DEFINING THE GOSPEL
by Gavin Bennett
BEGIN WITH PRAYER (5 MINUTES)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
READ THIS OVERVIEW (5 MINUTES)
In ancient Greece and Rome, the word gospel was a military word that referred to a proclamation of victory by the winning army of a battle or war. In Greek, the word is euangelion, literally translated as good news. After a fight among nations, messengers from the winning side (or angelos) would go around the conquered territories proclaiming the good news of what this victory meant for their lives.
The authors of the New Testament repurposed this word throughout their letters. But rather than a declaration of military victory, it was rooted in a declaration about Jesus. That said, over the years and throughout different Christian traditions, the actual definition of the gospel seems to have blurred a bit. And some of these differences aren’t merely words, but actions. Churches may have similar ideas about the gospel and, yet, live out different gospels.
That said, while gospel generally seems to be a Christian word these days, everyone around is proclaiming some kind of good news — all around us are competing claims about what salvation is and how we get it. In this series, we want to untangle what the Scripture authors mean when they talk about the gospel from what some of our various traditions and cultures mean when we talk about it.
DO THIS PRACTICE AS A COMMUNITY RIGHT NOW (15 MINUTES)
Since there are all sorts of competing gospels around us, as we begin our journey into understanding what the good news is according to the Scriptures, it’s important to know where we’re starting. Spend some time as a Community processing through the following questions. The point of this Practice is not to get to the right gospel — we’ll get there. The goal here is simply to understand where we’re starting. So if someone defines the gospel differently than you, that’s ok for this exercise.
- If you grew up in the church, in one or two sentences, what would you say was the gospel you were taught? If you did not grow up in the church, in one or two sentences, what would you say you thought the gospel was?
- If your understanding of the gospel has changed, in one or two sentences, how would you define the gospel now?
DISCUSS THE COMING WEEK’S PRACTICE (5 MINUTES)
What we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were originally called The Gospels According To Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — meaning that the purpose of these ancient biographies was to detail what each of these apprentices of Jesus would say the gospel is. For the week ahead, the Practice is to start reading one of these four Gospels that begin the New Testament. Each one takes somewhere around 1.5 – 3 hours to read, with Mark being the shortest. While you don’t have to read it in one sitting, we would encourage you to consider reading them throughout the course of this whole Practice.
As you read these Gospels, take the one or two sentence version of the gospel that you shared tonight and begin to compare it to the gospel that you’re reading. How do these biographers seem to define the gospel? Is your gospel missing something? Is there something you included that doesn’t seem to be in the Gospels?
WORK THROUGH THESE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY (20 MINUTES)
- Whether it’s a new movie coming out or someone getting a new job, we love sharing good news. Why do you think the gospel isn’t something we share a lot?
- If you had to guess, why do you think people and churches have different understandings of the gospel?
- Why does it matter that we have the right understanding of the gospel?