Radical Gospel, Radical Church

What would happen if your church embraced a radical gospel?

For a radical gospel (the biblical kind), we need a radical church (the biblical kind).

What would a denomination do that really wanted to become a church with New Testament dynamic? Let us suppose …

First, all church buildings are sold. The money is given (literally) to the poor. All congregations of more than two hundred members are divided in two. Store fronts, garages or small halls are rented as needed. Sunday school promotion and most publicity is dropped. Small group Bible studies meeting in homes take the place of midweek prayer services.

Pastors take secular employment and cease to be paid by the church; they become, in effect, trained “laymen” instead of paid professionals. “Laymen” take the lead in all affairs of the church. There is no attempt to attract unbelievers to church services; these are primarily for believers, and perhaps are held at some time other than Sunday morning.

Evangelism takes on a new dimension. The church begins to take seriously its charge to preach the gospel to the poor and be an agent of the kingdom of God. It ceases to take economic potential into consideration in planning new churches. It begins to lose its enchantment with suburban materialism.

Et cetera.

What would happen to such a church? I suggest it would grow—and might very well recreate the book of Acts.

This is the needed cataclysm, in general outline if not in specific detail. This cataclysm would bring the church close to the New Testament model and spirit. But it is an impossible cataclysm. No denomination in its right institutional mind will ever do such a thing, for perfectly good psychological and sociological (if not biblical) reasons.

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Howard Snyder
Formerly professor of the history and theology of mission, Asbury Theological Seminary (1996-2006); now engaged in research and writing in Wilmore, Kentucky. Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, 2007-2012. Formerly taught and pastored in São Paulo, Brazil; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois. Howard Snyder’s main interest is in the power and relevance of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom for the world today and tomorrow. He has written on a range of topics including church history, cultural trends, globalization, worldviews, evangelism, and various cultural issues.