An Encounter at The Roadshow

     Last Wednesday night I got the opportunity to attend The Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival, with my friend Joel Borofsky.  Joel and I are working on a book which critiques the emergent church movement; so we couldn’t pass up the chance to meet some of its key leaders.  Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Mark Scandrette, all of whom contributed to the recent book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, were there.

    

     The Church Basement Roadshow is touring churches across the country in an attempt to garner interest in the emergent movement and promote their latest books.  The show is interesting to say the least; a surreal experience that will stick with me for a long time.  Jones, Pagitt, and Scandrette play the parts of Duke Arnold, A. B. Hawthorn, and A. L. Withee; old time revival preachers from 1908.  As you walk in, they greet you; in full costume and in character.  A guitar player and backup singer set the mood, playing everything from old-time hymns to Johnny Cash.  After a brief performance, they invite the audience to stand and join them in song; while Duke and Withee revv up the crowd; yelling, “Amen!” and “Gl-o-o-r-y!” 

 

     Joel and I found ourselves on the front row; unable to sing along.  The whole thing felt wrong.  Was the crowd really singing to Jesus, or was it all part of the show?   

 

     Eventually, the enthusiastic trio took the stage and sang their theme song; a humorous revival tune boldly declaring that, “love is the way.”  In between their crazy antics and humorous skits, Jones, Pagitt, and Scandrette took turns reading selections from their books (which were on sale in the back) and desperately pleading for reform. After each monologue, promo videos were played; and they even urged the crowd to adopt a child through compassion international.

 

     By far, the most interesting presentation of the night was made by Mark Scandrette; a compassionate man with an honest desire to reach out to the “dregs” of society.  He read a selection from his latest book, Soul Graffiti.  In it, he recalls how he and his friend Joseph befriended an aging transvestite who called himself, Emperor Arcadia. 

 

     The Emperor lived in an old bus with a peculiar message inscribed in bold letters on the side:  “I HAVE BEEN CONDUCTING EXPERIMENTS ON MYSELF FOR 30 YEARS—EXPLORING THE MYSTERIES OF CHEMISTRY AND HEALTH.  MY PRESCRIPTION:  EAT A CLOVE OF GARLIC AND DRINK OUR OWN URINE AND SEMEN TWICE A DAY.”[1]  Suffice to say, the Emperor’s mind suffered from years in a mental institution, excessive drug abuse and a lifetime of sexual immorality.  Mark provides this bleak picture of the Emperor’s life in his book,

 

Estranged from his family after years in mental institutions, he had moved west from Wisconsin.  During the sexual revolution of the 1970’s he was something of a celebrity in San Francisco’s gay club scene, hosting “naked pool” on Sunday afternoons at a popular bar South of Market where he would prance nude around the pool table exchanging fiery jabs with patrons.  The club owner let him live in the basement of the building for many years . . . Emperor Arcadia was [also] locally famous for crashing society balls, civic celebrations, and parades, announcing himself swathed in a velvet cape and crown and accompanied by his matching miniature poodles on leashes.  As he got older and more peculiar, he lost his social currency and became more isolated.[2]

I sat on the front row, engrossed by Mark’s story, starving to hear more about their interaction with the Emperor, dying to know how it would end. 

 

     However, as the story progressed, and Mark recounted all of the time he and his friends had spent with the Emperor-bringing him food, celebrating Christmas, listing to him rant and rave about his chemical concoctions—I began to wonder, “when are they going to share the gospel?”  This thought lingered in my mind, and I waited patiently, yearning to hear the saving message of Jesus preached to this lost and dying soul. 

 

     Finally, the moment I had been waiting for arrived.  One Sunday, Mark and his friend Joseph, found the Emperor collapsed in his bus after taking a lethal dose of Phenobarbital.  They quickly called for an ambulance which rushed him to the hospital.  Mark rode along holding his hand . . .

At the emergency room after he was stabilized, a nurse invited me into the examining room where I stood alone by his side . . . With his eyes still shut he murmured, “I wanted to die.  Why did you save my life?” 

I hesitated for a moment, searching for words.  “You are my friend and I care about you.” 

Agitated, with speech still slurred, he asked, “But why do you care about me?”  And then louder and more desperately he repeated, “Why do you care about me?”[3]  

“This is it,” I thought to myself, “the moment I’ve been waiting for.”  

