From Boston to Providence

Recently I had the privilege of giving some lectures on the East Coast, beginning at Gordon College. I have to express my thanks to Keith Krass, at Gordon, for the kind invitation to give a lecture on The King Jesus Gospel and then do a college convocation. After the convocation we met with some student leaders at Gordon, and it was great that Tracy and Carey Balzer, from John Brown University, were with us … they were at Gordon to do a retreat with some folks.

My time at Gordon began with an opportunity to spend time with some ministry students where we discussed the most pressing challenges of the American church today. Here are some of those challenges, and I wrapped this up in a more anabaptist package for them:

1.  There is today less church and, instead, more social/political action: “experiment with potential disaster”?

2. Christianity is becoming more political, not less political (in spite of complaint that the emerging generation wants less politics); the “politics” of Christians today have become less partisan, more social/ethical/global, and more distributivist.

3. Holiness: sex, personal spiritual life (Renovare is more or less for 50+), prayer, personal Bible reading. I suggested that our activism needs to be brought into the circle of holiness.

4. There is a massive shift at work today on Vocation/jobs/labor. We are moving from dreams of global significance to where many may need to return to the challenge of “ordinary realities” of common labor, manufacturing, trades.

5. “Missional” is gaining traction but I fear evangelism is losing.

It was a hoot to see my former North Park colleague, Justin Topp, at his new digs where I’m sure he will flourish as a professor and scientist as he did at North Park. Fun, too, to see some friends at Gordon, including Ramsey Michaels and Marv Wilson (Roger Green was in Chicago!) and a group of folks who were with us this summer in Israel. And to dine with Keith and his wife Sarah, along with Dan and Kathy Russ. (Not sure I got all those names right.) Note: Keith Krass is the son of a college friend and I have to say that Keith is a 6 foot version of dad!

When the luncheon with the student leaders was over, I hopped in the car with my former student, Stephen Mook, and his father, Lyle, a Covenant pastor, and we headed down to Providence RI to do a double event at Gloria Dei Lutheran:

First, we gathered with some Christian leaders in the Providence area to discuss the proposals of The King Jesus Gospel, and it included a good bit of discussion with lots of Q&A. Very good ideas, and it helped me clarify a few ideas — and I’m finding an encouraging groundswell of folks who know there is too much shallow evangelism and a confidence that focusing on the gospel of the New Testament is the place to begin.

Well, the big event was second: Stephen and Andrew Mook are at the heart of a genuine attempt by young Christians to work together in Providence. And wow do they have some talented folks. The event, called One Event, started at 7pm and, well, it didn’t wrap up until 10pm, and it was a wondrous evening of worship and singing and hearing stories about substantive gospeling in Providence. We saw a video story about Reservoir school where churches are partnering with schools to make a difference with the kids; and then a marvelous story of an undocumented worker and his family … and a prayer by a leading actor in that event that was translated … and I got to “preach the gospel” (I focused on Acts 10:34-43) … and then a closing prayer that turned into a witness to what God has been doing at Renaissance Church in Providence…

… and the music and worship team was awesome.

Great to be with Stephen, meet Lindsay, see Lyle again, and meet Andrew and all those great folks in Providence.

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  • Next time you’re on the East coast, we need to get you to Union! These liberal main-liners need some engagement with reasonable evangelicals!

  • Drew Strait

    I’d like to hear that sermon on Acts 10 — did you contrast 10:36 with empire? Sounds like a great trip, Scot.

  • Scot McKnight

    Drew, I see “peace” here as peace between Jews and Gentiles in the one family under the King. So, not really … but could.

  • Would love to hear that sermon. Gospeling sermons as you describe them would have to be heard to put some flesh on your King Jesus Gospel, though I get the point that the sermons in the Book of Acts is our primer in this. I am going back and reading and meditating upon them again. By the way, do you find any significance in the observation that the “justification by faith alone” strain of thinking is reflected pretty much in the Romans and Galatians correspondence, in other words, addressed to Gentiles? I would also be interested in constructing a Gospel presentation from the Gospels, not in order to exclude Paul but to test the hypothesis that Jesus preached the Gospel. I am working on it. If Jesus was all that I had to go on what would I say in a Gospel presentation? I have always thought it unusual that Jesus’ own words are so little referred to in our usual Gospel outline taught by many evangelical churches. On the face of it, that is a little strange and counterintuitive. I pastor in the greater Providence area and was so sorry not to be able to make the gathering. Would have loved to be there. It’s hard to tell you how much significant is spark you ignited with the King Jesus Gospel. The four point Gospel outline has been so confining to me for so long but I couldn’t figure a way out of the paradigm without feeling guilty or lost or both. BTW I had just printed up Hybel’s “Are You Overrated?” for use at our church and was impressed with how soterion it is. It’s the Four Laws with some glossing. I like his racquetball metaphor but it still ends up the same place. I have a Sunday off and will perhaps go to Ren Church in Providence.

  • Thanks again, Scot,

    Your visit will, in the ‘Providence’ of God, turn out to be fruitful and strategic beyond what we can imagine. Great contribution to the Church in New England!