A friend of mine recently shared an astounding fact. Ninety percent of children in who grow up in evangelical homes make a decision to follow Christ, yet only 22% of that group are still following Christ by age 35.
Before they are 35 years old, eighty percent of children who grew up in evangelical homes are not following Christ.
I had to check this out.
Seminary professor and evangelical author, Scot McKnight makes the same claim. He places the blame squarely on the fact that many churches today are preaching an incomplete Gospel.
Does this sound like the Gospel to you?
- All have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d.
- The wages of sin is death.
- The gift of G-d is eternal life through Jesus.
- Believe in your heart that Jesus paid for your sin then you will be saved from hell.
How about this?
- God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
- Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life.
- Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life.
- We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.
You may be surprised to learn that these short pitches aren’t the Gospel...at least not the full Gospel that Jesus and His disciples preached. These messages are calls to personal salvation, which hopefully result in unbelievers coming to faith, but they only scratch the surface of the true Gospel.
The condensed message of personal salvation has been confused with the Gospel since at least 1957, when Bill Bright (of Campus Crusade for Christ) authored his famous tract The Four Spiritual Laws. A similar notion (i.e., conflating a call to believe the Gospel with the Gospel itself) spread across the world via the work of Henrietta Mears and her book What the Bible is all About.
Think about it.
The four bullet points of the “four spiritual laws” could fit on the back of a business card, yet we call it "the Gospel?" That's the Gospel? That's the full message Paul declared to be the power of G-d for salvation (Romans 1:16)? That's the power of G-d?? Hardly.
McKnight makes a case that 80% of children who grew up in evangelical homes are walking away from their faith because they lack the true gospel. They weren't exposed to the full word of God. They heard the personal message of salvation but nothing more.
Four men who lived in the first century wrote entire books on the subject of the Gospel. They were eyewitnesses (or spoke with eyewitnesses) to the life and work of Christ. We know these books as the Gospel according to Matthew, the Gospel according to Mark, the Gospel according to Luke, and the Gospel according to John. These books have 16-28 chapters each, some of which contain 50+ verses on the subject. No summarized, distilled version of their contents can substitute for an abiding, intimate knowledge of the same.
If we must have distilled "gospels," then maybe Author D. Thomas Lancaster's paraphrase of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 (and other passages) is a better summary of the “good news” Gospel message:
Repent, because the Messianic Age is near. How near is it? So near that the Messiah has already been identified: Jesus of Nazareth, a son of David attested to by G-d with mighty works and wonders and signs that G-d did through him. He was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of G-d, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men, but G-d raised him up, loosing him from the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death. (Acts 2:22-24) He has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and having received the Holy Spirit, has poured it out upon his disciples.(v 33) Therefore, repent from your sins, turn to G-d, be immersed for the name of Jesus the King to become his disciple, and you will receive the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.(v 38) When he comes again, he will bring the Messianic Era and establish the kingdom of heaven and everything that it entails. He will defeat the enemies of Israel, (v 35) bring an end to the exile of the Jewish people, and restore the kingdom to Israel, just as the prophets predicted. At that time, G-d will raise his disciples from the dead to join him, (Acts 24:15) just as he raised Jesus from the dead. After the kingdom, then comes the final judgment, when every person who ever lived must stand before the throne of judgment. (Acts 24:25) The names of those who have obeyed King Jesus and trusted him for the forgiveness of their sins are recorded in the Book of Life along with the names of the saints. (Rev 20:12) This promise is for Jewish people and for their children and for all who are far off, for everyone whom the LORD our G-d calls to Himself. (Acts 2:39)
Now THAT is good news: the Kingdom of G-d is almost here! It is so close that we can see the King!
McKnight notes that one of our challenges in the 21st century can be summed up in a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “The text has disappeared under the interpretation.” Because we have equated the “message of personal salvation” with “the gospel” for so long, the term Gospel has lost its true meaning in the church. We need to remind each other to study and know the full Gospel if we are to be prepared to live out our faith – or even to remain faithful to it!
If we are to have a solid foundation for our faith (and for the faith of our children!) then we need to have the full gospel and walk confidently on the path of faith that leads to salvation.
And VBVMI is here to help you every step of the way!