   

Slowly I lifted my hand and began to caress his bald head.  “Emperor, we are all loved,” I said.[4] 

How desperately anticlimactic!  Who loves everyone?  Why are we all loved?  Why didn’t he speak to him about Jesus?  How could he pass up such an opportune moment?  Talk about a total let down!  This was not the ending I had hoped for. 

 

     After the show I approached Mark, and having introduced myself, I inquired as to what ever happened to the Emperor.  Mark explained that they had lost touch and weren’t sure where he was.  Then I dropped the bomb, “I was just curious,” I said, “did you ever share the gospel with the Emperor?” 

 

     Mark kindly explained that the Emperor got upset when Jesus’ name was mentioned, and that he and Joseph had opted not to speak of Jesus around him. 

 

     I marveled at his reply.  “So,” I asked, “there was never a point in which you confronted him to change his lifestyle or challenged him to repent?” 

 

     Mark seemed surprised, “No” he said. 

 

     “But it was his depraved lifestyle that got him where he was,” I insisted, “how could you withhold from him the one message that could drastically change his life?”   

 

     Mark was visibly upset with my comment and informed me that I was being extremely judgmental.  He asked me how I could possibly make such a statement, especially since I didn’t know the whole story (It was surprising how quick Mark criticized my point of view considering the Emergent Church constantly espouses toleration and open minded conversation).  Mark didn’t seem tolerant of my point of view; and I got the distinct impression that he was not open to what I had to say. 

 

     Frankly, this did not bother me.  Mark has convictions, and just like me, he is willing to fight for them.  Despite what the Emergent Church wants us to believe, it is no different from any other movement or institution; its proponents passionately think they’re right and everyone else is wrong.  I wish they’d be as forthright in their writings as Mark was in our conversation; it’s refreshing when people are honest. 

 

     I tried to explain to Mark that it was not judgmental to speak the truth; that it was, in fact, the most loving thing that one could do.  He disagreed.  He didn’t think it was as necessary to share the gospel with someone as it was to show them love (in a practical way).  He lamented over the terrible ways in which Christians treat people like the Emperor and argued that it was more important for Christians to show love and compassion like Jesus. 

 

     I told Mark I agreed with him: Christians do need to show genuine love and compassion to people like the Emperor (in a hands on practical kind of way).  Christians do need to reevaluate how they treat homosexuals and transvestites.  However, Christians also need to share the gospel; because, ultimately, Jesus is the only real hope for our world. 

 

     Again, Mark disagreed.  He feared that sharing the gospel with people like the Emperor would come off as judgmental and would only drive them away.  He argued that the message of Jesus could be better communicated by loving action.  I stressed to Mark that both the practical and the propositional had to be presented to the lost in order for the full message of Jesus to be received.  It simply isn’t enough to show love in a practical way.

 

     The message of Jesus is not simply one of practicality; it has content which can only be communicated through words.  As Christians, it’s our responsibility to communicate, not only the practical side of Jesus’ message, but the content.  For, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher?”  (Romans 10:14 NASB) 

 

     The lost cannot be found without hearing the word of God; the sinner cannot be saved without hearing the word of God, and it’s up to Christians to make sure that a sick and dying world hears it.  Sharing the gospel is not intrusive or judgmental, it’s the most loving gesture that anyone could make toward someone as hopeless and lost as the Emperor.  As the Apostle Paul noted, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Rom. 10:15)

 

     Despite my best efforts, Mark never seemed to grasp what I was saying.  Eventually, I decided to back off and let our conversation come to a close.  That night, as I lay in bed, I wrestled for a way to explain to Mark, and others like him, the gravity of the situation.  How could I demonstrate that one could be loving, in both a practical and a propositional sense?  How could I show the tremendous importance of sharing the content of the gospel?

 

     Several days later, I realized what must be done.  The ending of Marks story was all wrong; it had to be rewritten . . .                           

The Emperor sat in the hospital bed in tears, screaming, “Why do you care about me?  Why do you love me?”

    I began to stroke his head and with tears running down my face I replied, “Because you were created by God and that makes you incredibly valuable.” 

The Emperor peered deep into my eyes, obviously wrestling with what I had said, “I’m not valuable,” he screamed, “I’m worthless!  God could never accept a man like me!” 

“None of us are worthy to be accepted by God,” I exclaimed, “we’re all broken and distorted, but this is precisely why Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we could be accepted.  God does think your valuable; he loves you Emperor.” 

