As my team was traveling through South Asia to meet potential partners for church planting, I began to reflect on a serious problem I have observed through the years. An unnecessary barrier to expanding God’s Kingdom through networks of churches has been the lack of cooperation between theologically similar churches. The regular chorus that repeats itself from conversation to conversation tends toward the desire to stay independent from other national church planters and associations of pastors. This resistance to cooperative missions seems to have multiple foundations. Among the righteous sounding reasons are the desires for theological and ecclesiastical purity while the less honorable reasons revolve around a desire to strengthen an individual church or personal position.

In regions around the world, we have heard these repeated sentiments that do damage to the gospel. Church leaders hear the term ecumenical participation, and they want to flee from danger as Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife. They see the dangers of doctrinal and stylistic differences. These differences are often equated to heresy or at least theological error that could disqualify them from their religious or heavenly status. In many cases, great reasons exist to flee from certain ecumenical movements wherein biblical truths are damaged or disregarded; however, in other cases, cooperation has been shunned for little or no good reasons other than a difference in theological flavor or practical applications.
Are these differences sufficient to prevent the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 wherein He repeatedly urges believers to be united as one? The lack of unified cooperation is not a new problem during this century or even this millennium. A simple survey of the New Testament records multiple occasions in which cooperation was, at the very least, lacking if not persecuted. The Jerusalem council in Acts 15 is one example of a full schism developing within the infant Church that pitted one faction bitterly against another. Notably, there was no discussion about the inadequacy of the gospel from either faction; the argument, rather, was about application of tradition based upon their contemporaneous understanding of theology. The truth and sufficiency of the gospel was not in doubt for they were in agreement about the gospel; however, they refused to cooperate and, instead, attacked one another due to their theological positions.
A positive example from Paul is displayed in 1 Corinthians. The illustration starts in chapter one, as Paul says,
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor 1:10-13
In this situation, Paul is urging people to understand that differences in minor teachings and the lineage of those teachings are not to create division within the Church that is firmly devoted to the gospel. Paul immediately follows the above statement by presenting the supremacy of the gospel declaration of salvation through the cross of Christ. In verses 17-18, he contrasts teaching theology with words of eloquent wisdom against the folly of the words of the cross. In the end he finds the words of eloquent wisdom very much lacking to the gospel that saves through the almighty power of God. After all, it is not theology but, rather, the gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…” Romans 1:16-17.
Paul continues his guidance in 1 Corinthians 3 as he addresses the fleshly problems upon which this division is based. He says,
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:1-7
Herein, Paul again reminds the believer that the gospel and the cause of salvation are the primary work and focus of the Church. Therefore, we should seek to be drawn together by the gospel rather than being torn apart by theology and practice.
I want to be properly understood here. Those who know me and the work in which God has allowed us to flourish also know the conservative evangelical theology to which I joyfully hold: scriptural inspiration and inerrancy, sole sufficiency of the Bible, sole sufficiency of the gospel, salvation through grace by faith in the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as God in flesh. I hold dearly to the truth and power of what God has revealed to us through His written Word as the Truth for all mankind and for all time. What I am not trying to argue for is an ecumenical movement as has been a recurrent topic since Edinburgh in 1910. I would like to start at a much more simple task: cooperation between close brothers who are in majority agreement in both theology and praxis.
Disunity will always exist to some extent within associations, denominations, churches, and small groups. Between best friends, you will likely never find two who agree about everything. I regularly joke with my colleagues on the matter that I can often find myself disagreeing with my own thoughts; however, there is a great benefit with me disagreeing with myself. At least I know that half of me is most probably correct. Since we are human, disunity will exist within unity even as we strive to be “perfectly one, so that the world may know that (the Father) sent (the Son) and loved (us) even as (the Father) loved (the Son)” John 17:23 with edits for clarification.
The thesis then is stated that we must break down the barriers of negotiable theological and practical differences in order to cooperate for the gospel. Which barriers should be resolved and what criterion should we use to resolve them? That is my task herein; whether this article adds to the discussion is the reader’s decision.
As we listen to music, the heart often stirs. God apparently built humanity to be deeply affected by the music that we hear, play, and sing. This is why more emotion is often displayed during the music worship time as opposed to the preaching segment of a church gathering. However, all music does not sound the same from culture to culture or from church to church. Not only is traditional music different from place to place, but worship music is also different from place to place. Even styles of music within a culture differ between demographics.
Even though the basic architecture of music is universally the same, the specific application varies depending on the artist and audience. For example, although an octave is understood throughout all musical cultures, chord configuration, harmony, rhythm, and sound vary from place to place. Whatever style of music you hear the most becomes the music that you learn to call normal. To the Western ear, Chinese music can sound quite odd. To the Indian ear, Vietnamese music may be difficult to appreciate. In the many years we lived in Japan, I grew to love almost every aspect of the culture; however, although I found traditional music interesting, I could never come to consider it normal because my ear found it difficult to adapt to the style. The octaves and the notes were the same as my normal, but I could never find myself comfortable with the way Japanese music was put together.
Allow me to use this admittedly stereotypical generality of cultural music as an analogy to theology and the gospel. The octave that is understood internationally is commensurate to the gospel, which can also be understood omni-culturally. The chord, interval configuration, and rhythm are equivalent to theology, tradition, and praxis. Just as your ear may not be comfortable with the sound of the chord that is normal in a different culture, you also may not be comfortable with the practices and applications of theology that are normal among a people who worship differently than you do. Is their music illegitimate simply because it does not fit within my normal? Is their theology and praxis illegitimate simply because it does not fit within my normal? A combination of forbearance regarding theological application and of scrutiny regarding gospel application is paramount in moving forward in cooperation.
