In an effort to recenter church methods debate back onto the gospel, I recently proposed that we should be debating the strength of our gospel, not the effectiveness of our methods. There are varieties of methods from organic house church to attractional mega church that have been used by God to advance the gospel. But what kind of gospel?
The 50/50 Gospel
I attempted to answer that question by suggesting that some church methods operate on a 50/50 gospel, an understanding of the good news that relies on 50% of our behavior and 50% God’s grace. This gospel assumes that people are good enough to chose Christ but that they simply need to be reminded how good Christ is. Broken marriages, patterns of sexual sin, deep-seated anger, and financial hardships are primarily the product of our failure to behave like Jesus. Enter the Church. The church can reminds us, exhort us, even train us to be like Jesus, to make good moral decisions, not bad ones. We need the grace of God’s example and a faithful commitment to behave accordingly. This is the 50/50 gospel, and it is anathema.
50/50 Concoctions: Morality, Community, & Mission
The 50/50 gospel relies, not on the power of grace, but on the power of morality. As a result, the Church becomes a half-way house between our moral failures and our moral successes. We rehabilitate our decision-making under the faithful instruction of a faithless institution. But the 50/50 gospel is sometimes mixed differently. Try 50% mission, 50% grace. We need the grace of Jesus example and the goal of Jesus mission. In this concoction, churches serve as a inspiring non-profit, moving us from missional failure to missional success. We soften our social consciences under the weight of a missional institution. And then there is the 50% community, 50% grace combo. We need the grace of God to become “like the early church,” to have real community, to jettison our individualism in order to truly become “the church.” The gospel becomes a quick-fix to our lack of community.
100 Proof Gospel
Each concoction of the 50/50 gospel is actually quite dangerous. They propose that churches should attract as many people as possible to their moral-laden messages, missional activities, and communal experiences. The goal of the Church is reduced to converting people to a better way of living, not to better God to be believing. What we need is a gospel that is 100 proof grace, the work of Spirit to violate our dulled taste for what it good, true and beautiful and to get us drunk on God. We need more than changed behaviors; we need changed hearts, new affections, from which a life of worship flows. We need churches that are more concerned about pointing us to the multi-faceted splendor of Jesus Christ, than the innovative ways we can be the church through community or mission. What we need is 100% gospel.