A Pastors’ and Theologians’ Forum on Explaining the Gospel
We asked a roundtable of pastors and theologians two questions:
- You are standing on stage before 100,000 people from every nation on earth and asked to share the gospel in 100 words or less. What would you say
- You are standing before a small crowd from your church’s neighborhood and asked to share the gospel in 100 words or less. What would you say? [Authors were asked to include a couple of words describing their neighborhood. We have included these in italics when provided.]
- Peter Adams—Melbourne, Australia
- Greg Gilbert—Louisville, KY
- Liam Goligher—London, England
- Michael Horton—Escondido, CA
- Michael Nazir-Ali—Rochester, England
- Frank Retief—Cape Town, South Africa
- “Ed Roberts“—Central Asia
- Mack Stiles—Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Adrian Warnock—London, England
(1) God made everything and everyone. He rules the universe, and made us in his image. He made us to know and serve him, and we will have to account for our lives.
Because we do not know and serve God, God sent his Son the Lord Jesus Christ to show us how to live, teach us about God, and die in our place, taking on himself the judgment we deserved. He then rose from the dead, and rules with God. We should turn to trust in God’s Son, join his people, receive his Spirit, and live for his glory.
(2) Same as above.
Peter Adam is the Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne. His next book is entitled, Written for Us: Receiving God’s Words in the Bible, to be published by IVP in January 2008.
(1) There is only one God, who created the world and everything in it. Though God intended humans to rule the world under him, each of us has sinned against him, the penalty for which is death and hell. But because he loves us, God sent his Son Jesus to live a perfect life and die on a cross as a substitute for his people. On the third day, he rose bodily from the grave and now reigns in heaven, offering forgiveness, righteousness, and eternal life to all those who repent of their sin and trust solely in him for salvation.
(2) To an audience of mixed races and socioeconomic classes, from college students to professionals to retirees: Same as above
Greg Gilbert serves as an elder at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He is also the director of theological research for the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a writer for Kairos Journal, an online journal for pastors.
(1) God can often seem absent, distant, or indifferent to us. But suppose he were to visit us, become one of us? Would we welcome him, or ignore or even murder him as people did Jesus Christ? God would then be justified in destroying us. The good news is that God the creator loves us his creatures and has come in Jesus to take the place of guilty people, died to bear their deserved punishment, and rose again; and that by receiving Christ, people might have a living relationship with God now and enjoy him and all he has made for eternity.
(2) Richmond is an upscale area of London with an upwardly mobile, young professional, socially progressive demographic: We have been debating “God” recently, but what does God think about us? A look at Jesus (his life, death, and resurrection) reveals what God looks like with skin on. It immediately confirms that he is grieved by us. We’re prepared to believe anything rather than the God who is there. We’re even prepared to murder our Maker. We deserve hell! Yet instead of wiping us out he has taken our humanity, endured our deserved punishment, and won our freedom. He calls us into a right relationship with himself through trusting in Christ, so that we might enjoy him forever.
Liam Goligher is the senior pastor of Duke Street Church in Richmond, London, and is the author, most recently, of The Jesus Gospel.
(1) What is your greatest fear? If I were asking that question in many parts of the world, answers would probably cluster around basic needs such as running water, food, vaccines, and shelter. For most of us in the United States, though, our greatest fears are more likely to be things like the fear of loneliness, some cataclysmic event that throws me off the ladder of upward mobility, divorce, or the inability to find any ultimate meaning in life. None of these fears is illegitimate, yet none is ultimate. These fears haunt us only because we have the luxury of having them haunt us. Until we are confronted with the reality of God—in all of his blinding majesty, weightiness, and frightful claim on our lives—we are overwhelmed by secondary troubles. But when for some reason there is the slightest glimpse of God in his holiness, we either do our best to domesticate him, turn him into a pet by suppressing the truth, or run for the hills to escape the confrontation.
God should be your greatest fear. Yet there is no salvation from God’s just judgment from anywhere else than God himself. Only the same God who fills us with fear is able also to give us peace. If we are to escape this judgment, it will only be the result of the greatness in God’s heart and not something in our own. That God has moved toward us—even lunged toward us—not in judgment, as we should have expected, but in loving embrace and reconciliation, clothing us in Christ’s righteousness so that we can be acceptable in his holy presence, is the good news that you are called here and now to embrace. Christ lived a perfect life in the place of sinners, bore their sins on the cross, and was raised again for our justification. This means that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Not because of anything that you have done, experienced, attempted, or decided, but because of what he has accomplished for you, can you be assured of God’s favor. It is good news, not good advice. It is not a call to self-improvement, but to die to self altogether and be raised a new person, in Christ. It is the free gift of forgiveness of sins, right standing with God, adoption as his heirs, and liberation from the tyranny of sin. As his ambassador, I am calling you in his name to be reconciled to God by turning away from all other saviors and lords and embracing Jesus Christ as your righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Come to him now. His love is greater than your enmity toward him; his grace is greater than your sin; his peace is greater than your fears.
(2) The same thing.
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, CA, and is the author of the upcoming, Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ, to be published in September 2007 by Westminster John Knox.
(1) In the midst of our darkness and failure, Jesus Christ shines as a bright light, showing us God’s truth and love. He stands in our place, does what we cannot do together and are unwilling to do personally and so turns away God’s anger from all our wrong doing and our abuse of others, ourselves, and God’s world. His sacrifice on the cross is the climax of his mission which is to make us friends again with God. Let us accept for ourselves what he has done. Let us be friends with God with him and so share the new life which God has given him and which he shares with us.