I realize that a comparison between the worldliness of music and the eternality of the gospel has disparity; however, what I would like us to realize is that mild variations in practices and theology do not necessarily delegitimize the possibility of cooperation in the propagation of the gospel and church planting.
Denominationalism has a long history within the Church. We can detect its infancy even within the Scriptures themselves when we read about the “Judaizers” and see preliminary arguments against Gnosticism in John’s writings. These associations of like-minded believers continued through our history as sides were taken in debates about the incarnation of Jesus. During the Reformation, the birth of our modern denominations are witnessed with the association of believers into groups of Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, Wesleyan, etc.
These associations have fostered great movements of the Church at times as well as further development and articulation of theology; however, denominationalism often prevents partnering for the gospel in some places where churches have more strength and are a little more structural in their administration. This can be the case in Southeast Asia, South America, North America, and in parts or Sub-Saharan Africa. Ideally, the presence of denominations that are strong enough to maintain a cohesion of participation would also be strong enough to formulate a plan for Kingdom expansion through evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Countless times around the world I have listened as brothers who were close in belief broke off the prospect of cooperation because of differences in denominations or their own differences within the denomination. Theological differences were not the problem but rather the fear of mistreatment from those within their own denomination.
Some denominations have good programs that encourage church planting through evangelism and discipleship, but even those who have these programs only have a small percentage of churches who participate in this calling. The denominations typically focus more of their energies on structure, leadership, and doctrinal distinctives. Distinctiveness tends to be the focus of the churches to the detriment of gospel expansion.
Denominations, however, do not occur globally. In areas of increased persecution, they are non-existent. Instead, we see much more local and independent movements that function as smaller versions of denominations. These ministry groups tend toward skepticism or lack of trust with other similar groups and sometimes involve competition far more than cooperation. Again, through personal experience and experiences of others, countless potential partnerships have been lost because of disagreements that range from practical application of Scripture to petty pride to competition for monetary partners.
I sincerely believe that the readers herein do not need to hear a listing of the causes of discord preventing the expansion of God’s Kingdom. These barriers are self-evident. I would rather spend the remainder of space in this article discussing a possible formula for building harmony in the midst of the discord that exists. Disunity in certain aspects will always exist within the global, regional, and local church, but that should not prevent us from being able to cooperate for God’s glory. Just as discord in music can be resolved into harmony via minor adjustments in the notes, so harmony in church planting can be attained between brothers with theological discord but agreement on the gospel.
I have found through years of ministry that churchplanters in one denomination have more in common with churchplanters from a different denomination than they have in common with non-church planting pastors within their own denominations. Why is this the case? I submit to the reader simply that the call and vision of churchplanters are much more in tune with God’s Kingdom perspective than they are with denominational adherence. The typical churchplanter has come to see theology based more solidly upon evangelism and discipleship rather than upon theological separatism and praxis that tends to exclude cooperation instead of participating as the unified body of Christ.
Posed to the reader is this observation, which I believe is more of a spiritual fact than a simple anthropological observation: those who are compelled to plant new churches in new areas through evangelism have much more in common with each other than they have in common with those in their own denomination/association/church who are not planting new churches through evangelism. Forming open and active networks among these churchplanters should, therefore, be a primary focus in the effort of expanding God’s Kingdom in a lost world. These local, regional, and global networks could become the primary mechanisms for gospel propagation.
Paul Hiebert once noted:
It is important to remember that the missionary movement was one of the earliest forces creating global networks and new media of communication… This was true of Catholic missions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and even more so of Protestant missions of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. So the difficulties we face now are not really new ones.
These global networks were established by believers who had an overwhelming call to take the gospel to the ends of the world. Notably, the driving factor was a love of the gospel and its power to save, not a love of theology and its ability to teach. Understanding that the Great Commission when properly completed culminates with, “and teach them…” still, we can definitively say that the motivation for missionary endeavor is the gospel over theology.
Stated another way, God reveals the biblical message from Genesis to Revelation by proclaiming man’s pathway from brokenness to salvation by way of the cross of Jesus, i.e., the gospel. Therefore, the gospel is the overwhelming message of the Bible, and theology must serve the gospel instead of vice versa. Since the gospel is the more important facet, the gospel should be the foundation, or octave in the musical analogy, that holds us together. It is in the gospel where we can find the source for harmony, and theology can be seen to add flavor to the chords.
From the above, we can see that the gospel is far more important than theology, especially in Christian minority areas. Admittedly, as post-evangelism discipleship takes place, theology will gain in importance as a normal desire to learn more about the Bible and God matures the believer; however, to continue the expansion of God’s Kingdom, the gospel still remains paramount.
Combining this truth with the commonality that churchplanters have with other churchplanters, logic would say that the pathway to harmony and effective cooperation should mostly depend upon agreement on the gospel message. Therefore, the suggested criterion for effective and productive cooperation for the expansion of God’s Kingdom is agreement with and adherence to the gospel message.

