New Normal – Disciple knows and is able to share the Gospel
Do you know what an ELEVATOR PITCH is? It is a big sales strategy or tool. Do you understand it and use it?
Elevator Pitch – An elevator pitch, elevator speech or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a process, product, service, organization, or event and its value proposition.
Well, if a Jesus follower, a disciple is a person who by VERY DEFINITION has been, “tranformationally impacted by the Gospel,” then the question is DO YOU AS A DISCIPLE KNOW THE GOSPEL? And if you know it, could you share it and/or give it as an elevator pitch?
There is a New Normal that I’ve been attempting to define in my own life and in my faith community’s journey. One of the factors in this New Normal is this – Disciples know and are able to share the Gospel.
So, what I want to do in this article is two things:
1 – On the theological/biblical side of the coin, let me describe for you what the gospel is
2 – Then let me get more practical – GET YOU TO THE POINT WHERE YOU KNOW WHAT THE GOSPEL IS AND HOW TO SHARE IT.
The Gospel – originates from word, “euaggleon” – translated, “best” GOOD NEWS. What is the GOOD NEWS?”
1 – The biblical understanding of the Gospel has been lost:
- Gospel is NOT doctrine, in other words, the Gospel is not just about our SIN and brokenness
- It is not about a social or political system
- It is not primarily about being spared from some sort of eternal hell
- And it is most definitely not a guarantee about health or prosperity
It is surprising to me how many people I’ve asked about the gospel come back at me with either confusion, questions or simply crickets (silence). So, it is imperative that we talk about this stuff…get it down because if the Gospel really is GOOD NEWS and it is supposed to revolutionize and transform a life, then we have to know what it is.
2 – To begin with, Jesus used a strange but insightful metaphor when describing the gospel. He talked about it like wine and wineskins (Matthew 9 and Mark 2). Jesus compared the gospel to NEW wine that bursts old skins, in other words, the gospel, in many respects, is almost beyond explanation. You can understand it but it is always MORE. The OLD Wineskin had to do with the fact that the Jews expected and anticipated a Messiah who would reveal more of God’s kingdom and reign in people’s lives but they got, over time, a bit mixed up. The Old Testament story shows us how easy it is to confused the good news with stuff you have to do to get God’s attention and approval. The Old Testament is also a story on how easy it is to confuse the good news with things like institutional compliance that focuses around things like priests and temples and religious rituals. That’s the old wineskin that Jesus points to when he says that the REAL good news will burst FROM once applied to the old. The NEW wine, what the gospel is, is not a thing, or an action, or – like I said, some sort of doctrine – what the gospel is, is a PERSON. That person is Jesus. The gospel is NOT a what but a who.
The story of Jesus is a story of a life…teaching…miracles…relationships…a cross…an empty tomb. That is a story NOT just about eternity. The story of Jesus is about the MOVEMENT of God into human history, our history…your history and my history. It wasn’t about just getting to heaven but rather how to have the power and presence of God give us an opportunity to live here ON earth with the joy and sense of purpose and fulfillment that God originally intended.
Let me put it this way…maybe it will make it clearer for you. Imagine a picture of the universe. No one would debate that the universe is HUGE. For example, recently NASA had a satellite that made it to the planet Pluto. Pluto is 3 billion miles from earth. It took the satellite over 9 years to get there traveling 36,000 MPH. And that’s just ONE planet in our solar system. The Universe is HUGE. Now, follow this logic – if Jesus claimed to be God, and we believe Jesus is God, this is a God we follow that put that universe together. That alone is amazing. So to think, or assume, that we can humanly try to sum up the action and love and presence of this God (who made the universe) into some simple phrase or book or doctrinal statement is a joke. You see, just when we think we have Jesus figured out, we discover He’s more. Friends, that’s the gospel. Just when we think we have salvation all figured out, we realize that salvation isn’t what happens on OUR terms. Our ideas of salvation are usually pretty narrow. Salvation isn’t about performance…in other words, you and me justifiably and naturally look to do something to earn something – that’s the way the world works. But salvation, according to Jesus (the WHO of the good news) is bigger than that, salvation is a gift. Salvation is something that has happened, is happening, and will happen. Salvation has a past, present and future reality to it.
Jesus has taken care of our past. Jesus calls us to follow him in the present and it is Jesus who will lead us to a faithful relationship with Him through eternity when he restores this whole mess of a world in and through His love. One aspect of the Gospel is that Jesus WILL restore creation back to his original plan and vision. Remember, any one part of all that I’ve mentioned is good news…but see, the REAL good news is more.
3 – Here are some of the things that are associated with Jesus – the reason HE is the gospel, the good news
- A doctrine doesn’t heal our sin disease – Jesus does.
- A doctrine can’t restore relationships – Jesus does.
- A doctrine can’t produce a new humanity and restore within you and me God’s very image – Jesus does.
- A doctrine can’t bring us into relationship with each other in to this miraculous entity called the Body of Christ – but Jesus can.
- A doctrine can’t protect us from a world power of evil – but Jesus can and does as He reigns and the Kingdom of God reigns in our lives.
Again the gospel is always ON THE MOVE. It is not in a book, theological treatise or system. The Gospel is a WHO, a person and that is Jesus. And in terms of being saved, we have been saved, we are being saved and we will be saved, not a single decision, it is an act of God. Jesus always takes the first step to bring us new life, a new way of life, and a new normal. For we don’t just know the gospel but we LIVE the Gospel!
Take a gander at this:
- The good news is that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:42).
- The good news is about Jesus (Acts 8:35).
