Thursday, July 21, 2016

Is Pastoral Restoration Biblical? The Ashley Madison Controversy Exposes Deeper Issues

Pastoral restoration? With all the moral failures in ministry lately what's a path to restoration? To my knowledge, The Bible doesn't lay out a path for "pastoral restoration" per se. I could be corrected, but all the things I have read on pastoral restoration use biblical passages on general Christian restoration. Let me propose that is because we have made the pastoral ministry something it was not meant to be. Have you ever heard the phrase "called to the pastoral ministry". That is kind of a misnomer because the role of pastor/overseer/elder are filled by particular spiritual gifts, not this huge hierarchical position that we have turned it into. That is why the the scripture only lays out qualifications for those who practice their pastoral gifts. If a man falls into a "sexual sin" he is just no longer qualified because he is not "above reproach" anymore. 

Let me ask you a question to clarify. If a person with the gift of evangelism is caught in an adulterous relationship, does that disqualify them from the spiritual gift of evangelism? No, of course not they have just fallen into sin and need to be restored, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

Or put another way. What if another with the spiritual gift of helps and hospitality has been found to have abused their hospitality, and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a guest? Are they disqualified from the spiritual gift of hospitality? No they still have the spiritual gift they just need to be restored in a "spirit of gentleness."

I believe that the problem is that we have elevated the "ministry" to a place where I believe the New Testament did not mean it to be elevated to. The New Testament writers talk about the pastoral giftings as "one among many" gifts that are equal to any other gift in the body. So, in our current structure, when a pastor falls into sin it is more egregious than when a person with the gift of hospitality falls into an inappropriate sexual relationship. 

Also the modern pastor has more visibility than in the past. With the rise of the of the Internet with sermons online, and other organizations like the Gospel Coalition, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Acts 29, and pastoral conferences with thousands in attendance, and other such church planting and ministry training organizations, there has been this unbiblical and unhealthy move toward superstar attractional ministry leadership models. You can probably name your favorite pastor. Where do you know them from? Probably online. I am as guilty in supporting this as any other. How often have I watched a sermon from a talking head superstar pastor? How often have I read their books? How often have I visited their church or personal websites? This feeds the system. However, the New Testament had a completely different style of pastoral leadership. It was a bottom up, one of many, servant leadership type of shepherding ministry that was happy to be unknown outside of the congregation of which they were shepherds. 

They (i.e. The Apostles) didn't train for years and years in seminaries separated from the local body they had come from. Only to return later to another Church that they had no previous contact to. Being devoid of any real practical experience besides a one year practicum/internship, in which they got to preach one time on a Sunday where almost the whole church was away on vacation. See my point? We have to radically rethink the pastoral ministry. 

Besides all this. If the spiritual gifts are spread out in the congregation relatively equally, how many with the pastoral gifting would there be in a typical church. Probably in a church of 200 there might be up to 10% that's about 20 people or so with that gift. What are those men doing with their pastoral/teaching gifting? Probably sitting on their hands because the lead pastor has his "Kung-Fu grip" on the reigns of leadership. They probably aren't even aware they have a pastoral gifting. I bring this up because if there were 20 pastors of a church it would protect the church when one of the pastors fell. The church could carry on and the church would be able to "restore such a one (fallen pastor) with gentleness" without everything collapsing. But as is the current leadership structure, there is one pastor who has full and final authority. Elder and Deacon boards do nothing in practicality in those leadership structures. Actually they do something, everything the pastor tells them to do. This must change!

Let me be clear, I do not believe that a pastor caught in a extra-marital affair should just be kept in ministry after forgiving him, or one week later hired somewhere else. Or worse yet taking on a new Church Plant in a different city. What I am saying is that the whole system is unbalanced, and lends to a unbalanced pastoral ministry. We need a practical pastoral reformation, kind of like the great theologies that were won for us in the first reformation (i.e. "the priesthood of all believers."). That Priesthood of all believers needs not just to be believed, but practiced in our current congregations. In other words "every member a minister." 

The current Ashley Madison controversy exposes many problems and we are all going to talk about the sexual aspects and what is wrong with pastors. We definitely need to bring those secrets out so that the Church can deal with it, and seek to be a righteous and pure bride once again. But I want to challenge us to think in Biblical paradigms, and not to leave the current hierarchical pastoral position untouched. 

Pastor, please do not continue to usurp authority, but rather give it away. What I mean is in areas that the Bible does not prescribe for you to have authority over, please give your authority to other gifted men who are there already in your congregations. Train others to take your job and take your place. Its kind of like working yourself out of a job. In the end you and your church will be stronger and more protected as a result. Ultimately God is in control of His Church, and He will see that it is transformed from the top to bottom. Let us with renewed vigour make Jesus Lord, and ask our congregations to practice the priesthood of all believers along with us who are spiritually gifted as pastors, so that the body can be whole from the bottom on up. The most encouraging thing about Pastoral failure, or the Church being in upheaval is that Jesus still reigns! No matter how bleak things look he shall reign forevermore, and He can redeem, He can salvage, and mend all that was broken. My new favorite song is by The Silver Pages an old Hymn called "Jesus Shall Reign." I hope it encourages your heart that Jesus is the cornerstone of His church!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Superstar Preachers, Pastoral Moral Failure, and the State of the Evangelical Church

There has been a rash of moral failures in high profile pastors in the evangelical world in the past several years. I will not name any names, because I think that would be counterproductive, and not graceful to the families and men who are involved in these failures in ministry, envethough they had very public ministries and very public failures. In a quick count off the top of my head I counted more than ten pastors that I could think of off the top of my head in the last few years. What I would like to address is the current state of the American Pastor and church. What I do believe is that these failures in ministry are not about adultery, or pastoral abuse, or pornography, or alcoholism, although those things are very wrong with terrible consequences, but rather these are symptoms of much deeper issues that the church is facing and must face and come to terms with before we can move forward or ever be a righteous "city on a hill" once again. I want to first address personally what I faced in ministry, and secondly what the Church has taken on in leadership structures that I believe are unbiblical, and should change through the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit

The Current State of Pastoral Ministry
Pastoral ministry is challenging for many reasons, but most of all because you are seeking to lead people into a relationship with Christ. Because I want people to know Christ above all things, I will do whatever it takes unless it is plainly unbiblical, unethical, or immoral. But sometimes those lines can become a little blurred. This has been what I believe has happened to many pastors in my opinion over the last few years. The Slippery Slope starts with small decisions to not do the biblical, moral, or ethical thing. Let me explain.

Pastors do not decide one day that they are going to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from their churches. They decide that they will use their ministry credit card once and then twice for personal items. Pastors don't decide one day that they want to cheat on their wives with the secretary, they make one decision to have a "working lunch" with their personal assistant and then decide to have dinner with her a few months later. A pastor doesn't decide one day that he wants to topple a church with his power structure and have that church crumble under his failures. He decides to change the church bylaws to get "everyone on board with his leadership." A pastor doesn't want to be an alcoholic, but he gradually slides down that slippery slope because he comes home in the evening and wants to "take the edge off" when faced with the unbiblical model of a multi-site megachurch that he is the superstar of. These are the small compromises that I have seen and experienced in my years in ministry. Men In ministry must take measures to be "above reproach."

Let me give you a personal example of this. When we moved to California to become youth pastor we were required to register our car 90 days after the first day it was in California. Of course I waited a few days too long. When asked on the form when the first day the car was in California, I lied that it had been in California less than 90 days to avoid the penalty. I was so convicted that I returned to the DMV to tell them that I had lied and I was there to pay the penalty. The woman at the DMV was shocked that I would even want to return to make things right. She even said I should not worry about
it, but I insisted that lying is not acceptable for me as a Christian and if you let me get away with it now then on another occasion I might also lie. I had to pay a hefty fine, but that was a powerful lesson for me and through that and other lessons I was able to build honesty into my life and ministry. Later on I accidentally used my Church credit card for personal use. I realized it later, and immediately went to our church administrator to pay back what I had spent. Integrity means that what you say, do, and think are all consistent with each other. The slippery slope that we find ourselves on is sometimes very hard to discern in pastoral ministry. The word of God gives us clear parameters, and the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin and righteousness.

