Scot McKnight and the earliest Christian gospel (8)

Friday and Saturday 11-12 June we had a fantastic 2010 IBI Summer Institute with Scot McKnight. Two full days, 8 sessions, a full house. Scot worked hard and was brilliant.

I’m doing a few posts on what Scot had to say. And I should say that these are just based on my notes.

Much of the content of the lectures will be the material for a new book The Earliest Christian Gospel – so we were treated to a special preview.

This is the last post on what Scot had to say. A key question that was raised was this:

How preach the gospel to this generation?

Given the increasing remoteness of Christianity to this generation, combined (especially in the USA) with a self-esteem movement that tells us that everyone is ‘OK’: this generation finds it hard to imagine that God (if he exists) could be angry at them.

So how connect to a post-Christendom culture? How does the gospel that Scot has been unpacking help?

Richard asked a good question on this the other day.

Scot suggested that we in Ireland need to spend much time listening. Listening to what the twenties and younger are saying and doing, especially in our local communities.

I have my hunches of what we’d hear … what do you think these voices would be saying?

– pursuit of experience? Consumerism?

– desire for relationship?

– anger at the older generation’s greed and bankrupting of the country?

– environmental concern?

– cynicism at all authority figures, power-plays and institutions, especially the church [and there is pretty well not an institution in Ireland that does not have its reputation lying on the floor in tatters]

– desire to make the world a fairer, more just place?

– independent, autonomous, questioning

And Scot told stories of how in his compulsory Jesus class at university, he finds students becoming Christians as he tells the radical, subversive, counter-cultural story of Jesus, the crucified Messiah, who is raised from the dead, is declared Lord of all, and demands that all who would follow him give up everything to do so ….

The gospel of Jesus calls his followers to take up their cross, enter his kingdom in faith and join in his redemptive purposes for the world in the here and now. To work for an end to injustice, poverty and environmental destruction. To see our lives as not just ‘about us’ or even ‘me going to heaven when I die’ – but giving up everything to follow the risen Lord wherever that will lead.

This gospel calls us to help people imagine a world in which all the things we long for – beauty, justice, truth, relationships – are put right. But they are being put right now in the most unlikely way – through the death and resurrection of a Jewish Messiah, who has poured out God’s Spirit.

This gospel calls each one of us to decide – to which story do I belong? My own pursuit of significance, or happiness or experience? Or to join a far greater story – the story of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all through whom alone is hope found that one day God will be all in all.


3 thoughts on “Scot McKnight and the earliest Christian gospel (8)

  1. I’m intrigued by your ‘hunches’ about what the younger generation is saying. While much of it is true… there are other key themes which emerge from our regular discussions with the teenagers we work with in our community drop in centre.

    – What’s the point? One of our 18-year-old friends told us… “My friend just spent three years getting his degree and now he’s found out that he cannot get a job. So he went and bought an Xbox and he is sitting at home playing games all day.”
    Another youngster wrote on Facebook… “thanks for persuading me to go and get drunk last night instead of studying for my Leaving Cert exam much better use of my time”.

    – Life is too short for hard work… our parents did it and look where it got them (miserable and out-of-work)… let’s just kick back and have fun. (Perhaps a modern version of ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’?)

    – In stark contrast to these previous two… last night a 19-year-old told me “I want to give back. I want to invest in my community and make it a better place.”

    – Another girl told me… “We want to be heard but no-one is listening. We want to do great things but people don’t believe in us so we stop believing in ourselves.”

  2. Great post Patrick, you should think about blogging 🙂

    I feel the “wee North” would struggle more with “readjusting” their signals regarding the Gospel as a story of a Messiah coming for more than just forgiveness of sins than the South. Although, I’ve noticed North and South, churches tend not to explicitly herald the cause of injustice, poverty and environmental destruction as much as they should.

    This must change.

    On the streets of Derry, where I used to serve on Street Pastors, a lot of the kids used to talk like the last two comments that you commented: We don’t want to be like our seniors generation; we WANT to make a difference with our lives. Inspiring isn’t it?

    I agree with Scot: listening to the Millennial generation, in particular, North and South, is more vital than ever during our transit through our spiritual and social ‘liminality’. I guess that is why we have two ears and one mouth.

  3. Thanks for very helpful summary, Patrick. Seems like what attracts Scots students is the idea of a bigger story than their own which in a “me-me-me” generation is revolutionary. Most people in Ireland are familiar with the Jesus story and see nothing revolutionary in it at all. The story has been accomodated into our individual and corporate stories to a point where it becomes either part of our “religious” heritage or else just irrelevant. I sense that neither listening more carefully nor shouting more loudly are going to change much. Somehow we need to learn how to announce that “Jesus is in charge.” I am pretty sure it will take a while to get it right – it did for the early church.

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