Why I Fell Out Of Love With Two Ways To Live Pt.4

After taking a short break from this series over the Christmas period and new year (Happy New Year BTW), I thought I should probably get a shift on and actually get down part 4 of my look at Two Ways To Live. So without further ado, the other problem I have with TWTL is:

The Illusion of Choice

Now this might be a slightly controversial one as I know Christians have different views about this. TWTL’s tagline is ‘the choice we all face’ but I just don’t think following Jesus is about making a choice (hear me out), because I don’t think any of us have the ability to make the choice to follow Jesus. Left to our own devices, we are so steeped in sin that it is impossible for us to choose Jesus of our own accord. We’ve already seen in part 3 that we’re not free agents and that before being saved we’re under the rule of Satan. Two Ways To Live doesn’t pick up on this, which is a shame, but it also paints another unhelpful picture of what we’re like. We’re depicted as empowered decision makers who should take the clever option for the discerning religious consumer and make the enlightened choice. But this idea is foreign to the Bible.

We’re not empowered decision makers, given a choice and just needing to make the right one. We are captives in the strong man’s house (Mark 3:27).  We are helpless slaves to sin (John 8:34).  We are whores besotted with terrible lovers (Ezekiel 16).  We are sheep following after bad shepherds (Ezekiel 34).  We are thirsty beggars drinking from broken wells (Jeremiah 2:13-14).  We are lost and must be found (Luke 15). We are snake-bitten and need healing (John 3:14f). We are famished and need Bread (John 6). We are dominated subjects in Satan’s kingdom (Ephesians 2:1-3).We are dead and need raising (John 5:24f).

These are not pictures of empowered decision makers who just need to choose to get out of this situation. These are pictures of people who are hopelessly lost, enslaved, dead! That last picture, death, is the most helpful in seeing where the idea of choice falls down. TWTL presents us with two lifestyle choices. But of course, we don’t really have a choice, because we’re spiritually dead and dead people don’t, in fact they can’t, make decisions! When was the last time you heard about someone who was dead and one day just chose to be alive again? When was the last time you went to a funeral and you heard the vicar say in his address, “well it’s terribly sad that she’s gone but who knows?! She might just choose to come back again!”Or when Lazarus was dead in the tomb, did we hear Jesus say, “I’m sure he’ll choose to be alive again when he’s ready?”

Imagine that you’re walking along the street one day and “BAM!” You have a heart attack. You fall to the ground and your heart stops beating, leaving you lying dead on the curb. Now you are in no position to make any choices at that point. You are entirely dependent on salvation coming from outside of you. Maybe a passer by or a paramedic will step in and administer CPR, get your heart beating again and give you your life back. But you! You were powerless. This is exactly the situation we’re in.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:1, 4-5

We were dead and made alive, and this wasn’t our choice. Following Jesus is not something we choose to do. We don’t weigh up the evidence and then choose to have faith. Faith is given to us as a gift, it comes from outside of us.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
Ephesians 2:8

Now one of the ways we might receive faith may involve us weighing up the evidence but let’s not falsely pretend we’re free agents reaching this point ourselves. We’re only going to come to faith if faith is given to us. Even in those circumstances, we’re still receiving it.

Think of a couple of classic illustrations we often use and how they’ve been influenced by the same sort of thinking as TWTL. Take the illustration of being stuck in a burning building and the fireman putting his ladder up to the window. All we need to do is make the decision to jump into his arms and let him save us. Or the image of being lost at sea and floundering in the water, until a boat appears and someone throws you a life ring, urging you to take hold of it. I’ve used both these and similar illustrations before. But don’t they suggest that the fireman himself can’t really rescue us and that those on the boat are ultimately helpless to save us? In the end, the focus is put onto us and our decision. Choose to leap into the fireman’s arms. Choose to grab the life ring. Once again, subtly, the focus is being moved off of Jesus and onto us (and the gospel simply as self preservation again). It would be more accurate to have us as the person overcome with smoke inhalation and not breathing, or the body floating facedown in the water, lungs filled with fluid, who is then resuscitated by our rescuer.

