In 2009, as we were preparing for the theme of our next youth camp, we were confronted with a simple question that altered how we do ministry. Are we training disciples in the gospel for life and ministry or just entertaining them every year? It became apparent that most participants got more excited in our four part team building activities. Rarely have we received comments on how God’s Word pierced hearts and how they desire to grow in holiness and in service to the Lord. We felt something was missing. We forgot to focus on the main thing.
In his last letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul made sure to entrust the most important message and truth—the gospel of Jesus Christ—to his spiritual son and beloved disciple. He said in 2 Timothy 2:2, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” The gospel is the focal power of life and ministry where we get our doctrine and culture.
Unfortunately, many churches in the Philippines are suffering from gospel amnesia. They treat the gospel as spiritual milk reserved only for baby Christians. Once they decide to become more like Jesus, they leave the gospel and focus on other truths that they consider spiritual meat. In many ministries, the gospel is reserved only for evangelism and not for discipling believers, pastoring a local church, or mobilizing missions.
I would submit that we need a fresh view of what the gospel is and what it graciously does in our lives and how it affects everything we do in our local churches and other ministries before we can faithfully entrust it to generations after us.
Entrusting Gospel Doctrine
Paul, in his letters, reiterates the importance of the gospel not only in our justification (Romans 5:1) and conversion (Ephesians 2:4) but also in the process of our sanctification (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) until Christ meets us in glory (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
This is what Ray Ortlund expounds in his book The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ, “God, through the perfect life, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, rescues all his people from the wrath of God into peace with God, with a promise of the full restoration of his created order forever—all to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
The simple yet intentional cure for gospel amnesia is gospel rehearsal. It is our daily commitment to remember who God is, what He has done through Jesus Christ; who we are now as His children and citizen of the Kingdom. Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we are directed to align our affections, desires and pursuits in light of what the Triune God has accomplished for us.
When this takes place, we have gospel doctrine that is rooted in God, about Him and for Him. In this, the gospel becomes the A to Z of the Christian life and not merely the ABCs. Staying in the gospel is not a hindrance but it’s what gives us power and everything we need to enjoy and grow in Jesus Christ.
Entrusting Gospel Culture
Whenever gospel doctrine is realized, God graciously creates a culture that is counter-intuitive in the world. This pattern is clearly seen in all the letters of Paul. Consider the following verses in the book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 4:17, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”
Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Gospel doctrine + gospel imperatives produces God-glorifying, Christ-exalting and Spirit-driven gospel culture. God uses our local churches and communities so we can truly portray the eternal beauty and magnificence of our Lord Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world.
Realization and Hope
Paul’s charge to Timothy was never meant to be easy. Entrusting gospel doctrine and culture to reliable men and women takes a relentless resolve not to be swayed by the current trends of how to do life and ministry. By God’s grace, Timothy endured his mission. Today, we are the generation of Christians which Paul had hoped to experience the gospel and who will make it known to others.
By God’s grace, He has allowed us at (now called) iDISCIPLE Philippines, to see the power of the gospel which creates doctrine and culture grounded in the Scriptures. He has enabled us to help local churches in making gospel-centered disciples of all nations, starting here in our country by providing trainings, workshops, and conferences for pastors, church leaders and younger leaders.