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This past week, I returned home from doing a week of ministry on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. I know what you’re thinking – ministry in the Bahamas? Well, someone had to take the way of the cross and go do ministry there. Some of the people I worked with called the week a boondoggle.

Let’s just say it was one of the best five-day stretches of my life … especially because my wife Kim was also needed for ministry there, along with our good friends Aaron and Megan Keyes. It was the kind of ministry trip I hope I get to do many more times in the future.

We had lots of incredible experiences on the island. We went not just snorkeling but scuba diving on some amazing reefs. We saw sharks. We ate some unbelievable seafood and met some amazing people.

But one experience has been lingering in my mind ever since I left. It was an experience that wasn’t on the itinerary—one that just kind of happened and has since lodged its way deep into my subconscious. It happened as we were sitting in a sports bar (of sorts) just down the road from where we were staying. Television sets mounted on different sections of the wall periodically showed these things I barely remember the name of in our DVR/On Demand day and age—things called commercials.

The interesting thing about these particular commercials was that many of them were commercials for things that people on the island could not experience on the island. One commercial that specifically stands out was for steak and lobster at Ruby Tuesday. Now, ignore the fact that I’ve actually been to Ruby Tuesday and know the difference between that commercial and real life. Forget the fact that lobster on the island is actually better and fresher than at Ruby Tuesday.

Ruby Tuesday steak and lobster tail, via yelp.com

Just think about it for a second … Here was a commercial for something that people on the island had no way to experience because Abaco Island doesn’t have a Ruby Tuesday. For people who live on Abaco Island, the only hope of actually tasting what was advertised so succulently on television was to fly off to some faraway place where Ruby Tuesday actually does exist. For now, all they could do is imagine what life in the commercial might actually be like. But they couldn’t actually taste it.

If you think about it long enough, you might realize that this is exactly what we have done when we speak and preach and live out a Kingdom-less gospel. Without the Kingdom, the gospel becomes a reality trapped in an alternate existence. It is incapable of having any real ramification in the present because it will only become available when we “fly away” to this alternate existence we call heaven. For now, though, it is more like a set of ideas to agree on and maybe wonder about.

No one really tastes it.

The problem with this kind of gospel idea is that it lies in flat contradiction to the good news Jesus spoke about. For Jesus, the good news was not trapped in some alternate reality; instead, the good news was that this alternate reality is making its way into present reality.

In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus inaugurated his ministry with these words: “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” He then spent the rest of his life being a conduit for the Kingdom of God breaking into the present. Ultimately He gave His very life for this reality to become the reality both here on earth and in heaven … or to use His words “as it is in heaven.”

The world, then, is an open opportunity for heaven to invade earth at any moment, in any situation, and in any way. This is the big problem with being a cessationist, or one that believes some gifts or operations of the Spirit have ceased. A cessationist view attempts to limit what parts of eternity might break into our reality. But the cessationist ends up with a “tasteless gospel.” Under this paradigm, the gospel becomes at best a commercial that advertises a reality that in the end Christians can only sell plane tickets to and promise people will experience later.

This is why I believe a cessationist view of the gospel is so dangerous to discipleship. It is dangerous because when you can’t experience something, you can’t grow in it. (Instead, you hope to escape to it.) No wonder our churches are filled with people who see no need to become disciples. They would rather be converts who live their lives now how they want. Why wouldn’t they, if heaven is a place that one day they may fly off to but not something they can begin to taste now?

This is one of the big reasons why I’m not a cessationist and don’t want to be one. Now I wonder what you think about all this. Leave a comment below and we’ll continue the conversation.

Dave Rhodes is Director of Communities for 3DM, an organization that trains churches and Christian leaders to do discipleship and mission in an increasingly post-Christian world. He is married to Kim and has three children, Emma, Izzie and Frankie.

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David Buffaloe

commented on Jul 27, 2012

Your statement: "No wonder our churches are filled with people who see no need to become disciples. They would rather be converts who live their lives now how they want." How can you be a "convert" and live without the King?

Dr. Dan Meacham

commented on Jul 27, 2012

You spent too much time on the preliminary, and not enough on your main point. Scripture speaks of this in many ways, for example in Hebrews 6:1-3! The people are believers, but are not maturing. One of the main reasons is faulty teaching, by church leaders. Another reason is keeping too much contact with the things of the world, which crowd out the things of God!

Robert Tarasiak

commented on Jul 27, 2012

Today's sermons are nothing like those of over 100 years ago! People sadly want to be entertained rather than told the truth! "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever" which means He is still in control and still performs miracles, signs, and wonders! I applied for an associate pastor position and the Church I applied with believed in cessation and I attached color photos of a tumor in my esophagus with before after color photos of how God healed it after prayer without any surgery! Funny, the reply I received was " They were looking in another direction for their associate pastor position!" God bless America and please help the "church" to become born-again and start fighting the good fight once again to reach the lost!

Scott Hourigan

commented on Jul 27, 2012

if the apostolic gifts (healing, raising people from the dead, causing the blind to see etc...) are still gifts for the contemporary church, why are these gifted men not going to the hospitals on sundays rather than church?????

Jimmie Tempano

commented on Jul 30, 2012

I used to belong to a denomination that taught cessation of some of the gifts that were considered "charismatic" gifts or what Scott has referred to as "apostolic" gifts. Since then, I have been in a place where I could see the gifts in action and experience them. This has deepened my faith tremendously. I know there are charlatans who would fool people into giving them money for their supposed gifts. That does not invalidate the true gifts from the Holy Spirit. I see gifts validly operating. That occurs when the person, through whom God is ministering, gives the glory and honor to Him. This is not for this person's gain or glory. A big part of the problem in the church today is that we deny the power of God in healing, prophecy, word of knowledge, etc. I think this really saddens the Holy Spirit. People want to serve a higher being who has power, who can impact their lives and impact the world. That is very attractive. The dark, evil side has power that they don't hesitate to use and demonstrate but it is not for people's good and it does not honor God. However, that power is very attractive to some people. It is too bad they have not experienced God's power in action. I know the argument of the cessation denomination I used to be part of was those gifts were given for the establishment of the church. As I have pondered that, I think that unbelievers need to see God's power in action today at least as much as they did in the New Testament. In answer to why they don't go to the hospital, the Lord determines when and where He will minister and He will direct the person ministering. I care deeply that unbelievers are drawn to God. I am not going to be argumentative. It hurts me to see the power of God denied and to see a weakened testimony from the church as a result.

Doug Conley

commented on Jul 30, 2012

Jimmie: Basically saying that God takes away the minister's free will is not a valid answer to Scott's question. I think Scott's question deserves a more Scriptural-based reply. I too, am not trying to be confrontational, but just saying "God won't let him" is contrary to what the Bible teaches.

Kobus Storm

commented on Jul 30, 2012

It is so true Dave, experiencing Jesus here and now brings taste to it. Living loved! Jesus actually says: In tasting me you will find eternal life! My translation of John17:3. It is because we portray Him our Lord as a construct a theology to learn and discuss that we can't seem to enjoy Him and live loved.

Jimmie Tempano

commented on Jul 31, 2012

Doug, I've re-read my previous comment several times, searching for "God won't let him". I just can't find it nor do I see that implication. In my personal life and ministry, I usually seek God's direction and guidance but occassionally do not. It always works better when I seek and follow His voice. I believe that is scriptural and would be glad to give you references if you would like.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jul 31, 2012

Doug, I agree with Jimmie. I think you may have misunderstood his comments. I'm not quite sure to what, exactly, you are objecting.

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