King Jesus Gospel in a Soterian Church

A letter from a reader:

I found your work The King Jesus Gospel (how I missed it I do not know) and it is answering many of the questioned that I had. As a reforming Soterian, I feel like I was attending a child’s tea party which has the appearance of the real thing, without any of the substance.

It will be tough to change the culture of our church (fundamentalist background)  to a gospel culture, especially since some have held to their traditions longer than I have been alive.

Any thoughts on how to move forward?

I will register my response later today…. but for now I’d like to hear what readers would suggest.

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  • Mark Edward

    After many years of being a ‘soterian’, I went through a personal reformation with the help of King Jesus Gospel and a few other books (NT Wright was a major influence). My wife and I had moved across the country and back, returning to our former church after a few years. The church is resolutely ‘soterian’ (and rapture escapist) in its worldview, and the desire to leave is overwhelming sometimes. If that is the case for others, then at least I’m not the only one with that feeling.

    But I can’t leave. If I think my fellow Christians have made a huge error in how they understand the Gospel, having reduced it to a personal decision, and if I think God has led me to a fuller understanding of this Gospel, the best (even if difficult) thing to do is to stay and positively influence them. To get them to take a closer, harder look at what the Bible says, and hope the light shines a little brighter.

  • Meri

    Well for one, we could give all the pastors we know a copy of The King Jesus Gospel. I cringe whenever I hear my own pastor make über soterian comments, although I find in general that his sermons still hit pretty close to the nail’s head. I just wish he wouldn’t reinforce this idea that getting saved is the answer to everything in a nutshell.

    But alas, there’s no guarantee that giving someone a book means they will read it.

    In the end, the answer lies with us each individually to spread the good news just as Jesus asked us to, right? We all just have to live our own lives in honest response to the light we have and trust that it is enough. For myself, that means teaching a jr high Sunday school class that challenges kids to move beyond what I call “fairy tale faith”. I hope it will provide a basis for them to grasp the bigger meaning of the gospel when they start questioning salvation as nearly all 20-somethings do. Hopefully, the senior high teacher won’t undo my work by spouting about the evils of Rob Bell.

  • Mark

    I’m eager for your response to this Scot as I too find this a struggle.

    I wonder if in some places, slow and steady will have to win the race; hopefully with a few confidence-boosting victories along the way. I am personally trying to introduce the kinds of ideas found in the King Jesus Gospel into most of what I do- be it Bible college essays; sermons; youth group talks; pastoral conversations; prayers. I’m discovering more and more how announcing the Kingship of Jesus is actually the best thing ever.

    Good old New Zealand apathy means I haven’t found any kind of harsh opposition. It also means I haven’t found any enthusiastic support.

  • Perhaps there are many answers, I would suggest there are as many as there are people asking the question.

    My answer is along the lines ‘Listen to Jesus and do what he tells you in the situation you are in’. To some he will say, ‘Leave now’; to some he will say, ‘Stay and love them as I do’. But he will have a plan for each one in each situation. Obedience is the answer.

    This begs the question, ‘How do I hear what Jesus is telling me to do?’

    There are some answers to this too, I can give some pointers if anyone wants them.

  • Rick

    Start with the meaning of “gospel”. Even soterians recognize 1 Corinthians 15, or the sermons in Acts, as representing the gospel. You then build from there by showing what those representations actually include (including salvation).

    Scot’s book is a great tool for that approach.

  • Scott Gay

    The thought of the day today on Refdesk is from Walt Disney(I know this is not the way to get the attention of the soterians, however we should heed): “The way to get started is to stop talking and begin doing”. In the case of King Jesus Gospelers this includes many small acts done in love, and in serving.

  • Deets

    I chose to work one on one with those who will listen. I’ve seen many (mostly younger men) respond positively to this. Of course, this method has it’s drawbacks as a solterian-minded person will eventually caught wind of the teaching and branded it as subversive and a distraction that will keep people from getting saved. Of course, I was being subversive, so I cannot deny that.

  • Greg D

    I know what soteriology is, but never heard the term Soterian. So, I looked it up on Google and lo and behold what did I find at the top of the results page? A critique on McKnight’s book by Michael Horton. I’m assuming, Scot, you have seen this review?

  • scotmcknight

    Yes, Greg D, I have read the review and was on Michael’s radio show and had a pleasant, and agreeable, conversation. Michael’s approach to the gospel is what I would call a “covenant soterian,” and that means he’s got a full biblical Story — Israel, kingdom, church — at work in his gospel but the story is the story of salvation, expansive to be sure, but still salvation.

