Growing up in the south has its advantages. I can think of things such as sweet tea, good biscuits, and Cheerwine. You are blessed with a really cool accent and unbelievable cooking. We have also been blessed to have a rich heritage of Christians and Christian churches, hence the nickname “The Bible Belt.” As good as the south is, there are some disadvantages. These go beyond the humidity and the mosquitoes.
It can be a disadvantage to grow up in a place that has been saturated to the point where most people think they are Christians just because they grew up going to church (even if it was only on Easter and Christmas). Christianity in the south is often is synonymous with church attendance, helping others, and being a good person. A few authors have termed this kind of religion as moral, therapeutic deism. It is the idea that, as Matt Chandler says, “we are able to earn favor with God and justify ourselves before God by virtue of our behavior.” Because Christianity has become so closely related to the culture in the south, some have subtly and tragically separated removed the gospel from the equation. At best, the gospel has been “assumed, not taught or proclaimed as central.” It has not been explicit.
Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler as you can probably guess is about making the gospel explicit. Matt Chandler is a pastor in Dallas (one of the most “Christian” cities in the US). He pastors a large church there called the Village Church. Through pastoring the church, he has seen a generation of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings who grew up in churches where they heard “talks about Jesus and about being good and avoiding bad – especially about feeling good about oneself – and God factored into all of that.” But, the gospel was not there. This has caused a lot of confusion among a generation that desperately needs to hear and be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In order to make no assumptions, Chandler takes a look at the gospel message from two different viewpoints. The first view point he calls the gospel on the Ground. In this section, he traces the Biblical narrative of God, Man, Christ, Response. It begins with “God’s needless self-sufficiency…culminating in a sinner’s Spirit-abled response to the good news,” of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The Gospel on the ground shows the work of the cross in our lives and the lives of those who are around us.
The second view point he calls the Gospel in the Air. In this section, Matt Chandler uses scripture connection “human salvation to cosmic restoration.” In this section he traces the big story that we see throughout the Bible of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. The cross not only affects us personally, it affects the universe. The gospel changes everything!
In his debut as an author, Chandler is readable, funny, and conversational. Reading the book is almost like sitting down in your living room and listening to Chandler speak (If you have never listened to any of his sermons, I would recommend that you do that sometime). I was convicted multiple times while reading this and yet I was encouraged. Matt Chandler’s honest approach to the gospel and the culture’s need of it was refreshing and exciting.
In all honesty, when I started this book I began to ask myself, “Do we really need another book about the gospel? Haven’t we heard this story again and again?” As I reluctantly started the book, I began to realize that my asking the question was the exact reason that we do need another book. As Christians, we constantly need to be reminded of the beauty of the gospel. We need to be reminded of the implications for new life that the gospel brings to us. We need to hear the same “old, old story” again and again. We need the gospel not only for salvation but for daily living. We need to hear the gospel again and again so that we can proclaim it over and over to those who have never heard it.
Read this book with a friend. Read it in a group. Whatever you do, just read this book.
“I love to tell the story,
’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.”