The Emperor buried his head in his hands, weeping in agony he whimpered, “I’ve been running from God for so long . . . h-how could I turn to him now?”

I wrapped my arms around the Emperor and gently whispered into his ear, “Repent, turn away from these things that are destroying you.  Believe in Jesus with all your heart.  It’s never too late Emperor . . . never.” 


[1] Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Mark Scandrette, The Church Basement Roadshow (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2008), 61.  This was the handout given to everyone who attended the show.  It has selections from each of their books.

[2] Ibid., 64.

[3] Ibid., 66.

[4] Ibid., 66.

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17 thoughts on “An Encounter at The Roadshow

  1. I’ve got to agree with you bro. I understand mark’s position, but he is underestimating the power of God to change lives and is overestimating his value in the ‘Great Commission’ equation.

    I am a volunteer advocate with Compassion International and his event has come up on my calendar, but alas, I must pass for fear I would not have the patience you displayed.

    God bless you ‘J’ man

  2. Hey Dave,

    Thanks for your comment; I heartily agree with your assessment. Not only is Mark “overestimating his value in the ‘Great Commission’ equation,” he’s afraid that the gospel will offend the lost. He’s willing to sacrifice telling someone the truth in order to maintain the relationship. In the case of the Emperor, Mark and Joseph were too afraid to speak about Jesus because of the way he might react. What Mark, and most everyone involved in the Emergent movement, has to come to terms with is that the Gospel is guaranteed to offend people. Jesus actually warned us of this. Yet, it is still our responsibility as Christians to share it; in spite of how people react.

    Thanks again for your comment and for all your hard work with Compassion International.

    Josh

  3. Josh,

    Fun to see the picture of your lovely wife and child on your blog!

    I must say that I feel a bit apprehensive about responding to your email or blog post— because it appears that you are not so much interested in having a sincere conversation with me as you are in using me as a straw man for your particular theological agenda. But I am writing to you because I sense that you have some tenderness of heart and some degree of personal awareness. If I sense that you are open to actual conversation, I am happy to continue correspondence with you. I am also posting this as a comment on your blog since you made this conversation public. As a general note to you and your blog readers— may I suggest that since blogs are public forums, it would be prudent to examine the posture you take both in your posts and your comments. Recently there has been a lot of press about internet ethics and the propriety of what we say about one another in these public forums.

    Maybe it would be helpful if you knew a little bit about me. I’ve been married to my wife Lisa for 17 years. We have three children and live in San Francisco. I was a children’s evangelist with an older organization called Child Evangelism Fellowship for 11 years— beginning when I was 13 years old. I was a huge fan of Francis Schaeffer during my junior high and high school years. I read all of his books by the time I was 16— he is a literary mentor who I credit with helping me affirm my faith during a time when I was trying to reconcile the faith of my family with growing up in a secular and post-Christian society. I have an undergraduate degree in Applied Psychology with an emphasis in family and community health and have worked with a Christian Therapist doing family based counseling in an impoverished community among folks with mental illness. I also studied theology at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul. I was a Children, Youth and Families pastor at a Baptist Church in Minnesota for three years before moving with my family to San Francisco to do church planting in what we considered to be the most post-Christian city in America. We have lived there for over 10 years in an at-risk neighborhood where we have started faith communities and community initiatives, and a rigorous 9 month discipleship program and a neo-monastic community. I also lecture frequently for the U.S. Center for World Missions. The works of Dallas Willard and N.T. Wright on kingdom theology resonate with my current theological understandings.

    I will comment on what you’ve written on your blog as you requested— though I must say that it is quite remarkable that you would represent your interpretation of our brief conversation in such an authoritative posture in a public venue before dialoging with me further to clarify my position. When we parted I suggested that the issues you brought up required a much longer and slower conversation. And yet within a day or two your friend had already posted something on the internet which provided quite an unfair and frankly inaccurate portrayal of a private conversation between you and I. In scriptural terms this would be described as slander or gossip— and is destructive to the body of Christ.

    A few things I would suggest before commenting on what you’ve written.

