I am afraid that in many American churches, we are not telling the truth—at least not the whole truth.
In many churches we assume that once you accept Jesus as your Savior, you get involved in church and your life gets better. This is the standard story repeated in "testimony time" on Sundays, and the unspoken assumption regarding discipleship.
This "narrative of ascendency" has become the dominant American narrative of the gospel, rooted in American optimism and confidence. It is beautiful, compelling, and powerful. But is it the whole truth?
The church in America has struggled to embrace an equally true "narrative of descendency," the part of the gospel that is grounded in the One who descended into the depths of human darkness, and who calls us to face our particular and ongoing struggle with our own darkness.
We avoid this part of the story. We want a new life without a death. We want to ascend to Heaven before we descend into hell.
But the gospel includes both descendency and ascendency. The very process of recovery is understanding that there is a death, and there is a resurrection. They are inseparable, and it's a process that continues throughout our lives. The story of Mercy Street is a story of a community of faith in Christ that sees the gospel in both of those narratives.
My snowball interviews
When I got to Chapelwood, Jim asked me, "What do you want to do?" I told him that I wanted to find a way to connect people who were outside the church, who saw no relevance in the way the church interacts with culture, with the gospel. Jim said, "Go for it. What do you need?"
I said I needed a laptop and a cell phone and told him I wouldn't ...