Pastor, some questions that might help you avoid these pitfalls are, do you have a living, humble, needy, celebratory, affectionate, meditative, worshipful, loving, and tender, communion with Christ? If not why not? Has the ministry become your identity in Christ? or is Christ alone still your identity? Or do you, as I did often say, "I am not an emotional person." Maybe you need to open your personality up to godly changes. Ask the Lord to make you a tender, emotionally connected person, like Jesus our master. Lord remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)!

The Current State of the Evangelical Church
I would like to address what I also see as systematic problems within the evangelical church in America. There is such a thing as an ungodly unbiblical model of church governance and I believe the evangelical church is flirting with those unbiblical models. Here are the problems we face...

1. We are attracted to the superstar preacher. If he is charismatic and funny and a great preacher we listen and good preachers gain a following quickly in our information rich culture.
2. We are not self feeders anymore. Christians have a hard time because of superstar evangelical preachers. We don't feed ourselves spiritually we look first to those leaders/pastors.
3. We have innovated ourselves to death. Megachurch structures, multi-site campus churches, and entertainment/superstar preacher driven ministries are the byproduct of our over-engineering of church ministry, and I believe are not biblical models and should die with the pastors who plant them.
4. We overlook serious moral character flaws or outright sin (i.e. the "cussing preacher") in pastoral leadership if they are charismatic and entertaining preachers
5. We have forgotten the mandate of leadership in 2 Timothy 2:2 especially in regards to empowering and multiplying new preachers and teachers. Instead those preachers hold on to their pulpits with Kung-Fu grip.
6. The entertainment mode of ministry has so enamored the church in America it is hard to imagine any other way for the average Joe who is not gifted so charismatically to be seen and understood as successful. The average Joe minister may be very successful at making disciples, multiplying leadership, and planting new churches, but he doesn't have 5,000 sermon views a week and so we discount him as unsuccessful. We need a new ministry scorecard.
7. We have forsaken personal holiness for a consumer driven brand of church. Look at the numbers on divorce, pornography usage, alcohol abuse, etc. and it becomes clear the church of Jesus Christ looks exactly like the world. How can we be a mirror of the gospel if in reality we only mirror the world. My brothers and sisters this should not be. Ephesians 5 describes how we should walk in holiness as the church...
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” (Eph.‬ ‭5:1-12‬)

I am so sad about this current trend in pastoral failure and so that is why I am writing to at least bring the topic up and investigate some solutions to systemic problems that I see. Most of all we can pray that God would bring us back to sole devotion to him, his word, and his glorious church and the proper government of that church. The hope that we always have even as fallen pastors is that the immense Grace of God extends even to us who have fallen in ministry. God is sovereign and even when we walk through the fire, even in our brokenness, and our failures, he is there and he will and can restore us. He may not restore us to ministry, but he will forgive and his grace knows no bounds. This however does not mean that we can treat his grace cheaply or take advantage of it. Thank God! That is the good news that is available to every man woman and child. It is also available to those of us who serve the Lord in professional ministry. He has taken our punishment and wrath upon himself that we might be credited with his perfect record of righteousness! Hallelujah!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why Do We Sing? A Case for Christian Worship through Singing

Why do we sing? Why do Christians sing in worship? What is the point? Hardly any other group, or club, or community sings together. I have thought about this lately. I love singing honestly. I have mostly all my adult life loved singing to Jesus through worship. I have lately come across more and more men (and some women) who are a little reticent to sing. It is not their thing, and or they are like most men and don’t care for singing. It seems a case needs to be made for why we as Christians sing. I have thought of fourteen reasons why Christians should sing...

1. The Bible Commands Us to
In Colossians 3:16; and Ephesians 5:18-19 it is pretty clear that the new community of Christ sang and did it in obedience. The early Church sang as a rule, and these passages command us to sing together. 

2. It Reminds of God's word
That same passage in Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” From this passage it is clear that the word of Christ dwelling richly includes admonishing, and singing. How do we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly? First teaching or admonishing and then second singing. Singing is a teaching tool. So as we sing through worship it reminds us of God’s word

3. It is Our Emotional Connection to God
First of all we are commanded to be emotionally connected to God. in Matthew 22:37 Jesus said, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” No matter how we spin it love is an emotion. We do make decisions to love, but if you are not emotional about the object of your love, then I would say that love is lacking something integral to a healthy love. It is a total love, a full love, and what Jesus describes here is deeply emotional, and singing helps us stir our emotions.

4. It is a Way to Show Our Affection for Christ 
In the same vein as being emotionally connected, we must foster and fan into flame the fire of affection for Christ. singing to anyone is an affectionate thing. That is why people have sang and written love songs for centuries. That is why we listen to love songs together with our wives, husbands, boyfriends, and girlfriends. We love to increase affection, but why when it comes to singing to the creator of the heavens and the earth we suddenly get tongue tied? This should not be. Loose your tongue and sing your affection for Christ! You can’t love Christ too much. You can’t think about him too much, or thank him too much, or depend upon him too much, or sing to him too much. All our righteousness, is in Christ and that should make us rejoice with affectionate singing. 

5. Jesus Did
If Jesus sang then we should. He is our Lord and master. He is our Head worship Leader. You might ask, "wait, he is God what did he sing about?" Did he worship himself? No, he sang as an example to show us that singing is necessary in worship. Of course singing is not all of worship, but like Jesus, he didn't neglect it. Like a healthy diet if you only eat one thing too much, or never eat the healthy stuff you will not be healthy. We need a balanced diet in worship, and Jesus showed us how, he prayed, and he sang with the disciples. “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). The writer of Hebrews quotes scripture, and writes it as if it were Jesus speaking, "saying, "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”” (Hebrews 2:12) In Romans Paul also writes as if Jesus were the one speaking in the scriptural quote, “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”” (Romans 15:8-9) So Jesus will and continues to lead worship by glorifying God’s name through singing.

Czigány The Singing Monk
6. Generations of Saints Before us Sang 
If this is true we can join the throngs of saints who have gone before us. Augustine said, “The clouds of heaven thunder out throughout the world that God’s house is being built; and the frogs cry from the marsh, We alone are Christians. What testimonies do I bring forward? That of the Psalter. I bring forward what you sing as one deaf: open your ears; you sing this; you sing with me, and you agree not with me; your tongue sounds what mine does, and yet your heart disagrees with mine. Do you not sing this?” (Exposition of Psalm 96). Tertullian also said about the martyrdom of Perpetua, “Perpetua sang psalms, already treading under foot the head of the Egyptian;” (The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, Schaff’s). Clement of Alexandria also noted the importance of singing, “But let amatory songs be banished far away, and let our songs be hymns to God. Let them praise, it is said, His name in the dance, and let them play to Him on the timbrel and psaltery. And what is the choir which plays? The Spirit will show you: Let His praise be in the congregation (church) of the saints; let them be joyful in their King. And again he adds, The Lord will take pleasure in His people. For temperate harmonies are to be admitted” (The Paedagogus, Book 2, ch.4). Eusebius summarizes Christian worship as "The singing of psalms and recitation of other such words as have been given us from God" (Church History X.iii.3). In Revelation John also has a vision of what will happen before the throne of God in heaven, "And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:8-9) Join the throngs of saints who have come before us and will follow us with singing. 

7. It is a Test of Spirituality Maturity 
People who sing often to Jesus show that they are mature Jesus loving Christians. Those who make excuses not to sing should question why they would make excuses to not worship the one absolutely worthy of being sung to. Jesus said, "He who is forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47), and so when we do not return love to Jesus in song, it shows the outside world that we think very little of Jesus. Do you love him? Then you will act like a crazy person singing love songs in the shower. Well now wouldn't that would be awkward at Church on Sunday?

