What Comes Before the Gospel?

“If the gospel is the hope of the world, and if the message is blocked until there is good will, where do we go from here?”

I recently returned from a large conference on church planting and multiplication. The experience was incredible. To be totally honest, it messed me up really good. All week long, I heard over and over how I need to stop thinking about my little slice of the pie and start thinking about the kingdom of God; how I need to give myself to what Jesus is up to and stop asking him to shine his light on my little ideas.

I made a fresh commitment to raising up and reproducing leaders, planting churches and owning the saturation of my city with the gospel of Jesus Christ—to really move the needle where I live and beyond. It was a serious moment for me. And if the church in my city will make room for all God wants to do, indeed the gates of hell will not be able to hold us back.

At the same time, all week at that conference and every day since I’ve had a voice ringing in my head about what precedes the gospel. By this I mean, what comes before the kind of life-giving, city-enhancing, world-changing leap that every follower of Jesus is called to give their lives to—the turning of individuals, families, neighborhoods, communities and cities in faith to Jesus?

Good Will

When you read Acts chapter 2 you find that those 3,000 people weren’t converted and baptized in a vacuum. The soil had been worked. The environment was hospitable. The people of Jesus had favor with those outside the faith. In other words, Christians had credibility.

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Even as I write those words I’m bothered. I’m ashamed at how my faith is so often disconnected from the reality of the daily life of so many of my friends and neighbors. If I were in their shoes, why in the world would I be remotely interested in someone else’s lifeless, irrelevant belief system? Unless there is credibility, there can be no impact.

That’s what is stirring in my soul right now. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world, and if the message is blocked until there is good will, where do we go from here? How do we create good will?

Good Works

It’s as simple as Jesus’ words from Matthew 5: “Let your light shine.” Yes, we need to do that with words, too, and yes, we need to be confident about the gospel, and yes, we need to plant churches and saturate our cities with the good news of Jesus. But we also have to cultivate an environment that is hospitable to the life-giving truth of God’s grace. You don’t plant seeds in rocks.

I’m not suggesting that we stop talking so we can start doing. We don’t want to create an opposite problem in which our cities trust us but our message is silenced. I am suggesting that we lead with something tangible and meaningful and valuable to the people we are trying to serve. I’m challenged by the example of Jesus, who fed the same crowd he wanted to reach.

If these thoughts grip you like they have me, the application couldn’t be simpler: Let your light shine. Pick something—anything—that is in front of you and serve and love somebody in the name of Jesus and in the power of his Spirit. If his words are true, what follows will be nothing short of world changing.

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Gabe Kolstad is the lead pastor of Westside Community Church in Beaverton, Oregon, a certified trainer with Church Leader Insights and a multi-time advanced coaching expert with Nelson Searcy. This article was originally published on GabeKolstad.com.