Red-bearded Joe approached us with a cup of coffee, introducing himself and asking who we were and how we'd heard about their little Christian fellowship called Gospel Community. Kelsey, Hannah and I introduced ourselves and since Joe's hair and glasses reminded me of Kevan, I felt comfortable carrying the conversation a bit further...
"So, we don't really know anything about GC. Can you tell us a bit about what you do here and what you're about?"
He swaggered slightly and sipped his coffee and said something like, "Well, we just basically live in community and think the most important thing is to share the gospel with others."
"Well," I concluded, "I guess we're in the right place then!" Ok, I'll admit I was pretty skeptical of our new friend's oversimplified redundant rephrasing of their church's name. It sounds good... in fact, it sounds great. I think many true Christians, particularly in my generation, want to be a part of a church like that. But as often as I've heard similar creeds, there are very few churches I've been to that actually live this out in reality. I settled in for a one-night stand with another trendy - sorry - "culturally relevant" church service. You know the kind I mean.
But then... people were hanging out, talking in small groups, and no one was sitting alone or being ignored. There was this group of skater boys outside playing together and they all came in and sat on the front row with a guy who apparently sought them out and is mentoring them, someone told me. That just makes me smile. People did more than just shake our hands; they asked us about ourselves and warmly invited us to come again.
And then... the pastor got up. Skepticism again tingled my spine, as he looks eerily like Rob Bell. But when he prayed, his voice was gentle and quiet and unimpressive... kind of like Rich Mullins... and he prayed for God to change him in the course of the sermon. And guess what his sermon was? It was Peter's sermon in Acts 2. And guess what that sermon was?
You got it... the gospel. And that's all. No moral lessons, no interpretations, no fluff. It is basically this: Repent and believe in Jesus. Receive full and unconditional forgiveness of your sins. Show the world the change Jesus has made in your life through baptism. He said that what the world needs is Jesus, and a gospel message that hasn't changed in 2,000 years. "Bring the gospel that never changes to a culture that always does." So simple, yet it is exactly what the church claims to do - preach the gospel.
At the end of the sermon, the pastor said in the most loving and imploring way, "Please, please repent. Please believe. One day everyone will bow a knee and proclaim Jesus as Lord, but he would rather you choose him now. He would rather be in relationship with you now. So please, listen to him and repent." I think that's how John the Baptist must have said it. I think that's how Jesus said it too. That heart-wrenching plea from a person who loves you so much they can't bear the thought of you missing out on the best thing in life. That's how the gospel should be preached.
Ok, so worship and prayer time was awesome too, beautifully handled without the light shows and endless choruses. And I look forward to that time again. But the thing that stuck with me - that sold me on this church - was that they are doing exactly what they claim. They are living in community and sharing the gospel.