By Chris Hefner
While we as pastors explain the gospel and invite people to respond to Christ in our preaching and personal conversations, I’m afraid we sometimes believe the gospel is clear when it isn’t.
Here are four reasons why it’s important we don’t assume people understand the gospel.
1. Attending church doesn’t mean someone has heard or received the gospel.
In the past couple of months, some friends of mine came to faith in Christ. They regularly attended a local church but hadn’t heard the gospel clearly.
In a separate conversation with another church attender, a woman admitted she was uncertain of whether or not she had eternal life.
Earlier this year, a man who attended our church for several years finally put his faith in Christ.
Attending church is an important aspect of one’s Christian faith. But attending church doesn’t make one a follower of Christ.
2. There is much unclear or false preaching that takes place.
In two conversations this week, I explained the gospel clearly, communicating that God is holy, we are sinful, and that Christ came to take our place and make us righteous.
This was fresh truth to two men who’d attended a variety of churches. They’d heard a variety of messages framed around legalism, judgmentalism, or easy believism—but not the gospel.
When preaching absolves us of our sin, fails to articulate God’s holy demands, minimizes one’s response to a formulaic prayer, or communicates that we somehow earn our salvation—it isn’t gospel preaching.
The danger of false or unclear preaching is all too real. There exists around us many people who assume they’re Christians because of the false teaching they’ve adopted.
We can confront false teaching by communicating and articulating the gospel clearly in our preaching and personal conversations and by investigating a person’s claim to faith through meaningful questions.
3. The gospel is too important to get wrong.
I’m a firm believer in God’s sovereignty and don’t doubt that anyone is beyond God’s salvation. Some have come to genuine faith in Christ amid false or unclear teaching.
God is gracious to redeem in spite of the errors of some preachers and some denominations. And yet, when Paul addressed the Galatians who were distorting the gospel, he vehemently opposed false teaching (Galatians 1:9).
Our aim and motivation for ministry must be the clear, accurate, and viable communication of the gospel. We dare not get it wrong, thereby leading others astray.
4. Eternal life is too important to assume.
Simply stated, one’s eternal life depends on whether or not they know Jesus Christ (John 17:3).
I’ve been in some form of Christian ministry for 20 years now and hope to have another 30-40 years of viable ministry remaining.
But that’s a mere speck of time compared to eternity. We sometimes assume people understand the gospel because we might not want to come across as hyper-critical of their spiritual background.
We might also assume the gospel because we’re afraid of awkward conversations, or because we’re uncomfortable moving the conversation to spiritual things.
God have mercy on us! If that person we’re uncomfortable talking with about eternal things dies without Christ, imagine how uncomfortable they’ll be for all eternity.
May God give us the concern, boldness, and clarity we need to communicate the gospel regularly. May God protect us from the danger of assuming people understand the gospel.
CHRIS HEFNER (@chrishefner) is husband to a beautiful wife and fantastic mommy, Jean Hefner, daddy of two little boys, William and Nathan, and senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He’s also professor of Western Civilization and Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Ph.D. graduate from the Billy Graham School of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.