“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (NIV).
“It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him” (The Message).
The reality, however, is that most of us are hesitant to speak this message to those in Western culture who think religion is a matter of personal conviction and private interpretation. Our culture has a tendency to render us to silence!
Last week I was at our monthly Dallas-Ft. Worth Church Planter Forum. As is our custom, we each selected questions from a Forum Guide on either Ministry or Spiritual Formation. One church planter chose the questions “How often do I share my faith?” and “Do I leave time for relationships with non-Christians?” This articulate church planter transparently expressed his fear of proclaiming Christ to searchers on the journey and questioned his gifting as an evangelist. He told of a searcher in his community who has been attending for two years but has not yet been taught the distinctive way of God in Jesus Christ.
During a coaching session last month, I asked a church planter currently coming through our equipping labs how he taught others the way of Jesus. He responded that evangelism begins with relationship. He waits for people to invite him to tell the story of Jesus. The reality was that he was not actively communicating Christ to the many searchers in his life.
I spend approximately an hour in telephone conversation with each church planting family who comes through the Theology Lab helping them tangibly move from theology to practice. One question I ask deals with the application of Randy Harris’ teachings on Atonement: “How would you explain to searchers reconciliation to God through the life, suffering, and death of Christ?” Some have responded, “In our tradition we have done this by explaining the process of hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized, but we know this is inadequate. Salvation is more than human activities.” Paradoxically, the ability to tell the story of redemption through narrative and metaphor, with deep application to life, has been lost!! Our task thus becomes learning once again the lost art of sharing the Gospel of salvation in transformative ways that connect with searchers within our ministry contexts.
In a very real sense speaking the Gospel is the very lifeblood of the church. As the body cannot survive without blood, so the church cannot grow without mission shaped by the Gospel. Without blood the body dies; without mission shaped by the Gospel the church dies. As the physical body becomes weak without sufficient oxygen-carrying red blood cells, so the church becomes anemic if it does not express the Gospel. The church establishes her rationale for being—her purpose for existing—while articulating the story of the Gospel. An unexpressed faith withers. A Christian fellowship without the Gospel has lost its core identity.
Our ministry must mimic the ministry of Jesus, who came “proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom.” He taught, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:14-15).
What is the Good News? How is it expressed? How does God in his Holy Spirit lead us forward as the proclaimers of this Good News?
Facilitator of Church Planting,