I am grieved we are clearly losing our effectiveness of discipleship to the lost dying world. According to LifeWay Christian Resources key measures declined in 2017, including membership, baptisms, average worship attendance and total giving.
What has gone wrong with the harvest? What is happening with our evangelical circles of the clear decline of conversion and discipleship?
The very problem perhaps is the varied ways people are brought into churches. Or perhaps, the problem we face is people are using the same words “discipleship”, but are speaking a different language.
Today, the American church are living in a bubble of a false delusion about the meaning of the gospel and discipleship. I believe many Christians today believe a “perverse” gospel. We have been caught in a lie of believing in a false gospel.
The gospel you believe is what kind of disciple you will create. If we are not preaching the biblical gospel, we are preaching what Paul would call a different gospel.
Here are six gospels that are prominently believed in churches throughout America.
1. Legalistic Gospel
“Do this, don’t do that!” focused on measured of performance leads to a legalistic, fundamentalist, and pharisaical Christians.
2. Liberal Gospel
“We don’t need theology. We just need to love, love, love, people!” Driven by the idea to help the needy and the outcast. The Liberal gospel leads to a culture that Truth (Scripture) is optional.
3. Prosperity Gospel
Come to Jesus with your shopping list and claim your right for health, wealth, and comfort by faith! This puts self on the throne and God on the shelf. The prosperity gospel puts self in the center by entitlement and God only for convenience for making their selfish ego boost.
4. Consumer Gospel
This lie has been believed in majority of American Christianity. Take all the religious good and services available through Jesus!
These kinds of disciples are nearly useless to Christ and His work. We have bunch of spiritual obese Christians who need to go out and begin to make disciples.
It winds up thinking that involvement with the church’s activities will lead to spiritual transformation. Really, it doesn’t work like that. In fact, it won’t. It will never be like that. Discipleship cannot work like that.
5. Forgiveness-Only Gospel
The most common gospel preached today focused almost exclusively on forgiveness-only Gospel. Why is this most popular? Cause it’s so easy and simple.
“What I heard was that you can have the one without the other – that you can be saved and not be a disciple. I smelled a theological rat in that claim.” – Scott McKnight
“Get them to pray a little prayer!” and people are completely satisfied within themselves thinking, “Well, my status with Jesus is settled. I’m his child, and I got the ticket and going to spend eternity in heaven!”
6. Kingdom Gospel
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Now, believe and repent!” (Mark 1:15). If there is a kingdom, then there is a king. If there is a king, then our lives will no longer be the same as the king reigns in that kingdom.
The kingdom gospel calls us to discipleship.
World Revolution of Local Movement for the Gospel
The solution is not necessarily to swing the pendulum the other way that we so often do. We’re coming back to the root definition and understanding of the gospel.
Having a biblical gospel and a clear definition of the gospel creates disciple making that is a sustainable multiplication of discipleship culture. The kingdom gospel is primarily about what God has done to save us, and how we can receive it through faith, it can only be expressed through our repentance and followership.
With the perverse gospel, most discipleship programs do not replicate and ultimately dies out.
A genuine discipleship in the church context of today is very much like discipleship to Jesus in the Jewish religion of his day. It is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.
The Contemporary gospel is an American cultural artifact, namely, you can become a Christian and not follow Jesus, discipleship is optional. Salvation is spiritual transformation, which is not an option for those with special interests. It is a costly commitment and a commitment for all.
Therefore, the health of the church is the hermeneutic of the gospel. A healthy church is how the gospel takes on flesh today.
The gospel will need to be carefully rebuild from the ground up and it must change fundamental assumptions. When we preach this kind of gospel, you would probably lose a lot of people, and have to rebuild your work.