As I continue to muse upon the crisis of today’s church in sharing the good news, I wanted to take another look at the Gospel. Here is my first item on my list of topics related to this crisis:
An incomplete Gospel that leaves us uninspired and unchanged, thereby leaving us unmotivated to share it with others.
Sharing the Gospel, or good news of the reign of God, means that Jesus has come into a person’s life and brought true freedom through a relationship with the triune God. This will bring about changes that stand as a powerful witness to the Gospel. Of course words are needed at times, but it’s the Lordship of Christ that concerns me now. If do not have a complete Gospel, as I asserted here, then there are massive implications for how we live and consequently how we share what exactly is happening in us, if anything at all. I think that the inability of many to share the Gospel stems from a faulty undestanding of it and some disconnects in their relationship with Jesus rather than a lack of evangelistic training:
When we only have half of the Gospel message and are not under the direct influence of the Lordship of Jesus, then we have a problem. First of all, the good news is really not all that good since a heaven-centered Gospel does not bring redemption to the here and now. Just wait until heaven, is a hard message to preach and share repeatedly, let alone live under. In addition, if we are waiting for heaven to live under the rule of God, then our lives will not reflect the power of God. And if God is not coming out of us, we often decide that he needs to be wrung out of us.
That is what I think is happening to many Christians today. I know this has been the case for far too long in my own life. Telling people that Jesus died for their sins so they can go to heaven was very hard for me. I didnt know what happens next. Demanding obedience and life-change in the here and now after they prayed the prayer seemed like a bait and switch. In addition, I had been struggling to live in an obedient relationship with God. I was not even sure how my own relationship with God worked, how could I expect to help any one else? And hence there are stories I can tell about auto mechanics, bar tenders, and other acquaintances who received bungled, half-hearted Gospel presentations that were partially canned, partially winged, and mostly unintelligible.
The defining moment came in the dentist chair. I had just spent a few wonderful hours in Bible study, meditation, and prayer. God was in me. He had just done some wonderful work in my heart and I was showing it. While the hygienist worked on my mouth, I could not help but share with her about my love for God. I was witty, patient, and joyful. It was probably the first time I had clearly shared the Gospel with anyoneand with the suction tube in my mouth, my words sometimes came out a bit slurred.
What was different about this time? Quite simply, I was an uncovered light or tasty salt. I had pressed into God and let him do his work in me. Once God had his way, I was ready to share him with others. The more control God has, the easier it is to know when to share and what to share. In addition, God works on us to make us different. We hold different values and therefore make different choices. Our lives reflect his light to others. Is it not a powerful testimony to speak well of a colleague when others slander him/her or to humbly wash the dishes at the office or to bring your co-workers coffee?
I could decry the evangelism strategies and proven techniques that pass as good news today, but I would rather hold up the real thing and let it speak for itself. In my opinion, Christians can do no better thing for the Gospel than to live it. This is not easy. Remember, our Gospel must be complete. If you only have a doctrine about believing in the cross so you can go to heaven, then your life will not change. It is only with a complete Gospel that God can truly work in our lives.
A complete Gospel says that Jesus lived a perfect life, died, rose, and will return which makes him the Lord over all. Those who believe in these things and live under the rule of Christ have the life of God.He invades our ordered lives and begins to rearrange the place. And when we live under his Lordship, we then become his ambassadors, friends, and lovers. Like a recently engaged couple, we will find ourselves unable to shut up about our love.
A holy, saving transaction is hard to share. A love that lasts for eternity is something that everyone wants. A doctrine about the cross does not bring new life, but a story about the God of this world who died, rose, and reigns brings the spiritually deadout of their graves and promises eternal life that starts today. We have no need of a seminar to teach us how to talk about a husband or wife, and so should it be with our Lord and love.