Response to King Jesus in a Soterian Church

Dear Friend,

This is a difficult one, and perhaps more difficult than you perhaps know. Let me begin with an analogy from within the soterian model. An increasing number of seminary graduates are among the New Calvinists. They are entering churches that are nondescript evangelicals, and by that I mean the churches are not robustly Calvinist and neither are they consciously Arminian. They are what my former colleague, Grant Osborne, often called “Cal-minians.” They embrace a form of free will and they embrace eternal security. Then along comes this new pastor, a good and godly bloke, and he’s a died-in-the-wool, enthusiastic, Piper-quoting and Carson-quoting and Wells-quoting and Schreiner-quoting Calvinist who is so enthusiastic about his Calvinism … well, you get my picture.

What I hope such young Calvinists are being told is what I would tell you.

1. Theological orientation is not the gospel. The gospel is about Jesus Christ. So, preach and teach Jesus Christ. Yes, I know, for some this means Calvinism or Tom Wright’s kingdom or Jimmy Dunn’s New Perspective or Roger Olsen’s Arminianism or Miroslav Volf’s embrace. It is not any of these; the gospel, as is seen in 1 Cor 15, is first and foremost about Jesus and who God is through the revelation of God in the face of Jesus Christ. I have made my case, as you know, in King Jesus Gospel.

2. Build your case over time. If you are persuaded of a theology, and you are persuaded that King Jesus gospel is the gospel taught in the New Testament, then I would urge you to do a series on Acts and the Sermons in Acts, with regular forays into 1 Corinthians 15. And I’d urge you to spend some time preaching from the Gospels — and if you have a lectionary you can do this even easier because each Sunday a Gospel is read. Do you realize how the Church has historically responded to the reading of The Gospel? By standing. Not by sitting as is done in the other readings. The Church has honored the reading of The Gospel, because it is the Story of Jesus, in ways that ought to draw our attention. I’m not saying just preach the Gospels; the lectionary reminds us to preach from the whole Bible. But if you find you are only preaching Genesis or Leviticus or Psalms or Isaiah or Luke or John or Romans or Galatians or Ephesians or Hebrews or Revelation — then you are lopsided and will produce lopsided teaching.

This means setting out an ordered teaching; it means implementing it in various teaching contexts. If you think folks are going to listen to your sermons and change their minds and go along with you ten months later when you bring this up … it ain’t gonna happen. Over and over, setting after setting, make it clear. But keep Jesus Christ front and center.

3. Live a Christian life that compels others to listen to the gospel. If you are a pain in the arse you will be looking for a new church in a few years. If you are loving and wise and godly and good, you will have a better hearing. I know, there are some churches so big that folks have no idea what a pain the teaching pastor really is, but that’s rare. Paul told Timothy to be an example as Paul himself was an example. Follow Christ first and lead others into following Christ.

4. Listen to the congregation. You must not coerce or badger; nor should you be asking people to leave if they don’t agree with you. It is highly likely that there are some good and godly and wise folks in your church who will say, “Young man, you need to settle down a bit.” Listen to them.

5. Take your time and let God do the real changing. The gospel will win out because the gospel is about Jesus, and Jesus — like our friend Aslan — is the kind of lion that makes us want to climb up on him and take him for a ride.

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  • Sam

    Hi Scott, I was wondering if you had some kind of study guide for a small group setting, to go through the book King Jesus Gospel?

  • This is great advise Scot. I just finished a three week series (I’m not our regular preacher. Three weeks is all the time I had.) explaining the King Jesus Gospel from the sermons in Acts 3, 13, and 17, 1 Cor. 15, and I threw in the statements of “teaching Jesus and the Kingdom of God” that we find in the gospels and Acts. The response from our church has been very positive so far, but people have a lot of questions. We are having great discussions.

    Also, you mentioned in your book that we need to recover a more robust resurrection theology. I totally agree! As I’ve studied this topic for myself over the years the importance of both the resurrection of Jesus as THE sign of God’s approval of him, and the resurrection as THE hope of the Christians comes jumping off the page. The resurrection is mentioned in every sermon in Acts. I come from a Dispensational background, and I wonder if the combination of revivalistic evangelism and Dispensational teaching about the postponed Kingdom has conditioned many Evangelicals to simply ignore mentions of the Kingdom when they see them in scripture.

    One more thought…the beauty of the King Jesus gospel is that it isn’t dependent upon one’s soteriology to be effective. Both Calvinists and Arminians “should” be able to agree that the gospel is about Jesus on the throne. Our debates about soteriology are important but become secondary to the overall message. Am I wrong about this?

  • scotmcknight

    Sorry, no study guide.

    Eric R,
    Nice set of suggestions for all of us. More resurrection, theology, yes!
    Yes, I do agree that the Calvinism and Arminianism debate is a soterian debate. And, Yes, the christological focus of the King Jesus gospel can get behind and beyond those debates, even if they still don’t go away. Why? soteriology is a major implication of the gospel and that means those debates enter there. But we ought to agree together on the gospel itself.

  • DRT

    Scot, I hope you don’t mind, I posted this in the other thread, but thought that some pastors may be interested in this framework. It seems to be quite consistent with what you have said.

    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.

  • I enjoyed reading your article. Always important to emphasise that it is God who changes hearts through preaching and not the pastor/preacher themselves.

    I wonder though whether it is King Jesus/Aslan who allows us to ride with him, rather than us taking him for a ride?



  • This is the best advice to new pastors I’ve seen in a long, long time. Thanks for it, Scot, and everything else you do in this place – and so many others.

  • Steelwheels

    “Theological orientation is not the gospel. The gospel is about Jesus Christ. So, preach and teach Jesus Christ.” Awesome! Enough said right there.

  • Arse? What are you using British swear words?

  • Mark Day

    Scot, I can think of a number of New Testament scholars and authors who wish to articulate a King Jesus Gospel. Which predominantly Old Testament scholars would you say are writing along these lines?

    I’ve been reading a bit of Brueggemann lately; and while he comes at things from a different angle again, I can see a lot of resonance.