- The good news is one of peace through Jesus, who is Lord of all (Acts 10:36).
- The good news about the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20).
- The good news is that God has fulfilled His promise by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 13:32).
- The good news is about Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).
- The good news concerns God’s Son, who also was man, raised from the dead (Romans 1:1-4; 2 Tim. 2:8) – that’s Jesus.
- The good news is that of Christ (Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 9:14).
- The good news is that which has to do with the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:17).
- The good news is of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
- The good news is of your salvation, the word of truth (Ephesians 1:13).
- The good news is of the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).
- The good news is about the hope that is reserved for you in heaven (Colossians 1:5).
Most good understandings of the gospel require the following elements to be present:
1. The creation story: humans as made in the image of God – Jesus did that!
2. The fall story: humans as cracked or broken – word we use is fallen – but Jesus does something about that in his life, death and resurrection and continual presence.
3. The story of God with his people: Israel’s history and the Church’s history – which of course, Jesus instituted
4. The Cross: where the story of God’s work finds its focus – Jesus did that!
5. The Resurrection: where the story of God’s work is unleashed with power – who was involved in the resurrection…you got it, Jesus!
6. Pentecost: where the story of God’s work is spiritually empowered – who makes that happen, Jesus does…he promised it and made it happen…it is HIS spirit that brings life to the soon to be called, Jesus movement In other words, again…the gospel is what God does in Jesus Christ.
And the gospel, Jesus DOES things in you and me. accomplishes the following: the gospel work of God absorbs suffering, pain and death; it wipes away sinfulness by forgiving, restoring, enabling, and empowering; and it provides an alternative community where systemic evil comes to an end. The Gospel is mot just about creation…not just about the fall and sin…not just about Good Friday…not even just about Easter…The gospel is Jesus – always will be!
4. One more thing – In many churches, the good news has subtly changed into good advice: here’s how to live. In other words, while some Christian teachers have exchanged good news for good advice, others have preserved the gospel as news, but they are telling a different story from what the New Testament authors meant by good news. Here’s the backstory:
Starting with Octavian, the Roman emperors regularly used the words “good news” to describe both what they had already achieved and what life they promised as a consequence. When the early Christians used this language, they used it in a similar way. Something had happened because of which everything was now different. Something would happen that would complete this initial victory (like Octavian returning to Rome and setting up his court). As a result, the present moment was new and different. This good news transformed people’s lives. It was bound to. So despite all the NEW Testament talk about God, those early followers of Jesus were not telling people about a new religious system. They were not urging people to adopt a new type of morality. They weren’t offering a new philosophy. They were not giving people a theory about the world, how it worked, how we could know things, how we should behave.
Christianity is not a religion, a moral system, a philosophy or advice. Christianity is, simply, good news about Jesus! It is the news that something has happened as a result Jesus and because of that the world is a different place THE good news, this royal announcement is about Jesus.
NOW to the practical side – in other words, what is the NEW NORMAL for us as disciples, Jesus followers? Here’s what I’ve learned about what it means to live a new normal. The OLD normal, in terms of the gospel, is to memorize a presentation (whether it was a Law/Gospel presentation, four spiritual laws, bunch of bible passages). That’s why many people don’t share Jesus…they feel inadequate because they don’t remember enough, forget bible verses, or feel that they can’t answer questions if the conversation turns to theological discussion. Here’s my experience now – people care about what you care about. If you care about them…if there is a relational connection…a relationship…people are willing to listen NOT as you preach at them but as you introduce a person to them and that person is Jesus. There is a GREAT book, Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis– in fact, if I had the $$ I would buy everyone of you readers a copy! It is that good!
Here’s Carl’s thesis in a nutshell: When we are talking about the Gospel – we get all screwed up. Too often we try to win allies to a point of view rather than pointing SIMPLY to Jesus. We get prepared for arguments because we all know that people have different perspectives then we do. We exercise our tongues and our brains a lot to get ready for those situations. We fervently and (hopefully) brush up on our proofs for God, or bible verses (kung fu, what we used to call, “sword drills” back in the day) because we want to intelligently refute arguments. We get ready to show our mettle and to prove ourselves The problem with that – is that the ONE THING WE prove when we do is that it is more important to me to win an argument than to be like Jesus. Jesus—compassionate and loving. Jesus was Kind and patient. Now, years of trying to share THE “GOOD NEWS” broke the spine of the things I thought were important. In other words, You can only bang your head against a concrete wall for so long before it occurs to you, “It would hurt a lot less if I’d quit doing this.” I am not sad to say that I did learn some things to share like any good “missionary.” And I am grateful for the lessons I learned in times of ignorance. But like many others, I discovered…Carl discovered what a lot of us intuitively know…we have learned loads about stuff about Jesus but we haven’t learned how to share the simple truth of what we really know…we really know Jesus…he’s the good news! You cannot force-feed another person your perspective and expect it to stay down. Carl writes this…as somebody once told me, “You have to realize every person is an I.” Each individual has his/her own makeup. There is no way to download your beliefs into somebody else hoping they will take. No person, anywhere in the world, has a brain-port open to receive a personality change. There are only people like you and me. People with full brains and empty hearts. People who need Jesus, not a massive array of doctrine, polemics, and theology lessons. People who need a relationship. People who need to belong before they can believe. We can only do one of two things:
- A – Give them Jesus or
- B – Give them wasted sewage.
We can either point the way to the Way or confuse them with a load of things that will never feed their need for God. There is a place for doctrines and dogma and science and history and apologetics, but these things are not Jesus—they are humanly manufactured attempts to make people think having the right ideas is the same thing as loving and following Jesus.