euangelion :: how should we communicate the gospel?


In my last post we asked the question, “What is the Gospel?” Although there was a bit of variation in our different opinions, it is obvious that we each have strongly held opinions that the gospel is something more than we often see it currently expressed in our churches. Joe Kennedy made a great point when he repeated Scot McKnight’s words that “The gospel we preach produces the churches that we get.” In fact, I might slightly restate that to say “The gospel we preach produces the ‘Christians’ that we get.” In other words, whether or not our churches are full of actual believers or not is strongly tied to our need to preach an authentic gospel. 

So having attempted to answer the previous question as to the substance of the gospel, I’d like to propose a new question. How does our definition of the gospel condition our delivery of the gospel? Maybe even more specifically I would like to ask, what in our modern delivery and communication of the gospel needs to be remedied? How do we need to teach others to communicate the gospel?

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

7 thoughts on “euangelion :: how should we communicate the gospel?

  1. Micah –

    When I’ve discussed questions like this before, I’ve found that the arguments tend to champion either an attractional or incarnational methodology, i.e. proclamation with our words vs. showing with our lives. I don’t know if this comment will spark or avoid that argument here, but for what its worth….

    Both are needed to communicate the gospel effectively.

    If we simply try to live good lives before the lost then they may respect us, but without an active proclamation they will never respect Christ.
    If we just shout the gospel at people but never live it; we bring shame on the gospel through our lives.

    However, when these two approaches are dovetailed together we see a beautifully complete presentation of the gospel, where our lives stand as a testament to the truths we proclaim.

    JD

  2. John- I couldn’t agree more! Somehow we have to marry the two, and not be afraid of communicating that.

    Having said that, I guess I’m more curious in our communication of what the gospel actually is? How do we go about accomplishing that?

    For my part, I’m convinced that we need to stop emphasizing the “prayer of salvation” as the sign of salvation. In other words, this business of saying to someone “just pray this prayer and then you can KNOW that you have eternal life and nothing can take that from you…” has got to go. The New Testament is absolutely convincing that the only evidence of authentic faith is a changed life.

  3. Micah –

    I understand your question, but I think that the answer might be more involved than a blog comment allows – but I’ll give it my best shot.

    I think the big question is what is the minimum cognitive knowledge that a person must have to find salvation? For younger guys in and just out of seminary (I’m 30/3 years out of seminary), I think we often make the mistake of thinking that we have to include every jot, tittle, and theological oddity in our gospel presentation to make a confession valid. When I was at SBTS, there was a group of students that wrote a track that I referred to as the “Systematic Theology Track.” It was very thorough, very sound, but was way too long and about required a theology degree to understand. I think this attitude is a backlash to the types of evangelism that we’ve grown up with & the once prayed always saved attitude of others.
    I understand where it’s coming from, but I don’t know if it’s always helpful.

    I think that Dr. Finn’s 3-point explanation of the gospel was on the money, so I’ll use that framework here. I think that his third point is really the main point we need to communicate in our evangelism. That our response to God’s grace is believing in Christ (a mind change) and repenting (a life change).
    While Dr. Finn is right that all three points constitute the gospel, points 1 and 2 are more discipleship issues than evangelism issues. To be honest, I’ve been a Christian for 25 years, and I’m still sorting those two issues out.

    That said, I don’t really think that there is a one right way to communicate the gospel. Like I said, I’ve been a Christian 25 years, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever evangelized the same way twice.
    When I was in college, I used an Acts 17 strategy, reasoning with the lost through apologetics.
    As a pastor and father I find myself taking a Deuteronomy 6 approach, living among them and using every opportunity to teach the gospel.
    My church still knocks on doors, and when we do we use a confrontational Acts 2 approach, using a modified version of the Way of the Master.
    I have several hobbies that brings me into contact with a lot of people who are anti-Christian. So I have to take a Matthew 5 approach, living out my faith so that in due time I will hopefully earn the right to be heard.

    So the best way I could answer your question is: the best way to share the gospel is to thoroughly understand the gospel and apply that understanding to the situation you find yourself in.

    I don’t know if I’ve answered your question or just spun my wheels. I’ve tried to be both concise and thorough at the same time, which never seems to work.

    JD

  4. Micah, I believe that the gospel should be at the heart of every sermon. (God’s Standard –> our failure –> God’s Redemption –> our sanctification).

    What troubles me about many believers is the way most of them/us miss seeing it. The element that seems to be missing most of the time is an awareness of the Work of the Holy Spirit.

    I believe my people hear very clear presentations of the gospel (more than just “getting saved”) that calls for transformation. However, I’m not sure they always realize that it was for them.

    Therefore I am challenging your quote on one point: we can preach it, but the Spirit of God has to be the one to drive it home.

    My 2, Jay

  5. Jay-

    I absolutely agree concerning the Holy Spirit. I continue to maintain, however, that I consistently hear poor examples of the salvation message from our pulpits.

    Having said that, though, doesn’t negate the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to accomplish His work!

  6. Micah, for me, having a Theology of the Cross seems to help keep my preaching in focus. Unfortunately, I assume that the mistake most often made from the pulpit is a theology of man overcoming adversity. This can express itself as self-help (ie. 3 steps to a better you), social gospel, or some kind of positive thinking sermon. But having a theology of the Cross as the center of the message puts everything in perspective whether your preaching from Proverbs, Ruth, Leviticus or Jude. Christ redeems what has been lost, broken, tainted, and twisted. Fortunately, I don’t hear much preaching that misses the centrality of the Cross! Thanks for the open discussion.

  7. Be forewarned, I’m only a lowly layperson, raised Southern Baptist. I might be out of line participating in this discussion at all. But I’ve seen the heartbreaking results of an incomplete gospel among so many friends and family members. When we only emphasize the emotional aspects of Jesus’ good news, reducing it to a matter of having, as the video put it, an “affection” for Christ, we risk leaving so many people out completely, especially those who passionately seek a more objective truth. We leave others with too little to hold them to the walk with Christ they began when they “invited Jesus into their hearts” via our “sinner’s prayer”, even though they may have been quite sincere at the time. So, maybe my uneducated point of view can contribute something useful.

    One of the things I notice the most about the Gospel is how Jesus emphasized the Kingdom of God. This might have been a less sticky issue in the early church, considering that hierarchical government was all they knew. But in American culture, we tend to be shy about presenting any kind of “kingdom” structure as a good thing. Our country itself was formed as a rejection of that type of structure.

    Southern Baptists are quintessentially American, along with several other evangelistic denominations operating today. These denominations were born in this land of democracy, and most enthusiastically support democratic principles. That’s reflected in our church structures (sometimes whether it is biblically sound or not).

    So, how can we improve our delivery of a complete gospel, in a culture suspicious of kingdom structure? Maybe we need to display for all our world to see just what the holy, beautiful Kingdom of God really looks like, even if it means restructuring, or giving up some cherished traditions. Maybe if people can see for themselves what the Body of Christ really looks like when it’s healthy and fully functional, the Kingdom, which that Body faithfully serves, will draw people, rather than being so threatening.

    Don’t just talk to us. We can only be true witnesses to what we really experience, and we get experience by doing. Take the Gospel out of the Sunday morning sermon box, and offer it in all its multifaceted reality. Keep teaching us sound doctrine, but also help us find ways to live it out, every day, where we are. Help up learn to back one another up in service, both inside and outside the church building’s walls. The communication you speak of will then happen more naturally, I think.

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