This year we are going to be journeying through the book, Following King Jesus by Scot McKnight and Becky Castle Miller. The book itself works through the McKnight's books King Jesus Gospel, The Blue Parakeet, One Life, and A Fellowship of Differents. The purpose of the book is to focus on following Jesus as a disciple. It can be done individually or in a group setting.
One of the first things that grab you in the book is the challenge of the gospel. You have to wrestle with what do we in the culture mean by "the gospel." Then we ask the hard question of, "is it the same gospel shared by Jesus and the apostles?" Maybe for some, the gospel was first presented as fire insurance, "If you died today, where would you go?" For some, it was a call to justice and renewed awareness of those around us. I am sure for others John 3:16, "For God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" is the gospel. I believe my first interaction with someone trying to share "the gospel" was a fire insurance scenario.
However, McKnight challenges the idea of what the actual word gospel is and how it used in the early church context. The argument presented is that Peter and Paul put the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus as the resolution of Israel's story forward as the gospel. The big quote from Paul coming in 1 Corinthians 15 and using Peter's sermons in the Book of Acts.
I can honestly say this challenged me. The book forces you to say or explain the gospel to someone in 2 to 3 sentences, which is helpful. It was a big adjustment. The idea that the gospel is centered on Jesus rather then my, own individual salvation was a bit jarring. McKnight and Miller layout out the gospel as the story of Jesus as the resolution of Israel's Story. The story of redemption, the Kingdom of God, and justice and love are still part of the story, but the reality of those stories fall in the story of Jesus.
Now, this makes sense when you think about the Bible itself. When you open to the New Testament, the first four books you read are called the Gospels. What are the Gospel's about? The story of Jesus's life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus declaring the resolution of Israel's story. It makes sense that the gospel is the story of Jesus as the resolution of Israel's story when taking the Bible seriously. However, the question I ponder is how did we stray so far from this understanding in the church? How is it that as we have begun walking through this book, our students are saying this is a new meaning of the gospel for them?
To start some dialogue, what would you say the gospel you grew up hearing was in two or three sentences? Does McKnight's definition challenge your existing understanding of the gospel?