I went on an overseas missions internship in college. When my team was in Kenya, we had the opportunity to do some door-to-door evangelism. Now this is not a technique we really use in America anymore; many of us felt uncomfortable with it.
Nevertheless, being eager college students, we decided to do our best. At one of the houses we visited, I had the opportunity to present the gospel, and I presented the gospel I had heard most of my life.
I don’t remember the exactly what I said, but I’m sure it went something like this: (1) all people are sinners, (2) sin separates you from God and ultimately leads to death and hell, (3) Jesus came to save you from your sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, (4) if you believe this and confess it you will be saved from hell and given eternal life (5) now you can experience peace with God both now and in eternity.
Afterwords, one of my team members complimented me on my gospel presentation. I thanked her, but inside I felt troubled and uncomfortable. Only later did I begin to understand that I no longer believed what I was saying.
It’s not that I disagreed with any of the individual points of this classic American gospel formula. It’s that I disagreed with the story it tells, a story about us and our wants and needs. It is a story about how we can be saved from punishment and have a better life. And if that is all the gospel is, it is no better than all the other programs, religions, and spiritualities the world has to offer. It is a small, tepid gospel for small, tepid churches.
Thankfully, this American gospel is not the gospel. I would encourage anyone reading this to stop, go to the Bible, and read the early apostle’s presentations of the gospel (Acts 2, Acts 10, Acts 13, I Cor. 15 among others).
Their gospel story is about Jesus. It begins with Jesus, it ends with Jesus, and Jesus is in the middle. Peter’s concluding statement of the gospel is this: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him [Jesus] both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). This is a big, powerful gospel that spawned a big, powerful church.
This gospel call was not one of vague belief for salvation and a happier life but one of repentance, submission to Jesus, and devotion to Someone bigger than ourselves! A big, powerful gospel calls for a big, powerful response, and that is what it received. After Peter’s first proclamation of Christ, three thousand people were added to the church in Jerusalem.
I pray that we, the church, can resurrect this gospel again. We need to stop proclaiming all things we have replaced Jesus with (heaven, blessings, morals, etc.), not because they aren’t true but because they aren’t the point. Jesus is the point. Jesus should be the beginning, middle, and end of our gospel. If he’s not, maybe we aren’t proclaiming the gospel at all.