Where is your gospel?
One of my favorite books is The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler. I don’t want to give it all away, but trust me when I say it’s an amazing book that will challenge your perception of the gospel message.
I do want to give you a little snip of what I continually reflect on from that book, even after reading it months ago. Chandler lays out two areas in which our theology of the gospel tends to derive from and both of them are dangerously perverse. Real quickly, let me just sum up what he proposes and then I’ll leave both of us to reflect on which side we tend to gravitate towards!
Gospel on the Ground:
The gospel on the ground is where you find dead churches. It’s where service opportunities aren’t being pursued, it’s where people are judgmental of others who don’t agree with them. It’s legalistic, rule following, conservatives who know exactly what other people are doing wrong. Rather than going to those people, they yell from the ground and invite them down. Now, I don’t want to sound like these people are these irritable jerks, because they aren’t at all. Gospel on the ground people have sound doctrine and understand what’s in the Bible.. But what’s unfortunate is that they hold those truths too close to their eyes. They see it for themselves but are blind to the need of what they know in the world that they live in.The picture of being “on the ground” is worded that way so we would envision having a firm foundation, to be grounded in a state of belief. Again, nothing wrong with that at all; but we know that while it’s good and essential to have that grounded stance in what the gospel is and means, it’s not okay to stay on the ground. The gospel of Jesus is to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, and that doesn’t happen when we keep the gospel is kept on the ground. Is your gospel found on the ground? I hope that it is to some degree, because there has to be some essential beliefs of Christianity that must first be formed from the ground. But are you staying there? Are you pointing at all the people that aren’t grounded like you? Don’t stay where you are at and hope people see your state of being grounded and magically change, go to them! Take your gospel off the ground. Basic principles of Christianity are obviously important, but if there is not attempt for transparency in delivering the gospel to your broken world, then you are missing the whole point and purpose of the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20)
Gospel in the Air:
Moving from the gospel on the ground, we will now go to what Chandler calls the gospel in the air. The gospel in the air is founded in moral people. Many people in church have a gospel in the air attitude and outlook of their faith. It’s amazing and inspiring to see their passion of service and mannerisms to everybody, but it’s heartbreaking to see that their motivation in doing what they do is not influenced by Jesus. It’s people pleasers. People who have their gospel in the air wouldn’t want to offend anyone by saying that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light; so they open it up to just exercising morality as they see fit in their context. But that’s not what a Christian is called to, is it? It may look nice to do good, but are we really doing good when it’s about us and not about Jesus? What if we are actually doing more harm than good when we act like that? Why do you do the things you do? Are you serious really serious about Jesus? The answer to these questions matter, because from them we find the location of our heart. “…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4
The truth is that at the core of both the gospel in the air and the gospel on the ground is a idolatry. It’s giving devotion to a gospel that you are comfortable with. The gospel in the air is full of self (be like me), and the core of the gospel in the air is also selfish (as long as you’re doing something you’re good!). They both can look good, but once they are unpacked, it’s linked back to you and not to Jesus. And speaking for all of us here, that’s not good news! May our aim be to please the Lord. May we tremble at the sound of His name, in that we are able to be apart of His mission of making Him known. Find a middle ground where you are both staying restricted by your grounded gospel (so you don’t float off into la la land), and being challenged to leave the home of simplicity..
Float. Don’t fly so you’re in the air, and don’t sit on the ground; but float.