Engage: Scot McKnight at North Point

Last Saturday I spent the morning at a seminar called Engage. It took place at North Point Community Church where Andy Stanley pastors. I got to listen to Dr. Scot McKnight speak about engaging the culture. He has blogged about the event too. First, I want to say that Scot McKnight is a man of great hope. This was apparent because he is obviously a huge Cubs fan and, well, that should explain the aspect of hope. Upon arrival everyone got nice name tags and a shoulder bag with a copy of Dr. McKnight’s Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us inside which was the thesis of this event. The morning was broken down into three sessions: Dr. McKnight’s presentation (about an hour), a breakout session and then a follow-up where Dr. McKnight answered some questions from the North Point host.

The seminar started at 9am and if the coffee wasn’t enough to wake everyone up they made sure no one was sleeping with a performance by five guys who put on a show similar to Stomp. In addition to all the rhythmic banging of trashcans, etc. they also used electric grinders on 50 gallon steel drums which put sparks flying 20+ feet in the air. It was a neat show. I was awake and my adrenaline was flowing.

This performance lasted about 15 or 20 minutes then, Dr. McKnight began. But before he began speaking they brought three volunteers from the audience to challenge Dr. McKnight to see who could make the most free-throws in a minute. They did this on one of those mini-basketball set-ups that has two baskets side-by-side. It was a lot of fun. Now, had I shot baskets against Dr. McKnight I would have easily won. I would have simply counted each basket as five points each. My answer to the objectors would be that they are letting their linear, greek, propositional, objective thinking of what each basket made means. Sure, it would have meant one point per basket for starters, but also so much more which for me would have been four points more. Okay, okay, I’m just poking fun, but I had to throw that in.

Session I: It was finally time for Dr. McKnight begin speaking. He’s a good personable, speaker who knows how to use the dry sarcasm of which I am very in tune. Just ask my wife and kid. I will now try to see what I can get from my notes along with my own comments as we move along. Dr. McKnight started off positing that small group leaders are the future “pastors” and that there are, according to Barna, 20 million (and growing) Christians in house churches. I immediately thought about Ed Stetzer and Tim Keller in way of educating and energizing the laity to get more involved in ministry to the culture.

I told Dr. McKnight this in our conversation (I will touch on our conversation very briefly below) and he said it is beyond the laity. He thinks there will be growth of Christians from outside the church via the work of the Holy Spirit raising up leaders within our communities. He also spoke to the individualism of those in the church today which is a bad thing as it (my words) goes against community and our witness as a community. He said in five to ten years the main question for Christians is “Does the Gospel work?” I think that this question has always been present though maybe not so directly worded. It seems the biggest criticism from outsiders that we need to address with our actions is to show them that the Gospel works through our transformed lives. This is true to a point, in my view though, the world must understand that Christians don’t believe the Gospel and then become perfect which is a misconception the world holds. So this is definitely a valid question which can be taken in so many directions. We do need to live out the Gospel more so than we do.

Dr. McKnight next addressed the question of “What gave rise to individualism?” He does not believe it’s the discipleship, but the Gospel that is preached. I think the lack of discipleship goes hand and hand with individualism. So it’s a both/and for me. He says we preach a Gospel that gets you saved and that’s it “you are a sinner, Jesus died for you” the end. There is some credence here too in that it seems many times we stop at justification and don’t go much into sanctification. The way Dr. McKnight put it is that we stop at Good Friday and don’t talk about the Resurrection which is to a new life. I think some folks can go too far the other way and get caught up in moralism doing things certain ways because “it’s the right thing to do” not because they love Jesus above all.

Next he talked about starting at Genesis 1:26-27 and how we are made in the image of God. He likes to use the Greek word Eikon and the phrase “Eikon of God.” He says there are four relationships that the Gospel restores us to: God, self, others and the world because in Genesis 3 we become “cracked Eikons.” This is where Dr. McKnight gets into the Gospel being more than just a set of propositions we confess. I have to agree though I think our confessing should describe our love for Jesus just as our actions should. He gave an illustration of this using sheet music. The sheet music was put up as the propositions offered, but the transformation and understanding came when the music was played live in front of us. I did enjoy this illustration even though I can read music the playing of the music is where the beauty and understanding shined.

Dr. McKnight goes on to tell us the one thing all Christians can agree upon. That Jesus Christ is the one fully engaged Eikon. There are no others. And we need to learn to live in a community as Christlike people so others can “see” the Gospel lived out. He gave examples of how 10-15 students per semester become Christians just from learning about Jesus. We heard at least one great story about this. So we end with this comparison using the sheet music. We must play the music to be able to hear it and dance to it; just as we must embody and teach the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

Session II: For the break out sessions, the whole group broke up into three smaller groups in three different rooms. I sat at one of about eight or nine tables with about eight others. I was the only one not involved in Starting Point. I explained to the folks that I heard about this event on Dr. McKnight’s blog and that it was open to the public so I decided to go. One in my group said, “He has a blog? What does he write about on it?” I explained that it’s called Jesus Creed after his book by the same name. I gave his url and mine too when asked. I started by calling Dr. McKnight “Scot” because that’s what just about everyone on his blog does. Funny thing, this blog world.

While our discussion questions focused on Starting Point they were certainly edifying and applicable beyond it. It was certainly helpful to understand how to engage people from where they are versus giving them a theology lesson. Learning to listen was really emphasized which is a good thing to learn. The one thing I certainly agreed with from another table was that while we learn to engage people and “doing good for them” we must not forget that Christ is central. For there is no Gospel without Christ no matter the amount of “good works” we do for others. This person cautioned to not focus so much on doing good and loving others to the detriment of Christ’s Gospel because without Christ there is no Kingdom nor redeeming of the culture.

