Restoring the Gospel - Part 2

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In our second look at Restoring the Gospel, we look at what I call "Decision-based Gospeling" and why our current method of evangelism has had a detrimental affect on the church, particularly on our ability to make disciples of our converts. Let's take a brief look at this concept and begin to understand how our current "gospeling" typically creates shallow, ineffective Christians, whereas the Apostolic Gospel will create fully devoted disciples of our Master.

Decision-based Gospeling

"Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples." 1

As we continue to re-examine the Gospel, let's examine how our misunderstanding of the fullness of the Apostolic Gospel has contributed to some of the problems within Christianity with which we struggle today.

First, we need to take a look at what I will call Decision-based Gospeling. For much of evangelical Christianity, this is the crux of evangelism. It’s all about finding an open door (both figurative and literal) by which we can “share the Gospel” in hopes that our would-be victims — I mean converts — would hear our message, confess their sins (a sometimes optional step) and make a decision to accept Christ as their “personal Savior.”

Theologian Scot McKnight observes his personal experience at this type of evangelism and sums it up by saying, 

"The deacon had won, the man somehow 'made a decision for Christ,' we prayed with him, and then we returned to the church where everyone had gathered. When we gave our report of a salvation, everyone said, 'Praise God!' Yes, we had achieved our goal, but deep inside I was absolutely convinced the man had not made a decision for Christ. That man, too, had achieved his goal in getting us out of the house." 2

How often do our evangelism efforts end with similar results? Yes, we are able to place another checkmark on our wall of converts, but what ever happens with those whom we are converting? Do they ever become fully devoted disciples? Or do they spend the rest of their life living out their miserable existence without any hope of transformation or redemptive power working in their lives? The problem with this method (what McKnight calls the “Method of Persuasion”) is that it is entirely focused on creating decisions, rather than disciples. Decisions, rather than Disciples are the goal. Therefore, when the decision has been reached, the goal has been accomplished and the need for discipleship becomes purely optional.

McKnight comments on the observations of his students’ experiences, saying:

"Nearly all of my Christian students tell me that the gospel they heard as they grew up primarily had to do with their sin, Jesus' death, and going to heaven. But … these same students tell me over and over again that they know there's something wrong with that; the gospel of Jesus wants more from us than a singular decision to get our sins wiped away so we can be safe and secure until heaven comes." 3

But I believe our Gospel — the Gospel which Jesus and the Apostles preached — is bigger, and far more robust than this ineffectual substitute. I believe it has the power to not only save the lost, but to transform lives with the reality of God’s Kingship on earth. It’s not a Gospel designed to create Decisions, but Disciples. I have a core belief that every disciple has the ability to change the world. But until we actually begin making disciples, rather than decisions, this world will continue to remain largely unaffected by our Gospel message. We will continue to add to the salvation count, but will also continue to wait expectantly for the demonstration of the Kingdom at work in the hearts and lives of men and women.

  • 1. McKnight, Scot, (2011). The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Zondervan, 18
  • 2. Ibid.17-18
  • 3. Ibid.18