Ultimately, the gospel is not a one of two lifestyle choices, it is life to the dead and the dead can’t choose to make themselves alive again, Christ gives life. I think this has far greater impact than Two Ways To Live.

If not TWTL, then what?

So you’ve probably guessed by now that Two Ways To Live doesn’t float my boat. So what does? Below is 321, an outline I have been particularly taken by in the last year. I’m not going to say anything about it, it’s just yours to watch. Below I’ve also posted some links to a few articles from the writer of 321, Glen Scrivener, where he addresses how 321 relates to the classic gospel outline of Creation, Fall, Cross and Repentance. Enjoy!

321 & Creation
321 & The Fall
321 & Christ’s Redemption
321 & Repentance Part 1
321 & Repentance Part 2


Why I Fell Out Of Love With Two Ways To Live Pt.3

Previously I’ve laid out why I feel that Two Ways To Live is man centred as opposed to Christ centred. Today I look at a third issue, which is that…

It Defines Sin Poorly

For TWTL, Sin is basically defined as rebelling against God and making ourselves king rather than Him. The presentations blurb tells us “men and women everywhere have rejected God by doing things their own way.” Notice that rejection comes from our behaviour – “doing things.” How many times have you heard a conversation that goes something like this?

Evangelist: Do you think you’re a good person?
Non-Believer: Yeh I think I’m pretty good.
Evangelist: Have you ever stolen anything, even like say, paperclips from the office?
Non-Believer: Well yeh I guess, maybe some pens or something.
Evangelist: But that’s stealing. Are people that steal good people? Do you really think God will let people who steal into heaven?

Etc, etc. This kind of thing is standard fare in those American street evangelism videos. But do you see how petty that makes God look? Sending people to hell for all eternity for paperclips? Way to overreact God! Now, I’m not denying that sin lies at the root of this, but trying to convict people on their behaviour just isn’t a winner. Most people won’t even think they’re doing anything wrong, and certainly nothing that merits eternal punishment, no matter what the Bible might say.

So defining sin as rebellion and the things we do wrong is unhelpful (and I think biblically weak). Romans 5 coupled with Jesus’ comments in Matthew 5:19-20 (evil coming from our hearts and that being what defiles us) show us something else. Behaviour isn’t the problem, being is! And because of that we’re condemned from the start. Our behaviour is merely a symptom of corrupted being, something which is far deeper and darker. Now I think people can identify with and are more convicted by this than paperclips. Talking about deep drives that overpower us, the things we say and do that just seem to spill out of us and we don’t really know why. The dark thoughts that run through our minds that we wouldn’t want anyone else to know, or promising ourselves not to do something but finding ourselves doing it over and over again as if we have no control over ourselves. That even when we might behave relatively well, there is still a selfishness in us that we naturally gravitate to.

Can’t everyone see this in themselves? That somewhere, deep down inside, whether we like to admit it or not, there’s a darkness? There’s something fundamentally broken about us, even corrupted but normally we don’t like to stop long enough to think about it?

Now I’m not saying everyone will immediately say yes that’s me, but I think it stirs something deeper in people than running off a list of bad behaviours they may or may not have committed and which they may or may not think are wrong. We need to draw people’s attention to the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. And as someone once said “the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.”

Another feature of TWTL’s take on sin, is sin as self rule. As the blurb says, “we prefer to follow our own desires, and to run things our own way, without God.” Couple that with the little crown pictures throughout the presentation and you’ve got sin as self rule. We’re little Kings and Queens! Here’s the thing. Some people might think they’re running their own lives but biblically this isn’t the case. Ephesians 2:1-2 tell us:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

Can you see what Paul says there? Before anyone came to Christ, they were under the influence of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. In other words, they weren’t ruling themselves, Satan was ruling them. As Martin Luther said “We are beasts ridden either by the devil or God.” We haven’t climbed onto the throne of our lives because someone else is already on the throne and it’s not us. So why would we want to reinforce the delusion of self rule? If anything, surely that’s to play down the seriousness of the situation?

