Missing the forest because of the tree? – The Gospel Context

Missing the forest because of the tree? – The Gospel Context

Posted on 23. Mar, 2010 by in Challenging Status Quo

Last week I picked up the book Unchristian (again). I have had this book for about a year and half, started the first chapter, but never got passed it. Now it is one of the most inspiring books I have read in awhile – probably because the author agrees with me in so many areas!

Really, I find them saying many things that I have been thinking and discussing regarding the church and Christianity. I will admit, they probably say it much more sophisticated and with the research to back it up. The facts they state, at least to me, so qualifies the current condition of the modern church and it’s ability or lack of, to reach our culture.

This brings me to the idea of our gospel context – is modern Christianity presenting the good news in the proper context; yielding demonstrable proof of a King and his kingdom?

What is context? According to dictionary.com (1) it is:
1. The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

Thus context is the circumstances or facts surrounding something that produces definition and thus understanding. So how does this relate to the gospel? Glad you asked.

From what I read in the bible, I see the good news (gospel) presented in circumstances and facts (context) regarding a kingdom restoration. Below is just a sampling of texts emphasizing the kingdom context of the gospel:
• There was to be a descendant of king David ruling (2 Sam 7:12, 16)
• The Lord’s kingdom is everlasting (Ps145:13, Dan 4:3)
• God will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed (Dan 2:44)
• The saints will assist in the ruling of this kingdom (Dan7:27)
• When Jesus entered Jerusalem the people expected kingdom restoration (Mk 11:10)
• Pharisees demanded to know when the kingdom would come (Lk 17:20)
• Jesus first message was to repent for the kingdom of heaven had come near (Mt 4:17)
• Jesus primary message was the good news of the kingdom and he demonstrated this. (too many texts to list here)
• He sent the seventy and the twelve to preach the Gospel of the kingdom (Lk 10:9, 9:2)
• After his resurrection Jesus ministered to the disciples of the kingdom (Acts 1:3)
• Before His ascension the disciples asked if he would restore the kingdom (Acts 1:6)
• The end will not come until the gospel of the kingdom is preached to all the world (Mt 24:14)
• The Born again experience is to see and enter the kingdom (Jn 3:3,5)

The point I am attempting to make is that the gospel is more than a salvation experience; it is the entrance to a Kingdom that is to result in a transformational lifestyle. Unfortunately, this is not the context of modern Christianity.

The problem is much of Christianity focus predominately on the conversion experience as the goal. Why do I say this? Just look at the focus of many ministries and what gets the headlines. It is the numbers of conversions at crusades or revivals. It is the number of those filled with His spirit or baptized. Sermon after sermon is preached about winning the lost (by the way, did Jesus tell us to win the lost? Read the great commission again thru fresh eyes). In some cases, guilt and condemnation is used to motivate members to go out and evangelize.

The end result of this context is a numbers game that results in weak and ineffectual Christians. There is the lack of true discipleship evidenced by a transformational lifestyle. Quoting from Unchristian;

“Yet the point of research I have presented is to clarify when the simple starting point becomes the substitute for Christian discipleship. Intentionally or not, we promote the idea to outsiders that being a Christ follower is primarily about the mere choice to convert. We do not portray all the aspects of life.”(2)

The authors further state that most who become Christians disconnect from a church within eight to twelve weeks.(3) “In a get-saved culture, too many of the conversions become either ‘aborted’ believers or casual Christians(4).” A Salvation focused gospel produces a lifestyle that is concerned with a list of do’s and don’ts that we perceive will affect our eternal destiny. This becomes life of fear and bondage verse transformation and freedom.

The contextual error of the gospel of modern Christianity: is that we emphasized the salvation, born again experience so much that we do not convey that it is only the beginning.

We focus on a tree, missing the great vastness of the entire forest.

Ok, so I have ranted about a problem: now, what should we do?
In my humble opinion, the answer is to change our context of the born again/conversion/salvation presentation. The experience is not the goal nor is it about heaven or hell; it is about being restored to the nature and image of God. It is the entrance into a transformational lifestyle that will continue until we die or He returns. It is about the restoration of the dominion of a King and his kingdom in our lives on a daily basis.

Our presentation of the good news should be like Jesus: Repent (change your thinking – it will change your behavior) because the kingdom of heaven is here!


(1) “context.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 23 Mar. 2010.
(2) David Kinnaman, Unchristian, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2007) p. 79
(3) Ibid
(4) Ibid

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One Response to “Missing the forest because of the tree? – The Gospel Context”

  1. Matthew A White

    10. May, 2010

    When our goal is church growth or souls saved, really anything other than the goal of Knowing Him and establishing His Kingdom, done in obedience and dependance, we eat of the tree of these false gospels. So what is the true Gospel?
    Yes Jesus did come to save, but he said, Go and make desciples, again, go and preach the good news.. and in doing this do this.. heal etc etc..
    So today many many of us are tempted to through the relationship with others baby out with the bath water of trials and woundedness in our desire to partake of the Life of God in His kingdom.
    Me too.. burned and burned out, bruised and bleeding after the fallout of the war… not wanting to partake of good thing the Lord wants for His bride, the church. Not wanting to risk and love those who wounded me. What is the answer for myself and all the other wounded? Well, simplicity would say Jesus Jesus only Jesus, but truly we HAVE to have one another, to walk out our lives and we have to have the Love and life of God, in all manifestations Father Son and Holy Spirit. For me, again not putting any burden other than love on those who read this, Its about knowing God, intamacy and not knowledge and knowing others and being known.. Funny thing, and true, the very wounds inflicted on me God uses as I am transformed to bring His Glory! COOL GOD!!!
    The trials I face are used by God, as they touch my soul, He will touch the issues brought up internally, and externally show Himself strong as I seek him, and his kingdom.

    Love, true love yields, acts, submits and bears all the fruit God desires. The truly love from God requires action… but action alone is not love, nor even an accurate measurement. Love must be reflected in transformed lives verified by holy pure MOTIVES. I choose to love those who hate even in the church. I choose to give and bless, and as I have a pure heart, my motive to give and bless is changed daily into one that pleases Him. these issue of righteous context of evangelism or any other work, must in my opinion be seen in a proper organic relational “context” to and from God and to and from one another. My days of walking in darkness are over, because of HIM, its all really about Him, not our kingdom! Not my Church, my ministry etc, but even what rightly could be seen as such are simple treasure from heaven entrusted to me, a beloved son. May we all know Him, and love Him in our loveing one another, the church.

    ok, brass tacks… Jesues said if I can paraphrase, “See me, see the father.. love one another, and obedience shows me you trust /know/love me.” Without this relational context our searching and seeking is at best self seeking religion. My bruised heart, wounded spirit and dissalusionment absolutely melts in His love, embraced by the father, and absolutely is walked out relationaly with other men and women, failing to address either thwarts His purposs.

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