DUMBING DOWN THE CHURCH

A teenager went to church with a friend for the very first time in his life.  Upon returning home his father asked him what the preacher talked about.  ”He told a story about a guy named Moses who was leading the Jews out of Egypt.  They got trapped up against the Red Sea just as the Pharaoh’s army was approaching with tanks and Humvees.  Moses quickly built a floating bridge, got everybody across and then blew up the bridge just in time to send all the Pharaoh’s tanks to the bottom of the sea.”  ”Wow,” said his father, “He told the story like that?” “Well,”  confessed his son, “He didn’t exactly tell it like that, but the way he told it… you’d never believe it.”

George Barna is a Christian researcher and does for the church what George Gallup used to do for the secular world.  He polls random samples of people and analyses the data to reveal abiding cultural trends.  Every year Berna publishes his megathemes from the previous year’s data.  This is what Barna claims is happening in the church today.

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.

2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.

3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.

4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.

5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.

6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.

There is little here to get excited about as even point 4 is more about community involvement because it is socially esteemed behavior, rather than being a passion rising out of a commitment to Christ’s Kingdom.  The more disturbing trend is the dumbing down of the church.  Many Christian people just do not know their bibles.  They are ignorant of the enduring stories of scripture and their deeper meanings… not unlike the teenager in my opening story.  Pastors feel the pressure to bring practical and relevant teachings to help their people cope with a world where everything from relationships to technology has become more complicated.  Which, in of itself, is not a bad thing.  However, as they are busy putting decorative little band-aids on the their member’s spiritual booboos, the church is sinking lower and lower into biblical illiteracy.  The pastor is well aware that if on the other hand he wades into deeper theological waters, his people will walk across the street to the church where the pastor is ‘relevant and culturally hip’.

I don’t get to watch many televangelists on TV because I am usually too busy being one of them.  To be honest, when I do tune in I am often appalled by the glaring lack of substance…. no mention of sin, repentance, commitment, sacrifice, service, honour, heroism, etc.  The word ‘sin’ has become so unpopular that many well known preachers have stopped using it altogether.  The pastor of North America’s largest church was on Larry King Live one night.

KING: How about issues that the church has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages?

PREACHER: Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don’t go there. I just …

KING: You have thoughts, though.

PREACHER: I have thoughts. I just, you know, I don’t think that a same-sex marriage is the way God intended it to be. I don’t think abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better way to live your life. But I’m not going to condemn those people. I tell them all the time our church is open for everybody.

KING: You don’t call them sinners?

PREACHER: I don’t.

KING: Is that a word you don’t use?

PREACHER: I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don’t. But most people already know what they’re doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don’t go down the road of condemning.

Hmmm… the pastor of North America’s largest church and he doesn’t use the word ‘sinner’ or ‘sin’ and has never really thought about it! The bible uses the word directly 830 times and indirectly 1000’s more.  Is it any wonder the church in North America is losing ground to secularism at an alarming rate?  It is virtually impossible to convince people that they are in need of a Saviour if they cannot first see that they have a problem.  The universal problem is sin.  Always has been, always will be.  How long can we continue to feed on message after message of;  ’Your best YOU now‘, or ‘You can be your best YOU now‘ or “more of being your best YOU now‘?   I know, when I write my book I’m going to call it; “Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.”

When our message becomes; it is all about YOU‘ we are in big trouble.  That is really what Barna is seeing in his megatrends.   For the record, it is not all about ‘you’, it is all about ‘Jesus’.  The less we know about Jesus, the less we live for Him and like Him.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:3-4

In the interests of full disclosure I get lots of complaints that my messages are too light and fluffy as well.  And compared to the likes of Jonathon Edward’s ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, they have got a point.  But what I do try to do is combine the powerful biblical narratives with the timeless practical applications that can be and should be found within these great stories of scripture.

Oh, one other thing here before we start pointing too many fingers.  Is it the pastor’s job alone to create a biblically literate church?  Do we not have some level of responsibility to feed ourselves.  Only babies need to be spoon-fed everything they eat.  I like to remind our church that if they only spiritual meal they eat is the Sunday morning brunch… they are going to starve to death.  That is by far the bigger cause of the sorry condition of the North American church.  We consume 20 million greasy fast food hamburgers every day in North America.  If we would start devouring the Word of God with the same passion, George Barna’s analysis would look completely different.

