Saturday, March 20, 2010
Will the real gospel please stand up?
When I read the Book of Acts in the New Testament, I notice a stark contrast between the gospel that the Apostles preached and the gospel that is preached in many American churches today. America is a trendy nation. It seems that for every cultural trend there's a gospel to fit that trend. How does the church react to a materialistic society? No problem! It's called the "health and wealth" gospel. And the postmodern trend? No problem! There are gospels that emphasize "deconstruction" and "negative theology." Sometimes I wonder what Peter, James, John, and Paul would think if they took a look at the books on the Christian best- seller lists today. Or what would they think of the "if you're looking for meaning and fulfillment in your life, come to Jesus" altar calls? Will the real gospel please stand up?
Here's my proposition. What if instead of trying adapt the gospel to make it relevant to the culture, we proclaim the gospel as is and let the culture adapt to the gospel? What would that look like? What are the essential elements that Jesus and the Apostles thought were necessary to qualify as a genuine gospel presentation? Why not just preach what the Apostles preached?
After a careful study of the Book of Acts and the letters of Paul, I've come up with a succinct statement that I believe qualifies as the essence of the gospel. Since the word preach literally means "to herald" or "to announce", think of this as Aaron D. Taylor's official gospel press release.
Here goes. The Apostolic gospel is as follows: "Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. He was buried and rose again on the third day. He ascended into heaven and now He sits at the right hand of the Father. On a day that God has appointed, Jesus Christ is coming back to judge the living and the dead. Anyone who repents and believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life."
I wonder what would happen if the average American preacher used this kind of language when preaching the gospel? Some say that the average listener would fail to emotionally connect with straight Bible talk such as this. Maybe, maybe not. I don't really know, but I suspect that even if that were true; God probably knew that when He inspired the New Testament. Maybe gospel language isn't meant to be reduced to what we perceive our felt needs to be. Either way, I'll take the real gospel over the best seller version any day.