    I understand that you are a fan of the late Francis Schaeffer. A recent book by his son, Frank, provides a bit of perspective on the psychology of their family. I only mention this to note that theology does not occur in a vacuum— it has a lot to do with personality, psychology, family issues and sometimes our personal wounds. There is a complex interaction between one’s propositions and one’s disposition. Schaeffer’s son Frank has spent much of his life wrestling with the ambiguities between his parent’s private and public life (ie. Francis’ private battle’s with anger, rage, suicidal thoughts, and depression). What I find important to note here is that orthodoxy in the the scriptural sense is ortho-praxy— a gradual process of watching one’s LIFE and DOCTRINE closely and surrendering them more deeply to the reality of God.

    You are a young man, with limited but important life experiences and education– and I sense that you are in the process of clarifying what you believe and where you fit in the scheme of society and Christian tradition. (for instance I notice that your background is CMA, but I detect more reformed leanings from my interactions with you). I would caution you to be generous with others who may know more than you, have a different context or experience, or speak from one of the New Testament offices that differs from your own. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers had differences in perspective since the earliest times of the New Testament church— note the tension between Paul and the Jerusalem council.

    *****************************************

    Last Wednesday night I got the opportunity to attend The Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival, with my friend Joel Borofsky. Joel and I are working on a book which critiques the emergent church movement; so we couldn’t pass up the chance to meet some of its key leaders. Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Mark Scandrette, all of whom contributed to the recent book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, were there.

    (Josh, I can’t help but feel set up by you in our conversation. You didn’t tell me that you are “researching” a book critiquing the Emergent Church Movement. It seems disingenuous and frankly dishonest for you to approach me with feigned curiosity when apparently you were only looking to confirm your presuppositions about a perceived movement you hope to critique).

    The Church Basement Roadshow is touring churches across the country in an attempt to garner interest in the emergent movement and promote their latest books. The show is interesting to say the least; a surreal experience that will stick with me for a long time. Jones, Pagitt, and Scandrette play the parts of Duke Arnold, A. B. Hawthorn, and A. L. Withee; old time revival preachers from 1908. As you walk in, they greet you; in full costume and in character. A guitar player and backup singer set the mood, playing everything from old-time hymns to Johnny Cash. After a brief performance, they invite the audience to stand and join them in song; while Duke and Withee revv up the crowd; yelling, “Amen!” and “Gl-o-o-r-y!”

    Joel and I found ourselves on the front row; unable to sing along. The whole thing felt wrong. Was the crowd really singing to Jesus, or was it all part of the show?

    Eventually, the enthusiastic trio took the stage and sang their theme song; a humorous revival tune boldly declaring that, “love is the way.” In between their crazy antics and humorous skits, Jones, Pagitt, and Scandrette took turns reading selections from their books (which were on sale in the back) and desperately pleading for reform. After each monologue, promo videos were played; and they even urged the crowd to adopt a child through compassion international.

    By far, the most interesting presentation of the night was made by Mark Scandrette; a compassionate man with an honest desire to reach out to the “dregs” of society. He read a selection from his latest book, Soul Graffiti. In it, he recalls how he and his friend Joseph befriended an aging transvestite who called himself, Emperor Arcadia.

    The Emperor lived in an old bus with a peculiar message inscribed in bold letters on the side: “I HAVE BEEN CONDUCTING EXPERIMENTS ON MYSELF FOR 30 YEARS—EXPLORING THE MYSTERIES OF CHEMISTRY AND HEALTH. MY PRESCRIPTION: EAT A CLOVE OF GARLIC AND DRINK OUR OWN URINE AND SEMEN TWICE A DAY.”[1] Suffice to say, the Emperor’s mind suffered from years in a mental institution, excessive drug abuse and a lifetime of sexual immorality. Mark provides this bleak picture of the Emperor’s life in his book,

    Estranged from his family after years in mental institutions, he had moved west from Wisconsin. During the sexual revolution of the 1970’s he was something of a celebrity in San Francisco’s gay club scene, hosting “naked pool” on Sunday afternoons at a popular bar South of Market where he would prance nude around the pool table exchanging fiery jabs with patrons. The club owner let him live in the basement of the building for many years . . . Emperor Arcadia was [also] locally famous for crashing society balls, civic celebrations, and parades, announcing himself swathed in a velvet cape and crown and accompanied by his matching miniature poodles on leashes. As he got older and more peculiar, he lost his social currency and became more isolated.[2]

    I sat on the front row, engrossed by Mark’s story, starving to hear more about their interaction with the Emperor, dying to know how it would end.

