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 the wrong gospel.
Does this sound like the gospel?
- 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.
These aren’t the gospel. At least… not any gospel that Jesus and the disciples ever preached.
These are messages of personal salvation.
The message of personal salvation has been masquerading as the gospel since 1957 when Bill Bright (of Campus Crusade for Christ) came up with his tract entitled "The Four Spiritual Laws". This same concept was distributed throughout the world via the work of Henrietta Mears and her book "What the Bible is All About".
McKnight makes the case that the reason 80% of children who grew up in evangelical homes are no longer following Messiah is because they lack the true gospel (which Paul declares is the power of G-d for salvation- Romans 1:16).
There were four men who lived in the first century who 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.
Think about it.
The four bullet points of the "four spiritual laws" could fit on the back of a business card and we think that is the gospel? That is the power of G-d?
Author D. Thomas Lancaster offers a paraphrase of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 (and other passages) as 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] 1
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 word "gospel" has lost its true meaning in the Church.
If we are to have a solid foundation for our faith (and for the faith of our children!) then we need to have the true gospel and step forward boldly onto the path of faith that leads to salvation.
O LORD, lead me in Your paths of righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me. (Psalm 5:8)