The gospel you preach will determine the disciples you make. Does the gospel you preach naturally lead people to a life of discipleship? What do the disciples your gospel produces look like?
Those are the very important questions I have been wrestling with since returning from the Missional Learning Commons on Saturday. Is our struggle to make disciples in the North American church rooted in a poor understanding of the gospel?
That certainly is a part of our struggle, if not the majority of it. So long as we have hold onto the gospel message in part instead of in whole, we will struggle to effectively shape people for discipleship. What does this look like?
For me, and for many who grew up as evangelicals, the gospel we grew up with was primarily one of sin management and an eternal transaction. Jesus died for my sins so that I can be forgiven and go to heaven when I die. And between now and then I should do my best to stop sinning. The would have been my description of the gospel up until my early 20s. This was a gospel that inspired thankfulness to Jesus, hope for leaving this world behind, and frankly quite a bit of frustration with the sin management piece. But I can’t say that it inspired much of a sense of mission or a desire to turn my whole life over to Christ. The only mission I caught onto was the mission to get more people to punch their ticket for heaven.
Now I would describe the gospel in this way. Hear the good news – God our Father, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, invites us to take our rightful place as his children in the story of his redemption of all of creation. As the children of God we have been granted the authority and power of God, through the Holy Spirit, in order that we ,might be co-labourers with our Father in this work of redemption.
That version of the gospel gives me a sense of identity, it gives me a place in the story of God that is far bigger than myself, it gives me an empowered life, and it gives me a mission that connects what I do today with what I do for eternity. That gospel compels me towards discipleship.
How have you seen this play out in your life? How has it played out in your ministry? How would you describe the gospel?