When we present the gospel, are we presenting God's heart and passion?

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Erwin McManus and I did a one-day event for church planters talking about creating "Come as U R" churches that help people far from God actually grow into future leaders for God. (Check out stories on 

It struck me, while listening to Erwin, that we are very different kinds of leaders, yet how we talk about the message of Jesus (the gospel) is very similar in texture. I will explore this very important nuance in the near future, but how we think about the gospel message—what we are telling the world about God’s heart—is critical!

Jesus told His followers, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt. 24:14, ESV). All followers of Jesus must be prepared to help people understand this “gospel of the kingdom.” But what is the gospel, and what is this kingdom? How do we translate this into relatable language today?

The original Greek term translated gospel, euangellion, comes from eu, meaning “good,” and angellion, meaning “message” (our word angel means "messenger"). It literally means “good message,” “good proclamation” or “good news.” Ironically, our word evangelism comes from this word. In most post-Christian countries, I find the word evangelism does not sound like good news at all to most people. Somehow, we have we miscommunicated the heart of the gospel.

We don’t use the term kingdom regularly, but it implies a ruler and a realm where the will and ways of the king are done. God’s kingdom is where God’s will and ways are done. That happens fully in heaven, and one day it will come fully to earth, but for now we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth like in heaven.” In other words, a taste of eternal life can come to earth through all who allow God’s kingdom will and ways to channel through our lives. And this life in God’s kingdom lasts forever. So the gospel of the kingdom is good news about life with God.

About a year into His ministry, Jesus had healed and delivered so many people from all kinds of suffering, people in need flocked to him: “The people were looking for him and ... tried to keep him from leaving them” (Luke 4:42, NIV). Clearly, there was something incredibly good they experienced from Jesus. “But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent’” (v. 43).

Jesus had a priority that we cannot neglect because we are “sent ones” on mission with Him: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Like Jesus, we must care for the physical needs and the spiritual needs of people equally. We must tell them the good news about God in both word and deed—for that is why we are sent.

As I re-looked at every instance where Jesus or His followers throughout the New Testament shared the gospel, or Good News, I found no formula. There is no formal definition for the gospel. However, I did see creative expressions of three distinct themes that can serve as an outline for us. I’ve seen thousands of people far from God respond and follow Christ when they understand these three themes, conveying good news not just to the head but to the heart as well.

Here’s a summary of these themes:

1. There is good news about God and life. God created you for loving relationship with Himself and others, and He is available to lead us into the life we long to experience (an eternal quality of life that comes from the inside out). One of the biggest barriers to faith (other than sin) is that people don’t believe God is good or that they will like the life He wants to give them. We must do all we can to help them see otherwise. That’s why Jesus used parable and story and analogy—to help people “see” how great the love of the Father is for us.

2. There is good news about Jesus. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection opened the way for us to know God does not condemn us but forgives our sins so that we can walk into life with His Spirit, who helps us become all He intended. The part we often miss is that we don’t have to change ourselves. The good news is that God enters into life with us by His Spirit, and He produces the fruit—all we need is willingness.

3. There is good news about your part. God has removed every barrier between God and you except one: your pride, or free will. You can humbly choose to turn and trust God (repent and believe) to experience His forgiveness purchased by Christ and find guidance into life by His Spirit. “Repent” and “believe” are the two commands associated with our part—which simply means to turn back to God instead of going our way without Him, and to trust in God (walk by faith).

Some people will say, “But we have to tell them the bad news first about sin and judgment or they won’t accept the good news.” That is simply not what Jesus did—it’s what the Pharisees did. But there is a time for bad news—the “when” is important.

John Burke is lead pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas, and the author of No Perfect People Allowed. Visit John at

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