It doesn’t get more basic that this: “What is the gospel?” The question is pretty simple; yet, I suspect that many Christians would have a hard time coming up with an answer.
I was at a conference recently with several thousand church planters—mostly from evangelical backgrounds—when during one of the breakout sessions the speaker suggested that if he were to ask those in attendance “what is the gospel?” he would likely get a hundred different answers from the hundred people that were in the room. I was, in one sense, flabergasted, and in another, grieved.
I was both flabergasted and grieved by the fact that the church has become so shallow that a hundred pastors and church planters could not come to any consensus on what the gospel is! I do think that this speaker was overstating his point. But, at the same time, I also suspect that many in that room would have had trouble articulating what the gospel is! (and if pastors and church planters would have had trouble defining the Gospel, then what should we expect from the average congregant?).
If it wasn’t enough of a problem that pastors and church planters would have a difficult time defining the Gospel, I became significantly more flabergasted when the speaker himself went on to define the gospel. He said, I define the gospel as, “radically transforming the world.” I am serious. That was his answer. I immediately thought to myself (okay, I probably did more than think this to myself, I am sure I whispered it to a few around me), “what makes this statement uniquely Christian?” There was no Jesus in this answer. Couldn’t this definition be used by any other religion? In fact, I suspect that most corporations would hope that their organizations aspired to “radically transform the world?” I then commented to someone next to me, “I think Hitler did that!”
I am not sure what was worse: this pathetic attempt to define the gospel in such a way that fails to distinguish it from any other religious group’s mission statement—or even that of a corporation or tyrant—or the fact that most of the 100 pastors and church planters “oohed” and “awed” after he made this declaration!
I am not saying that there is one definition of the gospel that all Christians adhere must adhere to. Of course, it would be nice if this were so. There are, however, core, essential elements of the gospel that underlie the Christian faith. So, what is the Gospel?