“What the church needs now is what the church has always needed: a return to the gospel.”
Ed: What prompted you to write Above All?
J.D.: Evangelical Christians have always been gospel people. It’s in our very name! The word, “evangelical,” is a transliteration of the Greek word “gospel.” So, in that sense, the gospel has always been our “brand.”
But it seems like a lot of us are increasingly tempted to turn elsewhere for renewal and life and to give our energies to other agendas. I wonder if Paul’s words to the Galatians might characterize a lot of our attempts at ministry today: “You foolish (Evangelicals)! Who has cast a spell on you? … Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:1–3).
We get engaged in a lot of things—important things—that end up keeping us from the one essential thing—the gospel.
Think about this: The gospel is the one thing in the New Testament, other than Jesus himself, that is referred to as the power of God. Not contains the power of God. Not channels the power of God, but is itself the raw, unstoppable, death-defeating power of God.
Paul referred to the gospel as “of first importance,” and put so much emphasis on it that he told the Corinthians that he only wanted to talk about one thing with them: the cross of Jesus. Most scholars say that was an overstatement; after all, his letters to the Corinthians are filled with many important instructions for the Christian life. But in Paul’s mind, the gospel was so important he didn’t mind saying it was all he wanted to be known for.
We should be known as a gospel people. We only have bandwidth in our communities to be known for a couple of things. I want that thing to be the gospel. …