But how do we determine the exact points of the gospel with which we should be able to agree in order to cooperate effectively? If we can agree on a simple gospel devoid of denominational, theological, and even cultural markings, the harmony of effective cooperation will begin to appear. In the following section, I will strip away as much theology as possible from the gospel message in order to present a single-sentence gospel that can travel across cultures and demographics. This simple gospel can then be unpacked within the receiving culture with the necessary explanations to make it as indigenous as possible.


So, what do the lost need to hear? What must they know? Is there a heavenly list of facts of which knowledge about them is necessary in order to be saved? Once this knowledge is obtained, at what point does one acquire sufficient faith to have the ability to believe? Is some action required in order to make salvation effective? If there is a list of essential knowledge for salvation, why is that list not widely publicized to the Christian community in order to assure proper evangelism? These are some of our concerns that require consideration.


Scriptural References to the Essentials of Conversion
In an encounter with Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30-31, a Philippian jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The direct response to his direct question was simply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
After describing the desperate situation of mankind in regard to sin, Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved … For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:9,13).

“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:14-15a,17).

Paul speaks to the fact that people must have knowledge of that which is intended to be believed. For that reason, the Church has concluded that it must take the gospel to those who have not heard of Jesus because salvation depends largely upon their opportunity to hear and respond to the message, within the providence of God. The theological essentials of salvation must be grounded in biblical statements; otherwise, they are musings of the human mind.


The “Follow Me” Passages
The gospel records contain twenty-three references to Jesus using this phraseology. Mark 8:34 records a typical representation, “And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” When Jesus challenged people to follow Him, He was iterating the importance of allowing Him to direct their lives. As James Brooks stated, the phrase is, “closely related to self-denial, involving a willingness to give up everything dear in life and even life itself for the sake of Jesus. It is a willingness to suffer for Jesus and for others. Such a concept of discipleship is so radical that many contemporary Christians in the West have difficulty relating to it.”
When Jesus issued this challenge, He offered the ultimate test of true faith to see if they would obey Him. The challenge was and is to place Jesus as the highest authority in one’s life. If this does not occur, Jesus says there is no salvation available for that person. In the well-known example of this statement, during the Lord’s conversation with Zacchaeus in Luke 19, sorrow for his sin was evident as was his willingness to do anything to follow Jesus. In response, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9). In this situation, nothing is noted in Scripture about the quantity or quality of knowledge present in Zacchaeus, only his willingness to follow that which he did know and to which he ascribed truth.


