Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
Several years ago I had the privilege of meeting with the editorial staff team of a large ministry to children, known for their evangelism efforts and success. In discussion with the editorial leadership I asked them a question, “What is the Gospel?” The answer was absolutely amazing! It was, “Well, it’s complicated.” “In what way?”, I asked. Their response was to say, “There are several elements to what the Gospel is.” I said, “How many, do you think? Maybe 4 or 5?” “Yes, about 5!”, they said. I asked, “What are they?”
Well, not one of the editorial team could name the 4 or 5 elements of the Gospel. I said, “Well, that’s OK. Let’s just say there are 5. What if a person believes only 3 or 4 of the 5 elements? Will the person get into heaven or not?” They weren’t sure how that might work. When I shared with them that I have come to believe that the Gospel is simply Jesus, they were relieved and a bit pleased.
This exact conversation occurred, when meeting with the President of the organization. He used the exact same terminology. “It’s complicated” and “There are probably 5 elements to the Gospel.” He couldn’t list the 5 elements either.
These people raise millions of dollars every year to articulate the Gospel message to millions of children and are unable to explain it in the simplest of terms. The Gospel is not complicated and doesn’t have a lot of elements to it.
Most frequently, people define the Gospel with the first 3 elements in Paul’s writings in I Corinthians 15-the death, burial and resurrection. The problem is that there are six additional elements in this passage. Does this mean that the Gospel consists of these nine points to be believed? What if you only believe four of the nine? Is that adequate? What if only three or five? You see, this is the problem of defining the Gospel by a list of doctrines or points.
So, when you are asked the question, “What is the Gospel?”, you can understand why there is so much confusion. And, if there is confusion about the definition of the Gospel-the Good News, then we have no clear way to share the Good News. In fact, the Good News becomes blurry in our thinking and therefore in our communication of it. It’s no longer Good News, but Blah-Blah-Blah-I’ve-heard-it-all-before News.
When you attempt to define the Gospel as more than simply Jesus, the real Good News gets lost in the process. Last week there was an article inChristianity Today entitled, “What the ‘Six Types of Atheists’ Mean for Christian Outreach”. This is a terrific analysis of the world of nonbelievers. There is only one glaring problem in this article on outreach. The problem? Jesus is never mentioned in the article at all. If Jesus is missing, then the Gospel is missing! If Jesus is missing, then there is no outreach.