A church planter recently told me about the gospel-centered conversations he was having with his neighbors in the community he had recently moved to. I was excited that this pastor and his family were being as missional as possible by moving into the neighborhood in which they’d be planting a new church. But when I asked him about these conversations, I realized that they were more about church stuff than the gospel.
Getting the gospel wrong
If a theologically trained pastor can make such a basic mistake, what about the rest of us? Are average church members equipped to explain the gospel? I stopped to rethink our presentations of the gospel. Are they clear? Can others understand? Are the people in my church able to relay the good news to a friend or coworker who has questions about the Christian faith?
Every single Christian has been instructed by Christ to “go therefore and make disciples … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). This is a super huge command. We should be committed to this in every aspect of our lives, not just on Sunday mornings or at a dinner table with friends from church. We are called to share the good news of Jesus with everyone.
Romans 10:14 really puts the pressure on: “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” Although we’re not all preachers, we’ve all been commanded to share Christ. It’s more than sharing our testimony; it’s telling about the power that granted us our testimony.
It’s great to have conversations with everyone we come into contact with—at a barbecue, in our workplace when appropriate, or at school. And we should make sure that those don’t stay at the level of a faith-based conversation. We are saved not by a generic faith; we have life because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is the powerful means by which we are saved (Rom. 1:16). The gospel preached to us, which we received, in which we stand, and by which we are being saved (1 Cor. 15:1-2), is the same gospel that has been preached for centuries, which has led many to believe and be baptized (Acts 8:12).
The basics of the good news
Wondering if what you are hearing in church is the gospel? Is what you’re sharing with others the gospel?
Here are the essential pieces of the story to keep in mind:
- God created us to be with him, in complete fellowship with him. But sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
- Our sin now separates us from God. Because God is just, we must be punished for our crimes against him.
- Our doing good isn’t enough to get rid of our sin. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God. (Nothing!) That’s the bad news—but then it starts to get good.
- Jesus did everything necessary to get rid of our sin and bring us back into fellowship with God. He suffered the wrath of God on the cross, our sin was placed upon him, and his blood is what ultimately satisfied the wrath of God.
- On top of that, Jesus was raised to life again. He triumphed over sin and death and made it possible for us to have abundant life.
- The amazingly good news is that anyone who puts their trust in Jesus alone will be saved. Life with God can’t be earned by being a good person or doing good things, but only by accepting Christ’s finished work on the cross!
So let’s go forward and share the actual gospel. Let’s talk about Jesus with our neighbors in our backyard during a barbecue. Let’s share a testimony about how our lives have been changed through the gospel, and how our hope lies not in our efforts but in Christ’s.
This is the good news. This the gospel we must share, the gospel we must internalize, the gospel we need explain boldly, confidently, and clearly. Brothers and sisters, be encouraged, knowing that this is the call of every Christian, not just your pastor, not just your elder, but you, too! May we be reminded of how Christ has truly transformed us and restored us.
If we truly can’t think of anything about our lives that has been powerfully changed in Christ, than perhaps we need to hear the good news again, and again, and again, and know it in detail, internalize it, and be transformed by it. Remember, it is “by grace [we] have been saved through faith, and this is not [our] own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Let us proclaim Christ to the nations, starting in our own homes and communities.
Rudy Rubio is pastor of Reformed Church of Los Angeles in Lynwood, California.