What the Missional Church is Missing: Proclaiming the Gospel?

man-with-megaphoneSomeone asked me once at a conference what is the greatest lack in the missional churches I’ve been around. I said “proclaiming gospel.” To which this person became offended because they thought I meant that missional people don’t carry around the 4 Spiritual Laws booklets enough. It was like I was suggesting missional people should be forcing people into making more decisions for Christ which guarentees they will know where they are going when they die.

Of course that’s not what I was talking about. But it nonetheless reveals a reaction symptomatic of the problem. We are reacting against a coercive decontextualized manipulation of the gospel, so we therefore often give up on it altogether?

Instead I am talking about the proclaiming of gospel contextually noncoercively offering hope into everyday life situations whereby we invite people to enter the Kingdom where Jesus is Lord and transforms all things.

Three things are needed for this:

1.) An understanding of applying gospel to context. The gospel must be contextualized. By this I don’t mean “relativized.” The gospel is wide, deep and huge. What God has done in Christ for the world is more than simply forgiving us our sin and restoring us positionally before God as pardoned (although it is that too!).  And so in Prodigal Christianity we give 4 ways we did this at Life on the Vine church back in 2008.

2.) An understanding of what it means “to proclaim.” There’s an epistemological shift here that goes way beyond the cognitive enlightenment modes of communication most Americans are addicted to. To proclaim means to “declare” the way the world is as it is under Jesus as Lord. It is not an attempt to persuade. It is not an attempt to win an argument or even explain. This can all come later. To proclaim is to do so humbly owning the place from which I stand living within the Story from which this proclamation makes compelling sense. It must come from my life not just a propositional truth. It is an offering never demanding assent. It is to fund imagination for people to see a reality that they aren’t seeing. It is to bring hope. It is to invite people into an alternative story that changes everything. It is always spoken in love into situations that need hope, the good news. It is done therefore when there is an opening. Never forced.  The Spirit prompts amidst a person’s hurt, pain and lostness. This is the place where the Holy Spirit can illumine eyes.

3.) An understanding  of what it means to be with people, so as to listen long enough to create the opening whereby you are invited to proclaim the gospel as it most makes most direct sense within this person’s life.

Life on the Vine Church’s current Preaching Series explores ten different aspects of the gospel for the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. It explores what God has done in the world through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.  It is an attempt to broaden and provide new avenues for their congregation to proclaim gospel. It’s just one example of trying to nurture the skill of proclaiming gospel among a people.

Our Life in Christ

Sept 15thAbides (John 15:1-8)

Sept. 22ndJustifies (Rom. 3: 21-26)

Sept. 29thCleanses (Heb. 10:19-23)

Oct. 6th –     Redeems (Col. 1:13-20)

Oct. 13th –  Reconciles (Col. 1:19-23)

Oct. 20th –  Conquers (Col. 2:13-15)

Oct. 27th –  Adopts (Rom. 8:14-17

Nov. 3th –   Loves (Rom. 8: 31-39)

Nov. 10rdFrees (Gal. 4:1-7

Nov. 17thRe-Creates (Gal. 6:11-16)

We’re talking about all this at the Missional Learning Commons this year. Register for it HERE. Find out more and join it here at FB page.

What are the issues you encounter in proclaiming gospel in a post-Christianizing culture? What reticence (and there is much of this) do you have in proclaioming the gospel? How do you address this?

Posted in Cultivating Mission, Post-Christendom, Proclaiming the Gospel, Prodigal Christianity, The Seven Practices, Uncategorized
5 comments on “What the Missional Church is Missing: Proclaiming the Gospel?
  1. K. Rex Butts says:

    Without proclamation of the gospel, we are at risk of losing the ability to remember the “way of life” we learned from hearing about Christ and being “taught in him” with the truth that is in him (cf. Eph 4:20-21). When that happens, what is missional will cease to be.

    Grace and Peace,


  2. Tim Blake says:

    Great thoughts here, David. My wife and I have a burden and desire for our neighborhood and have recently begun to ask the Lord to show us how to reach them. With that said, the idea of asking them, “do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” not only feels archaic, it is an immediate turn off and door slammer.

    As I’ve been reading through Prodigal Christianity, I’ve had much of my thinking changed in terms of WHO’S mission it really is to win the lost. God is a missional God who is already at work in people’s lives. Like what you talk about in the book, I’ve been praying and asking God to help me to be sensitive to what others are going through, but also what they are SAYING so I can perceive when God is at work.

    In the two months that we’ve been engaging our neighbors I’ve yet to find an opening to talk about the Gospel. At times it feels like I’m not really accomplishing anything. I know that it is up to God to draw them to himself, not me. However, I would still like to be a part of that process.

    So I think that being missional minded within our communities works well when it comes to engagement, but when it comes to crossing that next hill and declaring the Gospel, well that’s a bit harder.

  3. Erin says:

    I suggest that proclamation is lost as people grow uncomfortable with how hell is deployed and are left to figure out how God is wonderful in the midst of messy, gray life. I think we feel there is little to offer as a witness much more than, “life is hard. I hope.” The only proclamation available is to simply be and suffer with people, but it can feel like hospice, not victory over death. Fervor comes and goes, but constancy and presence remain. It just doesn’t sell well?

  4. Tim says:

    2 Gospel Proclaiming failure points:

    1. Consuming 75-85% of the giving to fund lecturing the Bible to saints who have heard 1000+ lectures which allows only 15 – 25% to send messengers who have no one to tell them within a days journey.
    2. Setting up the main gathering of believers to be dominated by the one-way communication oriented proclaiming of one hired expert so that 99% of the saints never articulate faith with the family of God, and are thus unable to articulate faith with the lost.

    These are both major systemic gospel proclaiming failures totally justified by 99% of hired experts claiming it’s all godly. The non-experts like it because it’s easy and comfortable. I’m not trying to be rude. Just trying to tell it like it is.

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David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
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