The “Believe in Me/Him” Passages
In addition to the charge that one is to follow Jesus, many passages pronounce that proper belief in Jesus is sufficient for salvation. These passages introduce the discussion of the appropriate meaning of faith. The words believe, faith, and trust all originate from the same Greek words, pivstiV or pisteuvw, which require some defining. The definition is two-fold, defining the action and the object. The action is composed within the believer, but it is also necessary for the object to be believable. Therefore, propositional truths are necessary in the development of an individual’s belief.
In His conversation with Nicodemus, John records the single most memorized verse in the Bible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” He then continued, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16,18). The promise of salvation goes out to the one who believes, and the promise of condemnation is professed to the one who does not believe. Here, the condition of having eternal life is belief in the Name of Jesus.
Above, the brief interchange between Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailor was noted. In this exchange, the simple route to salvation resides in the jailor’s belief in one about whom he would have known little other than His influence on Paul and Silas. In fact, in both of these verses, the main emphasis is placed upon belief in Jesus’ ability to do that which He said He will do, which is directly associated with the Name of Jesus. In biblical culture, the words name and fame carry similar meaning related to the actions and reliability of the subject. When employing the use of “the Name” as a descriptor of Jesus, the writer implies that some propositional truths are necessary regarding the person of Jesus.


Theological Essentials of Conversion: Repentance, Faith, and Knowledge
True conversion and salvation result from faith and repentance. Repentance is the negative condition while faith is the positive element. Repentance apart from saving faith results in sorrow caused by unresolved guilt or shame, and faith apart from repentance results in knowledge and belief that do not produce a change in one’s life. Therefore, wherever true saving faith is present, true repentance should supernaturally exist, and vice versa.
The words repent, repentance, and repented occur in fifty-nine verses throughout the New Testament. Misunderstanding and confusion persist over what the word repentance means within the context of conversion. When the word repent is used in the Word of God in the context of biblical salvation, it is referring to a truly God-given, Spirit-led change of heart and mind toward God about sin, such as, “Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
Repentance is biblically proven to be of salvific importance, for 2 Corinthians 7:10 states, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” A personal choice is inherent in all of these contexts. One must make a choice or change his mind. Repentance and issues of faith are inexorably tied together by certain common facets of knowledge.
As a suitable starting point in the discussion about knowledge, a definition of truth seems to be proper. For something to be believable, it must have truth that is enduring to the believer. This truth comes in at least three senses: a metaphysical sense—the true being the absolute, the complete, as opposed to the relative; an epistemological sense—the true being correct, or propositional truth; and an ethical sense—walking in the truth, that is, doing right. Therefore, truth and knowledge contain spiritual, intellectual, and physical qualities.

Since repentance is the changing of the mind in recognition of wrong-doing, the repentant person must have available to him persuasive truth to identify the wrong. Moreover, saving faith, presented next, must also contain propositional facts concerning Jesus. For this reason, identification of the essential facts will be a worthy venture.
Being inseparable from repentance, faith is also described as possessing emotional, cognitive, and volitional elements. Pisteuvein is typically used in one of two important styles: with a dative or with prepositions. Used with the dative, it usually infers believing assent, specifically when the object is a thing, the Word of God, or a person, Jesus or God. The most pregnant prepositional use is the construction with eiV; it is also the most common, carrying the meaning “an absolute transference of trust from ourselves to another, a complete self-surrender to God.” Even though these are solid definitions within the Western perspective, one should recognize the forced practical and theological meanings placed on the idea of faith.