Check out the first 53 seconds of this video (or watch the whole thing if you get sucked in, I’ll wait)

What happens there? The characters examine the evidence and begin to wonder who they’re fighting for; “Hans, are we the baddies?” They realise they’re on the wrong team and it’s not a neutral harmless one. And that’s our situation. We’re not rival kings & queens to Jesus, we’re subject in the wrong kingdom. We are the baddies on the wrong side of the war. We are not rulers, we are ruled. If anything is biblically true, it’s that we’re on the wrong team and it’s not team “Me”, it’s team “Satan.”

So the self-rule thing doesn’t really sit well for me but I also think TWTL’s answer to this misses a pretty important (and incredibly exciting) biblical point. Effectively, the solution we’re given is to get off of the throne of our lives and put Christ back on it. We need to submit to Jesus. Now submitting to Jesus is right and good, but if we only speak of our relationship with Jesus in terms of submission then we’re left with something very similar to Islam. Even the word Islam itself mean “to submit”

And whilst TWTL speaks simply of getting off of the throne and submitting, the Bible says something slightly different. Take at look at Ephesians 1:19-20:

“That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”

Here we’re told of what the Father did for Jesus. Now compare Ephesians 2:6 and what God does for us when we come to faith in Christ:

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”

The wording is almost identical and the passages are both so close together that  I think we’re supposed to see that what God does for Christ, God also does for us. Stick this together with Revelation 3:21…

“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

…and we get a very different picture from TWTL. Rather than being told to get off the throne (which we’re not on anyway), we’re invited to join Christ on the throne and share in his rule with him. That’s pretty dramatically different and also a wonderful privilege for the Christian believer but I can’t help but feel that Two Ways To Live doesn’t even begin to factor in this wonderful truth. It just feels like it’s missing a rather large point.

Part 4 coming soon…

Why I Fell Out Of Love With Two Ways To Live Pt.2

Yesterday evening I talked about Two Ways To Live’s lack of Christ centred-ness. I probably could have spoken more about that under this next heading, but thought it would be easier to break them up for the sake of length. So, issue number 2…

It’s Quite Man Centred

It’s tagline is, “The Choice We All Face.” The main focus of the whole thing is us and our response. That’s not to say it doesn’t look at the works of Jesus but his works are framed within something which is very much about us – the two ways we have to live and the choice we need to make (more on choice in part 4). So it’s not about Christ and what he’s done, it’s about you and what you need to do. This is part of the reason it struggles to remain Christ centred.

As the focus is squarely on us, Jesus and his works can never really take centre stage. Everything is framed around us escaping judgement and so the gospel becomes nothing more than a get out of jail free card. Jesus’ works are really just a means to an end, rather than Jesus himself being the big deal. This is in turn means that love for Jesus isn’t really encouraged, just preservation of self, namely avoiding hell.

I can think of a number of times I’ve asked teenagers why they trust in Jesus and the answer has been, “because I don’t want to go to hell.” There is some value in that, but as soon as they say it, I always rather think they’ve missed the point. Surely it should be because they’ve caught a glimpse of who Jesus is and what he’s done, that Jesus is so incredible and beautiful that they can’t help but surrender to him? The focus should really be on Jesus rather than benefit for self.

So the way Two Ways To Live frames things makes it very hard for Jesus to appear as anything other than a means to our salvation rather than our salvation himself – salvation becomes about escaping hell rather than knowing God through Christ (John 17:3) and as in my previous post, because the link between God and Jesus isn’t that explicit anyway, it become even harder to avoid this.

