The Gospel of What We Don’t Know

I can never remember who, but some theologian of mission made the provocative suggestion that the best analogy the church has for evangelism is journalism. Telling the good news is a journalistic task: Christians are witnesses of real events that are unfolding in real time concerning the Kingdom of God and the salvation of the world. If anyone knows who that was, please tell me.

I  heard that a decade ago, and it’s had a grip on my imagination since. It’s why I subscribe to the Columbia Journalism Review and listen to On The Media and read Jeff Jarvis’ blog.

Jarvis wrote yesterday that, in the aftermath of journalists’ coverage of last week’s Boston bombing and pursuant manhunt, he’s convinced that journalism’s value lies in telling the public what we *don’t* know. Here’s the money quote.

The key skill of journalism today is saying what we *don’t* know, issuing caveats and also inviting the public to tell us what they know. Note I didn’t say I want the public to tell us what they *think* or *guess.* I said *know*.

Yes. Yes. And . . . Yes.

Let’s try that quote again, but replace “journalism” with “evangelism.”

The key skill of evangelism today is saying what we *don’t* know, issuing caveats and also inviting the public to tell us what they know. Note I didn’t say I want the public to tell us what they *think* or *guess.* I said *know*.

Hmmmm . . .

Here’s why this excites me: In the same way that journalism is an enterprise transformed by the modern avalanche of information and channels for the public to share information, the church’s witness to the gospel is coping with a public that is swimming in religious “information” and sharing that information with ease. The church has competition now for reporting on The Meaning of Life. It ceased a while ago to be the Great Grey Lady of how to be a good person and live a fulfilling life. Now there a Pinterest board for that.

What if we took this analogy seriously? What if we shared the gospel by saying first what we don’t know?

“It’s being widely reported that faith is no longer relevant to modern people, but it is unclear at this hour how people are measuring relevance . .  .”

“Witnesses describe widespread displeasure with the plight of the poor, but lived experience of poverty could not be confirmed . . . ”

“Sources say the Bible is anti-gay, but questions remain about the historical context of that stance, its literary function, and its effect on the lives of gay people today . . . ”

“We’re hearing that people are prosperous, autonomous, and happy, but at this hour we can’t account for the social isolation people are experiencing at the same time . . . ”

What do you think? Does the church have value to add to the world that consists in elevating what we *don’t* know?

 

 

11 thoughts on “The Gospel of What We Don’t Know

      1. Excellent prompter thought Rock Dawg….I am going to integrate this into content of a class I am leading next week…”What on earth is God doing?”

  1. Sweet post. I wonder if our media bias has shifted from internal processors reporting hard won conclusions to external processors reporting the loose connections between ideas…

  2. love, love, love this concept. This: “It’s being widely reported that faith is no longer relevant to modern people, but it is unclear at this hour how people are measuring relevance . . .” is something I will say. I know I will. It’s powerful, invites dialogue, and I think will help our church in its search for engaging younger people.

    1. Thanks for sharing that post, Murphy. What I’m getting at is the value of proclaiming what we don’t know. I think we often labor under the assumption that the contribution we have to make to the world is a proclamation of certainty. But in confusing times the caveat and the qualified assessment are undervalued.

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