The Practical Essentials of Conversion: Repentance, Faith, and Knowledge
America and the West abound with theological writings that expound upon the intricate details of a mechanical understanding of salvation. An ordo salutis was devised to specify the order in which the decrees of God affect humanity and the ways in which humanity responds. Beyond these western theological understandings, must be the “nuts and bolts” of salvation: from what must one repent, what knowledge is necessary, how does one believe, and how does one actuate faith?
Repentance seems to be the easier process through which to work and is, therefore, the starting point. Billy Graham, among many others, tended to concentrate upon simple repentance as a key to salvation. Using Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,” he stated, “Repentance involves first of all an acknowledgment of our sin.” This acknowledgement brings about a required sorrow. This need for repentance is placed against the standard of a perfect and holy God to demonstrate man’s shortcomings and also his possession of a sinful nature, hence a requirement of some knowledge of God’s holiness and perfection exists.
Not only did Graham state the requirements for the emotional and cognitive, but he also dealt with the volitional requirement. He summed up the practical side of repentance as, “Thus, repentance is first, and absolutely necessary, if we are to be born again. It involves simple recognition of what we are before God—sinners who fall short of His glory; second, it involves genuine sorrow for sin; third, it means our willingness to turn from sin.”
As stated above, some practical knowledge is necessary for repentance, which deals mostly with the shortcomings of self. The essential knowledge for this act is recognition of an ultimately holy God. Since, however, faith is dependent upon propositions and a God/man, Jesus, the essentials of knowledge are compounded. True belief, however, is not a function of advanced intellect, sophisticated theological understanding, or complex doctrinal knowledge. Very few people intellectually understand all the gospel truth at the moment of salvation. Fortunately, the essential truths are basic enough that even a child can understand. Jesus himself characterized saving faith as childlikeness in Mark 10:15.
The difficult question addresses the quality and quantity of knowledge to be believed to actuate salvation. Paul clearly argues for certain knowledge when he says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). One must know that Jesus really died for some purpose in regard to man’s shortcomings and that Jesus was resurrected. But what else does one need to know about Jesus, the God-man, by propositional truths? The mountain of attributes belonging to Jesus could become a slippery slope into an intellectual wasteland for the one desiring to exercise faith.
Problems do appear when a list of facts is deemed necessary for proper salvation. For example, Mark 1:24-25, 34 describes a conversation between Jesus and several demons. The demon asks:

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him.

In this passage, the demons have more knowledge about Jesus than anyone in His entourage, but they are demons. Their knowledge, although quantitatively and qualitatively much higher than any man, is insufficient to empower their faith. Likewise, in Mark 3:11, obeisance mixed with knowledge is also insufficient for salvation as Mark writes, “And whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they fell down before Him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’”
A definite and joyful offer should be made to inform the prospective believer of as much information as necessary. God will work through truth; however, saving faith is of much greater value than full knowledge, as demonstrated with the demons.
An analysis of practical saving faith begins at the minimal end with Billy Graham’s statement that “The gospel message doesn’t have to be understood by the seeking soul, only to be received in simple faith.” While it is very true that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), just any faith is not sufficient—only saving faith meets the essentials of salvation. Anthony Hoekema described saving faith as “a response to God’s call by the acceptance of Christ with the total person—that is, with assured conviction of the truth of the gospel, and with trustful reliance on God in Christ for salvation, together with genuine commitment to Christ and to his service.”
The object of saving faith is particular. As above, one cannot have faith in someone unknown to them. Likewise, having wrong information about Jesus would not be sufficient for salvation. People must have minimal but accurate information about Jesus including His deity, His perfection, His sacrifice, and His purpose.
Since the believer is not yet born again, he is unable to understand Christian doctrine because only the Holy Spirit has the ability to open the mind to spiritual matters. Furthermore, although Hodge argued the facts of propositional truths, he concluded his treatment of the object of saving faith with the following statement: “So what the penitent sinner believes, is that God for Christ’s sake is reconciled to him. It may be with a very dim and doubtful vision he apprehends that truth; but that is the truth on which his trust is stayed.”
Hoekema also pulled back from the theological statements to one that was somewhat more meaningful when he stated, “We must have enough knowledge to realize that we are sinners who need redemption, that we cannot save ourselves but that only Christ can redeem us from sin and from the wrath of God, and that Christ died and arose for us.”
The heart of salvation in its essential nature is stated in 1 John 5:11-12, “And this is the testimony: that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” The Bible records a plethora of statements of effective belief that demonstrate sufficient faith but are lacking in details of knowledge. The opposite is never true; one does not find a proper statement of belief that demonstrates sufficient details of knowledge but is lacking in faith.


