What is the Gospel?

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 11, 2005

Here’s a written out version of a short presentation I gave last night at the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort Meeting:

What is the
Gospel? It would easy to tell you what
the Gospel is not, since many people have focused on the necessary task of
deconstruction in their quest to arrive at a more faithful faith. It’s not merely a "ticket to
heaven" it’s not merely being saved from God’s anger. It’s not merely a
poetic ideal by which we are to live. There is an element of truth to all these things which the Gospel is
not. Part of the problem is that the
Gospel is not easily boiled down into clear action-steps or principles. The Gospel is trinitarian, and the Trinity
cannot be contained.

Nevertheless, it
is useful to start with a statement–a broad and horribly insufficient
statement of what the Gospel is, so that we have somewhere to start. I could put some energy into being wildly
creative about my own definition of the Gospel…and in so doing make myself
look good, but the best encapsulation of the Gospel that I’ve ever read comes
from Frederick Buechner in his little book "Wishful Thinking."

writes the following:

is both Good and New about the Good News is the wild claim that Jesus did not
simply tell us that God loves us even in our wickedness and folly and wants us
to love each other the same way and to love him too, but that if we will let
him, God will actually bring about this unprecedented transformation of hour
hearts himself. 

What is both Good
and New about the Good News is the mad insistence that Jesus lives among us not
just as another haunting memory but as the outlandish, holy, and invisible power
of God working not just through the sacraments but in countless hidden ways to
make even slobs like us loving and whole beyond anything we could conceivable
pull off by ourselves. 

Thus the Gospel is
not only Good and New but, if you take it seriously, a Holy Terror. Jesus never claimed that the process of being
changed from a slob into a human being was going to be a Sunday school
picnic. On the contrary. Childbirth may occasionally be painless, but
rebirth never. Part of what it means to
be a slob is to hang on for dear life to our slobbery.

And so that is,
what the Gospel is…at least it is a good first step in understanding what it
is. Jesus is among us, by His
Spirit. When Jesus proclaimed the Good
News, he said it was that the kingdom is here. And when Paul re-affirmed the Good News, he pointed to the Cross and the
Resurrection, and to Christ’s continued presence by his Spirit–so that through
these events we can experience a reconciled relationship with God. He dwells among us. And his presence ought to transform us. 

And if we, the
Church, are to be people of the Gospel (evangelicals in the truest sense of the
word)…then we need to not only proclaim the Good News, but live as though it
were true. The reason that we are given
an entire Testament in which to discover the Gospel is that there are many
terrifying and beautiful implications to the reality that God is among us. Our being and doing and proclaiming all
should point to the presence of God among us. And that is why we, the Church, exist-to proclaim and embody the
Presence among us.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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Viewing 2 Comments

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    That's more like it. Your tuition monies have not been completely misspent.
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    For the record, since your other posts make it clear that you find fault with my site, I don't think I learned any of the stuff I spout about on this site from Seminary. I don't understand what I wrote that so offends you. This site exists for one primary purposes--to help us to cut through the cultural baggage that holds us back from being the Church for the sake of the World.


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