This month I’m preaching a series titled, “What is the Gospel?” What is in jeopardy? What’s at stake? What questions should we be asking? How should we think about the gospel?
First, the message of salvation is very accessible in our culture. This is a good thing. But are we sharing the complete message of the gospel? The cross in the first century was scandalous. It was an instrument of death…a vehicle of execution. Christians of the first century would know nothing of our pale Galilean affixed to a smooth oak crucifix. Crucifixion was the most inhumane means of capital punishment known in human history. And Jesus said that if anyone wanted to come after him that they would have to pick up one of those crosses and follow him day after day.
Second, have we so emphasized personal and individual salvation that we neglect the significance of corporate life in the body of Christ and participation in God’s ongoing mission? Remember, we are the people of God, not the persons of God. The gospel is always contextualized in community, whether the community be a faith community or your geographical location.
Third, have we so diminished the message of the gospel that we run the risk of creating crowds of consumers instead of armies of disciples?
In a recent blog post by Thom Rainer, titled “The Main Reason People Leave a Church, Rainer offers the most common reasons sheep give for leaving a church in search of greener pastures.
• The music director wouldn’t listen to me about the songs I wanted.
• The pastor’s sermons did not feed me.
• No one from church visited me.
• I missed two weeks and no one called me.
• The programs the church offered didn’t meet my needs.
• I asked the pastor to visit my relative and he didn’t do it.
Rainer went on to write that church members should expect some level of ministry and concern. But the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality. In other words, it’s the fault of the people.
But is it really completely the fault of the sheep, given that much of modern evangelicalism uses marketing tactics to draw people within their doors. State of the art facilities that house the latest and greatest programming conveys to church shoppers that church is about them and their needs. Then, once they are engaged, calls to deep commitments of time and money surely sounds like “bait and switch.” I learned a long time ago that whatever it takes to get people into church is what it will take to keep them in church. Creating consumer cultures that broker religious goods and services is not what Jesus and the apostles had in mind.
Finally, does our emphasis on salvation as a one time experience contribute to the fact that American Christian’s lives are virtually no different than our nonbelieving counterparts? Statistics show that we, as American Christians, are just as prone to addiction, divorce, depression, debt and bankruptcy, and obesity (to name a few) as anyone else.
If the gospel is more than the message of salvation that gets my sins forgiven so I can go to heaven when I die, then what is it? What does it include? Check in next week and I’ll begin to unwrap the package.