Matt Chandler – The Explicit Gospel
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit wasn’t going to let it go that easily. The question began to haunt me. I decided to have a few conversations and interviews with what we have called the “dechurched” men and women attending The Village. A few of them confirmed that my hunch was correct. They could go back and read journals and sermon notes from when they were teenagers or college students and see that they had indeed heard the gospel. However, what alarmed me most was the number of men and women who couldn’t do that. Their old journals and student Bibles were filled with what Christian Smith in his excellent book Soul Searching called “Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”3
The idea behind moral, therapeutic deism is that we are able to earn favor with God and justify ourselves before God by virtue of our behavior. This mode of thinking is religious, even “Christian” in its content, but it’s more about self-actualization and self-fulfillment, and it posits a God who does not so much intervene and redeem but basically hangs out behind the scenes, cheering on your you-ness and hoping you pick up the clues he’s left to become the best you you can be.
The moralistic, therapeutic deism passing for Christianity in many of the churches these young adults grew up in includes talk about Jesus and about being good and avoiding bad—especially about feeling good about oneself—and God factored into all of that, but the gospel message simply wasn’t there. What I found was that for a great many young twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, the gospel had been merely assumed, not taught or proclaimed as central. It hadn’t been explicit.