The Four Gospels
By Cameron Silsbee
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other, and then have somebody pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Read this overview
If you grew up in the church, then you probably heard talk of “the gospel.” The exact meaning of the gospel, or what it was, may have been explicitly communicated or just implied by the context in which it was used. Depending on your church tradition, it may have been a brief statement of doctrines to believe. Or it may have been boiled down to a trite adjective – used to describe most things existing within the Christian subculture.
But at some point, you heard or received or believed the gospel and were “saved”. The gospel that was presented to you likely shaped your expectations of what this salvation actually meant and entailed. And whether this gospel directly addressed life in the here and now, what it did or did not say certainly impacted the way you live your life.
Jesus came proclaiming the good news (Mark 1v15): “The time has come. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” The good news Jesus came proclaiming looks and sounds a lot different than the gospels that are often presented in American churches. The differences aren’t just semantics or byproducts of necessary contextualization. The differences impact the way we see God, ourselves, and the world around us.
Talk through the following discussion questions:
A large percentage of the people sitting at the Gathering or in your Van City Community have heard or been influenced by popular iterations of the gospel within the American church.
The Evangelical Gospel: You are a sinner going to hell. God loves you. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. If you believe in him, you will go to heaven when you die.
The Reformed Gospel: God is a perfect, holy, just God of both love and wrath. You are morally guilty before him. God’s demands must be kept. You cannot possibly do it, but Jesus did it for you.
The Prosperity Gospel: You are God’s child. God is for you. You are royalty. Through his resurrection, he has won the victory. His victory is your inheritance! Victory over sickness, over poverty, over failure. The best is yet to come!
The Social Gospel: Jesus was a political revolutionary. He came to liberate the poor and the oppressed from the powerful and the oppressor. He was killed as an enemy of the empire. The church then is to be a beacon of political activism steering culture toward progressivism.
- Which of these gospels most closely aligns with the gospel you were taught when you started following Jesus?
- Which of these gospels most resonates with you now? Which of these gospels resonates with you the least?
- Which of these gospels seems to be most prominent with those around you (family, friends, coworkers, etc.)?
Talk about this week’s Practice as a Community:
For this week’s Practice continue reading one of the biographies of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). As you do so, take note of what the author seems to be emphasizing about the good news. How does that support or contrast your expectations about the good news of Jesus?
With your group right now, talk through the following questions:
- Which gospel have you started reading? How far into it are you?
- With the context of this series about Preaching the Gospel, what has resonated or stood out to you as you’ve read?