8. The Church is One of the Only Places in Culture Where Communal Singing Takes Place
It is a great thing and community building to sing together. Have you ever been to a concert where everyone in the whole audience was singing together every word of the songs? There is an incredible community building component when we sing together. I remember seeing U2 at the Oakland Coliseum. When it came to the time for U2 to play their very popular song “Where the Streets Have No Name," we all shouted the lyrics together! It was exhilarating, it was community, it was the way church ought to be. The one place where regular communal singing takes place is in the church, and we should engage in it for our own sake, and for the sake of the communal experience in giving God glory together. 

9. You Build up the Body of Christ with Encouragement Through Singing
In Ephesians 5:19 Paul writes, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” In our worship through singing we "address one another" now what could that addressing do for us? It is a form of submission to each other's needs as that passage further points out “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21). So why would we as a body of Christ neglect something that  is so important for "one another." So build each other up through singing. 

10. It is a Missionary Act 
“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” (Psalms 105:1-2). This passage in psalms shows us how singing is an opportunity to tell people of God's wondrous works, and it is making him known to an unbelieving world. Do you want to be a missionary and make Christ known? Then sing!

11. Singing is a Direct Attack on the Enemy
What does Satan hate more than anything? He hates God, and so it follows that he would hate anything that would give glory to God. Because Satan is ultimately a glory stealer. And so when we sing to God we give him glory, and steal it from Satan. Thus it follows that Satan hates worship through music. And it is also a direct attack on Satan's glory stealing attempts. It is very hard to sin while you are singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Satan would love to see you sin. And as a Christian, I have found it almost impossible to sin when I'm worshiping God through song. Every time in ministry where I have dealt with demonic, or enemy powers in some way, I have asked the rest of the body of Christ to sing, and pray. 

12. Singing is Preparation for and Encouragement During Trials
What did Paul and Silas do during their imprisonment in Ephesus? They sang! “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25) Saints under persecution have sung during imprisonment, torture, and trials and have taken seriously the command to "rejoice in the Lord always.” Richard Wurmbrand the founder of the Voice of the Martyrs and imprisoned in Romanian prisons for 14 years said, "While in jail, we sang. Once the director of the prison entered our cell, furious. 'I was told that you sing subversive songs here. Let me hear one,' he commanded. We sang these moving words: 'O sacred Head now wounded, with grief and shame bowed down...' He listened to the end, then turned and left without saying a word. Later he became a brother in the faith" (Jesus Freaks page 290). The current president of Voice of the Martyrs Tom White recounts his experience in a Cuban prison, "I started singing...I was no longer conscious of the cold, only of Jesus...I had entered the highest level of warfare against the enemy--praise. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits our praises...He held my shaking body in His arms. (Jesus Freaks page 259) As the saints before us have done let us sing to prepare ourselves to joyfully endure suffering and trials in the service of Jesus.

13. It Glorifies God 
How many times in the Scriptures are we commanded to sing "to him" or "unto him?” It is one of the most often commanded things throughout the Psalms, Prophets, and even on into the New Testament. It is seen as a one of the most normative act of worship in the New Community of Christ. 

14. You Increase Your Joy
James is clear that singing can and will increase our joy. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” (James 5:13). Singing is clearly linked to our Christian cheer. So sing and increase your Joy in the Lord, or on the other hand don’t sing and you can stay in your sorrow. Never heard of 'Sorrow of the Lord?' That’s because it isn’t a thing. 

Singing to the Lord is not something that we must resist, but rather submit to for our good and the glory of the Lord. A simple way to apply these truths is to sing joyfully. For instance don't skip the singing times in Sunday services, but go with gladness and focus on Jesus. Another idea is to use Spotify or Pandora as a tool to always fill your heart and mind with the songs of worship. Search for worship artists and create worship channels it's easy. Maybe these songs will soon come out of our mouths too at just the right moments. So Lord fill us with your Spirit that we would respond to you with great Joy in song. No matter how good of a singer you are, we can all sing and shout with a ragged voice because Jesus has saved us. He said, "It is Finished!" SO SING!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Nicknames Are Important For The Church

I was that guy when I was growing up. That guy that made fun of people. Yes I was a bully. To my everlasting shame I was a bully and made fun of people without regard for who, as long as it was not
me. I was merciless with no discrimination as to who it was, as long as it was not me being laughed I was ok with that. It probably had a lot to do with me being harassed and ruthlessly being picked on as a Middle Schooler. What is it with Middle School that brings out the worst in kids. It certainly was a horrific experience for me too. So when I got into High School I decided that I was going to be the one doing the bullying, and not being bullied. With incredible remorse now looking back, I know I hurt many people in the process, all the while claiming to be a sold out Christian. I am terribly ashamed of that part of my life. Part of my bullying included name calling. I was good at making up embarrassing, silly, and rude names for people. After confessing and repenting from these terrible sorts of bullying practices, I realized that God was not quite done with that part of my life, and wanted to use that and turn it for His glory in my future ministry. Early on in my ministry in College, I made up my mind that I would NEVER again degrade anyone with name calling, or mocking nicknames, but rather I would use this ability to empower others, and build them up by finding positive, empowering nicknames that would build the teenagers in my ministries up as people, and give them an identity in the community of Christ. 

The Lord began to use this ability in my life. I gladly decided to never ever denigrate or make fun of people again, but rather build people up with the ability to find nicknames. I started to use silliness and fun to create community. In nicknames I have found an empowering aspect for people, personalities, and the greater community of Christ. I started to to do this with consistency in youth ministry in the past 10-12 years. This has specific application to youth ministry, but I believe the broader body of Christ also. I will give a few examples. Ryan we called Rhino, Peter we called Uncle Pedro, Rebekah we called Sassy Pants (Which she loved by the way), just to name a few. This was a mixture of on the spot nicknaming people according to their personalities, and according to the fun stuff we did together. In the Bible there are many examples of people with nicknames. There was none more effective and interesting at this than the example of Jesus himself. Jesus named his closest three friends Peter, James, and John "Sons of Thunder" (Boanerges in Greek). He named Peter himself "Petra" or rock. Thomas was called "Twin." Jesus seems to use nicknames for specific purposes. He used godly empowering nicknames in a few specific ways...

1. Jesus and the rest of the Bible give nicknames or new names to call people. He gave nicknames to call them out of the world and into his work. For example, when Jesus says to his disciples that they will no longer be fishermen, but in a turn of phrase, they will now be "fishers of men." That is a calling that Jesus placed on their lives. When Jesus called Peter "Rock." he said and "on this rock I will build my church." This is the calling that Jesus placed on Peter's life. We see also that the early Church took on this value of giving new names. For example, Barnabas was named "son of encouragement." The Church nicknamed Barnabas because God had given him the calling as a great encouragement to everyone who he was around. This is how Jesus employed nicknaming people, to call them to a higher calling. 

