Preaching the gospel


Some years ago 300 protestant ministers were surveyed on how they would explain the Christian message to a person who was an unbeliever. Most ministers used a "forensic" gospel. This is a gospel message that focuses on sin, judgement, Christ's substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, and the need to personally accept Christ as Lord and savior.

At a funeral recently a Quaker said to me, "I hope we are not going to get the usual lecture on our mortality." What an interesting comment. She had observed that protestant ministers tend to function under a particular theological paradigm. It runs something like this: "boys and girls, we have all done bad things, we are all sinners, and because of this, we face judgement. Jesus died on the cross and took our sin upon himself so that we can be forgiven. So, if you want your sins washed away you must believe in Jesus."

Of course, the fact that Jesus died for our sins rightly takes a central place in Christian theology. Yet, it is a theology for church members rather than outsiders. The books of Romans and Galatians in the Bible are all about convincing the followers of Jesus that their standing in the sight of God is completely dependent on Christ's sacrificial death on their behalf. Through faith in Christ a believer stands eternally righteous before God, and therefore there is no need to be a goodie-two-shoes to somehow confirm, secure or advance their standing in the sight of God. A person's standing in the sight of God is completely dependent on what Christ has done for them, not on what they may or may not do themselves.

So, church attenders are the ones who need to hear how their complete state of loss is totally transformed by what Christ has done for them on the cross. The unchurched, on the other hand, are confused by what amounts to high theology. They can't understand the concept of the atonement. The gospel concerns the the good news about Jesus. This truth is encapsulated in Jesus' resurrection; He is alive, and because he lives we can live also, now and for eternity. All anyone has to do is ask Jesus for his gift of eternal life.

The message of the empty tomb is the good news for the unchurched. It's all about Easter, not Good Friday!


[Pumpkin Cottage]