One of the areas I have been looking at in my research is what I call the evangelical witness of various evangelical traditions. The idea of evangelical witness gives me a broad way of talking about a variety of practices that these traditions employ in trying to present their understanding of the gospel to people outside of their groups. But what I didn't think was worth tackling in my paper (which has a stronger focus on the dismantling of the sacred/secular split going on in many emerging churches) is the content of this gospel. As I look at various evangelical movements I see that many of them consider a presentation of substitutionary atonement as the gospel. The Bridge Illustration is a good example of what I am talking about. It becomes a formula: you have sinned, you need to repent, Jesus paid for your sin, here's your get to go to heaven card now take your place on that pew over there. Certainly as someone with twenty plus years in the evangelical world I was led to believe this is the whole of the gospel content, now I am far from sure it is even the most appropriate presentation. Seriously, is this really good news? And if the gospel is supposed to be good news, then what is that good news and how is it relevant to the world that God is supposed to love so much? These are questions worth meditating on before the next time you are tempted to strap on a big placard and go out into public.
BTW the guy in the picture looks like a guy I know, and yes I can totally see him with an sign like this. Scary.