by Dale Stoll
We, who come last, desire to see the first things and wish to return to them insofar as God enables us. We are like people who have come to a house that has been burnt down and try to find the original foundations. This is more difficult in that the ruins are grown over with all sorts of growths, and many think that these growths are the foundation, and say, ‘This is the foundation’ and ‘This is the way in which all must go,’ and others repeat it after them. So that in the novelties that have grown up they think to have found the foundation, whereas they have found something quite different from, and contrary to, the true foundation.
– Peter Cheltschizki, Bohemia, 1440
Just as Peter Cheltschizki wrote over 500 years ago, today’s church has “novelties” that have grown over and obscured the true foundation, and now are believed to be the foundation. Yet, they are actually “quite different from, and contrary to, the true foundation.” These “novelties” today go as deep as the very message we have proclaimed as the gospel.In our efforts to simplify the gospel and to make it “relevant” to our culture, we have ended up with several versions of the good news that are no longer that good—they lack the power to transform and integrate life. They are fragmented gospels—and they produce fragmented lives. Again, Gallup expresses it well:
Contemporary spirituality can resemble a grab bag of random experiences that does little more than promise to make our eyes mist up or our heart warm. We need perspective to separate the junk food from the wholesome, the faddish from the truly transforming.
It’s not that these fragmented gospels contain no truth; it’s just that we have taken portions of God’s truth and mixed them with spiritual “junk food.” In the process, we have changed the overall message—and the effectiveness of that message.
The above is excerpted from the Introduction to Integrated Lives: Living the Good News of Jesus. I wrote Integrated Lives because, as a pastor of 30 years, I saw the way in which the fragmented gospels we have proclaimed fails to produce integrated and mature followers of Jesus. My conclusion was that we needed to go back to the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom that was proclaimed by Jesus and the early church. Only this way can we establish a firm foundation upon which to build mature disciples—which, after all, is what Jesus called us to do.
I leave you with two questions:
- Am I off base? If so, where?
- If not, what will you do about it?