I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church and prayed to receive Christ when I was fairly young (eight years-old).  I heard the Gospel preached and taught with several different methods, but it really ended up being more about relationships with family and friends personalizing the presentations that God used to call me to himself.

If you have a church background kind of like me (conservative evangelical) then you too may have heard the Gospel presented in a rather formulaic fashion.  At my church there were the ABC’s (Admit, Believe, Commit) of Vacation Bible School; there was an image that was preached and illustrated of God creating me for him, Jesus dying to bridge the gap that my sin caused between us, and he was now knocking at the door of my heart waiting for me to answer; and of course there were Salvation bracelets, which always had different colors but the same basic meaning (I remember when they replaced the black bead for a clear bead when referring to sin so as not to appear racist).  Our pastor had his own “Gospel According to Big Red” where he used a pack of gum to share the Gospel (and a pack of chewing gum).  There was a fair amount of creativity, and the various presentations helped me understand.  However, as I grew older and began to try and use some of these methods and others to share the Gospel with friends (new methods including the FAITH method and an Evangecube) I felt comfortable enough sharing (as if anyone ever feels comfortable trying to share), and some folks even “responded,” but there was little to no lasting fruit.

These presentations all had a few basic points in common that I used to understand as “The Gospel,” long before I had any real concept of what justification by faith or propitiation or other important ideas that initially go right over most of our heads.  Tim Keller recently wrote an incredibly insightful article about what the Gospel is and shows what many good Gospel-preaching evangelicals have explained as “The Gospel” is actually a presentation of the Gospel, which may or may not be the best presentation for the various cultures we live in.  He addresses these issues in more depth in an audio message from the Dwell NYC conference.  Check them both out.  It is very helpful in making the Gospel clear.

NOTE: I am not AGAINST any form of Gospel presentation, though I believe some are more relevant today than others, and I do feel we can rely too much on formulas and not enough on the content of the Gospel and building relationships.  This post is to encourage thinking about Keller’s points, not to knock on those using any given method or presentation.