood by paying for all the sins that had rippled from the garden to Golgotha. Dying on the cross, he begins to turn back the bad deeds done in the good garden, and through his resurrection he begins a new age of hope on earth.
7. 2000 years after the Christ event, people are still on earth and hope is not diminished. Paul tells us in Colossians 1, that Christ’s shed blood began a restorative work affecting the eternal things of heaven as well as the here and now events on earth. More than simply offering us a postmortem destination, God commissioned us to share his whole story and become conduits for him to bring healing to earth and its residents. Like a capstone to the story of God, Christians are called to partner in a restorative work so that the torch of Hope is carried until Christ returns.
This is the story of God.
The whole story.
Now, I’m not saying I disagree with all that Lyon’s is saying, I think I get his point, that we need to tell the whole story, but is this it?
Is this exactly the whole narrative in a nutshell?
What do YOU think. Please refer to specific paragraphs.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review