Union U conf. day 2: Harry Poe — The Gospel and its Meaning: Implications for Southern Baptists and Evangelicals

Communications Staff — October 7, 2009

Harry Poe. Photo by John Gill
Harry Poe. Photo by John Gill

Harry Poe said many American Christians have unhealthily reduced the Gospel and Southern Baptists and evangelicals must make sure they present the full counsel of the Word of God as they move forward in the 21st century.

Poe, who earned his Ph.D. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University, walked through various methods of presenting the Gospel people have used over the years, including Campus Crusade for Christ’s four spiritual laws, the Romans Road and Evangelism Explosion.

While each of these different presentations of the Gospel has been useful over the years, Poe said some people confuse the unchanging Gospel with specific methods of presenting it.

“The Gospel answers the deep spiritual questions of every culture and every person, but a Gospel presentation focuses on a particular issue or question that is the way a person is being convicted by the Holy Spirit at that particular time,” said Poe, who previously served as associate professor of evangelism at Southern.

“A presentation that worked in 19th century America may not communicate to Generation X because the new Generation deals with different issues. A presentation that works in America may not communicate well in Kenya or China. A Gospel presentation should always address the ultimate questions that people or cultures ask.”

Poe said in the mid-20th century many evangelism efforts in America simplified the Gospel by reducing it to two points: Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. Poe said 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 is used to support this “revisionist reductionism” of the Gospel. While these two points are the center of the Gospel, many other doctrines and elements add meaning and context to its message.

“The Gospel is a message of salvation that begins before the beginning — creation — and is everlasting, stretching from everlasting in one direction to everlasting in the other direction,” he said. “The death and resurrection of Christ is the center of the whole story, the center of the Gospel. And all who believe in Christ will be saved.”

Poe identified eight elements that make up the Gospel:

  • God as Creator
  • Scriptures fulfilled by Jesus
  • Full humanity and deity of Christ
  • Jesus died for our sins
  • Jesus rose from the dead
  • Jesus is exalted to the right hand of the Father
  • Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit
  • Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead

Poe said Paul always rooted his teaching in the Gospel, a message of good news that is not just for conversion.

“The Gospel is not only the message of how to be saved, but the message of how to be (how to live) saved,” Poe said. “It is the message of both evangelism and discipleship. All Christian doctrine and practice has its basis in the Gospel. Practices and beliefs of Christians that are not rooted in the Gospel are not Christian.”

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

Apply now for summer or fall studies

Classes begin in June & Aug.