I know many of you will be horrified by this, but at my home church they let me teach the teens once a year for about 8 weeks. How any Christian in good conscience would let someone like me be responsible for the formation of young minds is probably worth a blog in its own right, but it's always 8 weeks in which I enjoy seeing how much smarter kids are than common knowledge would let on.
Last year I taught on the Bible -- where it came from, how we receive it, can we trust it, etc. We started that class as a small group of 4 or 5 and ended with almost 20 kids in the class. This year they let me have all 40 of our Sunday attenders because I'm teaching about the Gospel.
"What?" exclaims the critic in the back row. "'The Gospel?' In Sunday School? You're an innovator, cent." Yes, well, given that most adults couldn't define the Gospel for you in spite of years of AWANA and Sunday School and stacks of Max Lucado books and Nooma videos, I believe it is quite innovative, but thank you for your concern.
The readers of my blog, I am sure, will recognize our text for this class as 1Cor 15:1-4, and since I have a multi-part series at the blog already and I have this allergy against recycling material, if you're interested in the skeleton of that class you can find it starting here. There is also a powerpoint for those of you audacious enough to use overheads as your outline, and I can send it to you if you ask nice.
What I wanted to blog about today at TeamPyro is not the whole 8-week series: I wanted to blog about the inviolable essentials of the Gospel. I have been arguing with Kent in the meta about some of this, but I wanted to drag some of this into the daylight of the front page for the rest of you to have a stab at. Here's what I'm thinking:
In 1Cor 15:1-4, Paul defines the essential Gospel -- he overtly says that he delivered to the Corinthians what was of "first importance". In that, his definition of the Gospel includes 3 specific things: the identity and work of Christ, the identity of the church, and the ultimacy of Scripture. I would be willing to say it says other things, too, but I think those are the keys to the Gospel right there.
Well, so what? Seriously now: if those are the essentials of the Gospel, what's the breakthrough moment? Why should the astute readers of teamPyro (as opposed to the toadies and lackeys who frequent my blog) care about what constitutes the essential Gospel?
We should care because this is where we either advocate the faith or drop the ball. And here's why I bring it up: most of us, on a knee-jerk basis, would never forget that the work of Christ is essential to the Gospel, and many of us would never forget that the Scripture is God's encyclopedia on the work of Christ, right? But many of us -- and I would be bold enough to say that "many" should be "most", and "most" doesn't just mean 51% but more like 85% or worse -- do not take it seriously that the church is an essential part of the Gospel.
It's because we are intransigent baptists, really: we are afraid of saying something that superficially sounds like Roman Catholicism (or worse: Presbyterianism -- SHEESH!) and we are afraid that we might accidentally say something that means we ought to gather together in a more substantial way than just for a nice bit of worship (3-4 hymns) and a rousing 25-minute batch of Calvinistic pep talk from the preacher.
Listen: if Paul says that the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, the matter of who "us" is is more than just an affirmation of election, because Paul is quite clear in writing 1Cor that he's not writing a letter and floating it out on a butterfly to whosoever will: the "us" to whom the sin for which Christ died belongs to is "the church of God that is in Corinth" (1Cor 1:2). In that, we better know what the church is and how it is identified apart from the world.
If we can't do that, we don't know what the Gospel it: we have no idea who it is for or what it is doing in this world.