The Bad News of The Gospel

bad_newsLately, I’ve been initiating gospel conversations with Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  When circumstances permit, and are prudent, I like to ‘field test’ different approaches to relay the gospel to see if perhaps one is more effective than then others.  By ‘effective,’ I mean resulting in the making of a disciple.  No, there are no sinner’s prayers, altar calls, manipulative conversion tactics, bait and switch schemes, or high pressure conviction ploys, just some good ole gospel preaching.  In fact, a longer, more loving, relationship based and robust gospel has been highly effective in bringing people to a knowledge of the truth.

I’ve had lots of discussions with with folks over the years about how they think evangelism is to be done, and have written about it extensively.  One idea keeps resurfacing.  It’s the idea that we’ve got to convince people of the ‘bad news’ before we get to the ‘good news.’  This is usually manifested if showing people that they’ve transgressed the Law of God, are guilty, and are in Jeopardy of spending eternity… well… in not such a good place.

A friend of mine who was a missionary in Uganda for over 20 years said;

“When an “evangelist” gives the audience the choice between the horror of hell or the bliss of heaven, and between a life of abundance and wealth or an existence of trouble and at best survival by show of hands or otherwise, it invariably and unanimously will opt for heaven and abundance. Such is the natural inclination of man.” [1]

He goes on to say that;

“Any evangelist whose expressed objective is to “get his audience to heaven” or who holds out the prospect of proverbial “pot of gold at the end of a Gospel rainbow,” in whatever terminology it is couched, must immediately be viewed with deep suspicion.” [1]

He’s one of the most Godly men I’ve met, and I took those things to heart.  Yes, there’s some pretty bad news out there for those who have rejected or rebelled against God.  No, I don’t want to minimize the gravity of their situation or sugar coat the problem.    But, I still see way too many conversion hunters and very few disciple makers.  In a book I’ve been reading lately, the author says:

“Some people like to start their presentation of the gospel with a happy thought, such as, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” This was not Paul’s method. When he preached to the Gentiles , he always started by teaching that God is the creator (e.g. Acts 14: 15 and 17: 24, Romans 1: 19,20). Next he talked about mankind’s rebellion against God, that is, instead of worshiping our Creator we worshiped the things that he created. Next Paul talked about the judgment of God against those who rebel against God. Only after this bad news did Paul begin to tell the good news of what God has done to reconcile us rebels to himself through a mediator , Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[2]

Whether or not Paul “always” started in a particular way, I’ll leave up to you.  But there seems to be a pattern in the New Testament that approaches the author’s outline:

1.  God

2.  Man’s rebellion against God and it’s consequences. (Bad News)

3.  Jesus (Good News)

So, I suppose I’ll Just throw it out there.  Do we really have to start with the bad news of the gospel before we get to the good news?  


[1]  Prof. Dr. Henry Krabbendam Vorlesung am 15. Juni 2002 in Bonn, Sueffertstr. 7 (Christl. Gemeinschaft), 9.00-17.00 Uhr

[2] Crowley, JD (2014-02-23). Commentary on Romans for Cambodia and Asia (ASEAN Bible Commentary Series) (Kindle Locations 340-345). Fount of Wisdom Publishing House, Phnom Penh. Kindle Edition.

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