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The Preaching of the Gospel: A Brief Overview of Paul's Methodology

The term Gospel means “good news.” Any message can be good news or gospel, including topics foreign to Christian thought. What qualifies a gospel presentation with Christian doctrine is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the forgotten element in mainstream “Christianity” today. We have the good news of financial prosperity, the good news of unrestrained grace, the good news of your best life now, the good news of living relationally with others, the good news of social justice, the good news of political correctness, and the good news of religious inclusivity. All these gospels make us feel good, tickling our ears, stroking our pride, and emboldening our ego. Crowds of people gather in groups weekly across the globe to come away feeling good about themselves. The same people have accepted a social form of Christian faith but remain hollow inside. So many millions of self-proclaimed Christians live in deception, having a form of godliness but denying the transforming power of the Gospel (2 Tim. 3:5).

That’s a bold claim, but preaching the Gospel is greatly lacking in the Church today. Let's look at some Pew Poll data to illustrate that point. A poll published on June 1, 2008, identifies only 63% of self-proclaimed Christians believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, thus an authoritative text. The same poll affirms that 7 in 10 self-proclaimed Christians of any denomination believe God exists. Only 70% of professing Christians believe in the foundational belief in God. Again, the same poll reveals that only 36% of Christians share their faith with someone else once a month, 47% never share their faith, and 14% share their faith once or twice a year. This one poll from 2008 reveals that Christianity was on a steep decline well before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down churches globally. It reveals a fundamental lack of knowledge and conviction in the most foundational responsibility of believers today: to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s turn our attention now to Paul’s ministry methodology.

If we view Paul’s activities purely from the Book of Acts, we see many instances of his words and deeds clearly demonstrating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (17:3,11,18, 18:5, 19:1-10, 22:1-21, 24:10-21, 26, 28:1-10, 23, 13:5, 10, 23-41, 14:1-18). Further, in many of these instances, we see the inclusion of signs, wonders, and demonic deliverance as accompanying evidence of the message’s authenticity (28:1-10, 13:5, 10, 14:1-18). Paul used Scripture, specifically what we term the Old Testament today, to prove the Messiahship and Divinity of Jesus (17:3, 11, 26, 28:23, 9:20, 13:23-4). Paul also prayed for those who were already believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (19:1-10) as a second work of the Spirit in a believer’s life (John 20:22, Acts 2:4, Acts 19:1-10). So, we see a few points of Paul’s ministry methodology regarding what he preached. First, he preached to those who were not born again from Scripture to show that Jesus is the Messiah. The scriptures he preached from dealt with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, which were the foundational points of every sermon he delivered to sinners. When faith was present for healing, the Spirit worked through Paul to perform miracles, signs, and wonders, confirming the Gospel Paul was preaching (14:8-10). Notice that not every Gospel presentation included sign miracles, but always saw the greatest miracle of the new birth take place in people’s lives. Paul preached the simplicity of the Gospel to King Agrippa, Governor Felix, pagans, Jewish proselytes, and Jews alike. The Gospel message never changed, though how he presented the message to different groups varied based on the crowd’s culture, scriptural literacy, and political position.

Paul’s message is most clearly understood from 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, where he gives an abbreviated overview of the message he taught in Corinth for a year and a half. In 1 Corinthians 2:12, Paul likewise clarifies that he taught the Corinthian Church “nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Where is this simple Gospel today? Why is it foreign to preach on humanity’s sinful state, wicked inclinations, separation from God, and thus the need for Christ’s salvation? Why do church leaders stray from leading Christians into maturity through the preaching and reception of Holy Spirit empowerment (Baptism of the Holy Spirit for Pentecostals/Charismatics, or Sanctification for Nazarenes and Methodists {There's a difference between the two doctrines, but not important to this discussion})? I believe there are multiple answers to those questions. However, answering those important questions is not the intention of this document. Suffice it to say that the shameful condition of the Church today finds partial causation from the scarcity of legitimate Gospel preaching. Without the Gospel, Christians are deceived. When so few share the Gospel with others, as indicated clearly by the Pew Poll from 2008, then Gospel conviction and literacy are evident. Yet the decline continues. A Pew Poll published on December 14, 2021, reveals a 15% decrease in Americans self-identifying as Christians over a 14-year period. In 2007, 78% of Americans self-identified as Christians. In 2021, that number was 63%. Further, 29% of Americans identify as “nones” (Atheists, Agnostics, or no religion), up from 16% in 2007. This is a 13% increase. Christianity is on the steep decline, replaced by people of no religion. Is it a coincidence that Christianity is declining and the “nones” are increasing when the Gospel message is corrupted and, in many cases, absent? I cannot help but see a direct correlation between the two.

As a result, my goal is to instill the necessity of Gospel literacy and declaration among all who are part of the Home Church Initiative and End Time Church. Every message I preach or class I teach will have the Gospel present at its heart. That necessitates a paradigm shift in my daily life, including my family and secular employment. It is more than living a transformed life but also speaking the Gospel. It is having no fear or reservation to pray extraordinary prayers pregnant with faith, fully anticipating impossible possibilities. But it is also expecting persecution and being ready to give an answer for my faith, even if that means imprisonment, beatings, hunger, and great loss. It's time for Christian leaders to analyze their messages and intentions. When we recover the simplicity of the Gospel in the Church, we will begin to see a return of transformative power in believer’s lives.

-Dr. Christopher Anderson, 9/15/2023

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