    However, as the story progressed, and Mark recounted all of the time he and his friends had spent with the Emperor-bringing him food, celebrating Christmas, listing to him rant and rave about his chemical concoctions—I began to wonder, “when are they going to share the gospel?” This thought lingered in my mind, and I waited patiently, yearning to hear the saving message of Jesus preached to this lost and dying soul.

    Finally, the moment I had been waiting for arrived. One Sunday, Mark and his friend Joseph, found the Emperor collapsed in his bus after taking a lethal dose of Phenobarbital. They quickly called for an ambulance which rushed him to the hospital. Mark rode along holding his hand . . .

    At the emergency room after he was stabilized, a nurse invited me into the examining room where I stood alone by his side . . . With his eyes still shut he murmured, “I wanted to die. Why did you save my life?”

    I hesitated for a moment, searching for words. “You are my friend and I care about you.”

    Agitated, with speech still slurred, he asked, “But why do you care about me?” And then louder and more desperately he repeated, “Why do you care about me?”[3]

    “This is it,” I thought to myself, “the moment I’ve been waiting for.”

    Slowly I lifted my hand and began to caress his bald head. “Emperor, we are all loved,” I said.[4]

    How desperately anticlimactic! Who loves everyone? Why are we all loved? Why didn’t he speak to him about Jesus? How could he pass up such an opportune moment? Talk about a total let down! This was not the ending I had hoped for.

    After the show I approached Mark, and having introduced myself, I inquired as to what ever happened to the Emperor. Mark explained that they had lost touch and weren’t sure where he was. Then I dropped the bomb, “I was just curious,” I said, “did you ever share the gospel with the Emperor?”

    Mark kindly explained that the Emperor got upset when Jesus’ name was mentioned, and that he and Joseph had opted not to speak of Jesus around him.

    I marveled at his reply. “So,” I asked, “there was never a point in which you confronted him to change his lifestyle or challenged him to repent?”

    Mark seemed surprised, “No” he said.

    *****************************************

    (Josh, this is NOT how our conversation transpired and I did not make the above statement. I did, in fact share the gospel with the Emperor on my first and subsequent visits to his bus. The point of my sharing this story in the book and at the show was to wrestle with the question, “If I share the gospel with someone and they don’t respond, am I released from continuing to love them in practical ways? After those interactions Joseph and I decided that we didn’t have any obligation to the Emperor and we stopped visiting him. A few months later it was clear that God brought him back into my life— and on further examination of the teachings of Jesus I realized that since “God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” that I had an obligation to continue to seek to love and care for the emperor even though he was hostile to the message I communicated. I recognized that he was a vulnerable person, in need of care, and that in the name of Jesus we would continue to befriend him. As evidenced by the story, his heart became softer as we did care for him. And the hospital staff were amazed at what we did for the Emperor—explicitly in the name of Jesus.

    I didn’t explain this to you, because your line of inquiry presumed that sharing the gospel means telling someone that they are a “sinner.” I asked you to provide references to prove this from the four gospels— and the one you came up with was in regard to the Pharisees. We also discussed the complexities of communicating the message of Jesus to someone who is mentally ill, brain damaged by shock treatments and possibly suffering from senility. In the 1970’s many people, including the Emperor, were released from mental institutions without adequate community support and funding and were abandoned to the streets deprived of the medication they had become dependent on over many years. I suggested to you that communicating meaningfully to someone like the emperor is a complex task requiring some understanding of their diagnosis, life and cultural experiences).

    *****************************************

    “But it was his depraved lifestyle that got him where he was,” I insisted, “how could you withhold from him the one message that could drastically change his life?”

    *****************************************

    (Josh, it is quite unfair and simplistic for you to suggest that the Emperor’s lifestyle made him homeless or mentally ill).

    *****************************************

    Mark was visibly upset with my comment and informed me that I was being extremely judgmental. He asked me how I could possibly make such a statement, especially since I didn’t know the whole story (It was surprising how quick Mark criticized my point of view considering the Emergent Church constantly espouses toleration and open minded conversation). Mark didn’t seem tolerant of my point of view; and I got the distinct impression that he was not open to what I had to say.

