The Simple Gospel

Stephen Whitten

This month I’ll come to the end of two years of training with Church Army…

I used to think that the Gospel and evangelism were simple, and I pretty much understood how things worked… then I started training with Church Army!

I have always had a fascination with how God works through people and the different ways in which he reveals himself. I enjoy learning to understand why people believe what they believe, so my first arrival to the Wilson Carlile Centre for training, having been presented with various understandings of how salvation works, made me so excited. I couldn’t help but think of all the people who I could explain this to, those who I felt needed to share in what I was learning.

Then, after a few hours of teaching, we took a trip to a Church Army project that works with some very broken women. We learned how one of them had been nailed to a wall by an ex-partner, so talking about the crucifixion was out. Their experience of men was one of abuse and control, so talking about a loving Father God was outside their experience. We learned that most of them have a dream that one day they can be with their children as a normal family, and even though sometimes this is unlikely, it’s the only hope they have to hold on to. That being said, if they heard that God gave up his Son to die, it could seem to them to be the most evil act imaginable.

Sitting there, as the messiness of these women’s circumstances became apparent, the excitement and clarity I felt in learning salvation theology in the classroom was slowly ebbing away. It was obvious just how inappropriate it would be to simply tell these women a right doctrine of salvation and invite them to respond. Like throwing a pebble to stop a tsunami, it just wasn’t enough! I started thinking that these women needed to see God’s love, to feel it and experience it for themselves. Surely they needed to know God as rescuer in the darkness of their own circumstances before they can understand how He has rescued them from sin.

At the same time as being filled with this conviction, I realised that I didn’t really have the first clue how to actually go about reaching these women with the Gospel. My morning had begun with excitement and confidence, and ended with this humbling realisation.

As I have worked for Church Army, I have met people whose lives are utterly broken and who have been through trauma and pain that I couldn’t even imagine. One thing that the weekend in Sheffield helped me to understand, is that our conviction to bring the Gospel must be wrapped in humility and a willingness to learn.

I thought I would finish Church Army training having the answers and knowing how to preach the Gospel, but actually it has taught me that there are no easy answers and that preaching the Gospel can, and must, look very different in different circumstances.

I thought the Gospel and evangelism were simple, and when I’m sitting in a library they are, but bringing the simple Gospel to a messy, complicated and broken world is a constant learning experience!

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