I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the Gospel and what it means to be lived out. As I look around my community I notice more and more that we’ve lost the simplicity, the purity, the joy and the power that comes through building our lives on the Gospel. We’ve complicated things so much that we’ve reduced it to a handful of good works and church attendance. I wonder what it would mean to live out the Gospel life…
Reading through “Global Evangelicalism” this week I was reminded of a few things…
First, the Gospel is at the root of evangelicalism… it doesn’t matter how you define it, or the branches that come out of it… the root is the gospel. If we didn’t have that we wouldn’t have anything.
I really appreciated the way Mark Noll broke down the key ingredients of evangelicalism. He says that the four key ingredients are: conversion, the Bible, activism and the cross (p20). I don’t know if I would put them in that order, but I think that I agree. At the end of the day, these are the things that matter the most… and these are the things that determine how we live our lives in light of the Gospel and in light of our relationships with people.
Bottom line is this, “the Gospel is the biblical message that addresses every dimension of human experience and need.” (p46) If we don’t live it out in every dimension of our lives and in every experience, then we’ve missed the point… not only have we missed the point but also we fail to reach people.
Wilbert Shenk says, “Social reform is good, but it is not the Gospel. Education is good, but it is not the Gospel. Medical work is good but it is not the Gospel. Indeed, these matters, good as they are, may destroy the Gospel.” (p54) He goes on to quote Samuel Escobar in saying, “the temptation for evangelicals is to reduce the Gospel, to mutilate it, to eliminate any demands for the fruit of repentance… the church… must stress the need for the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord whose demands cannot be cheapened…” (p57) – I can’t get this quote out of my mind. I wonder if it’s true? I wonder if the condition of the church today is as it is because we’ve reduced the standards of the Gospel and have cheapened the sacrifice that was made on our behalf on the cross? I wonder if for the sake of being inclusive we’ve diluted the message… not that inclusivity is wrong, or has gone too far… but I wonder what Christ-like inclusivity looks like?
Second, the expansion of the Gospel is very messy… from Europe to the Americas and into Asia… this took time, commitment and sacrifice. We do live in a globalized world, but the spreading of the Gospel takes the same time, commitment and sacrifice that it took at the beginning.
This week’s reading stirred in me a desire to have a deeper held conviction and commitment to the Gospel.