2. The Bible and Jesus use nicknames or new names to give people a new identity in Christ. Jesus called men to a new life and identity in Him and his power. This is never more evident than in
Barnaba Introduces Paul to the Church (From a Kids Book)
the life of Saul of Tarsus. He was a hateful man who tried everything he could to persecute the Church of Jesus. Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and intervened and saved him. Jesus literally gave him a new identity. With that new Identity Jesus gave him a new name. He was no longer Saul, but Paul. In this case a nickname would not suffice. What was needed was not to accentuate a personality trait, but rather a new name which brought with it a new identity. And who was there in the end to bring Paul into a communion and acceptance into the community of Christ? Barnabas the "Son of Encouragement." This is the type of name calling God had in mind. One of these men had a new name and new identity, and one had found his identity as the "Son of Encouragement" in the Community of Christ. Names are important, and we ought to use what God has given to call people into a New Identity in Christ

3. The Bible and Jesus used nicknames and new names to give people a new work and goal. Jesus gave three men Peter, James and John a new challenge and
A favorite picture is Jesus laughing with friends
possibility to turn the world upside down, and bring their thunderous gifts to bear in His church; to this work of the gospel. Some people debate the semantics and source of the term "Beaneries." Wether it means "Sons of Thunder" or "They Act Like Oxen" it does not really matter. Either of these nicknames could lead us to believe that Jesus had a great powerful work planned for these three men. Jesus in using this nickname was intimating that these three men of power might give their power and kraft to the work of the Gospel. History and the Scriptures reveal that these men put their whole lives and "Thunderous Oxen Power" into the ministry of the Gospel. Jesus obviously used fun, laughter, and nicknames to empower people in Ministry, Calling, Identity, and New Work. This side of Jesus personality is often overlooked for the more serious aspects of his life and ministry, but he was an emotional man that was wholly engaged with his disciples, and people whom he loved deeply. So deeply that he knew them and used names, and nicknames to call them to a new identity in Him. Let us take Jesus example and invite people into the community of Christ wether we give people nicknames or not, and love them the way Jesus did us. This has specific application for youth ministry, but also for the wider Church community. Jesus has called us in love and we can respond to him in love by calling out to him. It seems to me a little weird sometimes to call on the creator of the universe by name, but he has called us by name. He has called and named us as his friends. in John 15:15 Jesus said, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." This is the big brother we have, he has called us friends, and given us a new name in Him. That name he has given to us who trust in him is, "Friend!" Now that is something to celebrate! "In this fortunate turn of events you (Jesus) ask me to be your friend!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I have heard so many people over the last year or so say that they don’t need that much worship. I understand what they are saying. they don’t need all that singing and modern worship music. I have even heard someone more recently say, they "don't need that much worship music." I understand what they're getting at. They don't need that much singing in a church service. The problem with that statement however, is that it assumes that worship music is about me or us. Worship music isn't about you, it's about God! What we have done in modern worship music is distilled things down to four songs that might or might not make me feel good.

I can remember the worship wars back in the early 90s, we fought so hard to get drums and guitars into church we might not have been fighting the right battle. Back then we were fighting the battle to be able to express ourselves in worship. However, looking back on things now we didn't fight the battle to keep God at the center of worship. It was more about the music. I look back on that with some sadness because my generation was the one that was fighting that battle that allowed people to be more expressive through different forms of music. Music that was not previously allowed in church. I am however glad that new forms of music emerged. I have to confess my part of making it more about the music than God. I am also sad now at that outcome, and that people can say with such ease that they don't need that much worship music.

I believe the depth of your worship life is a litmus test for your spiritual maturity. If you spend little time in worship and giving God worth with your words, with your life, with your body, with your music, with your song, with your writing, with your pocket book, with your heart, with your soul, with your mind, and with everything you are, then I could say with a high degree of certainty that you are a spiritually immature Christian. I come to that conclusion because the Bible is full of allusions and references to spiritually mature people who spent an inordinate and exorbitant amount of time in worship and praise. You could take almost every single biblical character, and look at their worship life, and see how spiritually mature they were according to how they worshiped. 

What I think we do in most of Christendom is we create a Christendom that works for us. We want something that fits our lifestyle, that matches our values, and that fits into the scope of what we want to do. What we haven't done is let Christendom form us. David said it this way, "I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honour.” (2 Samuel 6:22). David didn’t care that he was perceived by the people as foolish. He knew that his redeemer lived. He was worshipping a great God who deserved great worship. He was letting his love for Christ form him, and he became undignified. So in David’s eyes and so many other Biblical characters, worship was not about whether or not I liked to sing, and liked the music or didn’t like the music, it was done because JESUS WAS WORTHY! So they all brought to him their "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" to express their undying emotional love to that worthy king. David danced with all his might, and the new testament Church also worshipped daily. "They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” Does that sound like the church in the NT was saying, “I don’t need that much worship?” No on the contrary they couldn’t get enough. They wouldn’t stop. They worshipped continually. Now I know that doesn’t mean they sang all the time. But worship certainly includes that. We have lost the passion somehow to make much of God through worship. How did that happen, when God wants and asks for something more?

What does God ask of us? In the end what does God really want? He wants people everywhere to recognize him as God and Creator and worship Him. As Romans 1 points out, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t WORSHIP him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused." (Romans 1:20-21 emphasis mine) So what we see from this passage is that Worshipping God, the creator, is the most basic thing that he asks of us. And I do believe that the Bible throughout teaches us that loving heartfelt worship should be a pattern of our Christian lives. Jesus said it himself, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”(Luke 7:47 emphasis mine) maybe your worshiplessness is more about realizing just how much you have been forgiven. Worship is the most basic form of EXPRESSING love because we have been forgiven much, just like Jesus said.

My hope for you is that you might gain a passion for singing through worship, or gain a passion for prayer through worship, or gain a passion for listening to God through worship, or whatever other form making much of God takes on for you. Be open to God, and however you do it make much of God in every aspect of your life! Don't be immature. Grow up! Don't be a spiritual weakling! Worship God in whatever form consistently, wholeheartedly, affectionately, bodily, authentically, enthusiastically, passionately, unreservedly, and zealously. Then you will grow up to maturity in Christ. “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28). Blessings to you on your journey to a fuller maturity through worshipping a very worthy Christ. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gospelology: What is the Gospel? A Thorough Exegesis of Evangelion

Gospelology: What is the Gospel:
A Thorough Exegesis of Evangelion (εὐαγγέλιον)

Published on Desperation Imitation of Christ February 2015

By: R.P. Moore
Kandern, Baden Würrtemberg Germany
February 9th, 2016

Introduction and Definition of Evangelion
The Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (Pronounced yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on) is the word from which we get our English word “Gospel” or “Good News” and it’s counterpart εὐαγγελίζω (Pronounced yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo), which basically means to “announce good news.” The word εὐαγγέλιον is used in the New Testament seventy seven times. The counterpart word εὐαγγελίζω is used fifty four times. For the purposes of this paper I will narrow my field of study to these occurrences in the New Testament. I have chosen a few other instances of words that relate to the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus and His message. These other contexts will help us fill out the full meaning of εὐαγγέλιον. By all accounts it is one of the most important words in the New Testament and gets most of its mileage by Jesus and most other of the N.T. characters and writers most notable Paul.[1]
Pheidippides was by many traditions the man whom the modern marathon is based on. By many legends he ran from Marathon to Athens to proclaim victory against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.[2] This is of course as much legend as anything. There is only little by way of historical accounts to validate the story of Pheidippides. Lucian’s prose is one place where the story is recounted. The legend goes that Pheidippides ran the distance of a modern marathon somewhere around 26.1 miles after the victory over the Persians, and as a courier of a message he faithfully delivered the message of victory by proclaiming, “Joy to you we have won!” and immediately he died proclaiming again “Joy to you.”[3]
            Pheidippides proclamation was simple “Nike” which means victory. His message was also so profound and important to be delivered he gave his energy, passion, life, and eventually he gave his last breath to the message. This is a perfect illustration of the message of the gospel over the ages. Countless martyrs have given their lives for the message of the Gospel, which is also a message of victory. Messengers like that of Pheidippides have faithfully delivered the life-giving and joyful message of the Gospel over two millennia. However the message of the gospel is under fire, and has come under question as of late.[4] The question is not a question of the power found in the gospel, but rather how do we deliver this message into many and varied contexts. For instance in a western world where people are rather self sufficient, How do we deliver this message as Pheidippides did with energy, power, confidence, passion, and possibly even our last breath?

