A few years after I encountered Jesus personally, I became a volunteer in a ministry that preached on the streets. As part of the orientation process we were taught to share the gospel and it went something like this:
“God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross as a sacrifice for your sins and Jesus was resurrected back to life so that if you confess your sins and believe in Him through faith, you will be saved from judgment and gain eternal life.”
When I looked back on this experience I realise this presentation was true, but not the whole truth. That version of the gospel becomes something you can shout into a megaphone, something you can print on a tract and drop in mailboxes. While God may use those efforts, they are not the best reflection of how God himself delivered the good news (gospel).
This version of the gospel is disembodied truth. It makes the Gospel just a concept.
Later in my Christian walk I was taught to share my story with people. What I discovered is that Evangelicals love a good story. We’re all about “sharing our testimonies” and “telling our stories” and recounting our “spiritual journey.” But there’s a subtle danger lurking here. Because of our emphasis on conversion stories and testimonies, we can unintentionally make people think that the gospel is personified in your experience. We interpret The Great Commission’s “Go make disciples” as “Go tell your story.” They are not the same thing.
This version of the gospel is embodied but it makes the gospel about us.
The Gospel at its core is not a disembodied claim or centred on us; the gospel is a person and we are to introduce people to Jesus himself. The good news is incarnated in Jesus. It is personified in Jesus. The gospel was communicated in flesh, not just in words or testimonies. This is done both inside and outside the community of faith. We must take individuals seriously. Each person is a vital part of a network in the broader society. Each person is an object of God’s eternal compassion. The message itself must remain compellingly related to the relationship between an individual and Jesus. This way it is infectious and timeless in nature. The message is viral and can readily be passed on. Without this gospel we are definitely on the way to death, precisely because the gospel (the evangel) is what brings new life.