Rick Warren's Graduated Gospel: Live at Catalyst West
Mulling the "degree of difficulty" and the Great Judge

My son is a gymnast, so I've had to learn about "difficulty factor." That means a judge gives a gymnast better scores for harder routines. For instance, if your dismount from the high bar involves a double back flip with a twist, your difficulty factor, and thus your potential score, is greater than if your dismount is merely a single flip with no twist.

Today's sessions at Catalyst West never used the term, but "difficulty factor" was the common theme as speakers described the various levels of response to the gospel. The question they did NOT address was how the Judge will evaluate the lives of people who attempt the various levels of difficulty.

Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv, for instance, talked about "Line 3 believers."

By his categorization, those who step up to line one, "believe in the gospel enough to benefit from it." They're involved with the gospel because they like the church, the community, the sense of forgiveness and purpose and meaning that it gives them.

Others step up to line two and "believe in the gospel enough to contribute comfortably."

These are the believers who give a modest amount of time and money in service, but aren't about to give to the point of discomfort.

Those who reach line three "believe in the gospel enough to sacrifice their lives for it." Groeschel described his turnabout in how he presents the gospel. He said he's no longer satisfied with presenting just the "safe gospel," that offers benefits but no cost. Now he's challenging people to a dangerous life of following Jesus no matter where it leads.

Rick Warren spoke right before Groeschel and touched on the same theme. Warren itemized the increasingly demanding invitations that the Gospels present to would-be disciples, from "Come and see" (non-threatening) to "continue in me" to "If you love me, you are my disciple" to "If you eat my body and drink my blood, you are my disciple" (which cost him lots of followers) to "Take up your cross daily and follow me" (being willing to die for the cause)."

He said, "Some congregations are great ?come and see' churches, but they never develop disciples who are willing to die. Others churches focus on ?come and die' and have serious disciples, but they never bring anyone to Christ. We've got to reach people all along the range of commitment."

These graduated levels of intensity and costliness are all part of the gospel. Now the question is how to present them all to a congregation of people at various places on the spectrum.

And, of course, the biggest question of all: does the Judge's score depend upon the degree of difficulty?

April 24, 2009

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Chad Hall

April 27, 2009  3:08pm

jarrod, If I'm reading your comment right, I think you exemplify the very idea that Warren and Groeschel are expressing. That is, you seem mostly interested in personal salvation (and what it takes to attain salvation). But the question these guys are raising seems more along the lines of "How are we joining God's mission beyond getting our own souls saved?" I think the second and third lines represent the gospel beyond one's own salvation. These lines represent a gospel that is bigger than my or your salvation. I might not have used the image of "lines," but I think I agree with their observations. Curious what others think.

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April 27, 2009  11:03am

I'm trusting the Judge won't determine my eternal destiny by which line I'm currently at, or even how much I'm prepared to suffer for the cause–because that's making salvation dependent upon my willingness to reach a certain level of sacrifice. My understanding is that salvation is given to those who receive it, who believe to whatever capacity they have to believe ("I believe, Lord, help my unbelief"). That capacity is continually growing, in most cases. And if our faith is alive and growing, then that's "saving faith." So it's not so much which level of sacrifice you reach, it's whether your belief and trust in Christ is active and responsive.

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Marshall Shelley

April 27, 2009  10:40am

Good question, RDM. In Craig's case, it's not a scriptural observation, more his personal observation about people's response to the gospel. In Rick Warren's case, he quotes various statements from the Gospels about being a disciple, and he sorts them by price (that is, the cost demanded of the would-be follower of Christ).

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April 26, 2009  12:10pm

What was the scriptural basis for these comments?

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