The Challenge of Defining the “Good News”
Recently someone challenged me to define the “Good News” or what the Gospel actually meant. It was a strong challenge from a person who I thought should know, and be able to explain it with relative ease. I understand the challenge is not that we cannot explain the gospel, but what will people receive as “Good News?” This person was not questioning Jesus and His work being central, but more of how do we transmit that Gospel or good news as “Good” to an increasingly secularized culture that doesn’t find the old delivery method (or classic evangelism) good anymore?
            In this process though, I though that the question was rather rebellious, and it gave me pause. I actually thought to myself, “If we cannot explain this or have this fundamental question answered then we don’t have a message, we don’t have a ministry, we don’t have salvation, we don’t have anything! As ministers of the gospel we have no ministry if we cannot define that. So I have set out to do a thorough exegesis of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον transliterated as evangelion. As I study, it becomes clear how and why this should be one of the first steps we make in Bible Colleges, and Seminaries, and other ministry preparation work. This should be the first step, not the last question we ask, as an afterthought after being in ministry for years and years.
When we cannot explain and know what content of the message of the gospel is then we have NOTHING!!! We must be able to describe, explain, and invite people in to the timeless message of the gospel no matter what context they live in, and no matter what our delivery methods happen to be. For this reason we need to know, that much better, the content and true message of that good news, so as to carry the eternal gospel of Jesus into a new a varied culture. When we do not know how to transmit the contents of the Gospel, then we will not know how to repackage it, contextualize it, or otherwise carry the contents in a new form for various cultures and generations. This is the challenge of a missionary. How do we contextualize the Gospel without changing the content of the eternal gospel of Jesus? To do that we must know, believe, and know how to handle the main message and meaning of the gospel. From there we can address how to deliver that message as “Good News” to a culture in a way that it might be received as “Good.” I believe that to be the intent of the original question that was posed to me. We don’t want to rebel against the true message of the gospel, but we may rebel against old delivery methods. If we really understand the Eternal Gospel, and its message then we can be sure to deliver it’s content in a new and receivable way for a new and spiritually hungry generation.

Digging Deeper: A Fuller Definition of Evangelion
To dig further into the question, “What is the Gospel” We must first just easily define the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (evangelion) from which we get the term Gospel. In its simplest form it means “good message” or some sort of “good news.” Now we can say that the Good News of Jesus is not so ordinary good news. Maybe it would be good news if banks stopped being corporately greedy and bottoming out the market, or like the good news of getting a free sample at the china wok as you walk past the food court. Or maybe even better news that you find out that you are having a baby, as all three of our children were great news to us. All these things are certainly good news on differing scales. However we want to look at the instances of the word as it relates to the best news of all, namely the good news of Jesus Christ. As we study the instances of evangelion in the NT (and some other instances in the OT Lexicon LXX) we can see that what unfolds is truly good news.[5]

Gospelology: Systematic Study of “Gospel”
Because I am not postmodern, and lean way more to modernity, I decided it might be best if I approach this project in a sort of a systematic study of the message of the Gospel as laid out in every individual reference in the occurrences of evangelion.  I am going to call it a systematic theology of the gospel, thus a “Gospelology.” So lets get started. Mark 13:10 Shows us how the gospel is something of such value that it must be preached, transmitted, and delivered to all nations. In 1 Corinthians 9:18 The gospel again is of such value to Paul the he make sure to keep it pure by not charging anyone for its delivery.  2 Corinthians 4:3 explains what might be a hard pill to swallow that sometimes the gospel is veiled to those who would never believe (those who are perishing). Why that is so, is not ultimately clear from this passage. Maybe other forms of theology could and do address this, but that is not my purpose in this work. Philippians 1:5 shows us that we can and should seek partners in the gospel. From Galatians 1:7 we can understand that there would be those who would try to distort the gospel of God.

The Word בָּשַׂר (Basar)  and בְּשׂוֹרָה (Basowrah) in the Old Testament
            Just by way of contextualizing the idea of “Good News” I will try to give it sweeping strokes as found in Gerhard Kittel’s work Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. The Word בָּשַׂר (transliterated Basar) is in a most general sense “proclaiming good news.” It has a sense of bringing news of victory or declaring a victory. The use also has a solemn character in that it is a cultic act. In Psalm 68:11 Yahweh himself orders a song of victory over Israel’s enemies. Women also proclaim good news. בָּשַׂר is also used for heralding, religious deliverance, for singing new songs as seen in Psalm 40, and for expressing Yahweh’s wonderful acts. The sense of the word is also an expectation of the victory of Yahweh, and his kingly sovereign rule. Many of the messengers proclaim peace, salvation, and Yahweh as king. There is also a declaration of the restoration of Israel, the new creation of the world, and the eschatological age. This proclamation is not just empty breath, but true power for He (YHWH) will bring these messages into reality. These messages declare that he has created the world, shaped history, and continues to rule. People repeat the words of בָּשַׂר with rejoicing. There is a sense in which the messengers carry the happy news through the land that the “Lord is King.” In Isaiah we also see the prophecy that in the end Messiah Jesus fulfills that message of good news to the poor, and proclamation of liberty. The instances of בָּשַׂר in the OT point us to the nuance that we see in the NT that of Gentiles being included into salvation history, and the rejection of religion and adherence to the Law.[6] These developments had begun so that the gospel of grace might make its debut as the true message which is Jesus the only truly righteous one who can fulfill the demands of the whole law.
            The counterpart בְּשׂוֹרָה is found only six times in the Old Testament. It has two senses that of “Good News” or “Glad Tidings”. Fast forward to the NT proclamation of Jesus incarnation which brings glad tidings. It also has the sense of reward for Good news. The spoken word of good news is also equated with its content. Thus good news causes joy and the antithesis causes sorrow. Often the messenger of bad news is punished for his message of bad news, and incurs the same punishment. For instance the messenger that brings bad news of Saul’s death to David. David has him put to death for his news. There is however no religious use of this word in the Old Testament only that of a secular use.[7] Interesting how many years later the Apostles would also be put to death for delivering this Good News, which is a free gift, and how people would rather accept the Bad News that is so prevalent.

The Meanings of εὐαγγέλιον found among the Greek Works:
            Evangelion also among Greek writers has similar meanings. It is used as “Good News” and also a “reward for Good News.” It is seen and used when news of victory is delivered. And when news of victory is declared it is usually known from the messenger’s countenance what the contents of the message are before the message is delivered such as his face shines, his spear is decked with Laurel, He is crowned, swings palm branches, and other such pomp and circumstance. Overall this word is linked with victory in battle. The Greeks also see the message as fundamentally valuable. It not only declares salvation, but it also effects it. Because of the importance of the message, and the reward thereof, the messenger exerts himself to be heard first, and a slow messenger can be punished for his tardiness. An interesting occurrence is when Apollonius, upon seeing the murder of Domitian, thus describes that the Logos distributes itself and causes great joy. There is this sense that the Greek idea in a religious realm is starting to develop and point to the timeless εὐαγγέλιον of the true Logos that the Greeks had been looking for in their religious expressions.[8] The true Logos that Luke describes in his Evangelion does in fact distribute himself here upon this earth, that he Himself created, and in so doing caused great joy.

Appearance of εὐαγγέλιον in Rabbinic Judaism
            There is not much by way of significant contribution in most of the Rabbinic writings. One reference that is of provocative note is a mutilation of the word gospel into “gloss of destruction” or “gloss of sins.” There was a play on words so to speak in which Evangelion was changed to “Aven-Gillajon” which means gloss or writing of sins. The Jewish Christians adopted the Greek εὐαγγέλιον because there was not a similar word in the Aramaic. From that it can be deduced that the pun is taking the Greek into account. Rabbinic Jews were bilingual and Greek was widely understood. It can be inferred then that this twisting of a phrase was used in Rabbinic circles to further ostracize the “heretics.”[9] This interesting twist can only be seen as inadequate in its purpose of destroying the young “sect” who called themselves “followers of the way.” Rather it might have even emboldened them in their proclamation of the eternal Evangelion. Stories such as these can also embolden 21st century “Followers of the Way”, in that we take on the “Writing of Sins” and cast them all into the deep goodness of Jesus’ Eternal Evangelion. The Evangelion of His Grace and Goodness! Let us with boldness “Write our Sins” and throw them into the deep abyss of His eternal Evangelion!

