“It’s damning to drain the lifeblood of Christianity and replace it with Kool-Aid.”
That is a line from a recent post by Justin Taylor on his blog, Between Two Worlds. This post, called 8 Non-Negotiables for Mobilizing the Local Church for Accomplishing the Great Commission, is actually a recap of a talk given by David Platt at Verge12. I would suggest you read Taylor’s brief post, as it is a helpful synopsis of what was, I am sure, a real good discussion. Now, enough name-dropping and on to my point.
As I read the post, the above line reached out and slapped me.
The phrase is simple, well worded, and is definitely tweetable. However, before I am guilty of proof-texting Taylor, let me provide some context to this statement.
Taylor delivers his line in the middle of non-negotiable 3, “A life-changing gospel.” Here, he laments over the tendency to replace the gospel with some man-made formula. “Maybe one of the reasons so many in the church aren’t making disciples of all the nations is that they aren’t really disciples in the first place,” claims Taylor. He goes on to say that we must not assure people they are Christians if they have never responded to the gospel. My guess is that upon reading that last sentence, you may burr up and ask, “Who does that?” or perhaps exclaim, “We don’t do that at our church!”
The key to Taylor’s statement lies in the meaning of his phrase, “responded to the gospel.” Unfortunately, so many today think of these words as referring to a repeated prayer or a walk down an aisle. The phrase is equated to some moment in time where the mechanical steps of a formula are executed. “If only we can get them to go forward,” becomes the prevailing thought in so many assemblies. Alternately, a preacher stands in a pulpit saying the words to some “sinner’s prayer” only to ask the people who said it to raise their hand. Somehow, by sheer virtue of repeating the preacher’s words, these people are now supposedly saved. Is that really responding to the gospel?
Yet, it is that very mentality to which Taylor refers when he says, “It’s damning to drain the lifeblood of Christianity and replace it with Kool-Aid.”
How many times have we seen people walk aisles only to walk away from the church shortly after? How is it that the culture inside the church looks, at many times, almost indistinguishable from the culture outside? We “redeemed” divorce as fast, have premarital sex as much, and deal with problems of abuse and addiction just as commonly as those who have never called upon the name of the Lord.
Have we settled for less than the gospel?
Perhaps we have fooled ourselves in the process. Could it be that we have switched the true gospel with an imposter? Truly, the gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity. It is the very center of the story. The heartbeat of the Bible is Christ, and the gospel is the blood that flows through every vein of the story. The promise shows up in Genesis 3:15 and finds its fulfillment in Revelation 21-22.
Kool-Aid bears a resemblance to blood (at least if it is red). They share several similarities, and if you need something that looks like blood, perhaps for a play or a Halloween costume, Kool-Aid may be a good substitute. However, those activities are only make-believe, they are a farce. If someone is dying on a table in the emergency room, they are not going to infuse them with Kool-Aid (not even the red kind). Simply put, Kool-Aid does not have the power of life.
Rightly, Taylor says the following:
We have developed many methods of ministry that require little or no help from the Spirit of God. One of the greatest hindrances to the advancement of the gospel is the attempt of the church of God to do the work of God apart from the power of the Spirit of God.
So we must come to our contemporary methods of “sharing the gospel” with scrutiny. We must view our approaches with a critical eye. If our goal is to play church or make-believe we are the redeemed bride of King Jesus, then maybe they will do. If there is no real desire to be the set apart people of God, then they will suffice. We can simply play dress up and have our tea party.
However, if we are to be the body, once dead but now alive, that Christ by his blood has made a new creation, then only the real gospel will do.