Part 3 to follow…

Why I Fell Out Of Love With Two Ways To Live Pt.1

OK OK, so in fairness, I don’t think I was ever “in love” with Two Ways To Live. To be honest, I’m not sure that I ever really felt that strongly about it. But nonetheless, it’s certainly been the default outline I’ve fallen back on when explaining the gospel, even if I haven’t explicitly started drawing out the six boxes.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Two Ways To Live, the whole presentation can be viewed here.

Even though I always seem to default to this outline, over the last year or so my attention has been drawn to a number of issues which have led me to question it’s helpfulness. Most of this has been a result of reading Glen Scrivener’s blog over at http://www.christthetruth.net which is undoubtedly  the best and most challenging thing I’ve been reading in the last year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Two Ways To Live isn’t useful for anyone. It may well work  for you. But I think I’ve reached a point where I need to part company with it and over these next 4 blogs, I hope to be able to explain why and bring together the things I’ve been wrestling with in the last year. And that’s exactly what these blogs will be. Me wrestling. I’m not saying I’m right, or that I’ve got it all sorted, nor am I saying that some of my criticisms can’t be met with an answer. This is just where I’m at.

Briefly, here’s why.

It’s Not Very Christ Centred

Jesus doesn’t make his grand entrance until box 4 of 6. God is mentioned before this but Jesus isn’t. So when Jesus appears on the scene, we can’t help but say “well who is this guy?” He looks like nothing more than a third party stepping into a dispute between us and God that has nothing to do with him. Now of course, Jesus is our mediator so there’s an element of truth in there regarding the stepping in. The big problem though, is that Jesus isn’t a third party, he is in very nature God. But as Jesus hasn’t been mentioned at all until he enters the world, there’s real confusion over who he is. This is the problem I most commonly come up again when using the classic two ways to live outline. I get through boxes 1-3 alright, but when Jesus appears, the whole thing goes to pot.

Seeker: “Who is Jesus?”
Me: “Well he’s God.”
Seeker: “But I thought he was God’s son?”
Me: “Well yeh he is that too, because uh, you see…um… God is a trinity…”

Immediately, I’m back pedalling. Because I haven’t bothered to do the groundwork regarding the Trinity and Jesus’ divinity, it gets complicated very quickly. Now I can already hear people saying, “hang on, the trinity? With a non-Christian? Isn’t that quite advanced stuff (you gnostics you)? Do we really want to be dragging that in at this stage?” Well I want to answer with a resounding “YES!” Why? Because the trinity is at the very core of who God is. It’s inherently part of his nature. Before anything else was, God was Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God but three persons in unity. I’d say that’s pretty foundational stuff. In fact, the more I’ve thought about it, the stranger it seems that we try so hard not to talk about it.

And considering some of the great passages there are which can give clarity as to Jesus’ identity, it almost seems criminal not talk about it. John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:5-8, Micah 5:2 are all stone cold classics and undoubted slam dunks in this area. They all clearly show us that Jesus is not a third party who “began”, so to speak, 2000 years ago. He’s the one whose origins are from ancient times, he’s the Lord of heaven, he’s God in the flesh, God with us, the visible image of the invisible God and in him the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.

If this isn’t naturally how we speak about Jesus, we’re always going to speak in a way that divides God and Christ, setting them up against one another and causing confusion for the non-believer. I’ve come to find this a big stumbling block for people and generally unhelpful.

As a slight addendum to this section, I’ve heard some Christians (who are pretty firmly entrenched in the two ways to live outline) almost sneer at this idea. “Oh you’re one of those people who thinks we need to mention the trinity in evangelism,” they say, implying that it’s just some passing fad. I’ve often felt the resistance here has come from those for whom the outline has become a bit of a sacred cow though. Let’s be careful not to be quick to dismiss and slow to re-evaluate. There’s a Pharisee lurking in all of us!

More thoughts on this in part 2. Coming soon!

Praying For Our Local Secondary School

One area of my work that I’ve never really felt like I’ve been able to get on top of, is working in our local secondary school. I feel like the school has become a bit of burden to me, not in the sense that I dislike working there, but in the sense that it feels like we’ve made very few in roads there and have constantly been knocked back.