The Beginnings and Source of the Gospel: Its Timeless Value
From the beginning of the Synoptic gospels there is a clear and definitive starting point to the message of the gospel. Mark 1:1 there is a message of the gospel that has it’s beginning in Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of God. From Galatians 2:7 The gospel message is open for the circumcised and the uncircumcised (i.e. All people). 1 Corinthians 9:12 clearly says that we should not put an obstacle in the way of the progress of the gospel. Mark 16:15 Again explains to us that the gospel is of such high value that it needs to be proclaimed to all creation. Another time in Matthew 24:14 the gospel is of such value that it will be proclaim throughout the whole world to all nations before the end of times.
In Mark 1:14-15 so important is this message that Jesus himself preached the gospel, and his gospel was a gospel of repentance. As Jesus comes onto the scene we start to see the content, substance, and true message. It is clear from these and many other following passages that the content and message are a message that all men must repent, turn from their sins and turn to God.  So from there we see that the antithesis of Repentance is un-holiness. So in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 we see that the Gospel stands in opposition to un-holiness.

The Delivery of the Gospel
Furthermore we receive some guidance about what we must do in the delivery of the message. According to Paul, there is a proper way to deliver it. In Ephesians 6:15 We see that we must ready ourselves to deliver the gospel, which is a message of peace. So its contents include repentance and peace and we must deliver it in a modality that is fair to its contents. In other words it would be antithetical to the gospel to deliver it through violence, war, or strife when it is a message of peace. It would also be antithetical to the gospel to deliver it in an attitude of un-repentance. From there moving on to Romans 1:1-6 Paul shows us that people can be called out and set apart to deliver the gospel which is a gospel of Jesus as Lord and obedience and faith in Him as is Lord.  So our message so far has been seen as a message of repentance, peace, and faith in Jesus as Lord. In Romans 11:28 Paul moves on to talk about Israel as currently enemies of the gospel for our sake as Gentiles so that we too can believe the gospel. But one day they will receive mercy because of their forefathers. This is good news indeed that Gentiles have a chance to believe, and that one day Israel will be restored to the faith of the gospel. Further on in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul writes that the Gospel of Christ brings open doors.

The Judgment of the Gospel
The Apostle Peter writes also in his epistle in 1 Peter 4:17 that God Judges the household of God and more judgment will be had on those who don't obey the Gospel of God. So in the long run it is a message of judgment for those who do not believe.  But instead of focusing on the negative or not seemingly good news it actually is good news that those who do believe will not be judged. In Ephesians 6:19 Paul writes further and asks for prayer that he would open his mouth to boldly proclaim the mysterious gospel. So the gospel often requires boldness to unfold its mystery. Paul says in Romans 10:14-17 that belief is necessary to understand and hold to the Gospel. Hearing the gospel is necessary to have the ability for a person to believe in the gospel. Someone must also preach the gospel so that people hear it that have never heard. People must also be sent for that goal of preaching the gospel. Faith is necessary, hearing is necessary, and the word of Christ is necessary to be able to believe in the gospel.
Moving on thematically a little bit we see in Galatians 1:6-9 that there is a possibility that some people preach a gospel that is contrary to the gospel of Christ.
In Romans 2:16 Paul explains that ”The Day of Judgment” all men will be judged according to the Gospel. On that day God will judge the secrets of men by the standard of Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 3:2  explains to us that because of the Gospel we can exhort and encourage each other to believe deeper in the faith of the gospel. Paul further writes in his letter to the Philippians (1:27)  that there is a manner of life that is worthy of the gospel. And we can strive for the faith of the gospel.

Who Does the Gospel Belong to? Is There a False Gospel? The Eternal Gospel
There is a very interesting aspect that we must understand also found in Romans 1:9 and that is that the Gospel belongs to "His Son.” Meaning we cannot claim the Gospel as our own but rather that it is solely a work of God’s Son (i.e. Titus 3:5-6 and Ephesians 2:8-9).  In Galatians 1:6 Paul writes how it is possible to believe a different and false gospel, or to turn away from the gospel of grace. In other words it might be possible to believe in a Gospel of works, which Paul labels a false Gospel.  In Matthew 24:14 the theme of world evangelization and mission is repeated and given hefty weight. Matthew writes that the gospel is of such value that it will be proclaimed throughout the whole world to all nations before the end of times. Revelation 14:6 continues on the theme that there is an eternal gospel that will be proclaimed to every tribe and nation and people. Again Paul writes in Romans 16:25-26 that the mysterious gospel is now revealed through obedience and faith. Paul alludes to a delivery method in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 and shares that the spreading or sharing of the gospel is a sharing of your whole life.

The Powerful Gospel: Escaping Punishment, Power of the Holy Spirit, Sonship, Suffering, and Integrity
In Matthew 4:23 acts of power often accompanied proclamation of the gospel. Ephesians 1:13 Paul writes that belief in Christ is necessary for salvation and following that belief one is sealed in the Holy Spirit unto the “Day of Redemption.”
Relating to that great and final Judgment 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 shows us that Belief in the Gospel is necessary to escape eternal punishment destruction, and judgment when Jesus returns. Earlier we have seen that Israel has not believed the Gospel for the sake of the Gentiles but in Galatians 3:7-9 Paul describes that we are sons of Abraham by faith in the gospel. 
            2 Timothy 1:8 and Romans 1:16 explain how we should not be ashamed of the gospel or of suffering in the gospel through God's power. We also ought not be ashamed of the gospel because there is power therein for salvation for everyone. 2 Timothy 1:10-12 says that the gospel brings life and immortality but can also cost us greatly through suffering to deliver it. But in that process God will guard the integrity of His message in the gospel. Paul further expounds on this theme in 2 Corinthians 9:13 the gospel will be accepted and believed in and people will glorify God because of our submission to and confession of Christ's gospel. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 describes that the gospel has been entrusted to us, and it (not works) makes us approved before God and we seek to continue to please him not man. Galatians 1:11-12 further describes the gospel Paul preached was not man’s gospel it was God's. Thus Paul shows in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 that the reception of the gospel happened with joy and affliction, because the gospel was delivered in conviction and the Holy Spirit’s power. 

Shall People Be Professional Gospel Ministers? The Question of Ethical Practice in Gospel Ministry
As far as full time or professional ministry is concerned 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 shows us how those who proclaim the gospel could or are allowed to receive their living by the gospel, but do not have to claim that as a right as Paul did. In Galatians 2:1-2 Paul reaffirmed His life’s profession or calling in the gospel he had been preaching and that he was not laboring in vain. In description of the practice of “professional” or payment for Gospel Ministry Paul further lays out the ethics of the Gospel’s practices in 2 Corinthians 4:2-6. In proclamation of the gospel Paul renounced unethical practices or tampering with God's word. Sometimes the gospel was veiled to those who were perishing. The gospel says Jesus is Lord and the direct image of God. God’s gospel shines light into our dark hearts and reveals the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
In Romans 15:16-18 Gospel ministry is described as a priestly ministry. Gospel ministry has also allowed Gentiles access to God. Bringing Gentiles to obedience is one goal of Paul’s gospel ministry. Galatians 2:13-16 describes another ethic in the presentation of the content of the message of Good News. Hypocrisy, adherence to the law, and performance of works for salvation, all have no place in the gospel. Colossians 1:22-23 further fleshes out the content of the message of the Gospel by saying that the gospel is able to save and present us holy and blameless in the presence of Christ at the end (Final Judgment), if indeed we persevere in the faith.

Contextualizing the Gospel
As we move on in this study the Bible is clear on how and why we ought to contextualize the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 Paul describes that everything that we might do to contextualize ourselves and the message would, could, and should be done for the sake of the gospel, and for blessings that we will at one point share in. This can help us check our motives, and refine our methods if we keep the Gospel at the center and not placing methods or packaging above the contents of the package. It makes no sense for instance to receive a gift from someone and to place more worth on the packaging, or wrapping paper of the gift than on the gift itself. This is always a temptation to place the delivery methods on a pedestal rather than the gospel itself. This leads us to a great passage that helps us check our motives. Philippians 1:15-18 says that we can rejoice at the proclamation of the gospel from whatever pretenses. There is however such a thing as mixed motives in our proclamation. And so we need to be vigilant in making sure that our motives be pure as we proclaim Christ. Galatians 2:4-5 shows us that we must protect the integrity of the gospel against false brothers who might secretly take away our freedom in Christ and try to return to us at yoke of slavery. The gospel message could and should be preserved as a gospel of freedom and grace. In Matthew 28:19 we understand that Discipleship, Baptism, and Going (as you go or ministry on the way) all go together is a package of the delivery method of the Gospel.

