Is Your Church Reflecting the Culture, or Shaping It? This very good question is from the Nine Marks Ministries website. The Christmas season is a good time to evaluate the cultural significance our churches. As we see decorations and hear music inspired by birth of our Saviour – general ignorance of Christianity and the PC Cops notwithstanding – we should reflect upon our degree of usefulness. How can we best serve the purpose of God in our own generation?
If we are believers, the follow up to that should be, how can we communicate the gospel to this generation? That leads to, what is the gospel? If we get the answer to this question wrong, we will be found useless for the Kingdom of God before we even begin.
Christians should be practical and not waste their time in ivory tower pursuits. However, being able to correctly answer the question, “What is the gospel?” is not an ivory tower pursuit. Even pastors – maybe particularly pastors – have assumed that professing Christians know the gospel without working through the implications of getting the gospel right – or not.
Several years ago, Shane Rosenthal from the The White Horse Inn radio program interviewed 60 people at a large Christian booksellers association event (they recently talked about this on their 15th anniversary program). The question was simple, “What is the gospel?” They got one right answer. Virtually all the answers were works-righteousness oriented; that is, the gospel is about what I do to earn acceptance with God. Remember, this is not a random survey in the big city; this is a Christian booksellers association.
R.C. Sproul said that he had to pull his car over to the side of the road when he heard that program because he was overcome with grief (Speaking of R.C. Sproul, I heard him say once that if everyone who called themselves a Christian in the USA would take the time to read Romans, just once, that there would be a revival in the land).
As Christians, we ought to take the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 seriously, because they are God’s Word: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
How can a proper understanding of the Gospel transform the culture? It would be sad if the church was asking that question, but it is even more distressing that it is not even asking that question. The power of the Gospel for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16-17) is the only hope the world has for cultural transformation from God’s perspective. What other perspective ultimately matters?.
The answer to political corruption, moral decay, relativism, child poverty – you name it – is found in the transforming power of the Gospel. It is only the church that has this transforming, redeeming message. While every Christian will affirm that the gospel is important, in much of Christendom, the gospel is practically dismissed as people focus on peripheral issues.
The gospel is too often assumed. I have heard leaders say, “We have a strong doctrinal foundation, but what we need to work on is relationships in our churches.” Replace ‘relationships’ in that sentence with church growth strategy; political influence; youth programs; relevant worship or whatever trends are in vogue at the moment, and you will see the heart of the evangelical problem: The gospel is not central.
So, what is the gospel?