Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's the Gospel?

I serve on the board of a gospel rescue mission ministry, and recently this board held a retreat to do some planning and the like. One of the items on our agenda was to discuss and come to a consensus definition of the Gospel. Given that we want the mission to stay centered and focused on the Gospel for now and into the future, and the fact that we as directors come from a diverse mix of Christian backgrounds, this seemed to be a good exercise. And since I am all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and as much clarity as possible regarding that Gospel, I was looking forward to this discussion. In preparation, I put together a summary of what seemed to be a good bullet-point definition based on the introduction to Mark Dever's The Deliberate Church. Here's the summary:

  • God is our holy Creator and righteous Judge. He created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
  • But we have all sinned, both in Adam as our representative head, and in our own individual actions. (Romans 5:12, Romans 3:23)
  • We therefore deserve death – spiritual separation from God in hell. (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:3)
  • We are in fact already spiritually stillborn, helpless in our sins. (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:6-8, Ephesians 2:1)
  • We are in need of God to impart spiritual life to us. (John 3:3)
  • But God sent His Son Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. (Philippians 2:5-11)
  • Christ was sent to die the death that we deserved, and He raised Him up for our justification, proving that He was God’s Son. (Romans 1:4, Romans 5:1)
  • If we would have Christ’s perfect righteousness credited to us, and the penalty for our sin credited to Him, we must repent of our sin and believer in Jesus Christ for salvation. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Mark 1:14-15)
  • This is the only true Gospel. (Galatians 1:6-9)
  • This is the Gospel we are commanded to preach. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Pretty simple, right? Basic stuff that anyone who is serving as director of a Gospel-based Christian ministry should affirm or at least have a grasp on, right? Well, I was sadly disappointed. To cut to the chase, no one in the room could give a succinct and clear delineation of the Gospel. In fact, it was obvious they didn't even want to try. A couple asked, "Why are we doing this?" One threw out the statement that "Jesus is Lord" and said that was all that needed to be said. Then he added John 3:16. When I pushed a little harder, things degraded into some confused doctrinal arguments, ranging from a debate on the preservation of the saints to the need for true repentance and a changed life ("So do we lose our free will when we come to Christ?"). We finally agreed that we needed to move on to other things.

Now please don't misunderstand, I love these brothers and sisters in Christ. I have known several of them for years. I do not mean to malign or discredit them. But at the same time, I was appalled at the utter lack of doctrinal understanding and thought that a group of supposedly mature believers in Christ had regarding such core tenets of what they believe. On the one hand, I had to rebuke myself a bit for expecting too much from a para-church ministry leadership group like this. After all, this was not the elders of a church. But what does this say about what these people bring to the table in the ministries of their own respective churches? All of them are leaders of some sort in their churches, one is a senior pastor and the other is pastoring a church plant. I have to wonder - if they aren't building their churches and their ministries on the clear and solid truth of the Gospel, then what are they building them on?

No comments: