The gospel for conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people

Steve Brown recently spoke at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Most in the audience were seniors, good people with many years of church between them.

The first few sessions did not go well. Brown told them that each of them had a secret that, if their churches knew, would get them kicked out. I think there must have been a look of both shock and recognition. It’s not what they were used to hearing at all.

Brown likes to talk about radical freedom. It sounds scandalous, but Brown explains that it’s just another way to say “gospel.” But if he tells people he wants to talk about gospel, they think they’ve heard it all before. If he tells people he wants to talk about scandalous freedom, they’re not always sure that Brown is a Christian himself. (Brown relates this story and explains his approach in last week’s podcast.)

In light of Brown’s comments, it’s interesting to read this quote from Tim Keller’s new book The Prodigal God:

Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishoners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. (via)

Worth thinking about. A message that exposes the sins of morally upright people while talking about radical freedom and grace will break through some of our buttoned-down church cultures. It may take some getting used to. But it may just be a little like the message of Jesus that we call the gospel.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada