I've recently finishing reading the excellent biography No Compromise, the life story of Keith Green. I thoroughly recommend this book to any Christian serious about their faith. Its absolutely fantastic! Very challenging as well.
Now I want to provoke my readers a little and post a little from one of Keith's talks mentioned in the book. If you want to hear his sermon in full then you can buy it on DVD
or read the transcript in full. I'm just going to give you the highlights.
I believe with all my heart that Jesus would be ashamed of most of the "gospel" messages and sermons that are being preached today, mainly because they lack almost every major point He Himself preached on...
Keith goes on to mention the following categories. I'll added my own comments in italics.
- We have removed the Blood of Jesus from the gospel.
Seems true in my experience. I did hear a preach on the blood of Jesus at New Life Church Kelowna, Canada last summer. To be honest it wasn't the best preach I'd ever heard...I think its hard to talk about this to a post-modern audience. Derek Prince tells us that "It is when we testify personally to what the blood of Jesus does for us that we can claim all the benefits that God has provided for us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross."
- We have removed the Cross of Jesus.
Yes! So many folks are saying this: Alistair Begg, N T Wright, Mark Driscoll...
- We have removed the Threat and Terrors of Hell, and the Guilt of Sinners.
I can't remember the last time the word Hell was even mentioned in church, let alone preached. I honestly think many Christians no longer believe in it. I do think that many of the images of hell in the bible are metaphorical / symbolic, as that is the nature of prophetic imagery. The emerging church has done a pretty good job at deconstructing hell. But its now time for the emerging church to reconstruct hell.
- We have removed the Law of God Preached to Convict One of Sin.
This is basically what Ray Comfort bangs on about (A friend of mine calls this the "sick-boy method" -- don't ask). I think this works for some people, but not totally sure about its validity. Any thoughts, especially from evangelists?
updated: Synchronicity strikes again: it just so happens that Ed Stetzer has blogged on "beginning a conversation about Christ". He discusses the "Way of the Master" / "sick-boy" method, which he explains thus: "remind people they are hypocrites, liars, thieves, and adulterers in the first two minutes and bring up the "lake of fire" in the third.". Check out the his blog for more about how to share the gospel in today's world.
- We have removed the Fear of God and the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Absolutely. The very notion of fearing God is some quarters causes shuffling of feet and stifled coughs. And Christians being judged or rewarded? Come on! That's so medieval, right?
- We have removed Repentance as Necessary for Forgiveness.
I think I know why Keith said this. He encountered so many "forgiven" Christians living worldly lives and shaming Jesus. They needed to "repent", that is, to have a change of mind. Both N T Wright (emerging evangelical) and Bill Johnson (charismatic) have done excellent preaches on Repentance. If you haven't heard them -- you should! (Email me for the mp3s.)
- We have removed God's Sorrow and Broken Heart Over Sin.
Totally agree. But how does the cross factor into this?
- We have removed the Necessity of Holiness to Please God.
What does this Hebrews verse actually mean? Anyone venture an exegesis? The blood of Jesus makes us righteous, but not holy, is that the starting point here?
Some folks have commented that the church today is experiencing prophetic aftershocks -- "exhortations, teachings, and prophetic insights delivered years, decades, and even centuries ago that the Holy Spirit is now using to challenge and inspire the body of Christ.". I would agree with this. Keith's message seem more relevant than ever today (even if we would phrase things differently or perhaps tweak his emphasis).
Keith Green often offends Christians. As one blogger put it, "he was just a little immature in his communication skills [but] the message he had was right on the money." I don't think we should let his bluntness put us off him.
Another blogger commented:
Green brought streams of Christianity together, too. He incorporated the holiness movement, the charismatic movement, the Jesus People movement, the missionary movement, the worship movement, and old-fashined tent revivalism into one foundation. I can't think of anyone in recent memory who was able to pull off this feat so well.
Keith, I don't know if you can read blogs in heaven, but if you can, I for one salute you. We need more leaders like you. My prayer is that Jesus would raise up more radical Christians ready to walk in the footsteps of men like Keith.
We may have a more nuanced understanding of some things today, such as Wright's work on Jesus and Paul, and if Keith were here today I am sure he would recast his message in today's language. But lets challenge ourselves and take heed from this amazing man.