Do not try the following when you are discouraged by the lack of spiritual progress among those in your ministry setting. In other words, if you have been experiencing disappointment with the spiritual condition of those in your discipleship group, Bible class, or church, wait awhile before you attempt the experiment I suggest. For if you aren’t discouraged before you try this little quiz, you almost certainly will be afterward.
Distribute pens and paper to all who are present. Then ask, “How many times do you think you have heard the gospel?” Some listeners, especially those who have been Christians for many years or who have attended Bible-preaching churches since childhood, may roll their eyes and say, “Thousands of times.” Others will nod, affirming their repeated exposure to the Gospel.
“Good!” you reply. “And since most of you profess to be Christians, you certainly had to not only hear the Gospel, but understand it well enough to believe it and be saved, right?”
Again, you’ll see relaxed, confident affirmations all around.
“Great! Since you’re all so familiar with the Gospel, I’m sure you won’t have any problems with this simple exercise. Please take that sheet of paper and write down the Gospel. In a paragraph or so, write the message people must hear, understand, and believe in order to be right with God and go to Heaven.”
Watch people freeze.
“Please, go ahead now and write a paragraph declaring the Gospel which you say you have heard perhaps thousands of times and which you understood and believed when you were saved.”
Now, in an increasingly uncomfortable silence, people will begin shifting in their seats, shuffling their feet, and staring at the sheet of paper. Many will not know what to write. The only thing more discouraging than these empty sheets will be some of the things people actually do write.
What will likely become depressingly apparent in this pop quiz is that an alarming number of those in your group are unclear on the most basic and important message of the Bible. Despite the fact that by their own admission they have read or heard countless presentations of the Gospel and claim to have experienced new life in Christ through its power, they are unable to convey even the ABCs of the message of salvation.
What are the implications of this inability to articulate the Gospel? For some, it surely reveals the reality that they aren’t Christians at all. If you maintain—as I hope you do—that no one is saved apart from believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is rather hard to argue that a person has savingly believed the Gospel if they cannot convey—in their own words and at their own level of understanding—the message they claim to have believed.
For those who are genuine Christians, but for whatever reason are unable to articulate the Gospel there’s another implication: their efforts at personal evangelism are likely to be seldom and shallow. If someone cannot communicate the Gospel in the loving environment of a gathering of Christians, how can they possibly do so with unbelievers out in the world? No amount of pulpit encouragement or shame about evangelism will motivate them to speak words under pressure that they cannot express in the best of circumstances.
Still another implication for true Christians who are unclear on the Gospel is that a weak grasp of the Gospel is a hindrance to holiness. Or to put it positively, those who know the Gospel best are those most likely to become closest to Christ and most like Christ.
Do you have a simple practical way to measure basic Gospel literacy you would share? If so, please leave a message in the box below.