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30 Responses to DUMBING DOWN THE CHURCH

  1. Bruno says:

    What else to say than “I agree” how could anyone not?

    There was a time when I thought that the methods of making it all about “you” was an easier way to get people to listen, after all certain churches had so many scandals, that non-believers are a skeptic as they can, but if you sugar-coat it and they listen… at what price? Once they listen and read their Bible, they’ll just find out that their Pastor, mentor, etc. hasn’t told them the truth, that they’ve been dupped, again.

    I think The Cross and The Switchblade is a great example, he didn’t go to those potentially dangerous kids and tell them “you’re fine the way you are” in fear that he’d be repeatedly stabbed, yet that’s how it seems to be done today: “don’t go too hard on them or they won’t be interested.” Yet in the book, kids who could have done way worse than point and laugh… actually listened, because the Pastor was being true to them.

    I guess that’s why you sometimes get lots of reactions, you’re not sugar-coating, you’re following the recipe.

  2. Steve says:

    You keep talking like that and a revival might break out.
    Thessalonians says there has to be a great falling away before the lawless one comes. It’s great to see you speaking the truth out there like this. God bless Pastor Mark.

  3. Patricia says:

    I really enjoyed your article that I just read.

    I have a strong pull towards God and Christianity and doing more, and always trying to act out how a Christian should be. When I do not act in a Christian manner, I find myself being filled with heavy shame. A lack of preaching about spirituality has sent me wandering for a Church and fellowship for years — what Jesus wants and expects of us, how to admit your sins or transgressions, big or small and leave them at the foot of the cross, do not pick them up and self-persecute all over again, etc. I have gone to classes of all kinds reading sections of the Bible, taught Sunday School in my younger years for five years, but have not found a bond with a Church in yearssss.

    I believe a Pastor is to teach like a professor. We have some great Pastors in Winnipeg, but there is still something missing in the structure of how the Church runs outside of the Sunday Sermon. I need more. I want more. My schedule has me finding myself not lining up to times of things I want to take part in. I give in my everyday life. I give and give. I am not a taker. But every once in a while I find myself standing there drained and wonder who I am and what God wants me to be. I seek truth. And I am glad to see you speak your truth.

    I would have to disagree about the television does not have some good ministers on it right now that do talk about sin. Right now while I seek for my involvement in my Christian life in a Church or fellowship with other Christians, they are the ones that keep my foothold in my faith.

  4. Betty says:

    Well done, Pastor Mark!
    It is great to be part of a church, where they teach the Gospel of Grace, which is all about Jesus and not about us and it also helps us to understand Jesus,or the bible better.
    We had some great messages,which is sad to say, I had not heard before, in a church that I went to.

  5. Jasmine says:

    “Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength. These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

    How many of us live like this? How many spiritual meals did we receive as children and how many spiritual meals do we serve our children on a daily basis?

    Look at what God promises will happen if we follow this: “Now these are the commandments, statutes, and ordinances that the Lord your God instructed me to teach you so that you may carry them out in the land where you are headed and that you may so revere the Lord your God that you will keep all his statutes and commandments that I am giving you – you, your children, and your grandchildren – all your lives, to prolong your days. Pay attention, Israel, and be careful to do this so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in number – as the Lord, God of your ancestors, said to you, you will have a land flowing with milk and honey.” Deuteronomy 6:1-3

    How has our generation and the previous generations contributed to the culture we (and our children) live in now?

  6. Cyd says:

    I agree in general principal that some preachers are talking less about sin, but a generation ago, thats all they talked about, and as a result, it caused the reaction I believe we are seeing today. There was such a heavy emphasis on sin, guilt, and looking “acceptable”, that kept people from seeing themselves as redeemed, loved, and righteous in the eyes of God. Religion didn’t work in the days Jesus walked on the Earth, and it doesn’t now. As a result, it drove alot of people out of the church, which is where most of us learned our Bibles. It’s no wonder this generation needs to go to Bible Schools/colleges/church interships to get a grasp on Gods Word. One great trend I see is people using Websites, Webinars, and Podcasts,etc. to go beyond what they are getting on Sunday mornings. I think that Sunday mornings are more and more becoming a point of entry for some people, but to go deeper, I really believe that churches need to get back to doing actual Bible Studies. Book by book study done at another time, maybe in smaller groups, but with diversity within the groups. I’m not against there being relevant programs that are gender or age specific, but I hate that at most churches now, there is no place for the whole family to study together. People don’t just want Bible education, or to have their egos stroked. There is a real passion for community and truth. I think thats great, so what are we doing to fill that void?