    *****************************************

    (Josh, I was frankly taken a back by your deceptive and combative approach to me. You don’t know me, had almost no context for our conversation but had many apparent presuppositions, and then you tried to school me on what I should have said to a homeless mentally ill man 7 years ago— and you made many intimations about my supposed theological positions that were assumed and uninformed. It seems rather strange to me that you would approach someone 10-15 years older than you, whom you don’t know and begin an argument with them based on your presupposed straw man. If you are indeed a fan of the life and work of Francis Schaeffer, I guarantee that this was not his approach to people).

    *****************************************

    Frankly, this did not bother me. Mark has convictions, and just like me, he is willing to fight for them. Despite what the Emergent Church wants us to believe, it is no different from any other movement or institution; its proponents passionately think they’re right and everyone else is wrong. I wish they’d be as forthright in their writings as Mark was in our conversation; it’s refreshing when people are honest.

    I tried to explain to Mark that it was not judgmental to speak the truth; that it was, in fact, the most loving thing that one could do. He disagreed. He didn’t think it was as necessary to share the gospel with someone as it was to show them love (in a practical way). He lamented over the terrible ways in which Christians treat people like the Emperor and argued that it was more important for Christians to show love and compassion like Jesus.

    I told Mark I agreed with him: Christians do need to show genuine love and compassion to people like the Emperor (in a hands on practical kind of way). Christians do need to reevaluate how they treat homosexuals and transvestites. However, Christians also need to share the gospel; because, ultimately, Jesus is the only real hope for our world.

    *****************************************

    (Josh, if we had more time, this would have been a helpful moment to talk about what you meant by the gospel. When we talked, the main point of your gospel, as I heard you, was that people need to be convinced that they are sinners. You didn’t mention anything about the Gospel of Jesus which would have included the message of the kingdom of God and teachings about the life and sacrifice of Jesus. )

    *****************************************

    Again, Mark disagreed. He feared that sharing the gospel with people like the Emperor would come off as judgmental and would only drive them away. He argued that the message of Jesus could be better communicated by loving action. I stressed to Mark that both the practical and the propositional had to be presented to the lost in order for the full message of Jesus to be received. It simply isn’t enough to show love in a practical way.

    The message of Jesus is not simply one of practicality; it has content which can only be communicated through words. As Christians, it’s our responsibility to communicate, not only the practical side of Jesus’ message, but the content. For, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14 NASB)

    The lost cannot be found without hearing the word of God; the sinner cannot be saved without hearing the word of God, and it’s up to Christians to make sure that a sick and dying world hears it. Sharing the gospel is not intrusive or judgmental, it’s the most loving gesture that anyone could make toward someone as hopeless and lost as the Emperor. As the Apostle Paul noted, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Rom. 10:15)

    ****************************************

    (Josh, the basic difficulty of our conversation was launching from my anecdotal story involving pastoral theology into a debate about complex issues of soteriology and missiology. Any basic seminary course in missiology would include discussion about cultural context, sociological assumptions, and most importantly, credibility. We spent much of our conversation actually discussing a pastoral issue you brought up regarding your relationship with an transgendered Episcopal ex-priest— and us discussing some of your own private moral struggles and God’s grace. A summary reading of the Gospels or the book of Acts reveals that Jesus and Paul spoke to people at the level of their interest and understanding. One who wishes to convince someone to surrender their life back to the rule of their creator needs to discern what points are helpful to that person. In missiological terms this is contextualization of the gospel to a particular audience. So, what kinds of things are helpful to share, for instance, with a transgendered ex-Episcopal priest— who is as familiar or more familiar than you with scripture and theology? In Acts 17 Paul only shared what he thought would be helpful to Athenians to help them take their next step towards reconciliation with God. Accurately and persuasively communicating the message of the gospel of Jesus to someone begins with gaining an understanding of their assumptions and establishing your credibility as a messenger).

    *****************************************

    Despite my best efforts, Mark never seemed to grasp what I was saying. Eventually, I decided to back off and let our conversation come to a close. That night, as I lay in bed, I wrestled for a way to explain to Mark, and others like him, the gravity of the situation. How could I demonstrate that one could be loving, in both a practical and a propositional sense? How could I show the tremendous importance of sharing the content of the gospel?

    Several days later, I realized what must be done. The ending of Marks story was all wrong; it had to be rewritten . . .

    The Emperor sat in the hospital bed in tears, screaming, “Why do you care about me? Why do you love me?”

    I began to stroke his head and with tears running down my face I replied, “Because you were created by God and that makes you incredibly valuable.”