From the previous discussion, we must agree that it is faith in the available propositional truths that provides for salvific faith. This salvific faith requires the essences of follow Jesus and believe in Jesus, from the previously discussed passages, combined with essential repentance. Follow Jesus is demonstrated by the subsequent actions of the individual in actively pursuing Christ. This stage is comparative to the fruit of salvation and sanctification.
Repentance requires knowledge of a personal offense against the Great God. For much of the Church, this repentance is from the actions of any of a multitude of sins or wrongdoings (lying, drinking, stealing, etc.); however, Scripture indicates that salvific repentance is the act of repenting from the lack of belief in Jesus or resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit as seen in John 16:8-10: And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer. So the sin people need conviction of by the Holy Spirit is the lack of belief or lack of faith. Therefore, the connection between salvific repentance and faith becomes evident as they are two sides of the same coin.
That leaves faith, which is represented above as believe in Jesus. Berkoff, Graham, Hoekema, and Hodge provide the foundation for the fact that propositional truths are necessary, but a limited list of truths is secondary to volition (choice) and assensus (emotion) as Berkoff again clarifies as, “a deep conviction of the truth and reality of the object of faith, feels that it meets an important need in his life, and is conscious of an absorbing interest in it.” But which truths? The simple truth that Jesus is able to accomplish that which he proclaimed. So, faith is based upon the ability, power, and/or authority of Jesus. The actual acts are necessary but subsequent to his authority; therefore, faith in His eternal abilities is the salvific key.
Consequently, this author concludes that the essentials of the gospel may be stated in a cultural form of the following: “I have offended the Almighty God, and Jesus is mighty to save.”
In a guilt-based culture, the offense is understood as an violating the law of a holy God. In a fear-based culture, the offense is understood as an assault against the power of the High God. In a shame-based culture, the offense is understood as an affront against the honor and authority of a holy God, and salvation is the act of reconciliation. As noted above by Charles Hodge, using this standard, the lost have recognition of need and a provided solution. The essential belief for salvation is the belief that Jesus is Lord, master, Savior, or reconciler; and the essential faith is a personal submission to Him in that capacity. This is more than just the foundation of the gospel that should be built upon; it IS the gospel that saves, and it should be easily agreed upon by all of us with moderate discord in theology.


My simple task herein was to encourage cooperation between close brothers who are in majority agreement in both theology and praxis. To accomplish this, I wanted to survey some causes of discord in order to build a path toward the creation of harmony. Disunity in theology across the Church is to be expected due to culture and demographics among other reasons; however, the gospel is what should universally hold us together, just as the octave in music does the same.
Theology must serve the gospel as the gospel is the overwhelming proclamation of God’s Word. Therefore, I conclude here that if we can firmly agree on the essential statement of the gospel over the many intricacies of theology, then many, if not most, of our barriers of cooperation should be dismantled.
The scriptural gospel was shown above to contain propositional truths, but it is not tied to a list of necessary propositional truths. Rather, the truths that must be believed focus on the ability of Jesus to accomplish that which is necessary for salvation, but not so much in a historical list of facts and actions. As Hodge states, “So what the penitent sinner believes, is that God for Christ’s sake is reconciled to him. It may be with a very dim and doubtful vision he apprehends that truth; but that is the truth on which his trust is stayed.”
With this in mind, I compress the gospel into the single sentence: I have offended the Almighty God, and Jesus is mighty to save. Within that phrase is: admission of personal offense, existence of one Almighty God, and the ability of Jesus to accomplish reconciliation. This phrase can then be expanded within the host culture to the necessary level in order to explain appropriately each of these facets to a level that makes salvific faith possible.
The thesis stated that we must break down the barriers of negotiable theological and practical differences in order to cooperate for the gospel. I pray that with a firm agreement on a simple gospel, church planters from across denominations, associations, and ministries can effectively cooperate with each other in order to push back the darkness of a lost world. Our enemy knows that the gospel is our greatest weapon and that theology sometimes keeps us from using that weapon. Let us resolve to use the gospel to bring harmony to the Church so that we will grow closer to being in unity with each other and with the Lord.

Hoyt Lovelace

Dr. Hoyt Lovelace graduated from the University of Arkansas with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, He started and expanded a small chain of fine dining restaurants and coffee houses. In 1999, God called him to seminary and church planting. He with his wife successfully planted a church in Memphis, TN and taught church planting in many countries around the world with Global Church Planting Partners (GCPP), a company Hoyt founded in 2007. With a PhD from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, they lived in Japan in hope of seeing an expansion of churches being planted. After four years and one major tsunami, they were moved back to the States where he began to focus more on GCPP by developing sustainability projects and medical outreach in countries with limited medical access.

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