Sacrifice, Boldness, Suffering, and Stewardship in the Gospel
From delivery method of contextualization we can easily make the transition to the outcome of the delivery of Gospel Message. In Galatians 4:13; Acts 14:6-7; and Philippians 1:12-13 the outcomes are explained insomuch as sometimes (probably more often than not) the gospel is advanced through sufferings. Mark explains (10:29) that the gospel can be a thing, which requires sacrifice, but that sacrifice will be rewarded. In 1 Thessalonians 2:2 Paul writes that Gospel boldness can and very well may bring conflict.  Luke in Acts 20:24 writes that we ought to give up our lives even to the point of death for the opportunity to testify to the gospel, which is a gospel of grace. With the sufferings that might accompany the gospel Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:15-16 there is a certain stewardship of the gospel. That stewardship tells us that we as Christians are compelled as Christians to preach the gospel. In the end the “Stewardship of Suffering” Mark writes (8:35) that by giving and losing our lives, will eventually mean we will save it.

Content and Substance of the Message of the Gospel
Now we move to the meat of the message. What is the truth behind everything? What is the message? We have up to this point seen what people ought to do in response to the message (i.e. Repent). We have answered some how’s and why’s, but have not really answered the what. What is the news actually? In 2 Timothy 2:8-13 we see the message clearly delineated that Jesus Christ died on the cross was risen and is coming again the son of David the king of kings and Lord of Lords. Paul in Timothy explains what the crux of the Gospel is. And He (God) is faithful to accomplish his gospel even though we are faithless. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul also explains that the Gospel’s core message is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. He also explains that if this gospel is believed in it is able to save us. In 2 Corinthians 8:18-19 the gospel is meant to be ministered as an act of grace and it is for the glory of the Lord himself not for men. Thus we can draw from that that the Gospel is a Gospel of Grace for the glory of the Lord Jesus and not for men. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 describes the why of the message is essentially to obtain the glory of Christ. It could then be said that one of the goals of the gospel is the glory of Jesus Christ. Luke 24:47 says repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached. This is the content of the message that should be proclaimed to all nations. We see this in many other places that the end game of the gospel is the forgiveness of sins to the glory of Christ. So the what of the Gospel is Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.  

Missiology and the Gospel
Within every development of Theology we must always have a view toward Missiology. If every form of Theology, Eschatology, Ecclesiology, Christology, Soteriology, etc. does not intersect early and often with Missiology, then that systematic is flawed. In other words every solid systematic theology is Missiological in its nature. That is why now knowing somewhat better the delivery methods, ethic, and content of the gospel, we should naturally now come to Mission. Mission is advancement of a message. How does the gospel make its way into the entire world? We have seen that this Good News is worthy of distribution into the entire world until the end of the world. Now the natural question comes how? How does the gospel spread? We see in Luke 9:6; 2 Corinthians 10:13-14; Acts 8:39-40; and Acts 14:21 that preaching the gospel "as you go" or “on the way” are both ways to minister the gospel, and see it rapidly advance.
Further Missiological principles can be gleaned from Acts 16:10. It demonstrates to us how Jesus continues to push the cultural boundaries of the gospel from generation to generation. This means that the Gospel should cross cultural boundaries. We should also give our missiological energies to gospel thresholds. In other words If Jesus pushes the Apostles out of their cultural contexts, then we should also take the initiative from Jesus and cross-cultural boundaries with the hopes of taking the message to un-evangelized regions.  We have seen up to this point that the Gentiles have now freedom to believe Jesus and be grafted into the kingdom of God, and Acts 15:7 shows us that God wants the Gentiles to hear and believe the gospel, and thus the gospel should cross cultural boundaries. We see in the announcement of the incarnation of Jesus in Luke 2:10 that the Good News is of great joy, and should be for all people. Paul in Romans 15:19 describes how the ministry of the gospel can be fulfilled as we travel, as we go, or on our way. In Acts 8:25 Jesus wants the gospel to cross cultural, economic, and political power structure lines. These many references give us plenty of Missiological fodder for pushing our boundaries. Frankly they give us reasons to contextualize the gospel. The discussion about contextualization would not even be occurring without the need for the gospel to cross cultural lines because when the gospel crosses those lines into new cultural contexts the differences that are fond in those contexts must be taken into account.

Posture of the Gospel
Now I want to enter into what I call the “posture of the Gospel” In Romans 1:15 a posture of eagerness is described and it should be our posture in delivering the gospel without reservation. Why should I have an eagerness to preach the Gospel? It must be because we know that no one has a true hope outside of it. Colossians 1:5 explains that the Gospel has a deep hope laid up for us in heaven, and we trust the word of truth found in it. This should give us a true eagerness. In Philemon 1:12-13 we see that sometimes we have to put our emotions behind the gospel (my very heart) and also there is the element of persecution behind the gospel. So it follows that we should be emotionally invested in the message and delivery of the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 describes a fatherhood in the Gospel, which is the concept of discipleship. Thus the gospel is not just the delivery of the message of salvation, but also the life transformation found in discipleship as a further process. If fatherhood in the gospel is described then it has to be more intimate than we could've ever imagined. A posture of the Gospel that the New Testament describes is that of eager, emotionally engaged, fatherhood.
As the New Testament writers describe a “posture of the Gospel” there were also some who “pioneered the Gospel.” Paul was one of those, who in 2 Corinthians 10:16-18, described his pioneering spirit. Paul wanted to not lay a foundation on another Gospel but wanted to preach Christ where he had not been known before. And then after he laid the foundation of the gospel he sought favor from the Lord he didn't seek commendation from men, other people, or himself, only the commendation of the Lord. He described in Romans 15:20 also that sometimes it is good to deliver the gospel where there has been no previous foundation for it. Ephesians 3:7 the gospel minister is made a minister according to the gift of God's grace. And it is delivered through the working of his power. In the same vain, power in Gospel ministry, as Philippians 1:11 says, comes when we are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. Out of that righteousness we gain the power so that the gospel can advance.

Further References
Because many of the evangelion references are repetitive, I have collected a short explanation of the contents each of those verses.

Philippians 2:22 (ESV)
Serving in the ministry of the gospel is worthwhile and it is a credential unto itself

Matthew 9:35 (ESV)
Caring for true needs is a great delivery method for the gospel. Paying attention to people’s affliction and healing hurts is a great delivery method.

Philippians 4:15 (ESV)
The partnership of the gospel is a partnership of giving and receiving for both parties.

2 Corinthians 11:7 (ESV)
Humility in delivery of the gospel is helpful. It is also helpful to deliver it free of charge.

Luke 20:1 (ESV)
Jesus preached the gospel of repentance, and thus it is his message

1 Timothy 6:3 (ESV)
There is only one doctrine and gospel that of the Lord Jesus Christ

Ephesians 3:6 (ESV)
We are partakers in the gospel as Gentiles by Christ’s work of grafting us back into the one true vine (Israel) 

Matthew 26:13 (ESV)
Mark 14:9 (ESV)
Mary is an example of the love we should feel for Christ in the gospel, and she will be honored for it wherever the gospel is preached.

1 Peter 4:6 (ESV)
The gospel is preached so that those who (are) were dead and judged in the flesh might be made alive in the Spirit, which is the work of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 (ESV)
The gospel content and message is powerful enough without being couched in eloquent words of wisdom. Otherwise we might empty the gospel of its power.

