She poked her hand up to alert the professor.

“What do you mean by the word ‘sin’?”

This wasn’t a Sunday school class, rather an introductory university course on the history of the Reformation.


A word that reflects a worldview we’ve relied upon to explain our faith, a word ubiquitously known within the walls of the church, is now obscure.

Particularly in metropolitan areas, there is a growing minority of people who have never been to church, who’s parents have never been to church, and now who’s grandparents have never been to church. A generation exists that holds nascent familiarity with Christianity. At best they’ve been to a church building for a wedding or funeral, but even those connections are becoming less frequent.

Why is this a problem? It’s an alert to the growing trend that a soon to be majority of people will have very little recognition, let alone interest, to the Gospel story told by the church.

For the church’s sake, we’re stuck telling the Gospel in a language that we are familiar with, not with thought on how others may receive it. If we can’t tell the story of our faith then it’s only for me and my already churched friends. Which is how most churches look nowadays–a room full of career Christians.

Tell me, are you able to articulate the Gospel message without using the word ‘sin’?

Go ahead and try.

Are you able to answer, “what does the cross solve?”, “why do we need the cross?”, or “how does a death solve anything?”, which is tough enough, but to do so without using church language you learned in Sunday school (such as ‘sin’)?

Post your attempts in the comments below, I’m genuinely interested in your reply. (I’m not suggesting some of these questions can be solved in a formulaic systematic theology, but they do have simple answers that fit into God’s unfolding narrative for creation.)

I can suggest one major observation in my work: ransom theory, propitiation, or other ‘wrath’ of God theories (because that’s all they are) of atonement have no bearing and in fact work against the saving message of the Gospel. 

So that’s out.

Some of you will lament the world ‘out there’ and note how pagan it is and because it’s so anti-Christian we just have to dig deeper in our morals and laurels to hang tight to ‘truth’. But here’s the thing. For the most part ‘the world’ isn’t anti-Christian, or anti-church, and certainly not anti-Jesus. Rather we have a largely indifferent population that’s interested in things spiritual, but hold a distrust of the institution, the one working in consistent and defiant opposition to social norms (whether rightly or wrongly).

The problem is us, not church outsiders.