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Chances are, many of you reading this understand the connection between God and sin. Two basic words, three letters each, with layer upon layer of meaning for Christians. But what do they mean to the “unchurched”?
For some, God is a distant being, an impersonal force, the power within each human, the natural universe, the power of evolution, or a non-existent being. They might define sin as hurting other people, not fulfilling our potential, negatively impacting the planet, a morality tale to control the “weak,” or an illusion.
God and sin—two simple words. But with so many different ways of understanding them, perhaps you can see the challenge in communicating the gospel. That’s exactly why we must take a step back.
Many earnest Christian leaders share God’s good news primarily as the present solution to one’s problems. If our lives are a mess or our marriages are crumbling, we can trust in Jesus to restore them. All we need to do is ask God to forgive us for our sins.
To be sure, God can forgive. But there are those two words again: God and sin. In a culture that largely doesn’t understand either term, presenting the gospel that way leaves out some important truths. It’s telling them what Jesus did on the Cross and what He can do in our lives but not showing them why He did it and why we needed Him to do it (1 Timothy 1:15).
And the why—the reason Jesus came—is to save sinners. Genesis reveals how man came to be in his sinful and helpless state and provides the foundational information of the gospel message (just as Paul showed in Acts 17:22–31).
To clearly share the good news with those who don’t understand these two key terms, we must tell the whole account—just as God did. Our Creator gave us the manual for understanding the universe, and it starts with Genesis—creation and the Fall.
In other words, you can’t count on the unchurched (or even some who attend church) having a correct understanding of who God is, what it means to disobey our Creator, and why the world groans.
So, what can we do? Some missions organizations have found these same problems when working with people groups with no biblical background. When the missionaries preach only the message of Jesus dying on the Cross for their sins, many people don’t understand what that means.
But when these organizations start with the book of Genesis to explain where people came from, how sin entered the world, and why everyone needs a Savior, they’ve discovered that the people they are trying to reach are better able to understand why Jesus came to die on the Cross and rise from the dead.
You, too, are a missionary in a culture filled with people that need you to explain the gospel—patiently, lovingly, and from the very beginning.