This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at Living Hope in Aloha, Oregon. It was great to be back in my old stomping grounds of Portland where I have so many fond memories.
Interestingly, the pastor asked me to speak on the subject of the gospel. Asking for me to speak on the gospel is not interesting, but his reason for asking me is interesting. In his words, everyone is using this term gospel-centered and everyone has a different meaning. His comments are an honest expression and brilliant assessment of the term being tossed around in so many circles. I myself have often wondered the same thing- as when I have asked in my own circles what the term means the most common answer i get is that of “evangelism” & “Discipleship.” While I’m not certain if I’m correct, I’m concerned the gospel is turned into a technique to achieve the American idol of a mega church or “growing church”. I put growing in quotes because I believe in evangelism and discipleship. I even believe in church growth. I just don’t believe the Gospel is a means to my ends- if that makes sense.
Anyways, this blog is not an explanation of the gospel although that might be a good discussion later. I wanted to post this quote from J.I. Packer’s book Affirming The Apostles Creed in my blog. It’s from his introduction. The quote actually gives the reason why there is such fuzziness when it comes to gospel articulation. I highly recommend the book as he answered the question of how the Apostle’s Creed proclaims the Gospel. His comments show how far I myself have to go in understanding the Gospel. Well, without any further a do here it is:
In North America, ever since the days of the Pilgrim Fathers, a general idea of what constituted Christian belief had been warp and woof in North American culture. Just as sugar stirred into coffee is present in solution, so Christianity was continuously present in solution in North American culture right up to the twentieth century. Then, for a number of reasons, Christianity and the Bible were eliminated from public schools and universities, family prayer and Bible reading at home closed down almost everywhere, a consciously post-Christian and indeed anti-Christian outlook established itself among thought leaders, and the gospel message had to fight for entry into the minds of white people under fifty, just as it had to do in the face of the paganism of the Roman Empire in the apostolic and post-apostolic age. In such a milieu, a truncated version of the gospel message, presenting Christ the Redeemer apart from God the Creator, and remission of sins apart from personal regeneration, and individual salvation apart from life and worship in the church, and the hope of heaven apart from the pilgrim path of holiness— which is what in practice the ABC approach does—becomes a misrepresentation, one that sows the seed of many pastoral problems down the road. Against a background of general acquaintance with, and acceptance of, the Christian outlook, periodic highlighting of a few truths to galvanize response might not in itself be a bad idea; but when we reach the point where the Creed no longer looks or sounds to Christian people like a declaration of the gospel, there is need, I believe, for some whistle-blowing and reassessment of what goes on.
Blow the whistle Dr. Packer So we can see the glorious Gospel in all it’s beauty.