The Old Testament Template Book: Chapter 2

We’ve Lost Our Christian Minds

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment.”
Matthew 22:37-38

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind…”
I Corinthians 14:14-15

“The gospel of salvation? What could possibly be the problem with the gospel of salvation?” you may ask. The answer to that? Nothing! There is nothing wrong with the salvation part of the gospel message we preach today. But as evangelicals, we talk about the salvation message, being born again, born again believers, born again churches, the new birth, Jesus saves, as though the initial experience of salvation is the only message. Jesus preached that the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven is through Himself, but He constantly put salvation in the context of the broader message of the kingdom of heaven. He never referred to the gospel of salvation. Jesus taught the gospel of the Kingdom: salvation and the truth about every dimension of life. Yet, more than 150 years of mission work has been dominated by this concept of salvation as our singular goal.

The result of this truncated gospel message is no less tragic than a grown child still incapable of doing anything for himself. Something has gone terribly wrong. God’s design has been interrupted, and this life has not fully developed. The child is still precious and a great gift of life, but God’s original plans and purposes for that infant have been distorted. That principle is the same in all of His Kingdom. We are not only to be born again; we are to grow up into the things of God as they apply to all of life. We are meant to have our minds transformed and every thought taken captive with the truths of God’s great Kingdom. We are to know how God wants us to live!

In what Michael Cassidy of South Africa, calls “the Great Reversal,”1 we have taken the holistic message preached in the Old and New Testaments and reduced our message to the entry point into the Kingdom. The beginning has become the goal: salvation! We want to “get people saved.” When we get them saved, we want to “get them in church!” We then move on to reach those who have never heard. This is our concept of missions; this is evangelism. When a people has heard our gospel of salvation and the church is planted, we begin to feel we have finished our job. Two, three, five hundred years ago, the church fathers would have found this emphasis on salvation, to the exclusion of the rest of the message, astounding. The message that reformed Western cultures and built nations on solidly Christian values was not the gospel of salvation, but the gospel of the Kingdom – including salvation.

The truths of the gospel of the Kingdom, are to transform us as they teach us how to live every part of life. Our transformed lives are then to be salt and light to our families, neighborhoods, communities, and, finally, our nations, making them better places to live for everyone. Not perfect communities, not heaven on earth, but better because the influence of good is as great, if not greater, than evil. There have been great examples of this in history. Transforming lives has been so emphasized in church history that it’s been said that never has a revivalist lived who believed God’s purpose ended with revival. They all believed true revival culminated in significant reformation of communities through a revived church’s influence on society at large.

The first church transformed Israel, revolutionized the Roman Empire, and laid foundations for Western European countries to become the most prosperous nations in the world. What a different impact we see in modern mission history. Evangelized Africa is worse today in every arena – disease, crime, justice, economics, and the family – than before Christianity came to the continent.2 America has a huge and apparently increasing percentage of practicing believers and, yet, it also is decreasing in moral fiber and quality of life in every category. Missionary workers in the sub-continent of India say that, while we quote that Nagaland is eighty percent Christianized, we fail to note that seventy percent of the teenagers in the capital city are drug addicts. Rwanda, with some sixty years of on-going revival in the church, suffers genocide in tribal civil war. Some say that there are more Christians alive today than the sum total of Christians in history. Where is the power to influence and transform communities that the Apostle Paul, St. Patrick, Calvin and many others experienced in their day?

Does the fruit of modern evangelism today reflect “…thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it in heaven…”? Surely not! So, where have we gone wrong? How did we come to such a reduced gospel? The good news is that there is an answer to that question. It is good news because the first step to change is knowing where the problem lies. In this case, one problem is that we have lost our Christian minds!

The Split Christian Mind
Over the last two centuries Christians, especially evangelicals, have developed a split view of the world. This process has taken place at different times, in different regions of the world, and in differing denominations, but we can generally say that split thinking dominates much of Christianity today.

Recent dualistic thinking developed like this: one part of the church took the stand that God takes care of salvation and, therefore, it is the church’s responsibility to look after man’s more basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, health, and perhaps even education. In reaction, another part of the church responded with a resounding, “No!” Its view was that only man’s soul and his eternal condition is of any value and our focus is to be the pursuit of man’s salvation. The latter thought of themselves as being concerned with spiritual matters and the former were considered concerned with material matters. Those who saw the church’s primary role as pursuing man’s salvation became known as evangelicals and they began to refer to the others as liberals. Evangelicals were concerned with eternal and heavenly matters. Liberals were more concerned with temporal and earthly issues. Evangelicals preached the spiritual gospel of salvation and were focused on the sacred issues of life. Liberals, evangelicals thought, preached the social gospel and were more concerned with secular issues of life. This split view of the world was exaggerated by an increasing emphasis on the immediate return of Christ and the concept that everything secular was going to hell.

This is a very basic way of looking at considerably more complex doctrinal issues. I am neither a theologian nor an historian, and I am not attempting to deal with these broader issues. My point here is simply that a split view of the world entered the thinking of the church, and this dualistic view systematically reduced the primary message of the gospel preached today to salvation alone. Christians, in the main, became more concerned about the invisible issues of the faith: salvation, prayer, spiritual warfare, heaven and healing. We began to believe we only had time to get souls saved.

                        THE SPLIT GOSPEL

                SPIRITUAL            MATERIAL   
                SALVATION           SOCIAL
                ETERNAL                TEMPORAL
                HEAVENLY             EARTHLY
                EVANGELICAL       LIBERAL
                SACRED                  SECULAR

The tragedy in this division, as is so often the case, is that both sides were right and both sides were wrong. Evangelicals were right about what the gospel was concerned with, and wrong in what they felt was not the gospel’s concern. The gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus taught, built on the entire teaching of God to Israel through Moses and the prophets, was a message that dealt with sin and salvation, with heaven and hell, with prayer and spiritual warfare. The liberals were accurate in that it was also a message of God’s desire for justice in government, equity in economics, the righteous use of science and technology, communication, family, the arts, and all of life.

The result of a diminished and split gospel is clear in the world we live in today. Never have there been more Christians, in more churches, in more nations, speaking more languages of the world. But I think it would also be fair to say that never has the spread of the church had
less impact on surrounding communities. The Christian church today is a huge church and a weak church because we have lost most of the gospel message. We can say that the social, economic, and judicial issues of our communities are not our concern because we have a split view of the world. We are “spiritual leaders” and do not need to concern ourselves with secular matters. We do not need to stop bringing the message of salvation, but we desperately need to regain the essential truths of the rest of the gospel message of God’s Kingdom. We need to renew our Christian minds and see our lives transformed by conforming every thought to the thinking of Christ. Then the 21st Century church will turn our world upside down. Then the body of Christ will not only be large and diverse, it will regain its power of influence.

1. Cassidy, Michael “The Passing Summer”. Hodder S. Stoughton, London

2. Kinoti, Ibid