Gospel is derived from the Greek word evangelion, and it means “good news.” Thus, the gospel is fundamentally news and not advice. Advice is typically counsel about something that has not yet happened and requires the listener to do something. Dress like this for the date. Ask these questions in the interview. Use this type of fertilizer on the lawn. We are bombarded daily with advice on a myriad of subjects.
News, however, is inherently different. News is a report about a definitive event that has already happened. The listener cannot impact the outcome of the event. The listener simply responds to what has already been done.
The gospel is good news.
Since the advent of twenty-four-hour, around-the-clock news channels, we often confuse news and advice. Stories about news and stories about advice are interspersed in the same programs. A news story about a world event may be followed by advice on how to cut personal expenses in a recession or what colors to avoid wearing during certain months. And since it is all on the news channel, every story gets called “the news.” But a lot of what is called news is not actually news. It is just pithy advice.
The same is true in many churches; advice often masquerades as the gospel. Messages filled with advice to help people improve their lives or turn over a new leaf are in contradiction to the nature of the gospel—news we must respond to, not insight we should consider heeding. Church leaders offering advice and calling it gospel will not develop transformed disciples. Worse, they will confuse people as to the true nature and content of the Christian faith. In churches where transformation is most likely to occur, the gospel is prominent and advice diminishes. As believers respond to the Scriptures, transformation takes place.
For weeks after September 11, 2001, all advice ceased on the news channels. There was continual coverage of the events surrounding the terrorist attacks of 9–11. The messengers of the news were convinced of the epic nature of the event and its astounding implications. In the wake of such a life-altering event, the news channels dared not report on something as trivial as advice on portfolio diversification or wardrobe selection. The news rightly dominated.
The good news that Jesus suffered and died in our place for our sin in order that we may freely receive God’s righteousness and forgiveness is infinitely more epic, and its dominance in discipleship should accurately reflect that it is “most important.”
Adapted from Transformational Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)