Don't tell some people first that they are sinners

Krish KandiahKrish Kandiah, England Director for the UK Evangelical Alliance, writes:

If you tell the excluded and the marginalized that they are sinners in need of judgement as the entry point then you can push them further away from the kingdom.

This is part of a presentation Tell Young People About Judgement Before You Tell Them About Love?, which Krish recently made to youth workers in Manchester. It was picked up and quoted by Scot McKnight, whom I thank for the link.

So what is Krish saying here? Is he, as an evangelical, rejecting the time-honoured evangelical way of presenting the gospel? Well, not entirely. He balances this provocative statement as he continues:

If you tell religiously self confident and judgemental people a gospel only of grace and acceptance you risk confirming them in their delusion that they are part of the kingdom.

The key is that context determines content. Just as Jesus doesn’t preach a fake scripted gospel message to everyone but rather finds takes time to understand the person standing in front of him and then explain to them the aspect of the gospel that connects with them. We need to triangulate between a sensitivity to the Spirit, a deep knowledge of the Bible and a listening and compassionate spirit to the people we are seeking to communicate with.

Indeed. We all need to remember what Krish writes, and what Scot McKnight explains further in his book The King Jesus Gospel (I haven’t read it, but I like the reviews I have seen), that the gospel cannot be reduced to a simple set of three or four points which must be presented in the same way to everyone. And we need to resist the “Reformed” tendency to canonise certain traditional ways of presenting the gospel as the only valid ones, and to demonise those who dare to depart from them.

Yes, at some point we do need to teach every new Christian about sin and judgment, and also about grace and acceptance. But neither of these has to be the starting point in every gospel presentation.

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