Message churches were built upon the basis of the Pentecostal idea of 'holiness,' the idea that we could become closer to God by cleansing ourselves. Essentially taking the work that Christ did on the cross as lessor importance; we must save (or also save) ourselves by our actions or our outward appearance.
So to the following, the "gospel" is one of 'works.' It is the idea that we must live ascetic lives. Avoiding the things that others enjoy to avoid becoming 'worldly.' It is nothing more than a gospel of abstinence.
The Old Covenant was a two-part contract, between God and man. But it wasn't initially. God gave Moses the ten commandments, and they were as simple as that: ten. Jesus said that they were all fulfilled in love: If you love God, you wont' serve idols. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will not steal, kill, covet, or any of the others.
Though signed in blood, they broke the ten before Moses returned from God. Moses broke those stone tablets, signifying their breach.
God was angry, and Moses pleaded on their behalf. So God gave Moses the Mosaic Law. If you study this law, it is very evident that this is God's way of showing us that we cannot save ourselves by the way we try to live our lives. There 300 blessings if they kept it, and 300 curses if they failed. A two-part contract. And they failed.
The entire rest of the Old Testament is history's account of men trying to keep it, failing, cursed, and doing it all over again. By the end of it, they had broke all of the law, abandoned it, and received every one of the three hundred curses. Except one: death.
The prophets all resounded the very same message: "Israel, you have failed ... again ... and broke the Old Covenant. If you do not repent, these are the curses that are coming. But I will send a Messiah to save you from the final penalty."
Christ came to fulfill what the Children of Israel -- and the human race -- could not. We were given unmerited favor with God, simply because He loves us. It is not because of anything we do, or anything we avoid. He loves us because we are His children. He loves us enough to send His only son, Jesus Christ to die for us, and Christ remains the mediator of the New Covenant of Grace for all eternity. This Grace, this Covenant, this Love, this Unmerited Favor does not end. It has no boundaries! Gentiles were adopted into this Covenant, so it is a Gift given to the world, simply by believing in Jesus Christ -- that He did all of this!
This s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel means "Good News," and this is the 'message' given by the Apostles.
The problem I see with churches built upon this foundation is that they have designed a different gospel. Extra details are added to this foundation, claiming that we must do this or that, avoid this or that, and separate ourselves from this or that. These churches are still led by men, defined by men, and following men. They are not led by the scriptures, let alone the Holy Spirit.
Here is the question that most in the message will shy away from: Does their gospel give you unconditional love for even the lowest sinner, sitting in a barroom with prostitutes, drugs, and worse? Or does it cause you to want to separate yourself from them, condemning them to die and suffer in the pits of hell so that you can become more 'holy?'
Or does it make you want to do ANYTHING -- even to become like them to snatch them from the fire?
"To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law." - 1 Corinthians 9:20