Dave Black on Announcing the Reign of God

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 It’s been replaced by an emphasis upon individualized salvation and identification with the organization of the church.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.

Politics and The Jesus Paradigm

From Dave Black Online:

I want to say a word about The Jesus Paradigm. Some reviewers have implied that it makes too much of politics for a book only about discipleship. Actually, the book is ALL about politics. I insist that politics is never enough and that the human problem is insoluble unless it be attacked on all fronts — the spiritual as well as the political and the economic — the whole point of the book being that the problem is too complex to be solved by political reforms. If you feel that something can be done along political lines and that it would be worth doing, that’s fine with me. But, alas, in view of what politicians and the voting public are like, hope must be mingled with a great deal of doubt. It seems to me that if we are to have better politics, we must also have a better philosophy. And the only philosophy I think worth defending is the ultimate anti-philosophy, radical Christianity. The hope of the world lies in people getting disgusted enough with politics to take the teachings of Jesus seriously and to begin serving their communities with Calvary-love.


Geoffrey Lentz Reviews The Jesus Paradigm

Link to review on GeoffreyLentz.com.

The church is set to undergo massive transformations in the coming years and decades. Many great authors have recently been describing desired and/or emerging models; David Alan Black is among them with his newest book, The Jesus Paradigm (Energion Publications, July 2009).  The basic premise of the book is that the church has lost sight of our purpose and has become weighed down with meetings, bureaucracy, and structure and has neglected our primary call to make disciples of all nations.

Review by Arthur Sido

Link to review by Arthur Sido.

Positive comment:

All in all, this is an excellent book. Well written, accessible, challenging, reasonable for the most part. There is no higher compliment that I can give a book than to say it was challenging to me, made me want to read the Scriptures more diligently and that I marked pages and quotes liberally. This book did all three. …

Reservations:

However, no book is perfect and the big issue I had with The Jesus Paradigm had to do with the running political commentary. …

Editorial note: I would love to see some constructive engagement with this issue in comments.  A challenging book should cause us to challenge back as we seek truth. — HN

Christianity is Insanely Impossible

From Dave Black Online:

Christianity is insanely impossible! That’s what we saw today in Greek class as we translated Mark 9:14-29. That’s why Jesus asks us to believe. “Anything is possible for the one who believes.” Anything? Really?

Jesus, I’m believing you right now for the impossible. I believe you will provide water for the Burji clinic. What else can we do? We’ve already installed the plumbing — by faith. We’ve tried every means possible of digging the well — by faith. I am as helpless as that boy’s father. “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!”

A New Testament Theology Recommended

Speaking of books, all of my valuable time this past week was taken up by reading the various New Testament theologies that are out there in preparation for my fall class on the subject. I’ve decided to require Frank Thielman’s Theology of the New Testament. Thielman is very readable and interesting, and he takes a canonical (rather than a systematic) approach. The focus on the cross is wonderful, and at 800 pages the book is a veritable mine of information. Thankfully the author refuses to be dull or boring.

Thielman, Theology of the New Testament
Thielman, Theology of the New Testament

If you’ve never read this book (or any book on New Testament theology for that matter), I strongly urge you to do so. The New Testament is so wonderful, so full of surprises, so deep and wide and profound that you can never wrap your mind around it — and that’s just for starters! Good stuff, I tell you. It’ll be a small class (yeah!), so I’ll get to treat it more like a graduate seminar than a typical class — which means high class participation.

July 4th Liturgy?

From Dave Black Online:

Jeffery Tucker delivers a powerful punch in this essay over at LRC: Should the Church Wave the Flag? His conclusion:

It is a special temptation when Sunday falls so close to July 4. Surely people should be permitted to express their seasonal enthusiasms? I don’t think so. Nationalism is not part of the deepest Christian tradition. Conventional songs of secular-style patriotism cannot contribute to the liturgy but rather depart, even radically, from its spirit and intent.

Think about it, church.

On the Lord’s Supper

From Dave Black Online:

Last night I had a great talk with Jon Glass about the Lord’s Supper. How dare we settle for anything but the best in our churches! The meeting of the New Testament church was a memorable scene, radiant with brotherly love as members sat down together for a love feast that included the breaking of the bread. Christocentric, rather than preacher-centered! Alive with spiritual power! Every member making use of his or her gift for the benefit of the whole Body! And it was the Holy Spirit who was the cause of it all. The evidence for a highly participatory meeting is incontrovertible. This is what will always attract me to the writings of the New Testament — the power of the Spirit unleashed in every member!

Added Where-to-Buy Links

We have added where to buy links to the sidebar.  Keep in mind that these are pre-purchase links; the release date remains approximately July 20.  When individual dealers will have the book in stock may vary by a number of days.

The Jesus Paradigm: A Book that will set you on a downward path