    I see what appears to be a conflict in two of these trends. On one hand he says Christians are becoming ingrown, but also that they are going out into the community more…? Perhaps some are ingrown, and some are going out into the community? I think its great that Christians are becoming involved with community action. Thats how we are the light of the world…in the world.

    As for being less theologically literate, are we possibly talking about the “dumbing down” of language more so than of spiritual principles? Just asking because I think that dumbing down our language is necessary for a generation that was not brought up in church. Even a child can understand deep spiritual principles without knowing the language. Furthermore, our theology legitimately changes as we discover more about the Bible and grow as a body of Believers over time. Let’s not make the mistake of confusing changing theology, with not knowing “old theology”.

    Despite my musings, I do think its not an option to water down truth. But Jesus said that if he was lifted up, he would draw all to himself. I think sometimes we are too concerned with drawing people to Christ when really our job is to lift him up…He is the one who draws us.

    • Patricia says:

      Hi Cyd, Very well put.
      I find some bible classes are great. the key is to remain nonjudgemental of where someone is in their personal growth in Bible study.

      I find that the mistake we make sometimes is in not approaching people at coffee time that we do not know to get to know them. Even people that have been in a study with you. Because someone may not know anyone at the Church. Church is about fellowship. If we do not have fellowship in all settings, we lose the newcomers that could be a great addition to our Church. God sent them there for some reason. We also have to keep the clichish mentality aside. This is very hard to do, in many cases. But that is what the Pastor needs to work on through sermons or feeling approachable to the attendees of his Church.

      I have gone to some good studies, and some that were not so good for new Christians.

  7. Jasmine says:

    There still are a lot of churches out there that believe it is the pastor’s job alone to create a biblically literate church, and I used to attend one of them. Even though the bible states that we are a “priesthood of believers” I saw the lack of discipleship in that church, so I started an multi-generational small group in my home that ranges from toddlers to grandparents.

    We are passionate about learning God’s truth and we are also passionate about being a witness to the community around us. But it all has to start with the growth of intimacy and love amongst ourselves as a faith community.

    I was not content with the superficial chit-chat everyone engaged in on Sunday mornings, so I started my small group because I was in search of sound biblical teaching in the context of authentic fellowship.

    Now we go deeper into God’s word as we grow closer together; and united in God’s love, we can make a bigger impact on the world around us.

    The word “sin” does come up quite a lot in our group discussions, and that is because there is no denying that we are sinners. We share more about ourselves and our lives because we feel comfortable and safe and accepted. We don’t have to worry about being judged or criticized or gossiped about.

    I agree with Cyd that small groups are more effective than Sunday morning sermons.

    • Patricia says:

      Very good of you Jasmine to do that with your group of people. It is a very good step you made to add to your growth. Do you follow a curriculum setting, or is it just a discussion on a verse in the bible that you do?

  8. Isaac says:

    I think this is another area where the mentorship thing is really important too. Having someone to help you give your life fully over to Christ is huge! I personally have been sponsored through overcomer’s in Christ (Biblical 12-step group) and sponsored other guys, and we dig down deep and bring our whole lives to Christ. We call out each other’s BS and encourage and build each other up too. I think we’d all do a lot better, and deal with our sin better if we all had this support, and supported others (it’s hard to tell your guy not to do something and then do it yourself).

  9. Steve says:

    One thing I think has been misleading in the church on the issue of sin and repentance is that the fact, no one is able to rid themselves of sin by their own will, needs to be clear.
    That would be to obey the law. We are not under the law anymore. We live by faith. But if we live by faith, we need to, through faith die to our own selves.
    David Wilkerson preached a sermon on sin. He said the only way he’s ever seen anyone ever get rid of sin in their own lives was to admit failure.
    He said the reason people fail and then blame God and say why didn’t you help me stop that sin, is because they are living under the old covenant. They are trying to defeat sin with their own flesh.
    The only way he said we are able to defeat sin is to die. To lay our pride and our ego’s down at the cross and admit we are failures and have nothing to give. To admit our abilities and our own strength can accomplish nothing. Only His strength and His power can defeat sin.
    When I heard that sermon, I immediately knew I was hearing the truth.

