The authors begin this chapter with a definitive sentence/question. In fact, this is a question that has far-reaching implications not only theologically but for how we will be envisioning ministry in our generation and in generations to come. The truth is every generation has to address this question in their context if the truly believe in the incarnation. So, here it is:
“do you think it might be possible that the primary reason Christianity in the West is in such a marked decline is simply due to the fact that we don’t know what the gospel is?”
Defining the Gospel is (and pardon the redundancy) the defining question…your definition of the Gospel will shape your praxis, ecclesiology, missiology, pedagogy, etc. (in other words, it will shape how you live, what “church” looks like to you, whether you live on a mission or not, how you share/teach what Christianity is about, etc.) …living with your definition of the Gospel will either prove to be faithful and consistent to the call of Jesus or it will in some instances diminish what Jesus was commanding us to do.
Is the Gospel about getting people saved? Is it about a home in heaven when they die? Is the Gospel only a written expression of the life of Jesus in the bible? Is the Gospel embodied in the Church? Is the Gospel a systematic set of beliefs and doctrines about God? Or, here's what Halter and Smay say:
“it is really good news…it meant that life NOW could be different…Jesus is saying that there is a new Kingdom now, one that’s totally different from the kingdom you’re accustomed to, and anyone can get in on it…His announcement that his heavenly ways are available in some way here on earth. Not in fullness, for it will never be heaven here…but you can have a slice of heaven here on earth…it is the tangible life of God flowing into every nook and cranny of our everyday life…it makes a tangible difference that can be felt in this life. And when this other-world life shops up, even in the smallest form, it is attractive, and people unconsciously move toward it like thirsty horses stumbling toward a watering hole.”
What is the Gospel to you? There are many good resources for wading through these questions…but understand again what is said at the outset of this post…how you answer that question sets you on a very specific journey of faith…will you answer wisely and faithfully?