As a pastor of a local church, I have to see if prospective church members understand the gospel. I do this in many of the membership interviews I conduct before I recommend someone to join our church.
If you’re a church mover you also want to help the church members you interact with grasp the gospel. But you don’t want to make them feel dumb for not knowing it. How can you help them?
I have four questions I ask to get through the elements of the gospel message corresponding to God, Man, Christ, and Faith. I start with the open ended question: What is the gospel?
The most common response to this question is along the lines of, “Jesus died for us and rose from the dead” or something like that. “That’s great!” I respond. Then I build from here.
Church Mover (CM): Why did he have to die?
New Christian (NC): For our sins.
CM: Are you saying you’re a sinner? Is everyone a sinner?
NC: Yes. And yes.
CM: But why did he have to die for sins?
NC: Because the penalty of sin is death.
CM: True. But what makes sin so bad that God has to require death? Why can’t God just sweep it under a rug? Isn’t he loving? Why does he have to take sin so seriously? What is it about him that he has to punish sinners guilty of sin?
NC: God doesn’t like sin. He is holy and righteous so he has to deal with sin.
CM: That’s true. God wants to and has to deal with sins because he is perfectly fair and righteous. He must uphold his glory and even seek the justice for others sinned against. So Jesus died for our sins. Is he still dead?
NC: Nope. He rose from the dead.
CM: That’s good news, indeed! So, since God is holy and must punish sin we all must be punished. But God sent his Son to die for our sins and rise from the dead. That’s all great. Does that mean that now everyone is forgiven and will be with God forever?
NC: No, not everyone.
CM: So, what’s the difference? How does someone get connected to the saving work of Jesus? Is it by going to church and making sure we obey everything God commands.
NC: No. We can’t be saved by our own works. We have to believe in Jesus. We have to trust him.
CM: If I trust Jesus then do I get to keep sinning as much as I want and still be a Christian?
NC: If you trust in Jesus then you turn from sin and give it up. This means you fight against it daily as a result of your true faith in Jesus.
Rarely does a conversation go this smoothly in walking a brother or sister through the gospel. I shortened the conversation to the main questions and generally correct answers. There are many other questions to help them get to the gospel. I use other examples to debunk wrong turns in explaining the gospel. I give them questions that they generally know or sense if they’ve been part of a gospel saturated church family.
The gospel is the greatest news in the world. And Christians need to be able to articulate it. So we must equip them in ways that help them to grasp its truth rather than repeat our slogans. Use questions and guide them along. Then make sure to rejoice in the glorious news that God saves sinners like us through Jesus Christ.
Question: What have you found helpful in equipping Christians to articulate the gospel?