    The Emperor peered deep into my eyes, obviously wrestling with what I had said, “I’m not valuable,” he screamed, “I’m worthless! God could never accept a man like me!”

    “None of us are worthy to be accepted by God,” I exclaimed, “we’re all broken and distorted, but this is precisely why Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we could be accepted. God does think your valuable; he loves you Emperor.”

    The Emperor buried his head in his hands, weeping in agony he whimpered, “I’ve been running from God for so long . . . h-how could I turn to him now?”

    I wrapped my arms around the Emperor and gently whispered into his ear, “Repent, turn away from these things that are destroying you. Believe in Jesus with all your heart. It’s never too late Emperor . . . never.”

    *****************************************

    (Josh, remember that this was someone who had recently taken a near fatal dose of phenabarbitol— and was mostly incoherent— do you think that at that moment he had the mental capacity to grasp anything I could have said beyond gentle human touch? I feel that your understanding and interpretation of my story lacks nuance, and theological sophistication, tact and compassion. Notice how Jesus interacted with vulnerable people and how he reserved the majority of his venom for judgmental religious people who argued about words instead of becoming agents of the kingdom. )

  4. Having read Joshua’s comments and observations and Mark’s response a few things are obvious.

    One, Mark seems upset that he (Mark) failed to communicate clearly and thouroughly both in his presentation and in his discussion with Joshua. You clearly had an agenda with your story and that agenda skewed what you said. If you do not provide the whole story you can not be upset if others fail to understand.

    *********************
    (quote from mark’s response)

    You are a young man, with limited but important life experiences and education– and I sense that you are in the process of clarifying what you believe and where you fit in the scheme of society and Christian tradition.

    ********************

    Two, this type of implied attack on someone’s viewpoint and opinions is truly pathetic. This is simply a way to discredit someone based upon their age. It sounds warm and fuzzy to say “limited but important life experiences and education” but it is demeaning. Some of the most important minds in human history have been young and quite frankly all of us have “limited life experiences.”

    Deal with the the issues not the age of a man. All of your intellectual posturing is kind of lame as well. When push comes to shove the heart of Mark’s response is mostly built on I am older more educated and better able to think clearly on these complicated issues. This might be of some value if Joshua were coming up with unfounded nonsense however what he was advocating was clearly Biblical, including the Gospels.

    Just so you will all know, I am a old, educated, highly experienced pastor who has worked with street people in New York City, Dallas, and Fort Worth. I have worked as a prison chaplain, a pastor for 27 years, and counselor. I also like comic books, puppies, and cool movies

    *****************
    (Mark’s response)

    (Josh, remember that this was someone who had recently taken a near fatal dose of phenabarbitol— and was mostly incoherent— do you think that at that moment he had the mental capacity to grasp anything I could have said beyond gentle human touch?

    ***********

    Yes, Mark, those who are on drugs, who have great struggles with mental health, depression, thoughts of suicide can understand the concepts of sin, repentance, love, hope, and salvation. Apparently your limited life experience has kept you from seeing the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the real world with really hurting people.

    I guess I am just older, wiser, and more educated, and much more experience than Mark and thus I am best able to interpret life. Or maybe the Love of God is more powerful than the greatest of sin, depravity, and mental sickness. It pierces the darkness and sets us free.

  5. I know you don’t know me, Mr. Scandrette, but I can vouch for Josh’s sincerity when he asks questions. He’s not the paparazzi and he’s hardly a person to have secret agendas. He’s actually a really sweet guy and if you ever meet him in person, I’m sure it would be evident that he is really curious and not interested in creating scandals or propaganda. Also, while Josh is not exactly reformed, I must be honest and admit that he hangs around with people who put big wooden doors on their church’s just to post a 95 thesis to them (it’s a joke but the point of it is true… Joel).

    There is really no reason for you to believe me, but I am being honest.

  6. Joshua,

    What’s this book do with the Emergent Church? Have you read Carson’s critique? How about the book by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (which I think is the most balanced critique)? Since you are one of us now (I knew I’d get you to join the dark side, John Calvin meet Josh Brown), you can read Carson, Piper, Grudem, and the gang and actually enjoy it!

    SDG,

    Andy

  7. Andy! Good to hear from you man. I hate to break up your party, but I’m still NOT reformed! hehe I’m a Jedi lik my father before me, I’ll never join the dark side!