  10. Jasmine says:

    Hi Patricia,

    I’ve been following a curriculum but I’m planning on changing the structure a bit to include Lectio Divina at the beginning of our study.

    • Patricia says:

      I have done a Lectio Divina in one class. It was quite good. It was actually the best class I took in gentle direction from other who where more well versed in the Bible teachings or technique. Enjoy!

  11. Evelyn Bennett says:

    I love it. Each time you write in your blog I am going through the very thing you are talking about.

    I am doing the very thing with a friend of mine. Instead of being completely honest I would rather save the friendship. With my mother I have told her I prefer to be honest instead of feeling the guilt afterwards.

    The guilt you feel is God telling you you are not sharing the love he intended for us to share.

    I hope that one day every aspect of my life revolves around that principle.

  12. Cyd says:

    Well done, everyone. I always find it so refreshing when people are real, and doing what we are called to do. And that is love God, and people. Patricia, I totally agree that it’s so important to avoid the cliques that run rampant in our churches. There is a time for close community, but it certainly is not Sunday morning. We MUST put aside our personal comfort in meeting with our buds, and reach out to new folks. And Jasmine, great that you perceived and did something about it, taking community to a higher level. And you’re right that a pastor or entire pastoral team can’t do all that. Unfortunately there are still some Leadership teams/pastors that feel they still need to keep their fingers in every pie, and not in a good way. It’s not just the laity that is “sloughing off”, but there needs to be an empowerment by church leadership to free their people to serve. There is a trend definately in that direction, and that is encouraging. But I digress. I did want to make one more comment on the topic of preaching on sin. I was thinking about the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. Interesting that Jesus saw his yearning, honored him by going to visit him, and Jesus’ show of love toward him is what brought conviction of sin, and salvation. Jesus never once brought up the subject of his sin. As I reflected upon that, I realized that was Jesus’ M.O. The only ones Jesus really “preached sin” to were the Pharisee’s…hmmmm.

    Thanks everyone for your input. Enjoyed it.

  13. Biblical truth says:

    John 5:14 Afterwards, when Jesus found(healed cripple)in the temple, He said to him,See, you are well! Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.
    John 8:10-11 When Jesus raised Himself up, He said to her,woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?
    She answered, no one, Lord! And Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.
    Moral of the story- Jesus loves, and Jesus hates sin. Can’t have one without the other.

  14. I thank you for sharing the Word in this latest blog: Jesus, to whom we believe, is the “exalted Son of God in His holiness” and not Elvis; the pastor that rocks. This concept seems to be missing in the seeker-friendly church that would diminish or bring God down to us. Got a chuckle from the picture: “Pastor, about this new idea to reach teens…”

  15. Jasmine says:

    “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14

    Jesus told this parable before he entered Jericho; and since his reputation preceded him wherever he went, I’m thinking that Zaccheus had heard this story before he even laid eyes on Jesus. That was probably why a man as rich as him would have set aside all decorum and climbed a tree in such an undignified manner in a desperate attempt to catch a glimpse of this man who assured the people that even the despised tax collectors could be made right with God.

    Zaccheus believed that what Jesus said was true, and it was his faith that brought him salvation. He took Jesus to his house with great excitement and joy, and there is only one thing that could have given him that feeling of elation: Jesus’ affirmation and acceptance of him as righteous in the eyes of God. And out of his gratitude for the grace he found in Jesus, he wanted to show grace to others.

    Jesus no longer walks the earth, but he did send us the Holy Spirit to continue his work through the church. There is only one thing the Holy Spirit convicts—and that is sin. If we remove the subject of sin from our preaching, then we deny Christ crucified. The eternal message that Jesus commanded us to preach to all nations was the atonement of sin through the cross of Christ. If we try to gloss over the subject of sin, we are not speaking the truth about why Jesus came to earth in the first place. Our redemption from sin was the only reason why the Word had to become flesh, suffer, die and rise again on the third day. If we deny sin, we negate the truth of the gospel.

