Comparisons are inevitable. Southern preachers will eventually come face to face with Billy Graham. A generation or two fawn over the "simple gospel" presented in stadium after stadium. I confess to wondering why someone already given to follow Jesus, become a Christian, wants a steady diet of preaching found at a Billy Graham Crusade. Seems to me the need to move from one place to another must be more than moving from judgment to mercy.
Roxburgh and Romanuk describe the inauspicious places from which the activity of God comes. (Missional Leader, p.21) Since many have pronounced the end of the church it is refreshing to see these two connect the future activity of God coming from the most "God forsaken places"; and that from the people of God – even the church.
I was reminded of what has become one of my favorite articles by Father Richard Rohr. The edges may be the place from which we hear of God’s future. Content to reduce the "Gospel" to the "simple" runs the risk of a truncated understanding of God, his grace and "good news." For example, Daryl offers a quote from Guder via Adam on the matter,
In the exploration of the missiological implications of reductionism, I have stressed that the
reduction of the gospel to individual salvation…is the gravest and
most influential expression of the human drive for control…A reduced gospel trivializes God as it makes God into a manageable deity.
Moving from one place to another becomes difficult when our understanding of the Gospel is limited to forgiveness of sins. We care little about the things God cares about. We care little about the world God cares about. In fact, we cannot see the world the way God sees the world because we are so consumed with the way we see the world. Our need for preaching then becomes therapeutic. We cannot change the world and do not believe God will. We need an avenue to cope with the difficult. Hearing repeatedly we made the right choice at a point in time keeps us insulated from trouble in the world and joining God in the mission in the world to which he sent the church.
Our focus then moves to moralizing. Holiness then takes on less about looking like God and seeing the world the way God sees the world. We tag on to our forgiveness something to make us feel like we may measure a dab of progress and end up battling to avoid worldliness in ways that matter little,
worldliness–we worry about dancing and care less about the poor, or
war, or the marriage of Christianity and capitalism–it is barely worth
addressing the issue when it is raised in these situations, because it
is always used in a combative and resistant manner–it is a strong-arm
against the world, and it never holds. (Barry Taylor)
I am sure when Jesus stood and read the Isaiah scroll many considered
him a voice from the edge. We know others thought his origin
inauspicious (Nathaniel). Certainly his picture of "good news" evoked
more than what we have reduced it to,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-18,ESV)
May the activity of God rise from forsaken places to those with ears to hear the Gospel of God that sets the world to rights, grants forgiveness to people and forms them in mercy to live in the Kingdom realities until the return of the King.