Philippians 4:3 (ESV)
We are meant to help each other as we labor in the gospel

1 Thessalonians 2:9 (ESV)
It's a good idea to not be a financial burden on those who hear the gospel from you for the first time

Philippians 1:7 (ESV)
It is right that we feel emotional about those who we minister with in defense of the gospel. There is somehow a defense of the gospel that will also confirm its validity 

2 Corinthians 11:4 (ESV)
There could be other false gospels that people accept (i.e. Prosperity gospel or a gospel of works, i.e. “Judaizers mutilators of the flesh”)

Luke 16:16 (ESV)
Good news is more about a kingdom, but people try to force their way in, and Jesus is making it clear that that is impossible

Romans 10:8 (ESV)
The Gospel is to be ever on our lips, near us, on our mouth, and in our hearts.

1 Timothy 4:13 (ESV)
Part of the proclamation of the gospel is the public reading of the scripture, exhortation, and teaching

Titus 1:3 (ESV)
The gospel is entrusted by Christ alone and is manifested at proper times at through preaching

Titus 1:9 (ESV)
There is a sound doctrine, and we should rebuke those who contradict it and the gospel.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV)
People can accept the gospel with great excitement as the very word of God

Matthew 11:5 (ESV)
The good news should often accompany good works

1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)
The words of the cross are the words of the gospel and it is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God

2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)
Godliness is an outcome of delivery of the Gospel. And persecution in through and because of the Gospel is a promise

Hebrews 7:22 (ESV)
The gospel is better by way of covenant than the former covenant of law and works

1 Peter 1:25 (ESV)
The word of the Lord is the gospel and it remains forever.

1 John 1:3 (ESV)
Proclamation and acceptance of the gospel brings communion with the Father and the Son

Jude 1:3 (ESV)
The faith that is delivered in the gospel should be contended for and delivered with great diligence and fervor

Romans 10:15 (ESV)
Deliverers of the Gospel have beautiful feet. This means their movement for and with the gospel is a beautiful thing

2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV)
There will be a time when people will not endure sound doctrine, and will surround themselves with people who will preach and teach what their itching ears want to hear (i.e. not the gospel)

Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)
The gospel includes proclamation to the poor, binding the brokenhearted, liberty to captives, and opening up prison to the bound

Luke 4:18 (ESV)
Good news is a message to the poor, liberty, recovery of sight, liberty to the oppressed.

Acts 1:8 (ESV)
We will receive power for Gospel proclamation. We will thus be witnesses from here to there. Our Concern for the spread of the Gospel will move wider and wider in the corners of the world where the gospel has not yet reached. 

Synopsis of Evangelion and its Meaning
In Conclusion we can readily see that the true Gospel is a Gospel of Repentance, Faith, Grace, Peace, Obedience, Freedom from Judgment, Escaping Wrath, Power, Suffering, Glorification of God, Submission, Confession, Freedom, Baptism, Discipleship, Boldness, Forgiveness, Victory (in the Resurrection), Glorification of Jesus Christ, Diverse expressions, Multi-Culturalism, or A-Culturalism (i.e. for all men all cultures everywhere globally), Eternal Life, Fatherhood (Discipleship), Motherhood (Discipleship), Emotional Response, Righteousness, the word of God, seen and revealed only in the person of Christ, and it is an eternal Gospel that will never fade away. Like the word of God it will never pass away. The mistake that we make in the message of the Gospel is that we limit the message of the gospel to one of these facets, such as Penal Substitution. Please hear me correctly. I believe 100% in Penal Substitution! But that is not the full message of the gospel. That is like saying the whole Bible is about one thing. It is not! It is more eternal and deeper than we could ever know or imagine, and so is the gospel. What we do know is that the NT writers describe the Gospel “Good News” in these manifold ways. If we took only this short list of what the Gospel is, and apply it, we may come up with thousands of different applications in thousands of different contexts. That is why the Gospel is so beautiful. It transcends time, culture, space, and our own plebian surroundings.
According to the NT writers the Gospel is unquestionably good news and He Himself is its proclaimer. He (Jesus) is not just bringing a new teaching, but rather Himself as the substance of the message. He (Jesus) reveals Himself to the community and the community is a proclamation, when His life is lived out in the community with authenticity. Throughout the Pauline references to Evangelion we learn that the pre-existent Son has become man, and the prophesied Messiah. With his resurrection Paul describes that He has become supreme Kyrios (Sovereign) in His Gospel. If we could break the message and content down to one word that word would be “Christ.” The earliest Christian creed “Jesus is Lord” is actually the message of the Gospel in its simplest form. As the NT writers show us Christ is the author, and content of the Eternal Gospel. He is exalted, incarnate Lord, and He is the true and only message of the Gospel. He is His own Evangelion! To illustrate this further the Gospel is the autobiography of Jesus. He is the promise, author, and content of the story. He is exalted and incarnate Lord and Kyrios all in one liberating and amazing story.
He is the autobiographer of a historical event, yet transcending ordinary history. The message is His narratives and teachings. Which reveals the nature of human reality, but expresses the living power of God. Judgment gives way to joy at the resurrection from the dead. His gospel has brought salvation to all people refashioning them into new creations. He constitutes these refashioned lives into new communities of new creatures under grace. Thus the message and content are one. The great author and perfector of our faith is He who has written the story, and reveals chapter by chapter that he is the crux of this Eternal Evangelion.  The eternal God is revealed in Jesus Christ in the pages of His own Evangelion to the Glory of God. As Revelation 7:17 similarly says, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” In the same way the Author is the content of the story, the Lamb will also be Shepherd. He fulfills both roles, and He Himself will be our eternal Gospel and will be our living water, and wipe away every tear from our eyes!

Illustrating the Multifaceted Gospel
One illustration could expound more thoroughly on what the multifaceted Gospel is like. The Periodic Table of the Elements has 118 different elements.[10] Out of those 118 Elements there are chemical compounds that are possible with the mixture of elements found on the Periodic Table. These mixtures of Elements are numbered and various. They are called Chemical Compounds. I estimate that there are around 5,000 different chemical compound combinations. If I had tried to count them all I would still be counting.[11] There is not even a complete list of organic compounds because the list thereof would be infinite![12] First of all, the amazing thing about all these elements is that Jesus is sovereign over them all. As the famous Dutch reformer Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'”[13] He controls all these elements and knows about the some 5,000 Chemical compounds and how they work and hold together and he knows about the infinite possibilities of organic compounds, but not only that he has made them work! And cries, “MINE!”
I can imagine that the Gospel is somewhat like the Periodic Table. There are certain elements that make up the whole message much like the Gospel. There is a message that makes up the content of the Gospel, but thousands and even infinite possibilities for the outworking of that message. The few things that this paper characterizes and exegetes, are only the uses in the NT of that great word εὐαγγέλιον, It is what the Gospel writers described; truly Good News. Just like Pheidippides proclaimed after his long and grueling run “NIKE!” He proclaimed “VICTORY!” and that is the same message of the Eternal Gospel that we have victory in Jesus. We can like the NT writers did, proclaim that same message in its infinite possibilities and contexts with the same passion, boldness, and sacrifice as that of Pheidippides. God bless you as you seek to proclaim that eternal message in your particular context.

Annotated Bibliography

1.          Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Including Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Print.
4.          Friedrich, Gerhard. “εὐαγγέλιον” Kittel, Gerhard, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 2 Grand Rapids (Mich.): WM. B. Eerdmans, 1964. Print.
7.          Sphere Sovereignty (p. 488) cited in James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).
8.          ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Print.

[1] Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Including Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Print.
[3] Ibid, Same Page
[5] Friedrich, Gerhard. “εὐαγγέλιον” Kittel, Gerhard, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 2 Grand Rapids (Mich.): WM. B. Eerdmans, 1964. Print.
[6] Ibid, Volume II, Page 707-710
[7] Ibid, Volume II, Page 721
[8] Ibid, Volume II, Page 721-724
[9] Ibid, Volume II, Page 726-727
[12] Ibid, Same Page
[13] Sphere Sovereignty (p. 488) cited in James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).