If I understand Jesus correctly, faith without obedience is not real but is little more than an intellectual exercise. The faith Jesus invites us to embraces a lifelong abandonment of following Him whatever the cost, wherever the destiny.
Too many of us have been taught that membership to a church means to agree to a set of religious facts about Jesus and the history of the particular denomination/
congregation rather than taking up their cross and follow Him. This encourages people to recite words they do not understand and have no plan to do anything about it. There is today often a separation from justification and sanctification which takes away from the authenticity of the gospel before the watching world. All this tends to create individuals and therefore congregations where faith equals verbal assent and costly commitment is the exception rather than the norm.
But what is actually the gospel? How we answer is crucial because it determines the kind of person and the kind of church we become. What we are becoming governs what we are doing. This includes the reputation we have as persons as well as congregation, the mission we are involved in, and whether the community of faith is a self-indulged crowed of individuals or a sacrificial force for the good of the world.
"Christians are not perfect, just forgiven" I read here and there on bumper stickers. True, but this explanation can become an excuse rather than an explanation for the necessary grace. The church's drive to remain relevant and accepted in a society that no longer holds' to the idea of creation and therefore at least some level of personal accountability to the creator has diminished the distinction between the disciple and the surrounding culture. And when the distinction becomes too narrow, we fit in too nicely and comfortably we are no longer different to make a difference. This casual Christianity has created leaders and organizations (rather than a family) that are competing with one another rather than seeking unity. It has created congregations that live as forsaking all things to follow Jesus is optional and a separated issue from salvation altogether. Therefore, in Europa and North America, the church continues to shrink in size at an alarming rate, yet continues to preach a gospel that produces consumers of religious goods and services than disciples.
Is there a solution?
The prophet Joel hints at a similar solution; repentance.
So, what is the Gospel? Is the gospel an event or a journey? Is the gospel just for the guilty, or is it something needed daily? Is the gospel about my status alone, or how I interact with other people, different people?