The great tragedy—especially in America today—is that “The Gospel” is painfully absent in today’s “politically correct” pulpits.
Ask anyone, “What is “the Gospel”? (Jot down your own answer before reading further.) And people will typically answer, “The Good News”. Like so many responses—particularly in academic circles—that may be accurate, but useless. It is a response that fails to define in any practical terms.
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you The Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
[It is disturbing to discover that one can “believe in vain!”]
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that…
- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
- And that he was buried, and
- that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures:1
[Three essentials, which were confirmed by numerous witnesses:]
— 1 Corinthians 15:1–6 (KJV)
[Many of these witnesses were among the recipients of Paul’s letter.]
What is amazing is what Paul did not include in “The Gospel”: He made no mention of Jesus’ miracles, made no mention of His teachings, nor His “example.” These are all extremely meaningful, but are not the kernel of truth that blesses—and divides—us all.
The Gospel in Today’s Church
And the great tragedy—especially in America today—is that “The Gospel” is painfully absent in today’s “politically correct” pulpits! There is a focus on social and psychological issues, rather than the commission that our King directed us to pursue.2 And we suspect that this segregation of the real truth will become even more disastrous as the current trends continue.
Indicators of Decline in the U.S.
George Barna’s book, The Second Coming Of The Church,3 reports some frank statistics showing how the present church has “failed” in its mission. Providing a wealth of statistics from his national studies, Barna pointed out that the spiritual beliefs of Christians are continuing to stray from Biblical teaching. Among the specific beliefs are the majorities who believe that the Bible teaches “God helps those who help themselves,” that the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s power and presence but not a living entity, that Satan does not exist, and that there are many paths by which a person may experience eternal salvation.
Barna also shed some light on the definition of “God” that most Americans claim to believe in:
Since more than nine out of ten Americans own at least one Bible, and 86 percent call themselves Christian, you might expect people to pay homage to the deity described and followed by the Christian Church. We asked a nationwide sample of 1,012 adults to describe the God they believe in. Two out of three adults (67 percent) said they believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe who rules the world today.
The remaining one-third described their god as “the total realization of personal, human potential”; or, “a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach”; or said, “Everyone is God”; “There are many gods, each with different power and authority”; or, “There is no such thing as God.” The remaining 5 percent said they did not know.4
So, according to Barna, one American out of three does not really believe in “God” at all. In 2011, Barna released Futurecast, an assessment of how America’s faith has shifted in the past 20 years on 14 religious variables:5
The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance. Since 1991, attendance has receded by nine percentage points, dropping from 49% in 1991 to 40% in 2011. The most prolific change in religious behavior among those measured has been the increase in the percentage of adults categorized as unchurched. The Barna Group definition includes all adults who have not attended any religious events at a church, other than special ceremonies such as a wedding or funeral, during the prior six month period. In 1991, just one-quarter of adults (24%) were unchurched. That figure has ballooned by more than 50%, to 37% today.
The biggest shift has been in people’s perceptions of the Bible. In 1991, 46% of adults strongly affirmed that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” That has slumped to just 38% who offer the same affirmation today.
Indicators of Decline in England
These statistics are seen outside the U.S. as well. For instance, church attendance in England as a percentage of the population has steadily declined (both Protestant and Catholics are included in these figures):
- 1970: 13.3%
- 1980: 11.1%
- 1990: 9.4%
- 2000: 7.2%
- 2010: 5.3%
In England, The Portsmouth News, on 13 April 2001, asked 50 members of the church clergy about their congregation’s beliefs: 48% “did not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus” and 60% “believed that the spirit of Easter had been lost in favour of bunnies and Easter eggs.”
The Importance of the Gospel
Jesus Christ is not “a concept,” an “idea,” or a “useful traditional value.” He is an actual living person who came to accomplish a specific purpose that prevails over everything else: His achievement continues to impact you and me and determines our eternal destiny. He is not simply a figurehead of a convenient or useful religious tradition that is optional. He is the fulfillment of a pervasive promise made before the foundation of the world and the very standard by which the entire universe, and everything in it, will be judged!
The difference between a believer and a non-believer is that the believer knows that history is going somewhere! We are not the product of some cosmic accident. We were designed and placed here for a deliberate purpose. The most critical issue in life is the discovery of that purpose!
Jesus Christ is the most anti-religious person that ever walked on the earth! (“Religion” is man’s attempt to reconcile himself to God. He can’t. Only God’s initiatives are relevant to that dilemma.)
Jesus was an extraterrestrial being who may soon be displaced in our society by an imposter that will actually succeed in deceiving the vast majority throughout the entire world.6
Will you be in that exceptional minority? How will you avoid being deceived among the rest?
Just who is Jesus Christ? What did Jesus actually accomplish? These are the subjects of this month’s featured study. Find it on our K-House Online Store.
We hope and pray that you find it useful.