Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ever Changing, Never Changing

Just returned from speaking at Catalyst in Atlanta. It was a great experience and a wonderful crowd. They were surprisingly responsive to a very challenging message. At the request of the organizers I spoke about how "the medium is the message," (surprise) and I challenged the prevailing notion that "the methods change but the message stays the same."

The point of the talk was not to stop the innovation of methods. Instead it was to advocate for the renewal of both our methods and our message.

When Jesus told us that new wine must be poured into new wineskins, we miss the fact that both the wine and the wineskins are new, both the container and the content, both the medium and the message are new.

The methods and the message change. This is not an opinion or a theological assumption, this is simply Biblical fact. The scriptures clearly teach a message that grows, expands, refocuses, and evolves.

The message of judgement to the nation of Israel is not the same as the message of comfort to the exiled Jews in Babylon. They are not inconsistent, but they are not the same. The message of exclusive blessing to an ethnic group with the promise of land is not the same message as the universal blessing of heaven for those who believe. Not inconsistent, but definitely different.

In one sense the Gospel changes; however, the Gospel also remains unchanged. In other words:

The ever-changing message never changes.

The things that don't change? The fact that Love wins, Forgiveness works, Grace is free, and Peace is possible. These things have never changed and will never change. This is in the DNA of the Gospel.

So perhaps Jesus was right when he said the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that will grow into a grand tree. A tree always changes yet stays the same. A Mustard tree will never become an orange tree, in that sense it never changes. But a Mustard tree will grow new limbs, more leaves, and provide more shade, in that sense it always changes.

With each new context the gospel must grow to address challenges and issues that never existed before. And with the growth of each new leaf reaching higher and wider, the roots grow deeper.

There are diamonds that reside deep in the rock of scripture that have yet to be discovered. As the Gospel grows they will be uncovered.

This is cause for hope not fear.

Maybe we should become gardeners of the gospel rather than guards.