If you think you've ever heard an unfiltered presentation of the gospel, think again. The best we ever hear is what sounds good through the filters we've become accustomed to. That’s why two people who hear the same clear presentation of the gospel can react so differently to it. One is in tears because of “such a powerful message” while the other leaves angry over “watered-down tripe.”
We can't even read "just the gospel" from the New Testament. It was written within the context of a first century, middle-eastern, Jewish mindset – a mindset no one in the twenty-first century can fully share. And, unless you're proficient in ancient Hebrew and Greek, it's also being filtered through choices made by the translator. Jesus didn't speak in King James English.
The Humble Messenger
So what’s the point of all this?
Actually, there are two points, based on each of the above principles.
First, we need to back up our preaching with doing. Too many preachers spend all our time encouraging others to do ministry while doing very little, if any, hands-on ministry ourselves.
Certainly, equipping the saints is our primary task in the pastoral role. But that doesn't exempt us from getting our hands dirty. The further we remove ourselves from real-world ministry, the less we're able to equip others for it.
One of the reasons I’m a champion of small churches (while still loving and appreciating big churches) is that it’s almost impossible to pastor a smaller congregation by remote control. We have to get our hands dirty. But even then, it’s very easy for us to believe the lie that our preaching and study time is an adequate substitute for actually ministering to real people in real-life situations.
The message we preach with our mouths must be tempered and tested through the actions of our hands and feet.
Second, we need to recognize the filters of culture, language, race and economic status (for starters) that all of us bring into our presentation of the Gospel. Then we need to factor that bias into the equation as best we can whenever we preach or teach it.
The best any of us will ever preach is “the gospel as I see it.” The rest is up to the power of the Holy Spirit.
The key is humility.
Is There a Real Gospel, Or Is It All Interpretation?
The big challenge when we’re talking this way is to go so far that we start thinking there’s no real truth to be found. That it’s only about different interpretations.