I want to start by saying that you can never go wrong teaching people what the word of God says. It is better still to teach them about how what it says should affect their lives. It is best when we teach what it says, what it means to us, and how it comes back to the Gospel. Too often teachers these days just want to be novel. They teach systems and gimmicks, what they think people want to hear, to get butts in the seats: 7 Keys to a Happier Life, 3 Steps to Success, or 5 Secrets to the Best You Now. The problem is, we wind up with churches full of people who are not experiencing any transformation and that rely on those gimmicks to get and keep members. We are just teaching them how to get along in the world and not how God is working to make them a new creation, in the image of Jesus. We have people who come for the public service announcements, and not for Jesus. We need to stop teaching stuff and teach the Gospel again.
It’s tempting to think that teaching the Gospel all year would be boring, but you’d be dead wrong to think so. We want to develop in ourselves a Gospel fluency … an ability to recognize the Gospel in stories and in the events of our lives and to communicate it. We train up a lot of people with business sense or common sense, but no sensitivity to the Spirit and no real understanding of the Gospel or how it impacts our lives. The good news of salvation is revealed in every story in scripture from Genesis to Revelation. From the Fall in the Garden of Eden, to the story of Gideon, to Elijah and Elisha, to Hosea and Gomer, and of course the Gospel narrative permeates the New Testament. When we can begin to see the Gospel — man’s desperate need, God’s redeeming grace and power, and the regenerated life that follows and affects the world around us — then we can begin to connect the dots and recognize the Gospel at work in the events of our own lives. As we begin to see God’s narrative in our own lives, then we can begin to recognize it in the lives of those around us and help them understand how God is at work to save them through the word of God and our testimony.
There are still all kinds of themes to teach and preach from … if you still think simply preaching the stories of the Bible isn’t enough. At my church we just wrapped up a four week series called Kingdom Builders in which we explored surrender to the kingdom of God, definitely a gospel message. We will be starting another four week series called iBelong, looking at our various connections to creation and people and our responsibility in Christ as stewards of his calling. Teaching the Gospel explores themes of holiness, guilt, redemption, transformation, faithfulness, and more. Over time these themes and truths are allowed to sink in and take root rather than trying to hand over little packages of nicely wrapped ideas … 52 ideas a year. How is anybody supposed really let that sink in? We want to encourage each other to explore God’s truths. We want to inspire each other to live in the Truth in every area of everyday life.
When we stop teaching gimmicks and start teaching truth, we will see transformation. We will see it in our people, in our church, and as a result, in our community. The people whom God has entrusted to us will begin to thrive and bear a powerful and effective witness to those around them. The Gospel will advance in our communities and our world, not because we “got people to church” to hear the pastor preach, but because the church goes to them and the Gospel is spread through the people of God who are overcoming by the blood of the Lamb (the Gospel) and the word of their testimony (their witness to the Gospel).