The following post is entirely extracted from Dave Black Online and used with permission:
I know, I know. I’ve been talking a lot about discipleship, but it’s what my mind is firmly affixed to these days. (My therapist tells me I may never recover….) I took the past couple of days to read a book that was mentioned in the comments section of Geoffrey Lentz’s review of The Jesus Paradigm. I had never had the opportunity to read Mortimer Arias’s Announcing the Reign of God before.
Of course, this is a book we conservative, Bible-believing, inerrantist, non-liberation-theology evangelicals aren’t supposed to read. All the more reason for doing so. I honestly was pressed on points I needed to think deeply about. What surprised me the most was how I agreed passionately with the author, even though he and I come from completely different theological backgrounds. There are 5 things I’d like to list that summarize what he is saying in this book:
1) The Gospel is the Gospel of the kingdom, the kingdom that Jesus introduced.
2) This kingdom-of-God emphasis has practically disappeared from evangelical preaching. It’s been replaced by an emphasis upon individualized salvation and identification with the organization of the church. The kingdom of God as the focal point of the Christian life has virtually been absent.
3) The kingdom of God, as preached by Jesus, embraces all the dimensions of human life: the spiritual, the physical, the intellectual, the societal, and the social. The kingdom cannot be reduced to an inner religious experience on the one hand or an ecclesiastical organization on the other.
4) Kingdom evangelization is Christ-centered evangelization. He is both the evangel and the evangelizer. He is the center and content of the Gospel and embodies the Good News in His words and deeds.
5) Because Jesus’ evangelization was kingdom evangelization, so was His disciples’. Their message was, “The kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 10:9). To proclaim the kingdom of God was to call people to follow Jesus without looking back. Therefore, just as Jesus taught, preached, and healed, so His disciples in the church are to do the same.
I make many of these same points in The Jesus Paradigm. Jesus invented discipleship. He modeled discipleship. He taught discipleship. And He commanded discipleship — not decision-making! And His command was a command to be engaged in kingdom evangelization. The kingdom of God is a multidimensional reign that has to do with the totality of life. It involves much more than a belief system. It means following Christ on the way of the kingdom, and this way is a downward path involving not only verbal proclamation but also incarnating the Gospel in the lives of people. It is, as Bonhoeffer reminded us, a “costly discipleship.”
I believe that one of the most difficult challenges for evangelicals today is to test our understanding of the Great Commission against this teaching of Jesus. Our missionary activity falls short if we limit ourselves to calling for personal faith in Christ without pointing to the requirements of the kingdom. Yes, we can always escape to a convenient “altar call” and “pledge card” mentality and call it evangelization, but this is not the total message of the Scriptures and the vision of the all-embracing kingdom of God. I suspect the devil loves it when we preach a Gospel without discipleship, as is inevitable once we become preoccupied with “getting people saved.” Following Christ means following Him in costly discipleship or it means nothing at all. This is the conclusion Eduard Schweitzer came to in his 400-page book The Good News According to Mark — that “discipleship is the only form in which faith can exist” (p. 386).
I am aware that I have brushed with broad strikes an infinitely deep subject. I just try to remember that my job is not just to talk about discipleship but to live it out by mimicking Jesus (Eph. 5:1-2) and doing the kingdom. Frankly, it’s obvious to me that the evangelical church is not getting the job done, especially when American Christians spend 97 percent of their income on themselves (according to George Barna). Evangelism is not primarily about techniques, training, programs, or knowing more. It’s about living out the Jesus paradigm by overflowing the life experienced in Jesus.
Announcing the Kingdom of God is a great book and a superb critique of modern American evangelicalism. I highly commend it.