Thursday, April 30, 2009

Preach the Gospel Only When In Season?

One of my favorite bloggers is Bob Spencer (and I wish he lived closer than Maine, so we could hang out). His journey in looking for the gospel in the landscape of "church" resonates with me strongly.

Here's a reflection on a recent experience of his that is simply stunning.
I'm mulling this over just now because of something a friend of mine recently said to me. He is very disappointed that I'm disengaging from my church (more on that in another post), and he said, "Bob, I respect your focus on the gospel and the cross and all that, but our church is just in a different season right now. For everything there is a season and a release."

You might have felt the tremor when my jaw hit the floor.

It just makes me wonder, you know?

* If Jesus is all in all, shouldn't he be the emphasis of our preaching?
* If Jesus is both the cornerstone and the capstone, shouldn't he be be given similar status in our preaching?
* If Jesus is the first born of creation and the one in whom all things hold together, shouldn't he "hold together" our sermon outlines?
* If he died for the saving of all humanity from eternal suffering, shouldn't he be the one we persistently make a big deal about in our Chruch talks?
* If he bestrides land and sea and if all creation will one day bow to him in awe, should we be preaching about, umm, behavior modification?
* And if he will one day return to judge both the living and the dead, should he not be routinely, decisvely central to everything we teach and preach as Christ-ians?
* And if the Holy Spirit lives to see to it that Christ alone is glorified, shouldn't our preachers preach Christ, knowing nothing among us but Christ and him crucified?

You know, that which Jesus has done for me and is doing for me is the source of all the peace I have ever known. No amount of preacherly urging to change my life has ever caused me to change it one bit. But Jesus, he has changed my life once and for all.

And you know, the people who get the gospel -- I don't mean "know what it is," but who have been utterly transformed and captivated by it -- get what all the fuss is about. Those who are gospel deficient don't care or don't notice that their church is gospel deficient or their pastor doesn't preach Jesus except as a good example (if at all).

The right response to this asinine idea that there is a season to focus on the gospel and there is a season in which it's okay to focus on something else are these words from Paul, an exhortation that ought to be a rebuke for these times:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist [a gospelist!], discharge all the duties of your ministry.

-- 2 Timothy 4:1-5


bill streger said...

From observation, I've noticed that the American church really likes to change "seasons" about every 4-6 weeks. So while it may be acceptable to have a "gospel/cross season", we can't let it last too long. After all, we have to make way for:

* God's plan for your finances season
* How God wants you to have lots of good sex season
* Getting ahead at work season
* Get behind the vision of our church season
* Give more money to our church season
* Why aren't you in a community group yet? season
* Parenting without losing your mind season
* We need more volunteers for the easter egg, drop ipods from the sky season
* Let's dominate the city by elevating our innovation season
and last, but certainly not least...
* Lessons of morality from popular summer blockbuster movies season

I mean, if we just preached about Jesus, the cross, and the Gospel all the time the direct mail postcards would get a little redundant.

Ken Stoll said... you may have noted Jared, I was delighted with the post yesterday. I thought of the same text from 2 Timothy yesterday as I read Bob's comment. Count me as one who's glad you followed up on it, because if Jesus is central, (and he is), we must keep beating that proverbial drum if you will. We aren't the first ones to face enemies of the gospel. Paul called them out and stood for the one true gospel in opposition (there can't possibly be 2 gospels).

And we don't have to stretch very far to imagine that Luther wasn't referring to the same kind of giants in his day when he insisted that as preachers of the gospel "...that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually." Luther may sound crude, but how else do you deal with a serpent as deadly as a gospel which is no gospel whatsoever? If there is worse news than the news that we can somehow redeem, change, and save ourselves---I'd like to privy to the evidence.

Was reminded of Kierkegaard's words when I read this post this morning about your friend Bob... "Woe to the person who smoothly, flirtatiously, commandingly, convincingly preaches some soft sweet something which is supposed to be Christianity! Woe to the person who makes miracles reasonable. Woe to the person who betrays and breaks the mystery of faith, distorts it into public wisdom, because he takes away the possibility of offense!...Oh the time wasted in this enormous work if making Christianity so reasonable, and in trying to make it so relevant!"

The Jesus-less gospel must pervade in part to our addiction to the self-help gospel that you (and others who feel the same way) decry. The relevant message today is just that, a gospel that elevates the self and helplessly ignores Jesus in so doing---it leaves not a square inch of real estate for the all-sufficient Jesus Bob points to so pointedly.

Jared said...

Bill, LOL

Ken, love that Kierkegaard quote. I've never seen that before. I'm gonna steal it. :-)

Ken Stoll said...

Bill's comment is special. Hate to say it, but it reminds me too much of the church I attend.

