“One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”
About 600 million people heard these words live from Neil Armstrong when he stepped for the first time onto the surface of the moon. As the iconic news anchor Walter Cronkite narrated this historic moment over CBS News on July 20, 1969, grainy images transmitted over television screens of an other-worldly space capsule touching down made the event seem simple and serene.
But NASA engineers at Cape Canaveral were anything but calm as the lunar module and its crew made their final approach and landed safely.
These experts at Mission Control knew that a slight error in setting the trajectory of Apollo 11 on its launch pad in Florida could have caused the rocket to veer perilously off target by the time it travelled the 239,000 miles from Earth to the moon. Small differences at the beginning of flight make for significantly different landing points in the end. Trajectory is critical.
The Gospel in a Nutshell
If the typical Christian is asked to describe the essential message of the gospel, most will describe the love of God, the sinfulness of humankind, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the offer of redemption. In a nutshell, the gospel is understood through this narrative as two main ideas:
(1) the fall of humankind, and
(2) the redemption of humankind.
If these two main ideas set the trajectory of the gospel on the launch pad, then the eventual destination of our mission will feature those who are fully focused on accomplishing these tasks as the main characters in the church’s story while all others serve as supporting cast.
The Whole Gospel?
The fall of man into sin through the rebellion of Adam and the redemptive offer by grace through faith in Christ’s finished work are essential aspects of the gospel to be sure, but is this the whole gospel?
The Puritans, the Reformers, and Augustine say “No.”
If we want to align the whole church to advance the Great Commission in this century, then an adjustment in our articulation of the gospel is in order .
I’ll take up this issue in the next blog.
Photo Credit: J.R. Eyerman for Life Magazine, 1961. Image depicts NASA engineers make equations for spacecraft orbits.