I experienced sadness while reading this book.
When I completed it, I distinctly remember shaking my head, thinking how I wish I’d had this resource in hand when I began serving in ministry as a 19 year-old. Chandler’s message is one for the American church that has allowed growth, family life centers, good works and morality to displace the message of Jesus Christ Himself. From someone who’s been in ministry as a vocation for over 27 years (wow!), I can assure you that this book penetrates.
I began the year reading it, and I posted my reflections along the way in this post (which I encourage you to read; I posted more in-depth reflections in the comments section of it as well). Matt Chandler is pastor of The Village Church in Texas, and he pulls no punches as he seeks to KO gospel-less churches and ministries.
The “Christian” life he derides throughout the book is not really Christian. It’s similar to the righteous indignation that the apostle Paul expressed to the Galatians – a religious group of people, to be sure, but a people who had left the essential message of the gospel. When you depart from the message, you cannot live accordingly.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ… For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7, 11-12 ESV)
What the Galatians were doing is the same as what Chandler describes in Explicit Gospel. They had turned from the wonder of the gospel to the work of morality.
Most evangelical Christians believe Christians are in a bargaining position [with God].. We come to [Him] and say, ‘I’ll do this, and you’ll do that. And if I do this for you, then you’ll do that for me.’ .. We want to live as though the Christian life is a 50/50 project we undertake with God, like faith is some kind of cosmic vending machine. And we’re reinforced in this idolatry by bad preachers, by ministers with no respect for the Scriptures, by talking heads who teach out of emotion instead of texts, who tickle ears with no evident fear of the God who curses bringers of alternative gospels. [See Galatians 1.8-9]
I personally enjoy Chandler’s sense of humor. Others may find him a bit too biting or sarcastic. However, don’t let that put you off. He is charitable throughout in his passion to portray the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is not trying to write it anew; rather, he is reminding anew. He wants Christians to remember and cherish the deep, wonderful, joyful, liberating good news that Jesus Christ embodies and brought to humanity.
Without a clear commitment to the proclamation of a clear gospel, the path to heaven is obscured while the path to Hell is cleared. Chandler says there is only one obstacle in any person’s path to Hell. It’s Jesus Himself.
Jesus lays His body across the path; there is no ignoring Him. If it’s headlong into Hell we want to go, we have to step over Jesus to get there. (italics mine)
Get the book. Read it. Share it with friends. And then live as if your life depended on the gospel being explicit. Because it does.