Evangelicals Can Be Too Evangelistic? Theologian Warns On 'Salvation Culture'
By Grace Oshiro - Crossmap On June 16, 2012
Can evangelicals be too evangelistic to remember the very core message of the gospel? One seminary professor thinks so.
Evangelical Christianity is excessively focused on a "Salvation culture," rather than a "Gospel culture," according to Dr. Scot Mcknight, professor of religious studies at Northern Seminary.
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By a "salvation culture," he means a culture which draws a line between who is "in" or "out".
It often misleads numerous churches and evangelicals to forget the core question of the gospel, "who Jesus is," Mcknight expressed his concern.
Evangelical pastors are more concerned about precipitating decisions than making disciples, explained McKnight in his interview with The Christian Post.
"The Gospel of salvation has produced what I call a 'salvation culture' – a culture marked by who's in and who's out. So a very strong sense of 'we are the in group and others are the out group.' ... A 'Gospel culture' is a culture shaped by following Jesus, by living under Jesus as King. A 'Gospel culture' includes personal salvation, but it includes so much more," said Mcknight.
"Pastors ... preach revivalistic sermons that precipitate decisions, that precipitate experience, and the result is, if I've had the experience, I'm in; if I haven't had the experience, I'm not in. But more importantly, if I've had the experience, I'm in and I know who else is in -- those who've had my experience. So all other people are basically off the map unless they've had the same experience. That's revivalism and that has created what I call a salvation culture," Mcknight told CP.
"The fundamental job of the evangelist is not to get people to feel guilty about sins, or to feel terrorized by an angry God. The central
question of evangelism is, 'who do you think Jesus is?'"
At the Pastorum Live conference in Chicago hosted by Logos Bible Software earlier this month, Mcknight spoke on the issue during his presentation.
"The central question of the Bible is not, 'how can I be saved?'" he told the audience.
"This is the 'me' question. The central question of the New Testament is, 'who is Jesus?' This is the 'God' question. The 'me' question follows the Jesus question."
In his recent book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, McKnight reveals the most dominant mistake of evangelicals - targeting only at the hearts of sinners.
He argues that the gospel should not be reduced to a gospel of pointing a sin and urging an unbeliever to newly accept Jesus. What should be declared and revealed is the very person of Jesus - who he is, his victory over death. The knowledge of Christ is what guides souls to follow Him.
McKnight emphasizes that even the "great commission" is not about getting people to make decisions, but on making disciples.
Since the identity of evangelicals is strongly based on the salvation culture, it could be a tough task to shift their goal to a gospel culture, McKnight warned.
"I do think that evangelicalism is fundamentally a salvation culture. I think that's a major part of it. So many components, so many parts
that are a simplistic, superficial, shallow salvation culture. But within evangelicalism is the capacity for renewal. This is what we believe in, in the Bible. God is at work today and He can renew us. Also, there are so many powerful examples within evangelicalism of a robust Gospel culture," he told CP.
"If more evangelicals would embrace a Gospel culture, we would become people who are for other people, not just conscious that we are unique
saved ones. We would become people who are here to serve others, to show them the love of God. We would be concerned about fellowship with one another and a life of community that embodied the kingdom of Jesus."