According to Paul, the Gospel Should Be Full of Power.
When writing to a group of disciples in the city of Rome Paul said,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
You will remember that when Paul reminded the disciples in Corinth of what he had first proclaimed to them he said this Gospel with power was the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, all “according to the scriptures.”
If that seems a little thin for a good sermon outline, consider how this Gospel message was extremely powerful in the first few centuries after Jesus.
Some researchers estimate that by the year 300, there were around 1,000,000 believers in the Roman Empire or about 10% of the population. Beyond the Roman Empire, many, many churches and hundreds of thousands of believers spread across the Middle East into Asia, India, and as far away as China.
The Gospel Problem In The West
However, more often than not, our Gospel preaching is not producing the same kind of results here in the West. This suggests there may be a problem we need to face.
There seems to be a correlation between how the Gospel message is packaged and presented in our Modern culture and the often minimal, real impact in the lives of those who claim to be ‘converts’ to Christianity.
Research suggests only around 6%-7% of new converts who respond in our large, public crusades can be found attending a local church after one year. And in subsequent years the numbers get worse.
Most pastors will confess they struggle to find ways to bridge the gap between ‘Converts’ and “Disciples” in their local churches.
And finally, most church members rarely, if ever, actively participate in outreach or ministry activities like serving the poor, praying for the sick, or sharing the Gospel message with other people, things that were common dynamics in the early church.
This seems like a very different response to the Gospel than what we find in the first few centuries after Jesus first preached it.
There are at least two main reasons for this lack of vibrancy and life in the church in the West.
The Gospel In The Wrong Story
The first reason is that it is common to put the events of Jesus in the wrong story. For example, for many people, the story is about how to escape this fallen, evil world in order to live for eternity in the next world.
If that story is what is really going on, and you have successfully made your arrangements with God to make it into Heaven, then what is the compelling reason to pray for the sick, or care for the poor, or strive for holiness in your life?
Leaving Out Power Ministry
There is another reason why Gospel preaching today is often less than spectacular: More often than not, Power Ministry is completely left out.
Preaching the gospel in our culture is often only an intellectual exercise where propositions about God, man, and sin are presented with none of the demonstrations of power that accompanied the preaching of Jesus and the early church.
What people usually hear in the gospel is an appeal to take some good advice, not an announcement that Jesus is the true King and Lord over everything, with demonstrations of his authority and power, and a summons to obey him in faith.