In some ways, we’re incredibly lucky as a church to have as much involvement in the school as we do. The school is very open to using us and other churches to give assemblies and to come in to speak in religious education lessons. These are undoubtedly great opportunities but they’re also very hit and run, with no real chance to build any momentum. Having done a number of lessons there, I’ve seen first hand the spiritual darkness that seems to engulf so many of the young people, something I previously blogged about here.

There are very few lights shining in the school right now.

There was a very small Christian Union when I arrived but it eventually fizzled out and died. We managed to reboot it in late 2011 and we saw a great number of non-Christians coming along, mainly due to the enticement of free doughnuts and juice, but whatever their motivations, they were still being exposed to the gospel. However, it wasn’t long until the school banned us from bringing food in with us and number soon dropped again until we were left with only 1 or 2 people attending. The reasons given were mixed but I guessed that there was likely some anti-Christian feeling further up the chain of command which had put pay to our work. After a promising start, it felt like all the doors had suddenly been shut. With such a large amount of unreached young people right on our doorstep and having seen the vastness of the spiritual poverty there, I’m left feeling pretty dejected about the situation there as well as feeling alone in my efforts & desire to see any real change. But with all this in mind, I’ve come up with a solution.

We’re going to pray for young people in that school.

And I mean we’re going to pray for them regularly. And when I say ‘we’, I mean the church. If we want to see God make a difference in the lives of those young people, we have to be prepared to pray for them more than twice a year at First Priority. That’s why I’m starting a weekly prayer meeting for the school, where members of the church family who feel the same way I do will come together to pray for that school.

Only prayer will open doors in the school

I don’t know what we’re going to pray for, I don’t know how long the meeting will last or even where or when it will take place, and I don’t have any plans regarding what this will lead to. All I know is that if we pray for that school, and I mean really pray and are faithful in it, God will open those doors. I don’t know how, but He will. He’s the only one who can.

That’s why if you’re a member of my church and you’re reading this, I want you to come and pray with me. Like I said, I don’t even have a venue or a date yet, although I know it would most likely have to be a daytime thing. But if you want to get behind this as a church then get in touch with me. Comment on this post and tell me when a convenient meeting time would be for you, or message me back on Facebook which I’m hoping you’ve been directed here from. Once I have some people on board we’ll start praying and let God do the rest.

Please don’t let apathy stop you from getting involved in this. As Leo Buscaglia said:

“I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.”

If we really loved these people, we’d pray for them. Apathy only shows our lack of any real love for these young people. So let’s step up our game as a church and get behind this.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Reading Through Mark

We’ve spent the last term reading through the gospel of Mark with our older youth group. We covered 13 out of the 16 chapters, looking at some chapters in their entirety and selected highlights from others. I think it’s been a really helpful experience for all involved. It was really great to discover together the questions that Mark’s gospel asks and to see the answers to those questions unfold week by week.

The first 8 chapters are all asking the question “who is this man?” with the answer being revealed in Peter’s famous declaration of 8:29 “You are the Messiah.” The gospel then immediately (what a Markan word) switches direction to ask the questions “what has he come to do?” and “what does it mean to follow Jesus?” with all of this climaxing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It really was a fantastic experience and I certainly came away feeling like I know my way around Mark a whole lot better as well as understanding his purposes in writing far more.

I was really fortunate to be studying the gospel of Mark as a module of the Moore Course alongside teaching it to our young people which was incredibly helpful. I can really recommend this to anyone who wants to do some study whilst working as it’s a distance learning course and so allows you to be flexible with when you do it. You can also be assessed either by exam or coursework which is good for those who perform better in different situations. They course also offers a number of other modules which may be of use.

If you’re struggling to decide what to teach your young people next term, why not set yourself a challenge and see if you can get through the whole gospel of Mark. You won’t regret it and it’s a great opportunity for your young people to discover who Jesus is, why he came and what it means to follow him.