You're welcome to the quote Jared, I just ran across it last year myself. I have stolen everything I have, and everything else has been given to me of course... and with a last name like Stoll, do you think I can object?

And btw, I wrote a series of posts on Jesus and his being redifined this past year so I am eagerly awaiting your book release (love your title, of course I was reminded of the J.B. Phillips classic and also of Mark Buchanan's "Your God is Too Safe"---a good read).

Have you read "Jesus: Made in America" by Stephen Nichols? Gathered you may have read Horton's "Christless Christianity" from the looks of some of your posts...

Jared said...

Buchanan's book is awesome. Love it.

My books' title was not its original. Publisher thought mine -- "The Unvarnished Jesus" -- wouldn't sell very well, so they asked for a list of alternatives. "Your Jesus is Too Safe" was just one of 12 I sent them but it's the one they liked the best. I liked it too, but my only reluctance was encroaching on Buchanan's title. :-)

Have not read Nichols' book. I have read Horton's, though, which is probably one of the best indictments of what's passing for evangelicalism of the last 10 years.

Ken Stoll said...

....realize you must have bit going on with your family, church, and your book Jared (and whatever else you do there for enjoyment in beautiful Nashhville)---so I will leave you with one more thought on your book. I liked your new title idea when I first saw it a couple months back (as I agree I think it will sell more, you do want readership). Your first title was great however, because of what it captured---guessing that will be a part of your subtitle.

I haven't read Nichols' book and that is whay I asked cause i was wondering myself (Horton promoted it last summer on White Horse Inn. The best two books I have read (besides the Gospels) on Jesus are "The Jesus I Never Knew" (yes, I am a Yancey fan) and "The Incomparable Christ" by Stott. I'm sure you are likely done with your manuscript by now but thought I'd mention.

Horton's book is one I have been intending to read soon so thanks for the advice.

Didn't mean to get off topic. Or did I? Jesus is the gospel after all.

Really do appreciate your blog.

Jared said...

Stott's "Incomparable Christ" book is great and is actually listed in the short Recommended Reading section at the end of my book.

Randi Jo :) said...

now this one really got me thinking.

Sometimes I think that maybe 'we' just think it's too simple!!

'We' think that by getting into application & other "stuff that is relevant to our every day life" that somehow we're getting more into the "meat" --- but in reality we are grasping for meat - and only taking the oil from the skin and are satisfied with that.

The meat was left on the table. Maybe we'll even call it the lamb.

It's just too foolish... it's too simple to believe that He truly does all the work. The saving, the cleansing, the sanctifying, the healing, the working.... but that is the message isn't it? The church's job is to respect & submit... the groom/Christ's job is to love, cleanse and present the Bride blameless & without stain. Ephesians

We're so busy trying to get off the stains with spray stain remover (cleaning up the outside) that we aren't doing the submitting & respecting of the one who does the true cleansing!

The beautiful bride then isn't allowing the true cleansing to happen. The dress then may be white - the Body still black.

sorry those might be really bad word pictures today -- but that's just what came out.

PJW - do people ever get mad at you saying that you're making it too simple? I get that a lot... "it's just not that easy randi".... but why is it so simple to me? when I'm in a pit... it's because I've fallen out of love with Him. I repent of all the idols I've turned to in replacing that love and ask Him to help me fall back in love with Him. Spend time with Him in quiet time & in the Word daily which allows the Holy Spirit to come in and fill me with that love for Him. I know I can't make or create or manufacture that love on my own. He is the only true love and is the one that helps me love Him. then others.

After that, the rest falls into play as we're in relationship with Him. Maybe I just haven't gone through the trenches enough... but it just seem so easy...

have a good day :)

joshua otte said...

Jared, Maine's not that far?!

We're blessed to have Bob blogging and living up here promoting gospel-centered thinking, living and church-ing.

Thank God we see a revival of the church here and there throughout New England. Keep praying for us.

Next time Bob and I have a coffee we'll raise a toast to ya.

Anonymous said...

See my response to your post before this one...

The same applies... : - )


Nathan said...

Is the gospel on vacation?

I recently visited several non-denominational churches in the Gaithersburg, Maryland area where I live. And I made a shocking discovery! None of them preach the whole gospel on Sundays, and some would go a whole hour without ever mentioning the name of Jesus Christ! So I decided to do something about it.

I purposely approach pastors after church visits, and inquire about the "missing" gospel message. If they respond with pride and indifference, I then rebuke them with scripture and implore them to be "soul winners" like Spurgeon and other pastoral greats.

But the excuse heap is wide and deep, so I haven't seen any fruit at these gospel-deficient churches yet. I just rest in the fact that God will discipline those whom He loves (unfaithful pastors) and He will rebuke any Christian who is not steadily about "His business." God, after all, is in the awesome business of saving souls!

An Ambassador for Christ