Have you ever been in a room full of people from a different profession to the one you work in? Ever been with doctors or engineers who use jargon terms and acronyms to speak to one another? Often times when others are speaking in jargon terms or using industry language the rest of the people in the room feel confused or left out. Unfortunately the same is true for new visitors to a church; the Christians in the room speak “christianese” to one another.
Ministry leaders and theologians can be the worst offenders of using jargon and industry language. Sometime in my preaching and speaking I use words that I think everyone understands but they are words more common to a seminary classroom than everyday life.
The word “Gospel” is one word that we don’t use that much outside of church circles. One minister might say “our church has grown because we preach the gospel” while another minister might say “our church is small because we preach the gospel”. What does this important term in Christianity really mean? At the time the bible was written, the word “gospel” was a term to describe a herald of good news. For example a Roman soldier might bring a gospel of good news from Rome to one of the cities in the empire.
The Christian gospel is the herald of good news about Jesus Christ. The gospel is the good news that Jesus came as one of us to announce the kingdom of God. In many ways to understand the enormous power of the gospel takes a lifetime of reading, listening and discovery. In writing this article I don’t want to imply as though we can reduce the gospel down to a catch phrase or a slogan to use in our church marketing. However when we try to share the gospel with our friends and family, it helps if we have a brief description of the good news that we can share in 1-2 minutes.
Here are five key points of the gospel in a nutshell; or the introduction to the gospel that you can share over coffee or on public transport when time is limited.
- We are loved by God– the writer of the Gospel of John begins his account of the good news with God rather than with us. The Gospel of John reminds us that God loved the world (John 3:16) and God sent his Son to bring this good news into the world. In the past we may have started our gospel presentation with our sinfulness, unfortunately some people heard this but never understood that God loves them. In 2019 we need people to understand that God loves them; the Gospel begins with God not with us.
- We are called into a relationship – in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke we read that Jesus called fishermen to follow him … and they did so immediately. So often people believe that the church is about a set of rules to follow not an invitation into a relationship. In 2019 as we share the gospel with people, we want people to know that God calls them into a personal relationship with him. We must not expect people to know how to behave before they believe.
- We are forgiven and healed– each of the four Gospels gives an account of the crucifixion of Jesus. The cross and resurrection of Jesus is central to the gospel because without the resurrection we don’t have any good news to announce. The resurrection reminds us that we are forgiven and healed by Jesus so that we can be in right relationship with God. When we understand that we are forgiven, we no longer desire to live for ourselves but we turn away from sin and seek to be like Jesus.
- We are empowered by the Holy Spirit– in the book of Acts we read that the disciples knew about the resurrection of Jesus but were stuck in fear until the Holy Spirit empowered them. Jesus calls us into a relationship but doesn’t abandon us, he sent the Holy Spirit to lead us and empower us. Many Christians know that they are forgiven and healed by Grace not works, but they live like it is their effort as a Christian that makes them a better Christian. The power of the Holy Spirit is the only true source of power in our lives.
- We are sent – someone shared the gospel with you in order that you would believe it and then share it with others. In many ways the church has retreated back into a holy huddle rather than being a group of missionaries who go out into the world to share the good news. The gospel should be such good news to us that we share this joy, hope and love with the people we work with and the people we live near. A gospel that stays stuck rather than goes out is not the gospel of Jesus.
In many ways this short overview of the gospel will work as an introduction to new Christians or non Christians. As we go about our lives, look for opportunities to share the good news that God loves us, we are called into relationship with Jesus, through this relationship we are forgiven and healed, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit as we are sent out to share the good news with others.
In many ways I learnt this “gospel in a nutshell” from a friend of mine, Tony Neylan. Tony died several years ago and I am sure he is enjoying his new life with Jesus. In his lifetime Tony shared the gospel with thousands of young adults. Tony was never a Christian celebrity or a world famous ministry leader because he believed in sharing the gospel not building a name for himself. Tony was the most humble Christian leader I have known and his wisdom empowered thousands of others to share their faith. In my ministry today I see so many signs that it is humility and patience that God uses to build his kingdom, something that Tony taught me when I was young, arrogant and often impatient.
You can also read a previous Blog post on the Preaching that sounds like Good News.
Please leave a comment on how you think we can share the gospel with others in 2019.
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