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Spray paint preachers scrawl it on overpasses. Faith-filled farmers erect makeshift billboards advertising it. Hippies sang it. Homeless guys add it to their cardboard pleas. Atheists hope it isn’t true.

Jesus saves.

What does that mean – really?

I never asked this question until I moved to Nashville. At the time, back in 1997, a survey claimed there to be over 2500 protestant churches in the music city. In the nine years since then I’ve been asked by four pastors to help them start NEW churches. This might be the one place in America wit more churches than Starbucks, Walgreens and Walmarts combined.

Every waiter, plumber and produce stocker goes to church – probably my church. I get “witnessed” to by Seventh Day Adventists in the airport. I read tracts left on urinals at Chili’s. I stare amazed at the reductionist theology screen-printed on t-shirts at the local LifeWay store – and more amazed at the number of people wearing them around here. I can listen to at least five Christian radio stations here if I want to, visit the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, tour at least three denominational headquarters, attend a bible study or church service in any neighborhood and on any night of the week and I could go months without having to interact at all with someone who does not share my belief that Jesus saves.

It’s a holy ghetto.

And here in the ghetto, surrounded by so many like-faithed folks, I get the privilege and horror of hearing my own beliefs spoken back to me many times a day. Sometimes hearing my own thoughts on God articulated by others here makes me question those beliefs. When I first heard “Jesus Saves” spoken in the ghetto, for instance, I was surprised at how incomplete it struck me as being - how meaningless it was.

Something similar happened with the words "you know" and ""like" years ago. In college I made liberal use of those little words. You know, I was like always saying like you know and like...you know? Never thought twice about it. But one day I backed into teaching a group of high school students and was suddenly surrounded by a cacophony of "like, you know"s. Hearing THEM talk like ME, you know, changed the way I talked - made me realize how short those words fell of communicating anything meaningful.

That's what happened with “Jesus saves.” It’s everywhere - if not the exact words, then the sentiment. The usefulness of such short worded theology is assumed. The meaning is thought to be obvious and the application believed to be graspable by all. But do those two words and all the other bumper-sticker sized faith bites I’ve spouted my whole life really say what I’d like to? More importantly do they say what God came to? Are they really as meaningful, useful and life-altering as we think?

For the next couple days – maybe more – I’m hoping to make time to write about these two words. I’m writing from God’s ghetto where these words are as conspicuous as wallpaper. And all of us, in Nashville or not, are experiencing Easter – again, for the umpteenth year – and possibly under whelmed by it all. I’m hoping expanding “Jesus Saves” to a few hundred words here at SHLOG.COM will make these words more meaningful and the season come alive for us somehow.

If not, free peeps for everyone.


Blogger Amy said...

Looking forward to it.

Blogger BethelTraumaRN said...

free peeps!? YAY! haha jk.

I'm excited, too.

Luv ya!
PS, what do you think about the whole changing "Easter" to "Ressurection Sunday"? It was on FOX news last nite & I instantly thought "I wonder what Shaun would say..." LOL

Blogger Jessie said...

Great thoughts. It is interesting to see how "Jesus Saves" just flies out of people's mouths nonchalantly anymore. Some people understand what it means to be saved by Jesus, while others just go about life thinking that when they die Jesus will save them despite their sins because "Jesus Saves". It's sad that people think this. What's even more sad is that Christ will tell them "Depart from me you that work iniquity. I never knew you."

I don't mean to just barge in on your journal, but I saw it advertised in the CCM magazine. I saw you at the Midland County Fair back in 2004, and I have your first two albums. I love your music, so I had to check it out... :)

Blogger Kathryn said...

wow. . the holy ghetto doesn't exist in Canada. . we're so close to you in the U.S. but we are very different. Sure there are Christians . . but there are many more who aren't. I know plenty of people -- neighbours, co-workers, extended family members, who don't know Jesus, who don't attend church, who just have no inkling of what "Jesus Saves" means. I think though that people have a longing for 'spirituality'. We have our work cut out for us here.

Anonymous Randy Webb said...

I feel the same way. Thanks for you know... like sharing what you had on your heart... sorry had to humor my ill sense of humor

what color peeps?

Blogger BethelTraumaRN said...

I want pink peeps, Shaun. Pink and yellow, maybe :)

I definitley have heard the phrase "Jesus Saves" my whole life, paticularly from that hymn "Jesus Saves".

I think it has a universal meaning, but also a personal meaning to people, cos while we all have committed the same sins (like lying, cheating, etc), we've all been saved from sort of 'unique' sins as well, and so "Jesus Saves" to one person could remind them of how they were saved from like say alcohol, but to another it could remind them of how Christ saved them from pornography addiction.
I dunno, just my thoughts.
Looking forward to what you have to say.
PS, what about chocolate bunnies for everyone? *grin*

Blogger GrovesFan said...

Growing up in a Christian home, with our family and activities centered around church and such, I grew up with "Jesus Saves" too. I am guilty of taking my salvation for granted so many times because of being surrounded by Christians and leading a very sheltered and niave life so-to-speak.

