Okay, I'm 'way,'way overdue on this. Over a month ago I fired off part one, and promised part two... but never delivered.
Humblingly enough, no one has complained. Or, apparently, even noticed! But hey, I promised, and must deliver. So...
I had made the case that the Emerg*** movement is all promise and no delivery, all about image and no character/value, that it is all ad and no product, that all its vaunted "new" is in fact old, discredited, and rotten.
Then I finished by framing and posing this question:
Of course, anyone who really wanted to have a revolutionary impact on the world might give a thought to how Paul did it. He managed a pretty good job of staging a counter-cultural revolution. What was Paul's orientation?For starters, then, let's fix our eyes on 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sakePaul knew there was a spiritual veil over his hearers' minds. He knew that he was inadequate to penetrate that veil (vv. 3-4). It could not be reasoned away, persuaded away, amused away, entertained away, distracted away, or forced away. So what could be done, and who could do it? The very prospect was overwhelming to him (cf. 2:15b).
So did Paul reinvent himself to fit the times? Did he change his core beliefs to be more acceptable to the blind? Did he adapt his message to accommodate the Satanic veil?
Absolutely not. To the contrary, Paul held such a mindset in molten contempt (v. 2). What he did instead was a full-out, pedal-to-the-metal proclamation of Christ in all His world-shattering, uncongenial, edgy glory (vv. 4b-5). He described beauty and glory they could not see. He told them a message they hated to hear.
In fact, note this particularly: "what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord" (v. 5). Paul specifically and expressly eschews making himself and his experience the issue. The issue is Jesus Christ. That proclamation, the heralding of Christ, is a decisive, critical, sharp-edged, objective proclamation. It is not a way to become broadly popular and well-loved by the blind and hateful. In fact, the "many" on the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13) find such proclaimers to be a disgusting, repellent stench (2 Corinthians 2:16), and will vent their fury and loathing for God on them (John 15:18).
About the same fragrance, the elect will say, "Ah, sweet!" The others, "What? That bloated-corpse smell? Yargh!"
Now, Paul had in fact talked a bit about himself in the previous chapter. But what he said was pretty dismissive. You look in vain for self-promoting titles such as "futurist" or "Imagineer" or "Life Technician." No, the apostle says this: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" (4:7). " What are we?" Paul asks. "Clay pots," is the answer — and that for a reason: that attention might focus on the contents. Not on the pot.
A modern Spiritual Invasion Strategerist might think that what's really needed is a pot-improvement program. Glaze the pot. Paint the pot. Pierce the pot. Day-glo the pot. Make the pot shine!
But Paul was utterly uninterested in any such regimes. The pot was powerless and dying. The pot was nothing. The pot could produce nothing worth offering. The pot was powerless to give sight to deluded and blind lost people (4:1-6). What they needed wasn't a better pot. They needed what the pot carried, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So if you won't proclaim Christ with all His razor-sharp edges, in a way that disgraces and damns and judges the world — for those keeping score at home, I just said the same thing in five different ways — you have to do something else.
Which is precisely what many Emerg*** leaders seem to do.
They seem to be proclaiming themselves. Not Jesus Christ as Lord.
The Gospel of Christ saves.
That's why it bothers us.