Following one of our worship services last Sunday, someone came up to me had said, rather seriously, “I want to thank you for sharing the gospel this morning – in your prayer.”
I graciously accepted his thanks. But I couldn’t help but wonder, “As opposed to what we were doing with the rest of the worship service?” That moment didn’t feel an appropriate time to ask that question, but it brought me to ask this question:
What does it mean to “share the gospel”?
Could it mean walking someone through the 4 Spiritual Laws? I suppose, but since those were invented by Bill Bright in 1952, it must mean something other than just that.
I’m also reminded of St. Francis of Assisi’s famous “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”
Mostly, though, I thought of Jesus’ announcement in Luke 4 that “today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing….” What scripture is that? this one, citing Isaiah 61:1-2
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
The “year of the Lord’s favor,” of course, refers even further back, to Jubilee, in Leviticus 25. Jesus introduces his ministry in Luke as the beginning of Jubilee. Since “gospel” means “good news;” I suppose Jubilee would have been received by most (if not all) in the synagogue as good news.
Current New Testament scholars also remind us that “Gospel” was a political, not a religious, term, that early Christians borrowed from Rome. Caesar had a gospel; Jesus has a gospel.
The more I think about it, the more I suspect that this person had a rather formulaic idea of what “gospel” is. During my pastoral prayer I had stepped through the ordo salutis in a rather orderly way.
So, sure, I “shared the gospel” in my prayer. And in our silence. And in the act of gathering to worship the risen Christ. And in welcoming at-risk youth to participate in leading the service.
What does “sharing the gospel” mean to you?