During our Good Friday service this evening, I really just focused on the cross, focused on my worship and my complete adoration of Christ. As the pastor told the very familiar story of the crucifixion of Christ, he began to cry. It affects him like this every time he tells it. Tonight, for the first time in a while (longer than I'd like to admit), it didn't make me cry, but it made my heart leap inside. Just focusing on the cross tonight and the Truth of what Christ did for me and the glory that it brought to God, was incredibly awesome and something that I can't really put into words. I want desperately to be bolder in my faith and broken completely before God, not because of anything He can do for me, but simply because He's God. For no other reason than just to be in His presence and to glorify Him. Yes, Jesus saves. It's that simple, but yet so complex.


Blogger The Cachinnator said...

I'm afraid you're attacking one of the primary favorite mantras of Christianese. "Jesus Saves" has as much meaning and power in today's society as telling someone that they need a "personal relationship with Jesus." Both banalities are all but useless. The more we use this insider language, which only has meaning insofar as we Christians have agreed that it means something, the more we make outsiders of those who don't already get it. Christianese is as stupid and useless as bumper stickers. If you can boil your religious or political thought down to a bumper sticker - you've got some serious depth problems. "Jesus Saves" is a religious bumper sticker that is little more than a self-soothing platitude we throw around because it gives us some sort of feeling of security in our own salvation. I should hope we would use not only more words, but better ones.

Blogger supersimbo said...

i have some friends who just returned from metro ministries in new york and as i leafed over their photos i was like...................."who whats with the graffitti"
so mike explained about the spray painting preachers and we then discussed the whole "Jesus saves" slogan and a lot of the things you mention here.........
Eugene peterson puts it brilliantly in his "eat this book".........he talks about how we put theology and doctrinal stuff into a suitcase, then label it.....as, say Evangelical and then proceed to batter people with our term evangelical insrtead of opening up the case from time to time and explaining what we mean!!

.we aquire these terms and cliches that mean a huge amount............"Jesus saves" .........2 words that say more than 2 words?

Blogger Seth Ward said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"half-way decent people and the trinkets of god" -


Anonymous c long said...

Just got back from church not too long ago and what a "kick butt" service! The pastor didn't have the meat of the service. 12 people were baptised and before they were dunked, their stories were shown on the screen. 12 imperfect people told of the difference that a perfect God has made in their lives. None of them said the words, "Jesus saves", but we all saw how He does! What a great God we serve!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friday afternoon I was outside at Starbucks and everyone outside was either talking about Jesus or doing a Beth Moore study and I thought to myself, "this is not normal!" I've been in Franklin for 6 years now and I've grown accustomed to the lifestyle here. Its about time we step out of our cultural bubble!

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Not sure stepping outside it is possible or beneficial. Depends on what "outside" means to you. Expanding it perhaps? Looking beyond it? Realizing there are those outside it? What does it mean to step outside of it?


Anonymous emma said...

"under whelmed by it all" That describes exactly what i'm feeling. It's easter. I know all the stories. I believe them. I've been to church today (easter sunday). And yet I walk away feeling so... underwhelmed. Thats the only word. Wondering why I'd dont feel anything, something? Why dont I even think of what easter means today? Why doesnt church make me think of Jesus? Yes, underwhelmed is me today.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Emma, I don't know what it is in you, with you, that makes you feel underwhelmed, but for me I think it has something to do with forgetting the need for and scope and purpose of salvation. Why did Jesus die? What was it we're saved from exactly? What did Jesus save? Who? Why? What were we saved FOR? If my view of Jesus' death and resurrection narrows to focus only on what He did for me and because of me then I begin to get underwhelmed. When I keep the answers to these other questions - the scope - in front of me I'm less prone to get bored and uninspired by the story. In fact remembering the scope of salvation inspires me and moves me.

But remembering the scope is difficult for me, in part because most sermonizing these days on the subject of salvation reduces it to a tiny tale that's all about me. I become the world in John 3:16. Salvation becomes small and tired.

But it can be so much more.

That's what I'm hoping to remind us of in this series of posts on the saving part of our faith.


Anonymous c long said...

Dear shlog lovers,

I would just like to take a moment to encourage you. If Emma was bold enough to post her struggle with being "underwhelmed" with her Easter. I'd bet she's not the only one who found herself so. I've found myself there in the recent past and I'm grateful to be back in the realm of the overwhelmed.

Scripture reveals that many will grow cold (Mt 24:12) and that the Day will not come until a turning away by those who believe comes first (II Thess 2:3 read the AMP too). Cling to what you know is true. Every day expect God to do big things around you and don't get caught up in our human definition of BIG. Some of God's biggest things come through in the littlest of ways. He always comes through for those who crave Him (Heb 11:6).

Jesus used words we could understand like hunger and thirst for good reason. He knows our tendancy to become relaxed and satisfied. Fight that. Hunger for Him. Thirst for more. He'll take your state of "underwhemed" and overwhelm you like only He can.



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