As I mentioned in a post I wrote a few weeks ago, the Deep & Wide blog is being opened up to Youth Leaders who have embraced the Deep & Wide Youth Ministry philosophy and are using it in their personally ministry settings. This week I am pleased to post the first guest blog entry by John Byrne of Littleton, CO.
Do you remember the first time you heard the gospel explained? I don’t, but I do have a vague memory of my kindergarten teacher sharing the gospel with our class. I put my faith in Jesus that day. Even at the age of four I could understand the simple message of the gospel. Thirty one years later I am still trying to understand all the intricacies and implications of that same message. The foundation of the Christian faith is without question the gospel. For far too long there has been a false understanding of what it means to be a deep ministry or a wide ministry. Small churches accuse big churches of being a mile wide an inch deep, while large churches accuse smaller churches of being deep, but without any sense of urgency when it comes to reaching people for Jesus. In reality these are both false characterizations.
The truth is this; the gospel will help churches go deep as well as wide. In order to see how this works we must first understand the gospel in a new light. The gospel is the story of Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection. When I accepted the gospel message as being true at the age of four this is the sense in which I understood it. While this is true the gospel is much more. In essence the gospel is the story of God and man. It starts in Genesis with an intimate relationship between God and His creation and it continues through Revelation to eternity future with a new heaven and a new earth. Everything between the two, points to the God-Man Jesus. This truth has impacted my ministry in a very significant way, let me explain.
Early in my ministry I believed it was important to share the gospel on a regular basis. I would do that as part of our program almost every week. It was great, sort of… The gospel was always added on. Students knew it was added on to whatever I was doing. In a small church (under 100) we saw students come to Christ on a regular basis and that was great. I didn’t understand the depth of the gospel and I didn’t see how all of scripture points toward Jesus. Often my messages would go something like this, “don’t do drugs or have sex outside of marriage…let me tell you how Jesus died on the cross for your sins…”
My understanding of scripture has grown as has my understanding of the gospel. What I have come to understand is that all scripture deals with mankind’s relationship to God and that relationship is ultimately based on a person’s acceptance of who Jesus is and what He did. A students choice regarding drugs or sex should ultimately be based on whether or not they have decided to have a relationship with Jesus or not. The same is true of whether they do drugs, talk back to their parents, or pirate music. The gospel is so central to everything in life and in scripture that Paul takes the first three chapters of Romans just to lay out the basics of the gospel. He does this because it is the foundation of everything he says in the rest of the book.
The concept of sharing the gospel then is not just about evangelism (going wide), it is about those who have already accepted the gift of salvation working out the gospel in their own life (going deep). A Biblical understanding of our own sin and God’s love and provision for righteousness impacts how a follower of Jesus treats other people who sin in the same or different ways. To say it differently our understanding of God’s love for us helps us love others.
The gospel is no longer added on, it is the essence of my teaching and preaching. Whether I am teaching through the book of Haggai (as I am now) or one of the gospels I always begin and end with Jesus! A truer and better understanding of the gospel helps a ministry grow deep in their relationship with Jesus. Sharing the gospel also helps a ministry go wide and expand the kingdom of God. Big church, small church, or medium sized church, it doesn’t matter, the gospel must be at the center of our understanding of who God is and our response to Him and what He has done.
Pastor of Student Ministries
The Rock of Southwest