I've just been thinking about some of the challenges inherent in communicating the gospel. I guess they start with identifying what the 'gospel' is, what is the good news of Jesus Christ? Already some of the more eager among you are raising your hands, "I know this one - Jesus died for our sins, right?"
Well, I'm not going to say that you're wrong but here's a few things to consider:
1. The message that Jesus died for our sins is only useful if people believe that they are sinful. This isn't the starting point for a lot of people today and I'm not sure the right response for us is to try and get them there by telling them how bad they are or trying to scare them with Hell.
2. A significant number of biblical scholars now suggest that a better translation is that Jesus died because of our sins. That is, a God-infused presence like Jesus of Nazareth who challenges the powerful and stands up for the disenfranchised will always end up dead. The aspect of sin emphasised here is the corporate seduction of power and influence that reacts violently to any threat.
3. Even in the New Testament, there are a number of opinions about what the most important thing is for Christians to remember. The gospels tell us that Jesus identified loving God and your neighbour as the essence of his religion.
4. It seems that Jesus was critical of the sacrificial system of his day. Isn't it strange then, that Christians created a sacrificial understanding of Jesus to replace the sacrificial understanding of the temple?
Now I realise that this is a highly divisive issue and that some of you have already lost my point about communication because you think that I'm questioning the idea of Jesus' sacrifice. Actually I don't have a problem with Jesus' death being understood as a sacrifice but that's a topic for another day. What I'm trying to illustrate is that even the most simple, apparently central aspects of Christianity are open to a number of valid interpretations and should be able to withstand rigorous questioning. If you lost that point, then you just proved it because it demonstrates the difficulty of communication. Of course, it's possible that communication is much easier than I think and that I'm just not very good at it. I'm open to that possibility as well.