If you’re like me you often find yourself pondering things that church leaders are fearful to let people know they even think about. For me, on Thursdays I’m going to make my dangerous ponderings known. For those who have been courageous enough to climb out of the denominational box, the local church box, the box of legalism, and the cultural Christian box, these musings will create a healthy conversation. For those who find their identity in or make part of their income based on the topics and ideas that I’m pondering, these contemplations may create some tension.
Please know that I am not attacking any ministry, ideology, or person. I’m simply scripting questions that I myself am wrestling with.
Today, “Is the ‘Gospel’ keeping people from Jesus?” As of late, the hot word in evangelical circles is “gospel.” Mature followers of Christ realize that this word is one of the most potent and profound terms in all of Christiandom. For those of us who know its meaning, when it is spoken and used correctly, it takes us into the many dimensions of Jesus, His story, and the future He has for those of us who know Him.
But I’ve begun to wonder… Is this term keeping people from Jesus? The following thoughts continue to cause this question to flow through my mind.
1. It is a term that seems to have replaced the mention of the person, Jesus. We come to Christ through a relationship with the Person, Jesus Christ not through a concept called “the gospel.” When a teacher over and again uses the term “gospel” but seldom or never speaks the name of Jesus and rarely tells His story, the unbeliever begins subconsciously to think that the church is about concepts, rather than about individuals being in a relationship with Jesus. Not-yet-followers of Christ will never begin a relationship with Him because it is through the power of the Person, Jesus that we begin a relationship with our Lord, not through a doctrinal term that they don’t understand.
2. It is a term that is overused. I am a communicator. That’s what the majority of my ministry is. Every trained communicator knows that if you use a term over and over and over again it will soon lose its potency. Yet in many teachings, the term gospel is voiced again and again and again and again, etc.., etc…, etc…. In so doing it becomes a cliché rather than being a term with a powerful meaning.
3. It is a term that is misused in many sermons. It seems the term “gospel” is overused because it has become the default word when teaching. In some teachings it seems to show up every time there is a biblical thought that needs a theological punctuation mark. And because it is used in this way its definition doesn’t seem to be that important. Even if the unbeliever knew the meaning of the term, they’d leave wondering what the heck the teacher was saying because the one teaching may have used the term in a sentence where its real definition had no connection to the thought. This confuses everyone but is especially confusing to the unbeliever who is on a journey and does not yet know any of the terminology of the church.
4. It is a term that the unbeliever doesn’t understand. If we want someone to understand a message we must use terminology that is understood by the listener. It seems many of us who teach and preach embrace this concept in every setting but the pulpit. If an unbeliever is listening to a sermon and the primary term that is being used (maybe misused and overused too) that would lead them to an understanding of Christ and His redemptive power is a term they don’t know the meaning of, they will never understand the message of the gospel.