  • Steve M

    I currently serve as an elder in a soterian church. Our preaching pastor is a strong personality, and he can turn any passage of Scripture into an appeal to make a decision that will impact the afterlife. It’s difficult to overturn the culture he has created. I am being sent to plant a church nearby. My hope is that not only will I develop a gospel culture in our new community, but that we can stay connected with our current church and have some influence. So my answer is that maybe planting new gospel culture communitites will have an impact on the existing soterian communities.

  • What has helped me the most is to have a succinct definition of the gospel that is distinct from a succinct definition of the plan of salvation. John Wimber used to talk about the good news that Jesus preached in Matthew 4.17 and 4.23, and he expressed the gospel of the Kingdom in this way; “We no longer have to live under the mastery of Satan but are now free to live under the mastery of Christ.” This has been of immeasurable help in explaining to others both the ‘good news’ of Jesus as well as the plan of salvation.

  • Greg D

    For the most part of my life I always assumed soteriology WAS the basis of the Gospel. That the Gospel hinged on a person’s decision to accept or reject eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. But, it wasn’t until I read Shane Claiborne’s, “Irresistible Revolution” that I began to see that the Gospel is much more than salvation, it’s about incarnating God’s kingdom on earth… now. One of my favorite quotes by Claiborne is:

    “The kingdom that Jesus speaks so much about is not just something we hope for after we die, but is something we are to incarnate now.”

    Rob Bell’s, “Love Wins” also played favorably into a non-soterian Gospel. One of my favorite quotes from his popular book is:

    “So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will “get into heaven,” that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club.”

  • Chris

    I’m unsure how this transition happens. I know my wife and I try to preach, teach, talk in ways that more closely resemble what King Jesus Gospel is imaging. I think one difficulty is that this stuff runs in the background. It’s an OS (computer language) for how people view their faith. And we all know that switching to a new OS is difficult in that all new parts are viewed referentially

  • DRT

    I know that many have a gut level distaste for using marketing practices for church, since it is Jesus that is the draw, but I believe the roll out of a new perspective in theology is quite different and would benefit from the wisdom that has come from the secular culture in product management and development. The King Jesus Gospel really does need to penetrate the market. The basic stages of new product introduction are:

    (1) Awareness – the customer becomes aware of the new product, but lacks information about it
    (2) Interest – the customer seeks information about the new product
    (3) Evaluation – the customer considers whether trying the new product makes sense
    (4) Trial – the customer tries the new product on a limited or small scale to assess the value of the product
    (5) Adoption – the customer decides to make full and/or regular use of the new product

    Here is a good summary of the process.

    Clearly we would need to develop specific strategies in for implementation that are Jesus centered, but this framework has a lot of experience and results behind it and is, in my opinion, an ideal framework for us to work through to roll out this new theological stance.

    Note that this does not say anything about the behavior of the agent, it is a description of the behavior of the recipient. That does not change [except by the will of the Holy Spirit]. Communication is communication.

  • Meri

    Scott Gay (#6):

    Love the Disney quote. I think you are onto something. While we need people like Scot to tackled the subject openly, we need even more people to just begin living out the gospel in startling ways.

    To all:
    I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti with my church and made a point to speak openly about how intentional I was in being self-missional in going there.

    I know that most see these trips as a means to be missional to others, but I honestly think we’d get more bang for our missional dollar by staying at home and funding a good local charity in Haiti. I spent $800 to fly there round trip just to provide three full days of labor. Surely they could have hired and trained some Haitians to do the work I did and accomplish more with my $800.

    But know that I am at greater spiritual risk than the Haitians, for I am more like the rich young ruler than the poor in spirit. Helping there benefitted myself far more than it did the Haitians, although I certainly hope we provided a measure of good there. I made a point of speaking openly in our devotionals and in my Facebook updates on our church’s page about my my own need to tenderize my heart and spark my desire to live the gospel.

    I love Andrew Marin’s ministry. His book “Love is an Orientation” forever changed the way I view unconditional love, firstly toward the gay and lesbian community and then toward the friends, family, and strangers who live one of the myriad lifestyle choices I believe to be spiritually, if not physically and/or spiritually unhealthy. And lastly, of course, toward myself when I realize I have an unhealthy log in my own eye.

    It is possible to love without judging. It took me a long time to realize that, so I must be patient with others. The soterian gospel cannot help but judge those who don’t agree with a list of “Christian rules,” whereas the King Jesus gospel draws people in by simply sharing Jesus’ life and love with others.

  • Meri

    Oops. Blundered a sentence in the Andrew Marin paragraph. I trust you all understood my meaning.