A great big gospel

GospelI just read a blog by Krish Kandiah, whose writing and thoughts and initiatives I love. He’s been a big influence on me. The following section from one of his blogs (full blog can be found here) sums up a lot of the things I have been thinking recently, and in part the reason I’ve started my own blog.

When God sent us the gospel, it was not a list of bullet points to memorize, a contract to sign or even a book to read. He sent his fully-fleshed Son to spend 30 years on earth living out the gospel. The magnificence of his incarnation, the radical nature of his teaching, the perfection of his love for those around him and the selfless sacrifice of his death are incredibly difficult to summarize at all. In God’s wisdom there is not one, but four biographical accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, put in the context of 62 other books that span history itself.

The gospel is bigger than we think. We need to offer something more substantial in our seminaries, in our sermons, and in our socializing. We need to revisit how Jesus embodied the gospel and begin to rediscover the gospel as it is presented on every page of our Bibles. We need to rise to the challenge of presenting the age old gospel in fresh new ways for our culture, simply but not simplistically. A gospel that is bigger than we think is good news: we have much to teach and much more to learn.

The gospel is huge! Far big and complex and beautiful to sum up in any words, let alone simple and concise formulas or clever constructions. God couldn’t sum it up in a book. It required a life. It required God Himself. And that is massive! We’ll never have it nailed.

One of the things that Krish hints at is that not only have we made the gospel too small, but also too tame. In our preaching and our churches and our lifestyles, I feel we need to be far more radical – and that will require holistic, enticing theology and huge creativity in living the gospel for all it’s worth. I’m excited and daunted to be trying to think through some of that theology and striving after creative and life-giving ways to follow the creator and the life-giver.


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  • http://christchurchmayfair.org/students/student-blog Richard Criddle

    Bro,

    In the interest of wrestling…

    I spent a couple of days trying to work out why this made me nervous. Then I went through to Krish’s blog and it all clicked. It’s the question of what you would do on the plane.

    As far as I can see in the Bible, the gospel is the declaration of Jesus as Lord, seen through the events of his life (coming, death, resurrection, return). There are a thousand things which are necessary for or implications of the gospel. In Titus 2, godly living is both the purpose of the gospel and the strategy for promoting the gospel. But Krish’s man on the plane has to hear words about Jesus. If he doesn’t, he will be lost in two minutes. If he does, he might be saved.

    I’m not endorsing all the gospel outlines Krish suggested. (I think they fail by making too little of Jesus!) But when Peter stood up at Pentecost, it was to proclaim Jesus as Christ and Lord. Or Paul can say that some things are of first importance – and leave out a lot of things we know he cared about.

    I know you weren’t making a point about a hypothetical two minutes. But I guess my question about this ‘big gospel’ language is – is there a danger that the primacy of “Jesus was and did what you couldn’t be or do (and gives it to you)” is replaced with “you can be and do what Jesus was and did”? And if there is, how do we rightly pursue the second without dropping the first?

    The implications of the gospel are wider, longer, higher and deeper than any of us have grasped. I want to know and feel and live more of them. But I think that’s why I’m nervous.

    I join you this morning in praying for Albert.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10437118363315004879 Dave Criddle

      Thanks bro! (Is that a word we use now?)

      Dialogue is good.

      I understand, I think, what you are saying. And I agree that of primary importance to any Christian proclamation or declaration is Jesus Christ. If He is not declared, the gospel becomes empty and loses all power, distinctiveness and meaning.

      There are things of primary importance. There are things of secondary importance. Given two minutes on a plane that’s going down, I’d probably miss out the same sort of stuff that you would.

      My concern is that the ‘two minutes on a plane’ or ‘five minutes on some form of public transport’ mode of evangelism has become the norm. If something is not crucial enough for the first few minutes of speaking with a non-Christian then it can wait until after conversion.

      I struggle with that as an idea. I think there’s a danger in training Christians to use any ‘gospel outline’ can shrink the responsibility we have. Once you’ve given them this simplified (sometimes simplistic) message, the rest is up to them. No responsibility to journey with that person, to expand, to wrestle with them. I’ve seen that mentality in lots of Christians, and also seen the same attitude in preaching and teaching. I struggle with it.

      This ‘big gospel’ language can lead to replacing what Jesus achieved with what we can achieve, you’re right (I’ve seen that, too). It shouldn’t though, because that is not a big gospel, just another small gospel. Both have to be held together. I do not believe either can be taken away without making the gospel small.

      I personally think we do Jesus a disservice by trying to avoid that danger in the ways we speak and demonstrate the gospel. Better, I believe, to let the gospel be as big as it is, resisting the temptation either to make it all about what Jesus has done for me or all about what He desires to do in and through me.

      Maybe.

  • http://christchurchmayfair.org/students/student-blog Richard Criddle

    One last (short?!) comment, then I’ll let you have the last word if you want – this is your place, after all.

    In its practical outworking, we might be in a pretty similar place. I haven’t seen what you described in your fourth paragraph here – though I’m sure it exists and if I did then I’d want to yell at/about it. So I don’t want to argue with you about words. Especially because if you pushed what I’m about to say then St John never taught the gospel. But for what it’s worth…

    As far as I see, the word “gospel” (or “good news”) is only used in the Bible for a message about Jesus – that he is Lord, came as King, died for sins, rose to rule, will return to judge. That all nations will be blessed through him. It is preached, proclaimed, declared and defended, but never lived.

    Ironically, that’s the beef that I have with a ‘Two ways to live IS the gospel’ mentality. Only boxes 2-4 contain gospel! Of God-man-Christ-response, only Christ is gospel. I like CE and I like UCCF’s Uncover because they invite people to come and see Jesus, not my summary of the getting-out-of-hell mechanism that Jesus somehow provides. But I digress.

    I want our churches to walk with outsiders through the realities of life, not only interested in gospel conversation, to live well in our communities and to care for the fatherless, the alien and the widow (today, perhaps: the unborn, the genuine asylum seeker and the single mum). “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Tit 3).

    But I want to call those things “making the gospel attractive” (Tit 2) or “living a life worthy of the gospel” (Phil 1), not “the gospel”.

    Am I just being picky? Could be. But if Paul says in Romans 1 that the gospel is God’s power to save, and in Romans 16 that it’s his power to strengthen the church, then I want to know what he means by the gospel. In 1:1-5 it is the gospel “regarding his Son… Jesus Christ our Lord”.

    • http://christchurchmayfair.org/students/student-blog Richard Criddle

      So much for short…

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10437118363315004879 Dave Criddle

      Brevity isn’t everything. But I’ll try to be brief.

      We may be being picky, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How we use the word ‘gospel’ is I think the only real difference I can detect. You’ve given me food for thought there, and I will think on that food (those ‘mind-grapes’).

      That was quite brief.

      Ta

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