    When Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”…”Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 10:12-13) he was talking to the religious people; and what I think he meant was that we need to speak God’s truth in love to the people who need to hear the gospel. And that is because he knew what is to come: “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42).

    This is real and it’s going to happen and God doesn’t want any of us to perish; and he told us that it is our duty to make sure everyone hears this message so that they may turn to God before it’s too late: “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)

    That is why Paul said, “I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes.” (Acts 20:20). He understood that we have a responsibility to everyone else who lives on earth with us, and the eternal consequences if we don’t fulfill our duty as Jesus has commanded us. Why else would he say, “I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.” (Acts 20:26-27).

    “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:13-14. If we want to lift Jesus up, we need to testify to what he has done for us; and that necessitates the acknowledgement of sin and God’s redeeming power over sin. Our salvation comes from our faith in that power and God’s grace in using that power to save us: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:39-40). Jesus came to die for our sins and give us eternal life; if we preach anything less, we don’t give him the credit he deserves.

  16. Steve says:

    After reading what you said Jasmine, I realised that I could use alot more grace in what I say sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Victoria says:

    To make a quick comment on this subject,I agree with finding the right mentor,as you search for the truth.

    I realize (at times) I have not been the best example for my children.
    I give into sin every so often,
    (cursing without realizing,or being rude to my partner)
    and it takes only 2 or 3 seconds to admit face to face to my boys that:
    “oops!”
    “Sorry, Mommie made a mistake boys!”
    They get it.
    We all will make mistakes and sin…if we remember to correct our sin and show remorse/apologize,in front of our children without pride, WE can turn INTO mentors for our kids!

  18. Steve says:

    I totally agree with you Victoria. I hope nobody thought my point a few comments back was telling people to be sinless.
    I was just trying to speak a way out for people who are caught in sin and don’t know how to stop. I was trying to show that we don’t have the strength to fight sin. That through failure and admitting our failure and relying on Christ, we can defeat areas of sin in our lives.
    I left out the grace part because I figured it was a given.
    I know from experience how much grace God has for our sin. I know that God hates what sin does to His children, but He knows we are from the dust. We are never going to be perfect till He comes back for us. But we are to strive to enter His holiness. And we need to take everything the Bible says seriously, not just the parts we agree with.

  19. Jasmine says:

    Hi Steve,

    I totally understand your point that God is the only one who has the power to defeat sin. God is definitely bigger than all the problems that we seem to get ourselves into; but most of the time, we try fixing these problems ourselves before turning to God for help.

    Usually, it is only when we reach the point where we have come to the end of ourselves that we say to God, “I can’t fix this, please help me.” I have done this myself many times; I tried everything humanly possible to improve my circumstances but none of it worked. Not until I humbled myself at the foot of the cross and beseeched God for intervention did my burdens lift and things improve.

    Now I look to Him before things get that bad, and I ask for His guidance in how to deal with the things that come up in my life.

    It is the best thing I can do, knowing that I am limited and He is not.

  20. Steve says:

    I love what God can do for us.
    He takes us right through the middle of the storm and then we learn how to trust.
    It hurts like the dickens though. But what a reward.

  21. Kay says:

    Dear Pastor Mark,

    You’ve received many positive comments on this blog of yours, so there has to be someone who sees it somewhat differently. Guess it’s me. Actually, I totally agree with what you have written – in fact, as I read it, I said, “Amen and Amen!” but I don’t really see how what you say, meshes with what you do in your church. Of course, I have an agenda. Here it is:

    Why is it, that even though the Bible is very specific that divorce is due to the hardness of man’s heart, and remarriage after divorce is not an option (see Romans 7; Luke 16:18) unless the other partners dies, that you hold classes for these folks to receive blessings in their remarriages?

    You have a program/class in your church for “blended families”. Although I haven’t researched, I find it difficult to imagine that this is a class just for folks whose spouses have died and they have remarried another single or widowed person, and now they are trying to blend their 2 families. Please tell me that’s only who it is for. Am I out of line to assume that the class is open to divorced and remarried people?

    If so, then I can only liken it to a Christian going to a prostitute, and then we have a class in church on “How to receive the blessings of God while you are sleeping with a prostitute!”

