The Gospel is more than a sales pitch – it’s an expansive welcome to One Whole Life imbued with the Spirit of Christ.
Monday, March 11, 2019
The Gospel Isn’t a Sales Pitch
If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I will confess with my lips right now that this verse makes me cringe.
Not because it doesn’t contain profound truths.
Not because it doesn’t point to the life-giving importance of authentic commitment to Jesus.
But because so often we have used it to reduce the Gospel to nothing more than a sales pitch, when the Gospel is so much more.
I’m reminded of a warm summer evening in LA about 10 years ago when I was at an evangelism event. The room was packed—every chair filled with a few hundred, passionate 20- and 30-somethings. And boy was I one of them. Wide-eyed and eager to learn how to share the love our community with our city.
Or megachurch pastor took the stage, and she quickly walked us through how we would be approaching people in neighborhoods across LA.
“Alright friends! Here’s how you can share the Gospel in four easy steps. Start by explaining that we all have have sinned, and God says the penalty of sin is death.”
“Then, talk about how God came to earth as Jesus and lived, died, and rose in order to pay the price for your sin.”
“After that, tell them how the resurrection of Jesus assures that they are right with God so they will receive eternal life in heaven.”
“Finally, invite them to pray to God, asking for His forgiveness, and telling Him that you believe in Jesus.”
“And why do we do this?” she said as she opened her Bible. “Because in Romans we read, ‘If you confess with your lips…’”
Say this. Believe that. You’re good.
You know, there is something beautiful about this simplicity. What an incredible thing to know that life with God begins whenever you say, “Yes! I need that.”
But might Paul’s words offer us something even more? Might our simple answers prevent us from entering into a deeper, but more complicated divine relationship?
As I’ve sat with Paul’s words, I began to see not a one-off marketing transaction, but a daring invitation: one that goes beyond a mere intellectual assent to certain “Jesus facts” and into one whole life fully imbued with the Spirit of Christ.
Paul begins with a deep desire to confess that the path of love, openness, forgiveness, compassion, and justice forged by Jesus is the life worth living. He continues with a call to trust, with our fullest selves, in the resurrection—an ever-present reality that God is in our suffering, pointing us to the hope and promise of new life.
Paul invites all of us—head to toe, inside and out—to step into the life of Christ. And that’s so much more than a checkbox and a prayer.
A final note: At this point in our faith’s history as the Church takes stock of the spiritual trauma it has caused, may we also lean into a more expansive understanding of Paul’s final words in this passage:
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
For many, this is an impossible task.
For many, the name of Jesus is one they may never utter again.
For many, “one whole life” looks like one away from a religion and an institution that has treated them without dignity.
And that is a reality that we as the Church must grapple with now.
May we open our ears with compassion to deeply hear all cries and calls, no matter what words are used.
May we remind the world that God is a God who listens.
May we work with humility and honesty to rebuild trust in a religion that has done so much harm in the name of Jesus.
SFTS Senior MDiv Student