A Timeless Gospel
- What strides can the church and ministers take to demonstrate the relevance of a Gospel message that has spanned all of existence since the time of creation, to the current world of today?
- How can/should we combat the growing stigmatism of an outdated Religion, practice, and message as widely accepted and promoted in our present generation?
- What advancements can be made to minimize hindrances or barriers to the reception of the Gospel Message? (i.e. Using outdated or unfamiliar terminology or vernacular that could create a language barrier to the average unchurched individual)
We begin by expressing our appreciation for the use of the word “timeless”. Our doctrine and practice are often described as “old fashioned” or as “the old-time way”. Those phrases do well in distinguishing our doctrine and practice from contemporary churchianity. However, those descriptions also carry the sense that our doctrine and practice are outdated. That could not be further from the truth! Timeless is a far better description and we encourage adopting this vocabulary as an accurate description of our doctrine and practices.
Moving on, in the first question we are asked how we can demonstrate the relevance of the gospel. We must first affirm with certainty that our gospel has always been, and always will be, relevant. If it was not relevant, then we would be right to call it “old fashioned” or “the old-time way”. But it is relevant! The gospel of Jesus Christ, the only name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12), is the only hope for the sinner. The gospel will always be relevant as the prized possession for the redeemed and the only hope of the perishing. The question, then, is worthy of our consideration – how do we demonstrate this relevance?
That the gospel is relevant has been clear since its earliest reference in scripture (see Genesis 3:15). That gospel continued down through Noah and David, to John the Baptist and throughout the life of Christ, to the apostles and the early church, to our forefathers who brought the gospel to this nation, and to men like M.V. Hammack, Lewis Holland, C.D. Williams, and others whose work helped establish the churches of this association. The longevity of the gospel demonstrates its relevance.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the essence of the gospel transaction, stating, “he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) The righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to all who repent and believe the gospel. It’s relevancy, therefore, is demonstrated not merely in doctrine, but in displaying His righteousness in our lives. We preach the gospel not just by what we say, but by what we do. When our lives fail to reflect the righteousness of Christ, we blur the gospel’s relevancy. If we want to show the world the relevancy of the gospel, we must do so through a renewed demonstration of the gospel in our lives. On this basis we submit the following strides to consider as we labor to display the relevancy of the gospel:
- To the church:
- Live lives that show the gospel – keep the globe of your lamp clean from the soot of sin so that your light can shine brightly against the darkness of the world
- Align your life with the gospel – the gospel should be the foundation of your relationships, responsibilities, hobbies, and everything else, too
- Sing the relevance of the gospel – while many of our hymns are timeless, the average unchurched person may not relate to some of those songs in the same way that we who have sang them for years are able to; we should sing biblically rooted, Christ exalting songs that engage the singer and the hearer in worship
- Build communities – at a time when loneliness is rampant, people are looking for a place to belong; open up your buildings, host Bible studies, book clubs, and look for other opportunities to engage people
- Be bold in your evangelism – when is the last time someone knocked on your door or spoke to you on the street and asked if you were saved? When is the last time you did it?
- Make the investment – personal evangelism takes time; if doors are opened for you to talk to someone about the gospel, make the added investment to walk with them and show them the gospel
- Prepare for confrontation – you’re going to have people that aren’t interested and others that will challenge you on what you have to say, so be prepared; study, pray, practice, and trust that God will help you
- To ministers:
- Love the unlovable – the relevance of the gospel is best demonstrated in love
- Learn about people – your message will be more relevant when you know who you’re preaching to
- Pray, read, listen, and pray – you should be growing in the scriptures, gaining in knowledge, learning from others, and spending lots of time in prayer
- Serve others – Jesus showed us the supreme example of how we can demonstrate the gospel by serving others
- Be where people are – you need to be in the homes of those you’re preaching to, you need to be involved in the community; the gospel will not be relevant if it is kept inside the walls of the church
- Break bread – there’s a reason why we see the early church engaged so often in eating together; people are more likely to be attentive to the message when they’ve shared a table with the one who is preaching
- Connect – each person you serve has something about them you can connect to; figure out what it is and connect with them
Next, we’re asked to consider how we combat the growing belief that our religion, practice, and message are outdated. As we do so, we first challenge the association to get off the defensive footing. Rather than fighting to prevent the sinfulness of the world from encroaching upon the church, let us invade the world with the truth! There is no ground to be gained if we remain in a defensive posture. Let us instead uncage the Lion and unsheathe our swords by putting our doctrine into practice daily. Our doctrine and practice should be rightly wielded as weapons for the cause of Christ. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Let’s move from a defensive footing to an offensive one.
As we move to the offensive, let us involve ourselves in the battle. We can combat the growing criticisms against the fatih by engaging the areas of society that put us on the defensive.
- In the schools – there is currently a crisis in public schools as parents are confronting everything from COVID policies to critical race theory to transgender issues. This provides an incredible opportunity for us to engage with our communities as they look for Biblical direction on these issues.
- In workplaces – there is a major culture change being felt in workplaces. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what is right when your living is on the line. But that makes for an even more powerful statement when we do.
- In the media – we must put to an end our engagement of sin through tv, radio, movies, social media, and other media. Leonard Ravenhill said, “how can you pull down strongholds of Satan if you don’t even have the strength to turn off your TV?”
- With the contemporary “church” – most contemporary “churches” offer a water-downed, hyper-popularized, heretical gospel. We should confront these errors when we encounter them. You likely have frequent contact with people who attend contemporary churches. When you do, inquire about their doctrines and practices, and use that conversation to share the truth in love.
