Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Does the gospel work?

Written by: on April 17, 2015

globalWhile visiting the beautiful city in Oregon, I was asked to address the above question. My answer is YES! The gospel works when people experience the power of the love of Christ and redemption (Romans 1:16).

The pastor and friend with whom I was serving has been teaching his congregation through a particular book in the bible and asked if I could join him in teaching a homily on “the real world, joy and hardships”.

The first thing that came to mind as I prepared was a thought of location.  This church is located in a beautiful and prosperous city and that might be the real world for the people who live there.

The second thought I wrestled with was a definition of “the real world.” Even though I generally know what people infer when they use the phrase “the real world,” is the real world the same everywhere? I was quickly steeped in a deeply philosophical moment and resonated with William Raeper, Linda Edwards’s book, A Brief Guide to Ideas. The authors note, “Philosophy is not just about how to think; it is about how to live. What we think is true affects our view of ourselves and how we treat other people and the world.” [1]

In attempt to discuss whether or not the gospel works in the real world, we chose to discuss the joys and challenges of parenting including the statistics highlighting the ‘drop out’ rates of youth from both faith and church.  According to Fuller youth institute, “… that 40 percent to 50 percent of all youth group graduates fail to stick with their faith or connect with a faith community after high school.”[2]


How then shall we exist? Has the gospel failed in such a depiction of the real world of Christian youth or is the environment of the youth’s up bringing to blame? Maybe another way to ask the question is; do these youth know who Jesus Christ is beyond “saying the sinner’s prayer and making the decision”?  Are the youth being discipled in the Way of Jesus Christ? Are they experiencing is transforming love?

The previous study I referred to also discourages the negative methods in church that only focus on teaching the youth a Christianity of “dos” and “don’ts”. The Zondervan research notes: “When asked what it means to be Christian, one-third of subjects as college juniors (all of whom were youth group graduates) failed to mention “Jesus” or “Christ” but rather emphasized behaviors.”[1] Yet how can a person experience the power of the gospel without knowing the loving kindness and forgiveness of the person of Jesus Christ who the origin of the gospel story?

As a human being, who began as a baby, has experienced being a lad/youth, and is now an adult, husband to a lovely bride and a thankful father of our delightful and smart daughter; I am here reminded of B. B King and Steve Wonder who sings, “To know you is to love you.”

From city to city, everyone from young to old wants and needs to be assuredly loved. From the popular personalities to priests, the need is the same. Take a look at another reemerging example of the puzzling question between professing Christians and the reality of the gospel that in the media. It is the debate about the renowned Mennonite theologian Dr. John Howard Yoder’s stained past. While responding to the dissonance in the lives of some of the PhD theologians who are caught up in adultery, the reformed Pastor John Piper boomed “… they don’t know God.”[3] Might Pastor Piper have something to say to the youth’s challenges as well? I don’t know.

Perhaps, the youth are confronted with real world dilemmas and demands, which are also spiritual, cultural and philosophical in nature. As Raeper and Edwards put it:

Philosophy, meaning ‘love of wisdom’; and ‘theology’, meaning ‘talking about God’. Wisdom is a kind of knowledge. Philosophy is generally concerned with how we know things and what we can know. Philosophy asks questions such as: Is there a point to the universe? How should we live? Is there an order behind nature? Is there a morality for everyone or does morality changes at different times and in different place? [4] In the case above, a great and reliable source to consult is scripture. Proverbs assert, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge …”[5] Introducing children, young, adults and the elderly  to the totality of the gospel in an intergenerational manner; can serve to equips God’s people to value quality relational gospel discipleship, as a process of maturation into the gospel story as the very core of their identity. This way, all age people groups can interact with the holy book along with an expansive discipleship where the word of God speaks to interdisciplinary perspectives about faith, culture, the purpose and meaning of life across generations.

My entire life is fully persuaded that the totality of the gospel works powerfully when people experience the life and love of Christ. I am encouraged that their are some church that are teaching their congregation to experience the power of God’s love!

For those interested, a great source on children, young, parents and “… growing faith in kids that “sticks” and continues to mature long-term”- Check out Dr. Kara Powell book, Sticky Faith.

[1] William Raeper and Linda Edwards, A Brief Guide to Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 11.

[2] https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/sticky-faith/press-release

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI3BIlAQ_N4

[1] https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/sticky-faith/press-release

About the Author

Michael Badriaki

10 responses to “Does the gospel work?”

