I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Wade McLennan (Cardiff) speak on this subject last week. His challenge was to articulate the gospel accurately and clearly in 30 seconds. This challenge caused me to ask 2 questions:
- Is it possible to cover such a massive subject in such a short time?
- Is it right to attempt to declare such profound truth in such a short time?
Wade reminded us that Paul did just that very thing in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed."
Paul wanted to remind the rebel church in Corinth of what the gospel is. It is the good news that he had received and had passed on to them through his preaching. There is much made of anything but preaching in the modern church,. The idea that the gospel must be wrapped up in all sorts of social action has been taken to extremes that were never intended by the Lord.
Social action has taken the fore and simple gospel declaration has been relegated to 3rd or even 4th place. I am told that modern people do not want to be preached to, they simply want loving into the kingdom. Whilst I have great sympathy with that it is simply not the prescribed way of the bible.
Paul in the passage above told the Corinthian believers that he had delivered the gospel as of first importance:
Christians cannot be true disciple of Christ if they are not concerned about the issues of life. It is hypocritical for us to pass by a person in great need without being concerned for them and doing what we can. But we also have to keep things in a right perspective. Jesus told His disciples:
"For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. Mark 14:7
We do have people in all sorts of need, not just poverty but there is nothing better for any person to be told the gospel. It gives much more than satisfaction of mind, body or spirit. The gospel gives hope of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins and relationship with God!
Our problem is that we are often only afforded a very short time to say anything meaningful and so it is important to be able to articulate the gospel in the chance meeting of the short amount of time afforded by our contact. There will always be time for them to receive a sandwich or a handout or even a listening ear but the gospel is often allowed for a short time only. It is therefore vitally important to be able to do what Paul does in these verses:
"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures'"
That is truly the gospel in an nutshell, it is even more clear and articulate than John 3:16. It needs no explaining and it is all there! If our hearer affords more time then of course it is good to speak at greater length but if that is all the time you have then your hearer will go away with gospel truth implanted.
Before you leave this page believing that I am in some way against social action I would like to say that I am not. I believe that the greatest social action groups have come from within the church. The way that it has happened is that ordinary people have been converted and have then been concerned for the living conditions of society around them. They have been taught well in church and have therefore sought to do as much as possible to help those for whom their hearts reached out to. That is a far better way than the church trying to direct social projects. the church's role is to equip the saints for acts of service in soociety.
Therefore my plea is for Christians who have a heart for bettering society then get on with it as of first importance and then for the church, please focus on preaching and teaching about Jesus who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the worl!