Don't settle for communicating a domesticated version of the gospel.
Although perhaps beautiful to look at, there are fewer sights more pitiful than a caged tiger or an eagle with its wings clipped.
Likewise, a domesticated gospel serves little more purpose than a relic to be observed. How is the gospel being domesticated? you ask. Consider these factors:
a growing familiarity with the evangelical subculture as defined through television, music and movies
a pluralistic climate that blurs the lines of distinction between Christianity and its false counterparts in Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism
an increasing resistance toward any expression of faith that would be perceived as offensive or intolerant of other beliefs.
These emerging trends threaten to rub the rough edges off the divisive (but life-giving) message that should be the core of our ministries.
In an effort to make the gospel more palatable, some of us have avoided topics such as sin, hell and the second coming, downplaying the controversial and mysterious nature of the God we serve.
In this issue of Ministries Today, we address several of these difficult topics in hopes that you will be challenged to persevere in presenting an authentic--and relevant--gospel in an increasingly hostile environment:
Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron ("Afflicting the Comfortable," p. 18) are two examples of people who are doing just that. When they hit the streets with a handful of tracts and a pocketful of chutzpa, neither fit the mold of a stereotypical evangelist. In fact, their day-to-day contact with unbelievers has given them an easy familiarity that makes witnessing seem natural--whether in Times Square or at a rock-'n'-roll festival.
Ken Walker's exploration of "What America Believes About Hell" (p. 28) indicates a confusion in convictions about eternal punishment: Many (non-Christians included) believe in a literal hell, but most are convinced that it is not their final destination.
In his "Conversation" (p. 44) with R.T. Kendall, Oral Roberts contends that the second coming of Christ is more imminent than ever and that teaching on this topic must return as the centerpiece of the pulpit. For Roberts, it is the amazing love of God demonstrated on the cross that should motivate this revived emphasis.
You on the frontlines of ministry are in our prayers--that God will strengthen and empower you for another year of Spirit-led service in His kingdom.
When you're tempted to adopt a safer, domesticated Christianity, may you choose a more extreme--and biblical--version of the gospel. And may you always experience a little healthy discomfort as you keep sight of a fiery hell, a bloody cross and the One "who was, and is and is coming" (Rev. 4:8, CEV).