(2) Angry and rebellious people killed Jesus but he could not be held by the bonds of death. He came back to life and met with people personally. These people were changed into a world-changing force. Today also, he wants to meet with you personally. Open your hearts, minds and homes to him and know the power of the new life he brings. He will not let you down. Put your trust in him and you will experience the strength and comfort he brings. Being with him will show you which way to go, what sort of life to lead and how to bring others to friendship with him.
The Rt. Revd. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali is the Bishop of Rochester, has acted as a consultant to the British prime minister on Muslim affairs, and is the author of multiple books, including Conviction and Conflict: Islam, Christianity, and World Order.
(1) God the Creator of the Universe has sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world. He died to make the impossible possible – a doorway back to God for lost people. All people, whether aware of it or not, are alienated from God and under his judgment. But he has sent a Saviour and King Jesus Christ to offer forgiveness and life to all who will repent of their unbelief and turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. If you turn to Jesus Christ you will receive a welcome from the Father himself and you will be made a member of a new family who shares many blessings here and will participate in the world to come.
(2) Drawing from 31 years experience at St James Church Kenilworth Cape Town, South Africa, which experienced a massacre by terrorists in 1993: There is a God who rules from a place greater than Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban; who has more knowledge in his tiny finger than all the college-educated in Africa: who is totally unimpressed with our ideologies, obsessions with racism, group hatreds and constant fighting. He sweeps up into his love every ethnic and national group, for he created them all, and his plan for the future is more socially progressive than you could ever imagine. Where is this God, especially in our disease-ridden and war-plagued continent? He is to be found in Jesus Christ his Son whose great and grand promise is to accept all who come to him in faith, leaving behind all their sins, failures, and successes. He is the One Saviour who is above all our beliefs and superstitions and introduces you to none less than the Creator of the Whole Creation, including Africa with all her troubles. What privilege. What love. And all this through a Cross.
Frank Retief is the presiding bishop of the Church of England in South Africa. He is the author of several books.
“Ed Roberts” (real name hidden for security purposes)
1) In the name of Jesus Christ, the only living Savior of all peoples, be reconciled to your Creator! Live under the kind, gracious rule of Jesus Christ. He is the only way to have a right relationship with God, with his world and with other people. There is only one God. Turning away from him, we deserve his wrath. Humble yourself, agreeing with God that you have rebelled against him, choosing your own way, believing your own ideas, rejecting God’s demands. In Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, rebels find forgiveness. So, stop rebelling. Believe with your heart; confess with your mouth: Jesus Christ is Lord!
2.) For an urban, middle class Asian context, that is “progressively” Islamic, mildly superstitious/animistic, mostly weekly mosque-attending (males that is, women would not attend), not terribly familiar with Koranic teaching, contemptuous of America, largely ignorant of but scorning Christianity, and suspicious of outsiders, especially Christian outsiders: Followers of Jesus believe that: the Lord our God is the one and only Lord God, that we should love him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength. Also, we should love our neighbor as ourselves. And this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. So, this is eternal life, that we might know the One True God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Jesus claims to be the Way, the Truth, the Life. Do you know this Jesus?
Mr. Roberts has planted a church in the U.S. and has been planting churches and doing leadership development in Central Asia for awhile.
(1) Maybe you don’t know, but there is a heavenly dilemma over you. You are loved as God’s special creation. But because God is also holy you are cut off from him by your wickedness and under his judgment. The Bible tells of God’s one solution: Jesus, fully God and fully sinless man, ransomed us to God through his death on the cross. He paid our sin-debt and rose from the dead as proof that he is the way and the truth. Eliminate the dilemma! Turn from sin; follow Jesus by putting your complete faith and trust in him.
(2) Allah commands you to read the Injil. But what does it say? It says salvation comes from Allah’s love, not Allah’s rules! It says the straight path to Allah is faith in the Jesus of the Injil. The Injil gives only one path: Jesus, fully God – fully man and perfect, ransomed us to God through his death on the cross. He paid our sin-debt. He rose from the dead as proof that he is the path to heaven. Does Allah’s strength not protect his word? The Injil says repent; follow Jesus; put your complete faith and trust in him.
[Editor’s note: in further conversation with Mr. Stiles, he said he often will use this story with unbelievers (which he says is not original to him): Two men went to the mosque to pray. One was a rich man, the other a poor man. The rich man went through his libations and prayers as he did five times a day. As he was praying, he began to have a sexual fantasy about the young wife who lived next door to his home. But he finished his prayers and went home. The poor man stood off at a distance. He came so infrequently to the mosque, that he couldn’t remember the positions for prayer or his libations. But he looked up to heaven, beat his breast, and said, “Forgive me, O Lord, for I’m a sinner.” Who went home justified? Mr Stiles says that every Muslim he has asked this question has answered “The rich man.”]
Mack Stiles is a businessman in Dubai, UAE, and is the author of Speaking of Jesus, 17 Things My Kids Taught Me About God, and Mack & Leeanne’s Guide to Short-Term Missions. His son is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
(1) Despite our differences, we are similar in many ways — longing for the elusive peace and happiness found only in the God who made everything. We are both victims and perpetrators of evil that cannot be justly overlooked, rebels living as enemies of God. Only one man lived a perfect life — Jesus, who died our death, suffered our punishment, and was resurrected so that we could be reborn. Please read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, especially verse 21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
(2) For a multicultural British audience: In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul warns it is possible to believe in vain. Today many believe in God but do not belong to him or his church. If it is true that “Christ died for our sins . . . was buried . . . was raised,” we need a radical change of direction in our lives—our own resurrection (Eph. 2:1-9). Believing in God isn’t enough — Satan does. How tragic if Jesus sent you away forever saying, “I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:23) I urge you—have faith in Jesus, entrust yourself to him completely and make him your Lord. (Romans 10:9)