Friday, January 27, 2012

What Is The Gospel, Really?

What is the gospel?

It's a simple question, but with potentially complex answers.

One volunteer guessed that only about a quarter of the students in our ministry could answer it accurately and with any confidence. I felt like that percentage was too low, seeing that one of my core ministry values is the Gospel is everything.

Every message I give, every opportunity that comes up, every spiritual conversation, and every prayer comes back to the Gospel for me. It's all about the good news of Jesus.

Yet maybe the news isn't getting through.

For a missions trip I'm leading this summer, we asked the applicants to answer this exact question. Even with time and research allowed, a few didn't even mention Jesus at all. And these are the students who make up the core of my ministry, the ones leading their peers and giving their lives to serving Christ. (They just don't mention him when they're sharing the good news about Him.) Of course, some had phenomenal responses--one even properly used the word "propitiation" in her answer--but the lack of clarity about the good news of Jesus was frustrating at best and alarming at worst.

It's causing me to ask all sorts of questions:

  • What are the basic elements of the Gospel? (1 Corinthians 15 and Mark 1 come to mind)
  • What isn't the Gospel?
  • How much has moralistic therapeutic deism infiltrated my ministry?
  • What am I doing to foster the spread and understanding of the Gospel? What am I doing to hinder it?
  • How can I empower my volunteer leaders to embody the value of the Gospel is everything?
  • What is the minimum understanding one must have in order to find salvation in Jesus? (This question itself could take up an entire blog post...or a book)
  • What is "success" in terms of knowing and articulating the Gospel? Should I expect more than 25% to know it?
  • What are the barriers to hearing/responding to the Gospel? (I know, theologically, that the answer is "sin." I'm wondering about more cultural and philosophical barriers)
  • How am I being good news to others?
Do your students/children know the Gospel? How do you know?


  1. If I could toss in another question...

    What is good news to the people we're trying to reach?

    IMO, in a post-Christian society, people have to experience good news before they will ingest Good News.

    1. Great distinction, particularly when the "Good News" doesn't necessarily always feel like good news. I was having a conversation with a college guy I mentor who was sharing the Gospel with low-income Los Angeles hispanic students. They could care less about all the theological insights he was learning in Bible classes; they just wanted someone to be with them and not bail on them.

  2. This is great.

    One of my goals this year is to be Gospel Fluent. Much in the same way as being fluent in another language.

    This blog post below (and hearing Jeff speak) radically changed my thinking in this. The one line that still changing me the most was "the Gospel really can and does address everything in life"

    Until people/students/family believe that, they won't treasure and desire to be fluent in the Gospel. It got them out of Hell, people need to hear it, blah blah blah, but there is no deep passion for it, nor desire to know it beyond some sill acronyms, or quick one-liners.

    Fluency in anything requires time, desire, ways to say something in more than one way, time immersed in it, etc.

    The question at the end should be, do WE know the Gospel (not just our students/family), and if so, is it daily/hourly stirring our affections to Christ and speaking to all of our life.

    Love talking about this stuff!

  3. I had a discussion w/ a particular student about their response to the question referencing the gospel since their answer did not clearly identify or reference the gospel clearly. We actually had a pretty good discussion about it at the time, but I don't think the answer to the question was ever changed - possibly due to lack of time OR more probably the "wisdom" of a 17yo trumping the "old folks". Anyway, reading this post prompted another discussion. . . which is ALWAYS a good thing, so thanks for posting & helping to initiate key conversations : ) DL

  4. One reason we get soooo much pushback? There's a lot of people out there preaching a gospel of good behavior. There's more money/security in lies than that one simple question... "Is this good news to you?"

  5. Great questions to keep at the forefront of our hearts as we interact with people (and not just kids in ministry but our children at home as well). I've been asking, "What are they 'catching' from me that defines the gospel??" I think I have mostly used words (teaching) and events (program), but that is not effective disciple making; instead that's just reproducing churchiness (compartmentalized moral living). Eph5:1-2.