Session III: After lunch, the last session was back in the larger room where the group as a whole was together again. We had a short skit showing the right and wrong ways of engaging people with their theological questions. It was very entertaining and right on. Then, the North Point host and emcee sat with Dr. McKnight and asked some questions that he’d gathered while going to the different break-out rooms.

I’m going to try to be a little more brief here.  Dr. McKnight was asked about how we perform the Gospel.  I agree with his answer which is that we do it by living as Christians whether we want to or not.  He was asked about why four components that were mentioned earlier and answered that God is concerned with the big picture not just individuals.  He touch on Jesus addressing John in Luke 7 about how He touch society through focusing on the community.  He said we need to idealize the end of Acts 2 & 5.

In our conversations we need to learn to listen better and ask better questions rather than just immediately start teaching people what we believe.  He said to lead people rather than lecture them.  And to discern when to give a direct answer vs. leaving some tension for some self-discovery.  In his cultural observations, which I think go right along with the points on conversation,  we need to understand that the 20 somethings weren’t influenced by Lassie and Mr. Green Jeans.  It is much more pluralistic today.  We need to be able to tackle the moral questions like that of homosexuality showing that we can be kind and loving to them yet disagree with them.

We watched an interesting conversion video.  Which I really wish the people in it would have talked more about Jesus in the beginning instead of the great church they were invited to attend.  But I understand.  Dr. McKnight thought the video shared a very common story line.  This moved us to positioning the Gospel.  There was no one way to position the Gospel expounded upon and I agree.  Finishing up were suggestions to model, promote and perform the Gospel in our communities.  This starts at home.

And finally, Dr. McKnight recommended we talk about Jesus, read Scripture, and see how it relates to Jesus.  He is all we have and we need to offer the grace we’ve been give to others.  The final question is what would a Jesus Creed bumper sticker look like?  “Love God, love others.”

I did get a chance to meet and shake hands with Dr. McKnight. I told him that I was a blogger who found out through his blog about the conference. As we chatted I told him I was one of those mean Calvinists or something to that effect. He laughed and said, “I’m not that bad.” Then I laughed and agreed. We only got to chat about two minutes or so, but I appreciated it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about living out the Gospel recently.  I start by looking at my home life.  In the relational aspect of loving Jesus above all else I use my marriage as analogy.  I don’t do things for my wife because it is my duty, but because I love her.  I want to make her happy and serve her.  John Piper has a great illustration of this which I am sure is not too hard to find.  Just like my marriage didn’t stop, but began at “I do” so too does the Gospel start at “I repent and believe.”  Believing is just the beginning of a new resurrected life of loving Jesus Christ and being a reflection of Him in the world.

Overall, it was a good conference and I am glad I was able to attend.


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in Church Issues,Culture,Evangelism,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Joe Meek April 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

It does not seem to me that Dr. Knight knows very much about historical Christianity. NPP is just the old 1st and 2nd century Judaistic perspective on Messianic eschatology. It was wrong then, it is still wrong today. Faith, which RESULTS in works is the essence of Martin Luther, Calvin, Beza, Zwingli, etc. Concentration on obedience does just one thing; we are lost in the enigma Paul experienced in Rom. 7, and the frustration of never fully measuring up to the tenets of Torah. Christ delivers us from that frustration by, through faith of the believer, obeying what was impossible for us to obey, in the flesh, the Torah mandate. First covenent theology is buried with Christ and when He emerged from the grave, gave us the right, THROUGH FAITH, to be clothed with His righteousness. The old flesh remains, still subject to its old failure, but the new man emerges, not fully able to be obedient to the new covenant, but growing as a baby grows into a man or woman. Just as Jesus “learned obedience by the things that He suffered”, we learn obdience by the suffering of the newly-born spirit, gowing in sensitivity, daily, to the ravages of sin. Some grow slowly, others faster. Dr. McKnight is the embodiment of “emergence, covenant theology, and Messianic millinialism”, all rolled into one. Christianity is about one Man, Christ Jesus, and His sacrifice as God in the flesh, perfect in every way, yet willing to die in the place of all who will yield to Him IN FAITH, not works. Works becomes that desired result, that is, obedience through the inner working of the Holy Spirit independent of the corrupt will of the believer. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the believer, as the believer learns to yield his will to that of Jesus. As Paul says, the believer “dies” daily. Covenant Jews did not yield to the Spirit, but looked on the outer obedience to Torah as the means of righteousness. THAT COVENANT FAILED! With the destruction of the Temple, God sealed off any return to covenant Judaism. The root of election was not destroyed, but completed in the root of Jesse, Jesus. He established the new promise of eternal fellowship with Him through, and only through, His Son, Christ Jesus, in faith, open to all who believe in the NEW TESTAMENT of the blood of Christ, both to the Jew and gentile. The true vine, not built on Judaism, but in Christ, allows for all, but only in faith. The “chosen” people become one of faith in the blood of Christ, shed for all who will believe, something that the “blood of bulls and goats” could never do.

Finally, let not the gentile church ever forget the debt owed to Jews for the revelation of the true and living God. It is the Jew, Jesus, that brought us the message from God of salvation, not through Torah, but through faith in the finished work of His Son. A solemn warning to those who still hold to the ancient customs of covenant Judaism, Paul says, that ‘”Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He has said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first in order that He may establish the second. 10 By which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”‘ He. 10: 8-10. Those Jews who continue to adhere to the fiirst Covenent, after having the revelation of of the second, will be lost in spite of their seemingly secure position of a “covenent people”. Just as the “first” temple was destroyed, without the new temple of the believer’s body destruction of the “second” temple will also perish.


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