  8. OK, let me introduce myself (www.tomhypes.com)….ok, so if you care, there you go.

    I’m not even sure where to go from here. What to say first……

    I have read both of the posts on this site concerning Mark Scandrette and I am very impressed with Josh’s writtings.

    I have done some writings myself on Emergent and my experiences with them. While I have not written about Mark, I did have the oppurtunity to meet him at the Emerget Summer Institute a few summer’s back and sit in on a couple of his sessions he led. I liked him and think he is a very nice man. He has a strong heart for contenment to provide the means to help people in need which I find respectful.

    I do however find the dialouge above bizzare. Though I am not a fan of Emergent overall, one of the things I thought we could learn from them is how to have open dialouge and learn more from one another. At least that was my first impression……that is starting to change.

    The whole you are too young, too inexperinced, off in your theological understanding, misrepresenting me, you had an agenda when you started talking to me, this was private why did you take it public…..stance is surprising to me (especially when Mark dives in deeper into the conversation about personal struggles Josh has shared with him?) This is a bad show on Mark’s part in my call. (I’m allowed…..I’m 40, ordained, and read my Bible).

    I believe it shows just how well Josh has written concerning these matters no matter what your age. I look forward to reading your book someday (until then I suggest “Why We’re Not Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be”.)

    Not too long ago, while starting a series of blogs about my concerns within Emergent per my visit at the Summer Institute. Doug Pagitt stopped by with a comment like “I look forward to reading your posts”. I thought great! This will be a great dialouge between us for further understanding for both and others who stop by. However, after many weeks, nothing. After reading a few other blogs by other people, I have found simular yet differently worded statments by Doug in their comments. It almost feels more like “I’m watching you” type threat to intimidate than an invite to convo.

    At least Mark gave more than that here but at the same point seems to be a hodgepodge of reasons to discount Josh than the conversation at hand.

    That said, one other thing stands out to me. Yes, I agree with others who have been by here that some take the gospel message and turn it into a “Get Out of Hell Free Card”. I also believe others who have made the gospel a message to “Let’s do good deeds and don’t worry about the rest because there is no hell anyways” Both can be equaly scary…..

    However, while the command to take care of others and show love is clear, so is the Great Commission. We can do all the good deeds and show love in ways no one else can but if we are need leading them to the cross…then point missed.

  9. Hey Tom,

    Thanks for introducing yourself and sharing your website; I appreciate all of the kind things you said about me. It appears as though you’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with the issues at hand and seek to find a balanced position. I respect you for this.

    Although I hadn’t expected Mark to respond the way he did, I wasn’t totally surprised. Any worldview which makes inclusiveness and toleration its chief virtue is destined to violate its own rule. The Emergent Church doesn’t mind having conversations with people who already agree with them. However, they appear to have little interest in engaging in serious dialog with those who challenge their beliefs. While this is sad, it is not surprising. Those who claim to be interested in or tolerant of all viewpoints are extremely volatile towards those who claim that all viewpoints are not equally valid. If you dare to make a claim to truth, if you dare to say that someone else’s beliefs are false, you will be despised by such a person. Suddenly, all friendly pretenses break down, and those who expound such a worldview are exposed for what they really are (and it’s not warm and fuzzy).

    Thanks for recommending the book, Why We’re Not Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be. I haven’t read it myself, but I’ve heard good things about it.

    Thanks again for your comment. Take care!

  10. As I stated before, I have been seeing that more and more myself. There is a part of me that wonders if I was on the Emergent side if I wouldn’t become more and more this way myself being rejected and negativily addressed by conservative Christians over the years. But at the same time, could I use that as an excuse when I am part of a movement created to attack the status quo of those same Christians. You invite a debate and then get defensive when the debate lasts more than three rounds; calling the other person close minded and unwilling to move when they are doing exactly that.

    However, as I say that, I would hope Mark does come back and dialouge. I would be interested to understand his perspective more without using words and tactics that shut down the conversation. Instead to enter a “conversation” for better understanding.

    Josh, I look forward to reading your blog more over the coming days and to see what comes of your studies for your book. If I can be of any assistance, let me know.

  11. Thanks Tom. As I’m awaiting the birth of my second child and school is about to start, my posting is likely to be sporadic. Hopefully, I’ll have new stuff up soon. The book project is a collaboration with several other Southwestern students; most of the writing should be done this Fall. Thanks for your encouragement and for taking the time to read my blog. God bless!

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