Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What is the gospel?

Poster image by Outreach Media.

on a mini-theme following the last couple of posts, i thought it's worthwhile revisiting the topic of the gospel, and what it is. the april edition of the briefing had an article by D B Knox which deals with this precise question, and here's a few quotes...
The news of the New Testament is not that there will be a judgment [the certainty of which has been known from Old Testament times], but rather that this judgment is imminent; the kingdom of heaven, the rule of God -- that is, his judgment -- is at hand. Action is called for from the hearer.


The gospel was the news that God had fixed the judgement day when he would judge the world in righteousness, and he had appointed the judge, Jesus, whom he had sealed in this office by the resurrection from the dead and by his exaltation to the throne of God as Lord. He was king and judge, and not only king and judge, but saviour from the consequences of the judgement of God on sinners. For God in his graciousness had sent his son Jesus to be the saviour of the world, so that all who call on him for salvation, all who recognize his lordship and seek his help, will receive that salvation, which consists in the forgiveness of their sins and justification in the eyes of the judge.

So the news is not only of the judgment but more significantly, of salvation in that judgment.
Briefing editor Tony Payne then reflects:
While few of us would (presumably) be satisfied with a gospel that was simply 'Come to Jesus and have all your problems solved', we are often sorely tempted to preach an attractive Jesus who connects with people's aspirations, hungers and needs. Want real and satisfying relationships? Want the freedom to live authentically? Want to find purpose and meaning in life? Want a new story to live by? Want to find resources for dealing with suffering and pain? Want to be a better dad? Come to our special dinner/course/breakfast, and we'll show you how.

Now these sorts of things do go along with being a Christian believer (along with persecutions, being hated, and constantly battling the relentless assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil). And surely there is nothing wrong with telling people about these things, especially in response to accusations that the Christian life is the opposite (that it is a life-denying, joyless slavery, for example).

But apologetics is not the gospel, nor are the benefits of becoming a Christian the gospel. The gospel is an historical announcement about the coming kingdom of Jesus, the crucified and risen Christ, who will soon bring judgement, and who now calls on everyone to repent and flee to him for forgiveness of sins while they may. It is a message, as Knox says, that "overleaps cultural divisions and requires no cultural interpretation" because it directly addresses the conscience of the hearer. Judgement is coming in Jesus Christ; you are guilty; salvation is available through this same Jesus; what will you do?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Yellow人 (YellowRen) live in concert

a review of sorts about a concert i attended a few weekends ago, performed by "yellowren" at redeemer lutheran college, part of the australian leg of their "destination" (在那一边) tour 2007, linked with the release of the group's second album of the same name.

i only found out about this group and concert via some promotional flyers i spotted at home one night - i supposed that my parents were helping to distribute these amongst some local churches / their network. anyway it sounded interesting, though i didn't really know much about the group, apart from some basics i gleaned from their website (, which defaults to chinese; there's also an english version) and myspace page. basically they're a group of 3 christians from singapore. i had never heard of them before, and neither had a few christian friends in singapore whom i asked in passing[1]. anyways, i decided to go along in the end as i didn't have too much else to do... and arrived amidst drizzling rain to a sea of mostly young asian faces milling about. i had read that the melbourne concert held a few days prior had "sold" out of the free tickets, and wondered if brisbane would also be packed, so made an effort to go a bit earlier. but there were seats available throughout the whole show. there was an english-speaking "interpreter" (who was more saying similar/related things or interacting with the mandarin speaking host/mc than strictly interpreting) before and after the concert proper. i don't know what the point of that was, given that the concert itself was done in about 95% mandarin without any translation. anyways, a few thoughts about the concert itself (bearing in mind that my own level of mandarin is not that great, so i did not understand 100% of what was sung and said):
  • there was a lot more talking than i expected, and i expected a bit, knowing this to be a christian concert that would have an element of evangelism...
  • the songs themselves were ok, with some catchy tunes and clever arrangements, like the song "creation" (创造), which makes its way through the first 6 days of the genesis account and then comes to a quick and unexpected (but totally logical) stop when the lyrics reach day 7 - the day of rest.
  • another song "chasing" (追, 追, 追) had a good theme that sings against the chasing after of things in this world, asking where all this ultimately leads.
  • the proficiency in mandarin of 2 out of 3 of the artists was lower than i would have thought, for a group that sings in mandarin and seeks to target chinese speaking people. then again, i've met many singaporeans whose chinese is... not so chinese :p
  • the audio mix was not very well done - the music/instruments in the first few songs was much too loud, overpowering the lyrics. this is probably par for the course when it comes to typical concerts, but i think christian music needs to have a much higher bias for, and focus on, the lyrics that's being sung. a much better balance was reached a few songs into the show.
  • partway through the concert (and in the middle of one of the songs) a short static-y buzz/crackle came through the main house speakers and the audio promptly cut out. it sounded like what happens when someone trips over a cable, ripping the jack from its socket. no idea if this is anything like what actually happened, but they were in the midst of turning all the foldback speakers (which were still working) around to face the audience before the problem was rectified... oddness.
these are just minor quibbles/observations. the main issues i had were more theological in nature:
  • there was an altar call segment, which itself wasn't unexpected, and which started by asking a variant of the question: if you died now/tonight, are you certain you'll go to heaven? if you you need to listen to this... etc. and there were a good number of youth who responded, after a period of perhaps typical asian reluctance to be the first to move. i have no particular issue with the act of an altar call, but in this instance i struggled to identify what it was that the people were responding to. it sounded like the respondents were accepting a jesus who would help them with their troubles and difficulties in life, which is all well and good, except where is the saviour Christ who died to pay the penalty for their sins?? i'm pretty sure this was not mentioned -- if it was, either it was so fast that i missed it, or once again my language deficiencies failed me. you're not accepted into heaven on the basis of wanting Jesus to be a friend who helps you in this life, but on the basis of receiving him as your saviour and Lord, which then makes you his friend in this life and the next.
  • following the altar call to accept jesus, was another call for those who were in some way shape or form, sick. come down to the front to be prayed for. again, i don't have a particular issue with doing this, with praying for healing etc. but it's the content and tone of the prayer that didn't quite sit right. it sounded like the pray-er was essentially asking God to heal these people on the basis that he can (because he is all powerful), and expecting that he will, because he can...?? (ditto the qualifier about my language skills, as above) what happened to "if it is your will", or praying for patience, endurance, perseverance, growth in godliness etc should the person not be healed, whether immediately or ever?

the concert ended with the trio performing a mandarin cover version of "praise you in the storm", originally sung by casting crowns (a partial clip of this is at the end of this post), and afterwards there was a signing session for those who bought their CDs. i wasn't quite sold on the whole package, so didn't trouble my wallet, but esperance bought some and joined the queue to get the autographs.

[1] i have since discovered (while writing this post) via a bit more digging online, that the group hails from evangel family church, a "pentecostal church under the assemblies of God", which probably answers a few questions... the lead(?) singer/main speaker on the night (chan mong yee / 陈梦义) is an assistant pastor (the worship pastor) at this church, and the other female singer (dayna lim) is the daughter of the current and previous senior pastors of this church. the male singer (zhang zhi gang / 张志刚)) presumably also attends the same church. the musicians on this tour are all from this church.