The word kerygma is a transliteration of a Greek word that describes preaching and/or the content of preaching or proclaiming. In the first century, kerygma meant the proclamation by a herald who had an important announcement. The emerging church described in the book of Acts embraced this cultural tool.
In the New Testament framework, the kerygma is an announcement of divine action by God. It was in the context of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection that the kerygma received its mandate. The disciples discovered an empty tomb and later interacted with the resurrected Jesus Christ. They could not help but proclaim far and wide that Jesus Christ, who was born miraculously, lived sinlessly, proclaimed the kingdom of heaven was at hand, died sacrificially, arose from the dead victorious, and ascended into the heavens, is Lord.
In the simplest terms, our proclamation is “Jesus Christ is Lord.” In the fullest sense of proclaiming the good news, we declare that God is at work to redeem and restore the whole creation. There are many evangelicals who have unfortunately drawn the battle lines with a definition of proclamation that narrowly focuses on a particular view of atonement.
Youth ministry must move away from a proclamation ensnared by formulaic and one-dimensional soteriology. A kerygma that focuses solely on You’re a sinner who is going to hell but Jesus died for you so you can go to heaven if you ask Jesus into your heart is deficient in heralding the scope of truth contained in the great good news.
Our efforts to preach and proclaim the great good news seem warped when we start out with the emphasis that people are sinful and need to get saved so they can go to heaven when they die. Let’s herald the good news that starts with the reality that all human beings were created imago Dei (in the image of God). Let’s connect the imago Dei in our fellow human beings with the overarching story of God at work in the world. We should not start the story in Genesis 3 with the fall of humanity. We’ll get there soon enough. I meet few human beings who deny that they are broken.
For youth ministry to properly proclaim the great good news, we must embrace a high Christology. We must look to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s proclamation of good news. Also, I think it is critical that we embrace the whole of the Christ event—not just birth, crucifixion, and resurrection but also the words and teachings of Jesus.
I believe it is the responsibility of the church and of God’s people to always be on the lookout for demonstrations of God’s in-breaking kingdom, even when these acts come from outside the church and from non-Christians. When we see people and institutions cooperating with God, our proclamation should be to point it out and declare, “There it is!”
I wrote this post originally for Slant33