Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Gospel Defined

It took awhile, but I finally got the response I was waiting for: someone wants me to define the Gospel in my own words. (Up to this point, I've been using a video link to Mark Driscoll delivering the Gospel in less than five minutes. I listen to Driscoll every week, and I've heard him consistently drop the Gospel into his sermons, often in less than two minutes.)

Here are their requests:

1. What exactly do you mean by "the Gospel"?

2. If the gospel in the narrower sense is your meaning, what good does it do to have that gospel preached to the believers each week in church?

3. You distinguish between content and cultural relevance, but this seems to me to be academic. If we don't communicate in relevant terms (as Jesus did via parables, and Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 9:22), then is that really preaching good news to people, or just empty words (to them, if not to us)?

I couldn't have posed these questions any better myself. These are excellent questions, so let's begin.

In my own words:

My answer to Question #1:

The Gospel is the story of man's fall, (Adam bringing sin into our relationship with God), God's Law - making clear to us what is and isn't sin, God's sacrificial plan for redeeming us from the penalty of having broken that Law (which we all have, countless times, over and over), and Jesus' place as our substitutional sacrifice in that plan of redemption.

In other words, Jesus died as a payment for the penalty of our sins, if we place our trust and belief in Jesus, repent from our sins, and commit our life to living for Him, we become God's children, inheriting all of the blessings that He promises to his obedient children, not the least of which would be eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So, yes, I mean it in the narrower sense: I want to hear, however briefly, about Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection and it's implication on my own life. I realize that there are other aspects and implications included in Jesus' life, but I'd at least like to hear the bare minimum.


My answer to Question #2:

I would hope that a church service isn't "full of believers", because I'd like to think that those same believers would have invited some of their non-believing family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends along with them to the service. Also, Jesus spoke in Matthew 13:24-30 about the presence of non-believers among the believers as a given, something to be expected. Not to mention the fact that many believers simply need to hear the Gospel again and again, because they are just as forgetful as the Israelites of the Old Testament were, forgetting their first love, and why they became a Christ-follower in the first place.


My non-answer to Question #3:

Your third question is a tough one. Which is worse (or better, I suppose): the preacher who preaches in relevant language, but fails to mention the Gospel, or the preacher who nails the Gospel, but fails to do so in a culturally relevant format. First of all, I'd almost like to leave this question up for debate without actually weighing in on it. Second, having only attended each of these churches once, I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt to these preachers that they aren't as one-sided as they may seem at first glance.

Here is another appropriate question that someone recently asked me concerning this matter: Which would be easier? To teach the Gospel-driven preacher how to be culturally relevant; or teach the culturally relevant preacher to be Gospel-driven? I'm assuming that all of these preachers know the Gospel, what I'm questioning is the priority that they've given it or denied it in the place of a church worship service.

To all of you out there lurking, this is your chance to "weigh in", and answer these three questions....

3 comments:

unkle e said...

Lew,

Interesting replies, here's some brief responses.

1. I wouldn't disagree with any of that, and not long ago it would probably have been my answer too. But now I think it isn't enough. My thinking is this ....

(a) It is very individualistic - my salvation - whereas Jesus taught about a kingdom and a community.

(b) It isn't really what Jesus taught. The "good news" he taught was different to that - look at how he treated Nicodemus, the woman at the well, Zaccheus, two women who had lived sexually immoral lives, the rich young ruler, etc, and he didn't tell any of them what you have said.

(c) Of course Paul does say things much closer to your summary, but even then, it is in his theological summaries in his letters - he uses different language and themes when he preached publically.

I don't know how we deal with these differences, except perhaps to see that in the NT, the message changed with the circumstances, but I think we have to at least include Jesus' less doctrinal approach.

So like I say, I don't think what you say is wrong, only that it is incomplete.

2. Inviting a non-believer to church is probably not a very useful strategy here in Australia, but it may be helpful in the US. But if (as I believe research shows) more and more people are becoming alienated from corporate christianity, then we need new strategies.

3. Yep, I dunno either what I think. But I am firmly of the opinion that speaking is not the same as communicating, and it is communicating that we want to do.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion.

revolution said...

Jesus was speaking to a Jewish culture that understood the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant, whereas, Paul did not always have that luxury, as we do not.

revolutionareze said...

I think that I will weigh in on the second and third question and response. I will only do this because I think the first question was answered in a very well defined way.

As for the Australian strategy on invites to church, I have to question the mainstay of the Christian philosophy that is placed in churches there. Though you have a problem with the corporateness of the church system so do we in very much the same way that it is all over the world. We all need to fight back against this corporate feel that the church is taking and move to the past where church is about community. If you can invite your friends over to your house for a party then you can invite your friends to church or so you would think.

As for the third question, I truly think that both situations should be able to be achieved as long as a pastors mindset is in the right place. Once the pastor can move to the fact that it is about reaching the people, not just the congregation then he will learn that he not only needs a cultural relevance but he also needs to have a firm grip on the gospel and then by putting them together then he will be most effective to reach all people. There in not matter at what time he is delivering the gospel, in or out of church, he will be communicating with the people therefore fulfilling his goal as a minister of God.

I do think that I have one question and that is can our ministers break out of the cycle that they are in and move towards a goal to reach all people for the development of the kingdom by stepping outside of the walls of the church and placing themselves in the heart of the community in which they live?

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