Go and Tell

Kelly's thoughts on Gospel and Global Ministry

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Gospel, refined

Originally, I wrote about Gospel by writing about God and faith and the church.  I do not know whether I actually defined Gospel at all.  Some of my colleagues did a much better job of that.  Specifically, I appreciated my group member Kathy quoting Luther:  “The gospel, then, is nothing but the preaching about Christ, Son of God and of David, true God and man, who by his death and resurrection has overcome for us the sin, death, and hell of all men who believe in him”. (Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings (Third Edition) editors Timothy Lull and William Russell, pg. 95).  Kathy then went on to summarize Gospel as “God’s work to bring humanity to relationship with God and one another, especially through the Cross of Christ as a bridge connecting sinful humanity to God”.

Using that example, I think I would explain Gospel to my confirmation youth this way:  Gospel is the Good News that the God who created the Universe wants to have a relationship with humanity.  God shows that relationship in many ways, but especially through Creation, salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.  In other words, “The Gospel is the completely ludicrous idea that God loves us apart from anything we do to deserve it” (Amy).

Living as Gospel Christians means that we share good news with our communities, by supporting others in their suffering, advocating for justice and mercy, hoping and trusting in the promises of Scripture (Matt), and welcoming others.  Whenever God comes to us, we can experience the living God (Richard/Laurie).  Explaining the Gospel may never make sense.  As one of my classmates quoted: “If the Gospel is proclaimed correctly, it’s always going to sound nuts to us” (Rober Farrar Capon).

Many, many human groups are cooperative, sympathetic, advocating for justice and peace, sacrificial, and hopeful.  Many religious groups believe that God can and does reveal Godself to humanity and wants a relationship with us.  AA and Yoga class even ask us to receive what a higher power wants to give to us.  So what makes Christianity unique in a world full of nice, generous people?  Why would a SBNR person want to come to church?  Why would a ‘none’ want to join a Christian church?  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to read the Bible, pray to the God who reveals goself, give money to charity, and be as nice as possible?  What is inherently Christian about  the Gospel?  Only a few of my classmates really focused in on that distinction.

Kathy provided a picture and Bible verse that helps to provide a uniquely Christian answer. salvation_03-300x288

“In Isaiah 59:2, it says that our sins have caused a separation between us and God. The cross bridges the gap, bringing us back together.”  Without an understanding of Sin, we have no need for Christ.

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What is Gospel?

Today, I sat with my church co-workers hearing, for the first time, from the president of our congregation about a vision that is being developed for the future of our congregation. In short, the vision is still a ‘statement’ and not yet an action plan. The vision statement is that:

  1. Things must change.

  2. We have something important to share, and that is the Gospel of Christ.

  3. We need to be intentional about connecting to our community.

 

I am really excited about this mission. I believe that our church, like The Church, and like the ELCA, must change in order to intentionally share the Gospel with our community, and that is supposed to be the point of church. Unfortunately, we either haven’t been preaching the Gospel or haven’t been sharing it, even though we claim to be doing both.

 

So, what, exactly, is the Gospel that our church must proclaim to the community? To an extent, we have kept our treasure hidden in jars of clay (2 Cor 4:7-9). Social Media is only one aspect of modern western life that is shattering those former jars. If the treasure within them is something other than the Gospel, then the “nones” or the SBNR folks are disenchanted with our ‘treasure’. Sometimes, it is obvious that we are hoarding tradition or culture or ambition rather than the Gospel. But more often than not, we are sharing a Civil Society Organization (social service, innovation, advocacy, values, and community building) or a Moral Therapeutic Deism and calling it the Gospel.

 

A few years ago I printed this card from Dare 2 Share ministries:

God created us to be with Him (Genesis 1)

Our sins separate us from God (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Genesis 4 – Malachi)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and Rose again (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life (John)

Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever (Acts – Revelation)

 

And I try to teach my youth those basics about the Bible. And while I believe that to be a great summary of the Love Story between God and humanity, the cute acronym doesn’t define who God is or why that God wants us to be in community with Godself. The simplification does not identify Jesus as divine, nor does it mention the Holy Spirit. Most of all, the acronym ignores the spiritual impact and lessons that the Holy Spirit has given to theologians after the end of the written Bible.

 

So, I have to have a new definition of Gospel/ Good News based on what I’m learning at Seminary:

  • our divine, incarnate, and self-revealed God is creator, liberator, redeemer, and empower-er (Jones, “Faith Communities” pg. 3)

  • Being a disciple of Christ means integrating social ethics into our faith (Simpson, “Overhearing”, pg 220)

  • The church is called to bring God’s justice and mercy into our greater society (Simpson “Civil Society” pg 17)

     

In order to explain our treasure to others in our community, we must explain how the gospel is different than Moral Therapeutic Deism – spouted by Bono and Oprah and even Bill Gates Foundation. We must explain that Godself came to earth, for far more than a great pep talk, but to share in our suffering. Because of that, we as the church can continue to encourage others through spiritual proclamation and theological understanding, like Dr. King & Dr. Bonhoeffer, to change our world for the better.  

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Digital Testimony

There are several ways that we can testify/witness the gospel online.

My browser allows me to set up “morning coffee”  – a series of tabs that open automatically when I push the coffee button.  Of the 15 or so tabs that come up, 7 of them are blogs I follow that have a Christian focus/bent to them:

http://www.incourage.me/ 

http://simplemom.net/

http://pastorkeithanderson.net/ ( I followed this before this course, but yes, he’s the author of one of our books)

http://holleygerth.com/

http://www.chattingatthesky.com/

http://blog.lirs.org/

http://www.firstthird.org

Any other suggestions?  What all do you read/follow online?

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