by Andrew Kukla
In the church we dance around inconvenient truths. Among the gifts of NEXT Church is its willingness to talk about truths we avoid and a resistance to worrying about labels. One such label is “Evangelical.” We often talk as if some followers of Christ are evangelicals and some are not. But evangelical is not the opposite of progressive. The Gospels are evangelical. Jesus’ mission is evangelical. He comes to bring GOOD NEWS! Not for good news’ sake but for the sake of people. We don’t build walls around good news and get happy when someone manages to overcome the obstacles and find it; we go out with intentionality to connect the good news and liberation to those in need of it. And we all need it! Following in the way of Jesus Christ is necessarily evangelical. The very birthright of the Church is our calling as “sent-ones” (apostles) who bear good news in the world.
We share good news.
We ARE good news…at least I hope we have some good news to offer the world.
In the midst of conversation about declining mainline churches, there are entire bookshelves dedicated to self-help for churches in decline. In a recent conversation with seminary president David Lose and a bunch of great church leaders, we talked about living in the “age of discretion.” In this age, everything is about choices we get to make. And in the great mathematics of time and energy, far too often people don’t see the practices of the Church as offering enough to them to be worth the choice. We can decry that as consumerist church life, but as I see it we haven’t been a place of abundant life. If we had been, the choice would be clear. We have discerning people; we just haven’t made it easy to discern that the church is place with overflowing good news to share. In fear of evangelical fervor, have we become lukewarm?
A bell tolls and I read my mail and here is what find:
“And to the angel of the (Presbyterian) church (in the USA) write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation: “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)
We have good theology. Well-written sermons. And generally… good will. But we are neither cold nor hot, and far too many people are quite fine spitting us out with little perceived loss to their lives and the life of the world.
Friends: We could use a little evangelical fervor! We need to be a Church that has come alive! We have good news, don’t we? We have dedicated our lives to something, haven’t we? Does Jesus matter? I sure hope so; but have we made that clear in our daily lives?
Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it? How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power?
In his great work The Training of the Twelve, A. B. Bruce talks about rulers of the Sanhedrin marveling at the audacious faith of Jesus’ disciples, now become apostles. They had become people of strong nerve who risked failure in change and were not easily daunted—and people of rare moral courage, “till at length they could do what was right, heedless of human criticism, without effort, almost without thought.”
This was Church come alive. A church with the evangelical fervor of having been set free to dare great things in Christ’s name. And they knew that they needed to give other people this same gift they had received. This needed to be shared. They were claimed by the God of liberating good news and sent to share that with the world one connection at a time. I do not imagine that we are any less called than they, or tasked with any less important mission. We are the Body of Christ and, through the power of the One who calls us, we are capable of exactly this audacious and radical faith. Amazing things are happening all around us: God is doing a new thing; do we not perceive it? We need to figure out how to talk about abundant life and connect our neighbors to the God who is liberating love. We need to be re-claimed by evangelism!
Join me this month as we invite a great group of modern-day apostles to reflect on being evangelical in the Church and daring to connect ever larger circles of communities to life-giving audacious faith!
Andrew Kukla is a pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho. He is a graduate from The College of William and Mary and twice from Columbia Theological Seminary because he is slow on the uptake. He is constantly taught grace, curiosity, and wonder by his wife and four children… and patience, oh so much patience. In what free time is left he serves as the President of the Board at CATCH, Inc which seeks to end homeless in Idaho for through Housing-First solutions, advocates for people as a faith-leader at the Idaho State Capitol, and is begrudging becoming a runner in the foothills of Idaho in order to be heart healthy. He blogs at incoherently at https://akukla.wordpress.com/ and is rarely on twitter but pretends as @awkukla.