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Oct
31

Book Review: The King Jesus Gospel

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Depending upon the poll results you read, as many as 83% of Americans profess to be Christian in their personal faith. That simple statistic is troubling because I just don’t see that statistic reflected in our churches or in our culture.

Sometime ago, I became concerned that evangelical Christians were focused on getting decisions for Christ and making converts to Christianity, but not fulfilling the very core of the great commission: making disciples of Jesus Christ. Evangelism felt somewhat like “bait and switch.” There was a genuine desire to not add anything to the simple message of God’s grace and His provision of eternal life. But then came the ensuing frustration that new converts were not always “converted,” often leaving the church through the back door as gingerly as they came in the front door. There was and continues to be plenty of intellectual assent but little evidence of true transformation.

Scot McKnight has taken broad strides in addressing this issue. In his new book, The King Jesus Gospel, McKnight undertakes this topic with surgical precision. McKnight argues that what we are experiencing in western culture is not so much the gospel of Jesus unleashed as it is the plan of salvation explained and acknowledged. In other words, the gospel of the Jesus has become reduced to “the plan of salvation,” the purpose of which is to solicit commitments to Christ.

To find resolution to this dissonant, McKnight suggests that the time has come for the church to return to the full gospel of Jesus, beginning with the story of Israel. Christ is the fulfillment and resolution to the story of Israel, and through his death, burial, and resurrection is enthroned as Lord of all. Those who surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord are invited into the larger story of the gospel, sharing and pursuing the common goals of the Kingdom of God. In God’s design, recipients of the gospel are at once participants in the gospel. Those who respond to the gospel do not merely make decisions for Christ. Responders make commitments to a life of discipleship, taking on the character of Christ and emulating his behaviors as enabled by the Spirit of God.

Christianity therefore is not an ego-centric choice where matters of faith are individualistic and self fulfilling (e.g. “When He was on the cross I was on His mind…”). Rather, Christianity is about becoming part of a broader community where life is shared with those who take on something far bigger than oneself.

McKnight’s book points to the obvious problem then defines and defends a more holistic means of understanding the gospel. He concludes the book with some clear thoughts on how churches can develop a culture that is gospel based and how believers can undertake evangelism with this new understanding of the gospel.

As a whole, McKnight’s book has identified a critical issue in the American church. He deals with it honestly and with theological integrity. The King Jesus Gospel is compelling and convincing. McKnight is one of the top New Testament scholars in America today, and because of his successful academic background I wish he would have bent more toward his fellow academicians and professional clergy. (I believe he could have written 100 pages on how the Book of Hebrews fits the motif.) But instead he wrote to a general audience, benefiting them with his insights as well as the addition of some practical applications for the local church.

Therefore, I highly recommend The King Jesus Gospel to pastors and members alike. Some books are to be commended because they are good, and others are commended because they are important. Good books encourage and inspire readers, while important books become catalysts for change. The King Jesus Gospel is definitely the latter, and my prayer is that it will begin a conversation that will change our lives, our churches, and our culture.

Comments

  1. Neal says:

    While many churches are seemingly content to simply increase the size of their congregations and the number of salvations within their walls, the heartbeat of their mission should also include dIscipling every believer that darkens their doors. Thank you for bringing this book and its timely subject matter to the attention of your readers.

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