And of course, it’s a great opportunity to challenge your young people that Jesus is asking them  a question: ” Who do you say I am?”

The Adventure of Discipleship

A few days ago I received my latest copy of Youthwork magazine. It’s always a good read with plenty of interesting and insightful articles which give me plenty of food for thought.

Today I felt I wanted to write about an article called “The Adventure of Discipleship” by Kenny Wilson who is the Senior Tutor in Youth Work with Applied Theology at the International Christian College, Glasgow (Youthwork Magazine, February 2011). I’ve read it through a couple of times now and I find what he says interesting but ultimately I’m not sure I agree with what he says. Initially I did but after processing it a bit more I’ve kind of changed my mind.

If possible, I suggest you read the article yourself although I’ll do my best to convey what I think he’s saying. He suggests for the earliest Christians, discipleship was a daily adventure of discovering how they might share the love of God with others. He goes on to suggest that we have lost the idea of discipleship as an adventure and he poses the question “where has the adventure gone”

He thinks there are a number of reasons. The one I want to concentrate on is that he feels that as evangelicals we have emphasised the Great Commission over the Great Commandments. When Jesus is questioned as to which is the most important commandment he says the most important is to:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31.

Wilson says these sum up the law and are the foundation for the Kingdom that Jesus was ushering in and I think he’s quite right. He’s also probably quite right that as evangelicals we are perhaps guilty of emphasising the Commission over the Commands. But surely real love for others, for the lost, is to tell them about Jesus and their need for a salvation and forgiveness? The Great Commission is part of the fulfilment of the Great Commandments.

I believe that many evangelicals have gone too far in overemphasising the Great Commission, even to the point of almost completely rejecting social action or good deeds which are divorced from gospel proclamation. For example, I know of some people who are extremely critical of Soul Survivor’s “Soul in the City” initiative in 2004. They argue that it had no real long term effect in terms of bringing people to Christ as it was just social action without proclamation. I don’t know how much truth there is in this in terms of the effect it had. I would imagine that it opened doors that were previously closed, and so even though it’s initial phase wasn’t about speaking the word it was still a positive step for the gospel, and had long term gospel proclamation in mind. However, some evangelicals would reject this type of action completely as it doesn’t explicitly set out to speak the word. But if it leads to opportunities later then I think it can be a good thing. The question is really whether we are looking for those opportunities and whether we take them.

This is where I struggle with the articles  view. Wilson uses an example of some young Christians who wanted to live out their faith  amongst their friends. The group of friends in question all had bikes which they used a lot. In order to live out their faith they went through a period of “liberating” their friends bikes, doing them up, before returning them to their owners with only a card saying “From the Nice” left in the spokes. Throughout the whole time the young people remained anonymous but word of “The Nice” spread like wildfire around the school.

Now I really think what they did is brilliant and so does Wilson. It was an act of loving their neighbours. But what Wilson really likes about the act is that it was done by stealth.

“What attracted me most to their actions was the fact that they wanted to remain stealth disciples….Despite (and I suspect because of) the fact they kept their actions secret, the power of their actions spread far and wide.”

The problem for me is this. How does this bring people into relationship with Jesus? How do these actions tell people of their need to repent and come to Jesus? Quite simply, by themselves, they don’t. They’re just good deeds done by anonymous people. It doesn’t point to Christ because no-one knows it’s Christians that are doing it. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, you’re just over-emphasising the Great Commission. These guys were loving their neighbour like they should be.” Yes they were loving their neighbours to an extent but surely the most loving thing we can do for our neighbour is to tell them about Jesus. To do these things as stealth and deliberately decide to remain anonymous doesn’t point anyone to Jesus. What they did was brilliant, but wouldn’t it have been even better to use that as an opportunity to tell people why they wanted to do that for them, to tell them about Jesus and their need for a saviour? Isn’t it more unloving not to tell people about Jesus? It seems they had no intention of doing that in the long run either or at least it is never mentioned.