    This is not an issue of God’s grace and forgiveness from our sin, it is how to receive God’s blessing while you continue to live in sin. And this is also not an issue of judgmentalism, it is a matter of teaching and doing our utmost to live out what the word of God clearly instructs.

    You talk about other pastors teaching what folks want to hear – what are you doing at your church? Don’t you see 2 Timothy 4 at work in your own camping grounds?

    Guess if you really taught this, your church would shrink to about 10%, and what televangelist could afford that error? Maybe one of these days, you will be THAT man! I really hope and pray so!

    • Biblical truth says:

      James 2:8-10 If indeed you fulfill the royal law in accordance with the scripture, you shall love your neighbour as yourself, you do well. But if you show servile regard (prejudice, favoritism) for people, you commit sin and are rebuked by the law as violaters. For whosoever keeps the law as a whole but stumbles in one [single instance] has become guilty of breaking it all.

  22. Mark Hughes says:

    Kay
    Perhaps you should have asked those questions before you passed judgement on me and the church! Comparing what we do to blessing people who visit prostitutes is sheer fatuousness.

    Without getting into a debate on the scriptural basis for divorce(see Matt 5:32), most of those classes are for people that have found Christ after they were divorced, remarried and found themselves with a blended family. You cannot unscramble eggs.

    50% of the adults in our culture are now divorced. The church has a responsibility to help these folks become better spouses and parents, and to rebuild their shattered lives regardless of how they got there. Not to do so would be ignore the fact that that is what Jesus came to do. Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…

    When churches look down their noses at broken people as second class members of the body of Christ we fall into the trap of the worst kind of legalism and judgmentalism.

    I make no apologies for trying to help people make a better life irrespective of how messed up it is, or how it got that way. That is why the gospel is called good news.

  23. Kay says:

    THE OLD CROSS & the NEW
    -A.W. Tozer.

    ALL UNANNOUNCED AND MOSTLY UNDETECTED there has
    come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles.
    It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial;
    the differences, fundamental. From this new cross has sprung a
    new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy
    has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and
    a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same
    language as the old, but its content is not the same and its
    emphasis not as before.

    The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s
    proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect
    the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not
    opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if
    understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and
    innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life
    motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only
    now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious
    movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor.
    The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher
    plane morally if not intellectually.

    The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic
    approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old
    life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts
    but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing
    that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers
    the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever
    the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment
    is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the
    religious product is better.

    The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears
    him into a cleaner and a jollier way of living and saves his self-
    respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself
    for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting
    in the Lord.” To the thrill-seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the
    thrill of Christian fellowship.”

    The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current
    vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public. The philosophy
    back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not
    save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses
    completely the whole meaning of the cross. The old cross is a
    symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human
    being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started
    down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was
    not coming back. He was going out to have it ended.

    The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing;
    it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep
    on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it
    had finished its work, the man was no more. The race of Adam is
    under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape.

    God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they
    may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the
    individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness
    of life. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the
    ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to
    the souls of its hearers.

    The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In
    coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane;
    we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground
    and die. We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as
    public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ
    and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to
    make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of
    sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets,
    and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.

    God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life
    out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever
    would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate
    himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him. What does
    this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life
    in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life?
    Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and
    then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing,
    excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let
    him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and
    acknowledge himself worthy to die. Having done this let him gaze
    with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come
    life and rebirth and cleansing and power.

    The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to
    the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now
    raises him to a new life along with Christ. To any who may object
    to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me
    say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from
    Paul’s day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words
    or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought
    life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics,
    the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and
    signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave
    witness to God’s approval. Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of
    power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase
    the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount?
    May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the
    old power. (-A. W. Tozer, Man, the Dwelling Place of God, 1966).

  24. Horst says:

    Interesting, as per Wikipedia: Aiden Wilson Tozer (April 21, 1897 – May 12, 1963)

    You can join his facebook page also.

  25. GL says:

    Great blog Pastor Mark! … as usual :)

  26. I throughly enjoyed reading here today! Regarding divorce and remarriage in the Church please read the link from Zola Levitt

    http://nuggets4u.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/putting-away-a-untaught-truth-in-the-church/

    Blessings
    Pastor r Gail Blair

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