Monday, January 05, 2009

The True Relevance of the Church
Since the 1990s, American Evangelicalism has been largely seduced by the consumer-driven culture of our country. The seduction is basically this: if the gospel is going to be effective in our present-day culture, then the church must project itself in a manner that will be appealing to the non-church going American. Now since the American culture is a "consumer-driven" culture the church must cater to the "unchurched" (as the unbeliever is now called) as a consumer looking for a product to buy. This means that the church has to completely reinvent itself to blend in and become more "relevent" to a greedy, stuck-up, self-centered, entertainment-obessed age.
Sadly, there has been a myriad of churches that have bought into this lie. But what's even more tragic, is that most of these churches have been "successful" in growing their numbers by following the consumer-driven mindset. I say this is "tragic" because the appearance of a large crowd can lead many people to think that they must be doing something right. But the attendance of large numbers is never a sure sign of true spiritual health nor is it a sign of God's blessing. Look at our Lord Jesus Christ, for example. He had great crowds that followed Him in many places, but they were in His presence for the most part to see the miracles or have their bellies filled, not to follow Him as Lord and Savior (see John 2:23-25; 6:26). Actually, when Jesus did preach the Truth to these great crowds, they complained against His teaching; and even many of His so-called "disciples" turned their backs on Him and followed Him no more (John 6:60,66). By the standards of our present-day seeker-sensitive, consumer-driven churches - our Lord Himself would have to be rated as a terrible failure! Jesus did not cater to the consumer in Israel.
But of course, if we, as Christ's Church, are going to be faithful and true to our Lord and His divine Word, then the selfish desires of an American pagan consumer will never dictate how we worship God, what we preach, nor in what manner we minister. Our calling as the church is not to win the world's acceptance but preach Christ to them (I Corinthians 1:17-21). Moreover, we must understand that no unbeliever is ever going to have an appetite for the gospel or God's worship if left to the desires of his own sinful nature (Romans 3:11; I Corinthians 2:14). To love Christ, want Christ, obey Christ, and be a witness for His glory - a person must first be "born again" (John 1:12-13; 3:1-8). This is a biblical truth which consumer-driven churches must recover!
But above all, our whole purpose for being the church of Jesus Christ in this world is to display and magnify the glory of who He is (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). This is why we exist as the church! God has chosen us, called us, regenerated us, justified us, is sanctifying us, and will one day glorify us for one sole reason: that we as His people will make much of Him (I Corinthians 1:30-31). Therefore, what our consumer-driven American culture should see most of all in individual Christians who live and talk among them (not to mention, in the gathered churches as well) are a people who hallow, treasure, and delight in Jesus Christ more than life itself. This is our true relevence as the church in today's culture.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Preaching that Honors God
To many of my fellow Southern Baptist pastors, there are words of great counsel and wisdom that I strongly pray would be heeded in the matter of preaching. These words were written in 1902, in a book entitled Baptist Principles Reset. The author of these words was the venerable James Bruton Gambrell (1841-1921) who served as the 13th president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His influence throughout the denomination was widely felt through his prolific pen, powerful preaching and godly leadership. Prayerfully consider this exhortation:
"We may invigorate our faith and renew our courage by reflecting that divine power has always attended the preaching of doctrine, when done in the true spirit of preaching. Great revivals have accompanied the heroic preaching of the doctrines of grace, predestination, election, and that whole lofty mountain range of doctrines upon which Jehovah sits enthroned, sovereign in grace as in all things else. God honors the preaching that honors him. There is entirely too much milk-sop preaching nowadays, trying to cajole sinners to enter upon a truce with their Maker, quit sinning, and join the church. The situation does not call for a truce, but a surrender. Let us bring out the heavy artillery of heaven, and thunder away at this stuck-up age as Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Paul did, and there will be many slain of the Lord raised up to walk in newness of life"

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