“God loves you and Jesus died for you.” Is this the gospel message we must proclaim?
In his interview with SBC Today, Johnny Hunt (now president of the Southern Baptist Convention) spoke about the need for an emphasis on personal evangelism within the Convention. Hunt is concerned that Southern Baptists do not take opportunities to speak of the gospel with non-Christians. As an example of how we can be more faithful to take such opportunities, Hunt talked about seeing a couple of young men at a funeral; being previously aquainted with the youths, Hunt knew that they were not Christians. Not having much time to speak to them (due to preaching and counseling others at a funeral), Hunt simply told the young men, “God loves you and Jesus died for you, and I want to talk to you later.” In the interview, Hunt mentioned his sharing the statement, “God loves you and Jesus died for you,” as an example of evangelism. Based on what he said in the interview, Hunt certainly recognizes that this phrase is not the extent of the gospel that must be proclaimed, but he does believe this to be an accurate summary of the gospel.
My questions for readers today- and these are honest questions, which I hope lead to a good discussion- are these: 1. “Is the statement, ‘God loves you and Jesus died for you,’ an accurate summary of the gospel?” 2. Given a very brief amount of time to explain the gospel, should we tell non-Christians, ‘God loves you and Jesus died for you’?
I want us to think about these questions particularly in light of John 3:16, where Jesus seems to make a similar statement to a man that was (in that moment) apparently not yet a Christian.
The purpose of this post is not to invite criticism of Johnny Hunt (in fact, if comments tend too far in that direction I may delete them), but to think of how we should practice evangelism. Think about these questions in terms of your own life; at the end of a conversation on the phone with a non-Christian family member, would you be willing to say, “God loves you and Jesus died for you and I want to talk to you about this later”? Why or why not? How is your response shaped by the biblical text, particularly by John 3:16 as understood in context?