Christianity, as faith centered in Jesus as the Christ came to be called, got a foothold in the world, and for a vital and vocal minority changed the world, because it proclaimed a message that awakened men and women to possibilities for human life that they had either lost or never entertained. That message the first Christian evangelists (and Jesus himself, according to the record) called euangellion--good news, gospel. For its first two or three hundred years, Christianity was largely dependent for its existence upon the new zest for life that was awakened in persons who heard and were, as they felt, transformed, by that gospel; and at various and sundry points in subsequent history the Christian movement has found itself revitalized by the spirit of that same 'good news' in ways that spoke to the specifics of their times and places.
The lesson of history is clear: the challenge to all serious Christians and Christian bodies today is not whether we can devise yet more novel and promotionally impressive means for the transmission of 'the Christian religion' (let alone this or that denomination); it is whether we are able to hear and to proclaim . . . gospel! We do not need statisticians and sociologists to inform us that religion--and specifically our religion, as the dominant expression of the spiritual impulse of homo sapiens in our geographic context--is in decline. We do not need the sages of the new atheism to announce in learned tomes (and on buses!) that 'God probably does not exist.' The 'sea of faith' has been ebbing for a very long time. --from the Introduction