  1. Ashley Goad says:

    Michael, your post is full of rich thoughts! I love it! … I wonder if the third of college students who didn’t mention Christ…maybe they thought being in relationship with Christ is a given? I can’t imagine describing Christianity without mentioning Christ. He is the cornerstone, the rock, the reason. The Quakers in North Carolina have been struggling against this lately, as the leadership came out with a faith statement that did not include Christ, but instead favored “inclusive” language. It has caused a ruckus in NC, and the split is deep. One side stands firmly on the ground of Christ being the center and cornerstone – no one comes to the Father except through Him. While the other side says, “Well, of course, that is what we meant, but we just want everyone to feel welcome.” It causes me to shake my head in wonderment. For me, I have grown in deep love for the Gospel message, as I can find application and encouragement in it no matter where I stand – in the midst of a trash pile in Haiti or in a palace in Russia. God is everywhere, and I find relevance to His message everywhere I go. It takes thought, it takes struggle, it takes conversation and relationship with Him, but the message is there, wherever we go, whatever world we are in. …. Oh, looky here at the thoughts your post is giving me! Thanks, Michael 🙂

    • Michael Badriaki says:

      Great thought Ashley! Your giving a more questions to think about and that’s in line with the book. Questions, question, question!

      Thank you!

  2. rhbaker275 says:

    I resonate with your post.

    When I first read the phrase “‘Philosophy’ meaning ‘love of wisdom'” (14) I immediately thought of Proverbs including the verse in 1:7 that you quote but also the various other books of the Bible that we refer to as the “Wisdom Literature.” In addition, I thought how can any idea be more wise than “…lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Pro 3:5-6 NIV). For real wisdom, couple this verse with with Jeremiah 29:11ff, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ … You will seek me and find me when seek me with all your heart.”

    I think I gained an understanding in this reading that we are shaped by both the ideas we reject as well as those we deem as true and worthy of our pursuit. I read parts of the “ideas” in the topic “Is Man the Measure of All Things?” as well as, answering the questions, “Does God Exist” and “Why do We Exists?” I will refer back to these readings. If philosophy is the search for wisdom, that we must understand something of the ideas that we reject and declare as unwise for they also form who we say we are.

  3. Michael…
    Dan Kimball (Pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA) just recently interviewed Kara Powell. Dan has a deep passion for youth and young adults. But I digress….

    You referred to John Piper’s comment, “They do not know God!” And it makes me think that there are different ways that his statement might be understood and interpreted. He might mean that they do not know God (period) and because they do not know God they sin and/or fall away from following him. In this assertion the inference is that they never knew God, the fault resides with the young adult person. Something is lacking in them.

    The other possibility is that they young adult was introduced to something else, but never developed a relationship with God. The fault (if you will) and if there is actually one is that the young adult has been given a prescription, they have taken it and now no longer feel they need it. The responsibility in this case lies with the “prescribing” party, not the young adult.

    One of the challenges in youth ministry is the form itself — it has a certain culture of what youth ministry looks like that works for some, but perhaps is also part of the problem based upon the number of kids (from my past years) that do not feel safe, welcome or accepted in a youth group. It has its own performance pressures.

    If we are to follow the precepts of this book we would begin by asking questions. How could Piper’s statement become the framework for developing questions that would lead to encouraging others to develop their relationship with Christ? That has me wondering…

    Thank you Michael for your thoughtful and good work.

    • Michael Badriaki says:

      Carol you hit the nail on the head when you write “One of the challenges in youth ministry is the form itself — it has a certain culture of what youth ministry looks like that works for some, but perhaps is also part of the problem based upon the number of kids (from my past years) that do not feel safe, welcome or accepted in a youth group. It has its own performance pressures.”

      There is need for major culture shift.

      Thank you

  4. Michael,

    Thank you for your post. I always enjoy hearing your perspectives on our readings.

    My question to you is this, how does one experience the power of God’s love? I am a Christian, but I have not felt the love of God in a long time. Mind you, I do feel love through my wife and through my children. I also feel love through my friends and students sometimes. But to feel God’s love directly from God is a very rare thing for me. So, I would like to talk with you more about this the next time we get together, which I hope will be soon — but after April 27. 🙂

    Also, I would like to discuss the conversation between Yoder and Piper. I think Piper spoke in an unloving way of Yoder. How does he know whether a person knows God or not? Can a person know God and still struggle with the flesh? The Bible is filled with stories like that. Let’s talk soon.

  5. Stefania Tarasut says:

    Good thoughts Michael! I think people confuse Christianity with church… especially kids that grow up in the church. I look at my community and those who have parents involved in church work spend hours and hours and hours at church. I can see how easy it is for them to grow up with a church mentality, rather than a Christ mentality… sad, but true!

  6. Clint Baldwin says:

    Yes thinking and living belong together.
    It seems we far too often try to lessen both of these things in many of our youth functions. No wonder the church has an attrition issue. As soon as people are able to do so they bail.
    So, instead, let us think well and live well. Let us meet the unknown head-on together in community rather than with our heads in the sand.

Leave a Reply