In his book, The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler asks the question, "How can you grow up going to church every week and not hear the gospel?" (12) He was haunted by this question after watching a series of baptism testimonies that fallow the lines of, "I grew up in the church but. . ." or "No one ever taught me the gospel." This, it seems, has prompted Chandler to write a book specifically outlining the gospel.
Unlike many academic books that journey through the gospel, The Explicit Gospel is penned by a practicing pastor who understands the personal nature of the gospel. However, unlike many pastoral books on the gospel, Chandler does not simply stay rooted in the dirty interpersonal aspects of the gospel. He rightly sees the gospel from two distinct perspectives--the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air. The ground and air views are how he creatively describes these two perspectives.
The gospel on the ground is the stuff in the everyday life of people. It's what we most often hear from the counseling, pastoral ministers and leaders. The gospel on the ground is about God's relationship with man, man's brokenness, Christ's atonement and his love for us, and our repentance and response to Christ. This is the very personal gospel story that we often hear from personal perspectives, and it is very much the gospel of the Bible.
On the other hand, Chandler also addresses the gospel in the air. Rather than the view on the ground, on the pavement with with people, this is the 30,000 foot view. This is the gospel we often hear about from professors and teachers and the more big-picture driven pastors and leaders. It is not so much dependent upon the personal relationship as it is about the story of the history of God's redemption. This is the gospel that starts with creation and is broken by the fall. Then reconciliation between the created and their Creator through and by Christ leads to the beautiful consummation. And this too is the gospel of the Bible.
Chandler does a fantastic job and presenting the gospel from both of these perspectives. His journey takes detailed steps through the Bible, going to great lengths to explain and express the story of the Bible in simple to understand terms. In addition, he has a section in the book that discusses the dangers of staying only on the ground or remaining only in the air and it is spot on. His argument beyond the reality that Christians must know the gospel is that we must also find balance.
This is a wonderful book, although a learned student of the Bible may find some sections a little boring and prefer to turn to the Bible itself. That being the case, the sections on the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air, as well as the latter chapters on the dangers of a lack of balance are extremely insightful and valuable. In addition, the very purpose of this book is to communicate to those who do not know and understand the gospel. Inversely, those with little to no knowledge should read this book and will probably find it extremely enjoyable.
*Jared Jenkins, Adam Madden, and I recorded a podcast centered around the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air as presented by Chandler. You can listen to it here or subscribe to Salty Believer Unscripted on iTunes.