I don’t really agree with this mindset and it reminded me of the words of Penn teller, the famous atheist magician. He that he has no respect for Christians who don’t evangelise. He says if you believe that there is a heaven and a hell and that people might be going to hell, you’d have to hate someone a lot not to try and warn them about it. You can see the video of him talking about this here.

But Wilson clearly thinks the example of stealth set by those young people was a good one. He goes on to say:

Was it not Jesus who told us not to proclaim our good deeds, our ‘righteousness’ from the hilltops as the Pharisees did? Was it not Jesus who asked some of those he healed to ‘say nothing’ and not broadcast what he did? Perhaps we should take his advice more seriously and involve more stealth discipleship in our work, and so create that frission of adventure, that ‘who dunnit mystery’?”

I can’t really agree with this at all. Firstly, by not mentioning any other alternatives, Wilson seems to suggest that the only other alternative to stealth discipleship is to proclaim your deeds from the hilltops. This isn’t true. It is possible to do loving deeds for our neighbours with the motive of blessing them as well as creating an opportunity to tell them about Jesus. It’s not a choice between stealth and self-righteousness. Secondly, I think it’s an illegitimate use of scripture to apply Jesus’ commands to people/demons to stay silent about his identity, to us today. That was part of the specific plan of the incarnation, not a command for all believers for all time. The Great Commission is itself a command to make disciples by spreading the good news of Jesus, not by doing loving but ultimately anonymous deeds. I think Paul sums up the need for telling people the gospel in Romans 10:13-15:

for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Let me quote Wilson again:

” When it comes to working with young people I think that we’ve got things the wrong way round. In our evangelical desire that others should know how wonderful it is to know Jesus, we have emphasised the Great Commission over the Great Commandments. In a strange sort of way, what we have done is to ask young people to go and share their faith often before they’ve had the chance to live out their faith. We’ve encouraged them to go and make disciples before they’ve discovered what it means to be a disciple.”

There’s a few problems here for me as well. Firstly, lets remember that the Great Commission is itself a command. Secondly, is not making disciples part of being a disciple? I think Wilson creates a false dichotomy between living out your faith and sharing your faith. As far as I can tell, they are inextricably linked. At what point do we know enough about what it means to be a disciple to allow us to think about sharing our faith? I feel that if you know why Jesus died for you, then you know enough to begin sharing your faith. He goes on to say:

“I can’t help but wonder that if our emphasis on discipleship followed biblical chronology: to love God first, our neighbours second and then the Great Commission of ‘making other disciples,’ we would see more discipleship among young people.”

Obviously God must come first, but I just don’t agree that there is a distinction between loving our neighbours and the Great Commission. Nor do I really agree about there being a right order (apart from loving God first). It’s not so much that we’ve put the cart before the horse but more that the two must always be together. If one appears without the other we are lacking as disciples.

What I’m saying is, we need both love for our neighbour and sharing our faith. This is what Wilson concludes in his article but I think we use the same words meaning two different things. I get the impression that he thinks we need both but that they can be separate, just like in the example of the teenagers who fixed their friends bikes. I think we need both because the two must always be linked. If you love your neighbour with no intention of ever telling them the gospel, then it’s not really love. If you fix someones bike with no intention of ever telling them the gospel, then it’s not really love.

That’s why I can’t agree with stealth discipleship. I think the problem is this. There are a number of Christians who are very focused on preaching the good news. The over-emphasis on this often leads them to dismiss ever doing any other kinds of loving acts for their neighbours. A kind of ‘if it isn’t preaching then it’s not worth doing approach.’ These would be the kind of people that dismiss Soul in the City but I think this really misses a trick to show distinctive living to non-believers and to build respect for the Church. At the other end of the spectrum are Christians who think they can just do good deeds and so never need to tell anyone the gospel. This is equally flawed. The two are inextricably linked. It’s not a matter of one way or the other and I think to suggest to our young people that it is one way or the other seriously impoverishes our discipleship.