David Fitch is an unusual church planter because he is also a theologian, occupying the Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary. And he is an unusual theologian and professor because he is a church planter, immersed in Life on the Vine, a "missional" church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. This double life has made his writing, both online at his weblog, Reclaiming the Mission, and in his provocative book The Great Giveaway, must-reading in emerging, evangelical, and mainline settings. One of Fitch's great gifts is his willingness to challenge his readers' assumptions, and his own. Here, he turns the tables on our big question for 2008, "Is our gospel too small?"
Can the gospel be too big? For some of us in the missional church movement, this question borders on heresy. We regularly caution that the gospel is not only about what Jesus can do for me. It is primarily about the transformation of our very way of life into God's mission for the world. We resist any temptation to turn the gospel into anything that might be too "user friendly." The mission of God (missio Dei), so we proclaim, must be all-encompassing, and we must become participants in it.
Yet for all the good in this approach, there may be another heresy beneath the surface. For in protecting the bigness of the gospel, we risk making the Christian life inaccessible to those outside of it. As a result, amid the current swell of appreciation for missio Dei theology in American churches, and the outcries against a gospel that has become too small, I find myself concerned about the ways we may unintentionally be making the gospel too big.
Theologian Darrell Guder has observed that the church is always in the process of reducing the gospel in order ...