Fortress Press

The Unfolding Gospel: How the Good News Makes Sense of Discipleship, Church, Mission, and Everything Else

The Unfolding Gospel

How the Good News Makes Sense of Discipleship, Church, Mission, and Everything Else

John P. Bowen (Author), David Fitch (Foreword by)


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Many congregations and their leaders are discouraged about the future of the church. John Bowen's conviction is that the solution is to be found not in new programs or strategies but in a recovery of theological vision--that of Jesus and his gospel, which transforms every aspect of life. This vision restores hope in the only way realistically possible. 

Words like mission, discipleship, church, evangelism, renewal, and church planting are used like billiard balls--all rolling around a single table, unconnected and bouncing randomly off one another. This book pulls these ideas together into a coherent and organic whole. The gospel is the hermeneutical key for understanding each of these topics and what draws them together.

Thus, chapter 1 is an exposition of the gospel (God's determination to make all things new through Jesus Christ). Chapter 2 discusses discipleship (we only understand discipleship in light of the gospel), and chapter 3 covers church (we only understand church if we understand discipleship). Chapter 4 considers culture as the arena in which the gospel is lived and talked about, and chapter 5 builds on that with a discussion of translation, not only as a missional necessity but as a ministry which itself incarnates the nature of the gospel. The remaining chapters (on evangelism, the future of "inherited churches," church planting, and leadership) demonstrate how the gospel is the integration point for all. 

The author's hope is that church leaders--evangelical and mainline, young and old, emerging and traditional, present and future--will have a transformative "Aha!" moment as this gospel hypothesis unfolds. 

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506471679
  • eBook ISBN 9781506471686
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 212
  • Publication Date July 6, 2021


"John Bowen writes as if you were having a conversation at the kitchen table over coffee. He explores the great themes of the gospel with stories that capture the heart and imagination. John invites us to hold firmly to the core of the gospel and lightly to what may need to change. A book for all grappling with the future of the Church!"

Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate, Anglican Church of Canada

"Who better to remind us afresh of what the gospel is than a thoughtful, experienced, post-Christendom evangelist like John Bowen? He has the gift of discussing the complex, dynamic intersection of gospel, church, and culture in understandable, easy-to-listen-to ways. This is a much needed, back-to-basics book that helps God's people reaffirm the goodness of the good news."

Al Tizon, affiliate associate professor of missional and global leadership, North Park Theological Seminary and executive minister of Serve Globally Evangelical Covenant Church

"With wit and wisdom, John Bowen continues his lifelong commitment to equipping scholarly evangelists for church and academy. Bowen acts like a docent, cheerfully guiding the reader through the 'gospel gallery,' reinterpreting everything from conversion to church planting along the way. This book is a must read for those curious about how to live, share, and speak the gospel."

Ross Lockhart, dean of St. Andrew's Hall, Vancouver, and author of Lessons from Laodicea: Missional Leadership in a Culture of Affluence

"Finally! A book for those who want to follow Jesus and are serious about inviting others to do the same. John has helped many others like me to learn to walk in the way of Jesus. Now, this book, written in his usual winsome and wonderful manner, will help many, many more to live out the good news. I can't wait to get my hands on multiple copies to give away."

Cam Roxburgh, global director for Forge Missional Network, Team Leader of Southside Community Church, Vancouver, BC

"Once again John Bowen excels here in communicating with convincing clarity, warmth, grace, and faithfulness about the blessings that abound in sharing and living out the gospel in the world God loves. Lay people, church leaders, and anyone interested in 'what's next' for the church and the Christian movement will find this an engaging and worthwhile read."

Rev. Dr. Rob Fennell, Academic Dean, Atlantic School of Theology, author of The Rule of Faith and Biblical Interpretation: Reform, Resistance, and Renewal.

"In The Unfolding Gospel, John Bowen brings his gentle humor and his perceptive observations to the business of telling the gospel story. If like me, you sometimes feel that the gospel is 'other worldly' or that 'evangelism' is best left to the extroverted or a special class of Christian, then this book will restore your confidence. Reading this book reminds you that Jesus journeys with us right we are and that the gospel is always for these times and places."

Beth Green, Provost of Tyndale University, regional editor of the International Journal of Christianity and Education.

"Encountering John Bowen in print is not unlike encountering him in the flesh. Wise, passionate, and articulate with an occasional dash of welcome irreverence. Each of these is abundantly evident in Bowen's fulsome exploration of how the Good News has become--and is becoming--alive in Discipleship, Church, Mission, and everything else! You will enjoy this engaging conversation with a trusted friend who knows how to both provoke and inspire."

Michael J. Pryse, Bishop, Eastern Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

"The Unfolding Gospel is an essential Gospel primer for pastors, church planters, and regular run-of-the-mill apprentices of Jesus. It is the fruit of decades of teaching, practice, and thoughtful prayerful reflection. Bowen is a wise guide: logical, engaging, witty, honest, and sure footed as he leads us forward into the post Christendom and post pandemic landscape."

Jill Weber, OMS, author of Even the Sparrow: A Pilgrim's Guide to Prayer, Trust and Following the Leader.

Table of Contents

Foreword by David Fitch

Introduction (the kind you really need to read)

What Is the Gospel? Complexity and Simplicity

The Gospel, Conversion, and Baptism: A Three-Fold Knot

The Gospel and Discipleship: Three Tools of the Trade

The Gospel and Discipleship: Three More--Plus One

The Gospel and the Church: Back to Basics

The Gospel and Evangelism: Can It Be Redeemed?

The Gospel and Culture: Created, Damaged, Restored

The Gospel and Inherited Church: Moving to Missional

The Gospel and Church Planting: Two Models

The Gospel and Leadership: The Many and the Few

Conclusion: The Gospel and New Beginnings