Gospel…, the term is used 77times in the Bible beginning with the announcement in Matthew 4:23 declaring what Jesus went about doing, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom…”.
According to the Strong’s Talking Greek, Hebrew Dictionary this potent term stands alone 46 times, is utilized as “the gospel of Christ” 11 times, “the gospel of God” 7 times, “the gospel of the Kingdom” 3 times, and used as a miscellaneous translation 10 times.
No doubt, this is a term that has permeated Christiandom since Jesus walked planet earth. But I must confess, it had become a nearly non-existent word in my personal vocabulary and the vocabulary of many ecclesiastical types for a couple of decades (I’ll explain why I believe many of us subconsciously abandoned this powerful expression tomorrow.). This is no longer so. As of late, evangelical pastors have embraced this term with the passion of a teenager in love for the very first time and utilize it with the frequency of that same teenager’s text messages. The word permeates many sermons and seminars as the owner of the microphone pronounces this one word again and again and again and again.
Three Dangers… Deleting the Term and Overindulgence of the Term
Danger #1, Setting Aside Common Language
Two decades void of this term (and other terms of the church) weakened North American Christiandom. Accompanying the seeker movement was the idea that using the language of the church would ostracize those who did not know the language. The problem with this thinking… a strong community is built around a common language. The language of a particular people is one of the things that set them apart, that makes them a sub-community of a greater community, and becomes the known expressions of a people. Our bond is stronger and our evangelism more potent because we have a common language, not weaker. Our owned vocabulary, when used wisely, makes us more magnetic not less, as outsiders see a commonness and unity of spirit that they long to be part of.
Danger #2, Confusing the Community
A misunderstood term confuses a community. When a term becomes prominent with a people group it begins to be viewed as important maybe even vital. What happens when a term is used to the point of overdone but never defined? Individuals define it for themselves. In most instances, and especially with a term as substantial as the word, “gospel” the individual definition diminishes or embellishes it to the point of it losing its real meaning.
Over the last few months when a person uses this term again and again in conversation, I ask them if they’d mind defining the word for me. In almost every instance there is a long pause then the individual stumbles to create a definition that they believe will suffice. Most get close, few verbalize the vastness of it. Keep in mind… I only do this with church leaders. The term has become so much a part of the DNA that we think everyone knows its meaning when we may not even be familiar with its true meaning. If we’re going to use this term over and again lets define it once in a while to remind ourselves and those we’re teaching of its essence. This will keep its true meaning in tact. If we don’t it will lose its potency and will be diminished to a misunderstood concept when it is the account that reveals who our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ really is and wants to do in each of our lives.
Danger #3, Overusing a Term
A word used too often becomes a cliché leaving it impotent. It becomes ordinary when it is extraordinary. The gospel in its most simplistic definition is the story of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection and all the reverberations of God coming to planet earth in human form to die and live again to take away the sins of the world. If we want the term to be as transforming as it is, it would be wise to mention the term then unveil the Jesus of the story. After all, the term doesn’t transform a life, the story that is the term is transforming, the narrative of Jesus Christ.