Wednesday, May 16, 2007

St. Francis of Assisi was Wrong

"For all of their reactions, 'the post evangelical' emerging folks seem to follow the well-worn path of their revivalist forebears in seeing the church primarily as a society of moral transformers who preach themselves rather than Christ. Like many emerging church leaders (in continuity with my evangelical pastors growing up), [Dan] Kimball invokes Francis of Assisi's famous line: 'Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.' 'Our lives will preach better than anything we can say.' But doesn't this mean to preach ourselves rather than Christ? The gospel that we preach is good news because it is not the story of our discipleship, but of Christ's obedience, death, and resurrection in our place. The good news is not, 'Look at my life' or 'look at our community'; it is the announcement that in Christ God justifies the wicked. Yes, there is hypocrisy, and because Christians will always be simultaneously saint and sinner, there will always be hyprocrisy in every Christian and in every church. The good news is that Christ saves us from hypocrisy, too. But hypocrisy is especially generated when the church points to itself and our own 'changed lives' in its promotional materials. The more we talk about ourselves, the more occasion the world will have to charge us with hypocrisy. The more we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, and pass this good news on to others, the more our lives will be authentically changed in the bargain. With all due respect to St. Francis, the gospel is only something that can be told (i.e. words), a story that can be declared. When our lives are told within that larger story, rather than vice versa, there is genuine salvation for sinners and mission to the world" (Michael Horton, "Christless Christianity: Getting in Christ's Way" in Modern Reformation Volume 16, Number 3, May/June 2007, pg. 15).

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