Monday, June 30, 2008

New Gospel Presentation: Four Circles

Christianity Today is featuring the story of James Choung, an MIT grad that works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, who has come up with a different way to share the Gospel. Now, don't throw it out just because it's new. The Four Spiritual Laws were new once, you know? I don't get the impression that Choung is trying to change the Gospel, just the way the message is presented.

As I'm drawing the four circles, I'll tell a story like this: The world, our relationships, and each of us were designed for good, but all of it was damaged by evil because of our self-centeredness and inclination to seek our own good above others'. But God loved the world too much to leave it that way, so he came as Jesus. He took everything evil with him to death on the cross, and through his resurrection, all of it was restored for better. In the end of time, all will be fully restored, but until then, the followers of Jesus are sent together to heal people, relationships, and the systems of the world.
Choung's presentation, called "The Big Story," is designed to tell the Gospel story to Generation Y, a group that IMHO, Christianity has had a very difficult time understanding, let alone reaching (the business industry appears to be having the same problems)... but that is a different issue.

The main focus of the presentation is fixing the world. Choung says: "The overriding spiritual question today is: What is good? What will really help the planet be a better place? And our faith better have an answer for it to be relevant today." Choung's response to the world's problems is the Kingdom of God. This theme is the focus of the presentation, turning away from traditional methods seeking a decision, and seeking "transformation," as Choung calls it.

When watching the video of the presentation (see below), I was instantly concerned with the lack of Scriptural support and the familiar twinge of "felt needs" evangelism, seeking to bend the Gospel to fix whatever needs a person has (for instance, presenting the Gospel to the alcoholic as a way to break addiction); it seems man-centered, but in a new way.
'No, you can't do this without Jesus. We need Jesus to help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world. Only he can fully help us put to death our self-centered ways so that we can truly live. So if you really want to be a part of healing the world in a way that lasts, you have to go through Jesus.'
It is although Choung is saying, "You don't like the world, then change it! But you need to have Jesus before you can do it," as though Jesus is merely a means to an end. This looks like a sad Gospel presentation indeed.

However, I don't think that is Choung's intent. Choung seems to be searching for a way to explain Christianity, and even to raise questions in the mind of the lost, but, as stated before, without seeking a "decision" for Christ. This may not be a true Gospel presentation, but rather, a simple an overview of Christ's mission. There's nothing about praying a prayer, and there isn't much information about how to "receive" Christ. This is just a starting point for a conversation about the Gospel. In the article, he mentions that "Icons and stained glass windows helped preliterate Christians understand biblical stories and themes." This alludes to the purpose behind his Four Circles.

If I am understanding Choung's purpose, then this would be a great conversation-starter. I think that it would appeal to Millenials. It has a positive, inviting tenor, all while maintaining that Jesus is the only way to God-- a very difficult thing to pull off in our relativistic culture. Additionally, this presentation seems well-suited for explaining Christ's mission to a person totally unfamiliar with Christianity, as is the case as America moves further into its Post-Christian days.

I commend Choung for his effort to put the Gospel into the language of a new generation. This something that desperately needs to be done. Reading his interview and his blog, his desire to share the story of Christ is both fervent and admirable. However, he needs to be more explicit about the use of this diagram. Is it a converstion starter, or is it intended to be a Gospel presentation? If used inappropriately, this could lead to another generation misled about the purpose of God in this world.

What are your thoughts? Check out the article and this video, and let me know what you think:

You may also want to watch Part 2.