- With our neighbors – do your neighbors see you leave for church every Sunday morning? They may be skeptical, but the more you grow your relationship with them, the more they will see Christ in you.
Finally, we consider how we can minimize barriers to advancing the gospel. We are careful to note that we must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in making efforts to share the gospel more effectively. Uzzah was killed for touching the ark, but the errors started when they decided to put the ark on a new cart rather than carrying it as God had designed. While there are things we can and should do as we aim for others to be receptive to the gospel, we are not forgetful that God has been pleased all these years to use the preaching of the cross and little flocks of congregations as his primary vehicles of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Before we look at how we can minimize barriers, let’s first consider what the barriers are. We submit the following as potential obstacles to the reception of the gospel.
- Living lives that reflect more of the world we’re trying to reach than the gospel we preach. We submit this is the greatest hindrance to the gospel we carry. C.H. Spurgeon believed that “one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.” Let us repent and ask the Lord to help us show the gospel by how we live.
- A lack of willingness and openness to supporting the ways we might consider to be more effective in sharing the gospel. It is troubling that we are more tolerant of sin in the church than we are of using present-day means of sharing the gospel. We must be willing to tolerate using more current means to reach those God has called us to reach. Alternate translations of the scriptures, PowerPoints, outlines, and other tools can all be effective means in sharing the gospel. And none are antithetical to the Bible. We should take care as congregations to not become obstacles to the effective declaration of the gospel.
- An ignorance of the gospel. Outside of sharing their testimony, how well can the average Christian biblically declare the gospel? Can you answer the call of 1 Peter 3:15?
- A lack of teaching. The average Christian being unable to biblically declare the gospel is both an indictment of the average Christian and the leaders of the church whose responsibility it is to teach the people of God.
- Song services that lack any conviction of who and what we’re singing about. We should not expect the unchurched visitor to be interested in, and mindful of, the message of the gospel if the saints are uninterested and indifferent in singing praises to the Lord.
- An apathy for our degrading situation. Afraid to go outside our comfort zone, our prior worry over the growing sinfulness of this age has been replaced by being satisfied to go through the motions of church, waiting more for a political leader to raise up and fix the moral rot rather than repenting on our faces before God.
- Excessive anxiety over Bible versions. We should examine translations carefully and be confident in the versions we use to study and preach. And then, being confident in the translation, let us return our focus to rescuing sinners.
- A lack of giving. Might our churches be more effective if we freed our pastors and missionaries to focus only on the ministry?
- A loss of community. God has placed little local assemblies all over and has called them to reach the people where they’re at. From Harrison Township, Michigan to Washington, Illinois to Louisville, KY to Kokomo, Putnam County, Avon, Camby, Greenfield, Whiteland, Bargersville, Franklin, and Columbus, to the neighborhoods of West Indianapolis and Carson Heights, to Wayne and Perry Townships, our churches should be lights and pillars in the local community. Our communities will not be receptive to the gospel we preach if we’re not active in bringing it to them.
- Occupied talent. The people that make up the Lord’s churches are uniquely talented to carry the gospel. Not because they are so great, but because God is so great! However, this talent has become preoccupied with worldly things, and that preoccupation is evident in the effectiveness of our message.
- A sense of defeat before the battle. The gospel is not well received if the person sharing it is without conviction. David’s brothers were dismayed and greatly afraid when the Philistine champion defied the armies of the living God. Yet the youngest of Jesse’s sons heard Goliath’s challenge and was neither dismayed nor afraid. He trusted God, he had confidence in his ability, and he knew his experience. He had slayed the lion and the bear and knew the same God that had delivered him then would deliver again! Brothers, we are not defeated! Victory awaits!
Now, that’s quite the list, but with the Lord’s help we can overcome each of them. Below is a list of advancements to consider as we do so.
- Prayer. Pray for conviction. Pray for a renewed interest in the scriptures. Pray for a clearer understanding of the gospel. Pray for a greater ability to convey the gospel to your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, your classmates, and your community. The church of God has always advanced on its knees in prayer.
- Invest in the right tools to assist you in your study. Free apps and websites like Blue Letter Bible are great places to start.
- Find a good dictionary. Learn to use a thesaurus. Words matter, and we should work to gain a better hold on the language we use to share the gospel.
- Grow your confidence in alternate translations – consider studying the KJV alongside the NASB95, the CSB, the Amplified bible, or the ESV
- Be purposeful in making your message clear. Jesus didn’t over explain, and neither did Paul. The word of the Lord stands on its own. Say it. Say it clearly. Say it with conviction. Say it with love. But once you say it, don’t confuse what you said by saying more.
- Be exemplary in your behavior, conduct, and deportment.
- Involve yourselves in the lives you’re trying to reach. It may mean going outside your comfort zone but do it anyway. God might have something to show you just on the other side of your comfort.
- Carry the gospel with the conviction of Spirit. If it’s not evident that what you believe has convinced you, it won’t convince anyone else.
- Value your character more than charisma or ability. The humble servant of God walking in integrity is much more effective than the charisma of the arrogant man or the talent of the polished speaker.
- Put into action the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22.
As we conclude, we must emphasize that the only way we will be effective in any of these things is if we are propelled by our love for God. Those who are truly saved will have a love for God that rises above their love for anything else. And that love for God will be met with a love for others in which you cannot and will not sit idly by, contented to watch the gospel be ignored, rejected, and mistreated. You will instead rise up to meet the challenge. Yes it will be difficult, yes it will make you uncomfortable, but your love for God will so compel you that no matter your labor, you must tell others about Jesus Christ.
So, our final challenge is not will you do it, it is do you love God?
Elder Dereck Mobley
Deacon Tim Rose