Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The 20th Century Two-Step

In the introduction to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' master work on the Sermon on the Mount, Lloyd-Jones says nothing is so glaring of a problem in the 20th century church than its superficiality. Specifically, the church takes an embarrassingly superficial approach to sanctification. Lloyd-Jones places the blame with dispensational theology which certainly played a role in creating this lack of an emphasis on the transforming power of the Gospel, but it seems to me that the 20th Century was the perfect storm of superficial spirituality.

I call this tendency to “skip to the end” or skip the process of sanctification altogether the 20th Century 2-step. In the 20th Century, Christianity became two basic steps: 1) Make a decision for Christ or “get saved” 2) Tell others about Jesus.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, this immediate two step process is called 2-steppin’ and it is a perfect explanation of the superficial Christianity most of us were raised in.

The AA – Two-step
AA is known as a 12-step program. The steps involve the first three steps of conversion:
1. Admit you are powerless
2. Believe there is a power greater than yourself that can save you

To do the two-step is to do these initial steps and then jump straight to step 12 which is “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others”. But AA isn’t a two-step program. So to 2-step it is a total bastardization of the power of the program. The meat of the 12 steps is in steps 3-11. In this process, the sinner or addict or believer learns how to work a daily program to find all the keys to living a life of serenity. The “poor beggar/sinner” learns all the steps that are vital to long term sanity. The missing steps in the program of the 2-stepper include surrender and acceptance, taking a fearless moral inventory, confessing to a mentor, being willing to let God remove our character defects, asking God to remove these defects, making amends, continuing to take moral inventory, seeking to improve our conscious contact with God, and then seeking to take this program to others. Furthermore, all these practices are performed in the context of a mentoring relationship. Basically, the process is a structured discipleship process. The “two-step program” skips all the difficult steps of discipleship.
HELLO!! Sound familiar. The church has been two-steppin’ it for decades if not centuries. The bottom line is that the two-step discipleship program of Get Saved and tell others about Jesus just doesn’t work.
The Dispensational Two-Step
Whether or not we hold to a dispensational theology, we are all effected by some form of its teaching and influence. Now I am not saying dispensationalism is the only cause to the church’s problems but the dispensational theology represents the most glaring example of a two-stepper’s theology.

Dispensationalism, in a nutshell, taught that the kingdom era was not for today. Jesus presented the offer of the Kingdom to Israel but Israel rejected the kingdom. Therefore, God went to plan B – the church age. During the church age, the gospel (not the Gospel of the Kingdom) is to be preached to the ends of the earth and then Jesus will return and set-up the kingdom. In this church age dispensation, the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are not applicable as the pattern of life because those teachings are for the kingdom. The church cannot expect a “heavenly pattern of life” or the kingdom until the end. Basically Dispensationalism teaches a theology that promotes the two-step. In this age, we get saved and preach the message of forgiveness to others. I am not saying that this is the silver bullet of why we two-step it in the church but this example simply help us understand what two-steppin’ might look like.

The Decision-based Two-step
Lloyd-Jones also notes that one great example of glaring superficiality is in our evangelistic practices. Lloyd-Jones was a champion of Calvinism and wrote numerous sermons on the errors of decision-based evangelism (see his book the Cross). Decision-based evangelism is the by product of 19th and 20th century Western individualism and the worship of the phantom of individual freedom. In the decision-based worldview, God converts our will through conviction of the truth and the newly converted will now makes good decisions. The autonomous individual now goes to church gets inspired and makes good decisions. Here then is the decision-based 2-step. Gone is the role of the community in defining the identity of the believer. Gone is the role of mentoring. God is the Moral Beauty of the city on a hill. You are a light is now about the individual and not the church. Gone is the idea of the story of the community and the development of worldview in the context of being a people. Skip on that mentoring and discipleship stuff. Read a book in the privacy of your own home and make good decisions. Get saved and make better decisions. The decision-based two-step.

The bottom line is that the dance of the two-step of evangelism without discipleship is a miserable theology that leads to miserable Christians.

Which leads to my 5th thesis:

5. The discipleship program of the church must lead the believer into the quality of life spoken of in the New Testament as the Kingdom of heaven of the Kingdom of God. This discipleship must teach the believer to know, understand, and obey all the teachings of Jesus and ultimately leads the believer into conformity with the image of Christ.

Note: Having re-read this thesis, I realize the thesis sounds a little individualistic. In the context of thesis #4, (Relationship based discipleship) and in the context of the next thesis which will be on individual discipleship as a means to a greater end of Morally Beautiful Community, I ask the reader to not take this thesis out of context and criticize it for not addressing individualism. The problem of individualism is assumed.

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