Preach the gospel… get in trouble alreadyAugust 30, 2007
When I had Charismatic leanings, I believed that if people saw how perpetually happy, optimistic, and enthusiastic for the spectacular I was as a Christian, then all this could sufficiently serve as my gospel preaching substitute. In other words, I will just “live” the gospel in this most powerful way, and not necessarily talk about it too much.
Now that I consider my self to be more Reformed (a 5 point Calvinist), I have the tendency to falsely believe that it is my “freedoms in Christ” (being OK with degrees of smoking, drinking, tattoos, and minimal cussing) which will enable me to reach out to more unbelievers more effectively. They will notice that I am not the “boring” and “un-relatable” type of Christian. Yet, this notion could possibly become my preaching substitute.
No matter what Christian background you come from, there are always challenges with preaching the gospel, and sharing your faith. As Johnny Cash says, we must all “walk the line”. As Christians, we must watch our lives and our doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16). We must be able to do what Jesus did, engage sinners while not engaging sin. We must compromise on man-made traditions but not compromise on the truth.
There will always be much teeter-tottering between legalism and anti-nomianism for a Christian, but at the end of the day we must remember that there is a gospel, a message from God, which will save souls effectively. This message happens to both the most pessimistic and optimistic message in the Universe. It must be presented as both, otherwise it wont be the real gospel which saves effectively.
But before we can even do this, we have to know this gospel’s doctrine. We have to labor over the ability to understand and articulate things such as law, God’s holiness, our sin, justification, God’s glory, etc. Doctrine is what clarifies the truths of Scripture. We must study and learn doctrine in order to be equipped to do God’s work. It is what makes the gospel intelligible and not vague. It gives it substance. It allows us to know what we believe about it and why.
The gospel must be taught first and foremost to believers. This may sound backwards, but it is very pertinent that the North American church understands this (as it now emphasizes therapy, self-help, and God’s “love”. But what does the real gospel mostly begin with? What does it end with? What are the needed points in the middle?
Here’s a personal example: I was talking to a friend who is an unbeliever the other day. She simply asked me what the difference between Catholicism and Christianity (Protestantism) was. I could have listed off many differences like the Eucharist, the Immaculate Conception, the Bodily Assumption, etc. But what did I do? I used this as a perfect opportunity to share the real gospel. I said “there are really 2 major differences between us. These differences are the heart of the gospel. The first is that Catholics believe we are accepted by God because of us. We believe we are accepted by God because of God. Secondly, the reason there are these different opinions as to how we are accepted by God is because Catholics consult 2 opinions, namely, Scripture and tradition. We consult one opinion, namely, Scripture.” She had never heard the idea of being accepted by God because of God alone. She seemed to really like that concept. It put a smile on her face.
Strive to know the real gospel and then strive to share it in easy opportunities like the one above! There’s more open invitations to share this message than you think. You just have to be listening carefully and look for opportunities.
Now when it comes to evangelizing the gospel, “missional” churches are all over the map and stumped on this one. A “missional” church must ask the question “how are we to be the most effective with the gospel in our current culture and demographic?” Every church has a different answer because every church is trying to address certain cultures, mindsets, and society’s from a certain angle.
This is all fine of course and absolutely needed. However, what we all need to keep in mind is that we’ve still got to preach the one true gospel over and above our methods and throughout our methods. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that. But what is the one true gospel? How well do we know it? How well can we articulate it and its most important points?
Our efforts to be mission will never be successful until the doctrine, the substance, and the clear Biblical points of the gospel are well understood by the Church.
Moving on, know that you will not be liked by a lot of people if you truly are preaching the gospel. You will be called a fundamentalist, a Bible-thumper, a freak, a bigot, intolerant, judgmental, homophobic, etc. And this is all because of this one simple message which God has commanded you to share with sinners. Do you dread the possibility of being called these things and not liked by people? If so, you may not really be fit for the mission God has called you to. No servant is above their master (Mat 10:24), and if Jesus was hated for the truths He spoke, then we better come to terms with being hated.
Granted, we don’t have to go out of our way to offend people. This already comes in tact with the message. But honestly, most of the time when I tell people about rough truths, such as sin, death, and Hell, they are hardly upset with me. This proves to me not everyone will freak out if you share things like sin, God’s wrath, and judgment. But someone eventually will hate you for the message and we must count that cost.
But how many “missional” churches are willing to preach the offensive, controversial, and unsafe message of Jesus Christ? How many churches today make it their goal to not waver on this message? How many Pastors and teachers strive to make sure that those listening will hear the gospel so precisely to where there is no wiggle room around its clear points?
Meaning, there will be no uncertainty about how holy God is, how sinful we are, how we are required to be perfect, how we need to be saved from God’s own wrath ultimately, what the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is, and after fully understanding all this, how one will know that they are loved by God instead of enemies of His.
How many churches belabor these points? The answer is not very many. People are allowed to go to church and never hear these most important things. Then, when they do hear these points from someone else, they will either love such truths or shun them. But either result is what is needed now.
Nothing can really substitute the gospel. In other words, nothing can accomplish what only the gospel is meant to accomplish, namely, the salvation of the marred human soul which is hostile to God and needs to be made new. No matter how charismatic, pentecostal, enthusiastic, optimistic, polite, positive, easy going, tolerate, accepting, and over-looking of sin you are, you need to still know the gospel and get it out there.
Lastly, this gospel must not only be carefully articulated, but also carefully backed with a holy life to be effective! It must not just come forth to the ears of hearers, while it certainly must, but it must come forth from one’s who have been transformed by its graces, not merely saved by them. This will ensure that those who become saved by its graces will likewise be transformed by its graces from the outset.