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What Gospel Are You Preaching to Your Students?

We moved to the U.S. in November of last year, and we haven’t found a church home yet. Church shopping is one of those things I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, you can learn a lot from visiting different kinds of churches (especially on how not to do stuff, but more about that later). But on the other hand, I miss being part of a church family.

For Easter, we visited a church we had been to a number of times before. We already had doubts as to whether it was a good fit, but we didn’t want to visit yet another church for Easter. Plus they had a great kids’ program that our son really loves, which is a big priority for us. So we decided to give it another try.

The church was full, about triple the amount of people they usually have. I was a bit surprised when I saw the bulletin and the sermon topic: Follow Your Dreams. Not exactly what I was expecting for an Easter Sunday service.

Well, neither was the sermon itself. This was how the Gospel was preached (amidst a pretty confusing message on how God wants us to achieve our dreams, I might add): “God is love. Love came to the earth, but people rejected Love. Love was crucified. But Love rose again. Easter is proof of God’s passionate love for us.”

Now in itself, there is not a untrue statement in that message, though one can debate the wording as it’s a little vague. But what is missing in this Gospel?

It’s Jesus Christ.

I love the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2 where he states that he was determined not to preach anything ‘except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ That is the essence of the Gospel: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, Jesus Christ risen on the third day.

The Gospel I heard on Easter made me sad. I understand that in a ‘seeker friendly’ service, speakers may try to use different words as to not confuse their audience. A lot of church words are incomprehensible for non-churchgoers. I can also understand that there’s always a bit of apprehension that people will take offense to a radical Gospel. After all, the words sin and penalty of death aren’t exactly conjuring up nice associations. Sin especially is a word that seems to anger a lof of people, as they would rather hear about love.

But you cannot explain love without mentioning sin. Sin is the whole reason there is a Gospel, for without it we wouldn’t need a Savior. You may use whatever words you want to explain the Gospel. You may call sin ‘bad things,’ ‘mistakes,’ ‘wrongdoings’ or whatever. But a rose is still a rose no matter the name, and sin is still sin. 

And you cannot preach the Gospel without putting Jesus Christ front and center. Yes, He is love, but you can’t just call Him love. You need to call Him Savior, Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus Christ IS the Gospel, He is the reason we have something to celebrate on Easter Sunday, or on any other day. 

That same Paul wrote that the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). We may look like fools explaining the Gospel. We may even offend people, anger them. But we cannot dilute the radical message of the Gospel, not even one bit. Yes, we should always preach with love, not hit people over the head with it. But at the end of the day, we should not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the power of God that brings salvation.

What Gospel are you preaching?  

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Rachel Blom has been involved in youth ministry in different roles since 1999, both as a volunteer as on staff. She simply loves teens and students and can't imagine her life without them. In youth ministry, preaching and leadership are her two big passions. Her focus right now is providing daily practical training through www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com to help other youth leaders grow and serve better in youth ministry. She resides near Munich in the south of Germany with her husband and son. You can visit Rachel at www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com