Monday, October 24, 2011

Gospel-Centrality and Insanity

A few weeks back a fellow in our church shared his testimony with me. He said he'd been taking his young family to church once upon a time because he figured it was a good thing to do, and he'd attended there for two years, sitting week in and week out under gospel preaching, before finally one Sunday it occurred to him: "I'm a sinner! I need this gospel!"

I imagine the internal struggle of his pastor for those two years. I know it well myself. Ever preached the gospel dickens out of a text in front of a crowd of stoic rural New Englanders? My lands, it can keep a preacher humble. (The assorted experiences of gospel wakefulness can keep a preacher hopeful.)

What are we doing when we commit to gospel-centered preaching and teaching in the face of non-apparent results? Every chance we get we hold up Jesus Christ as preeminent and precious, we exult in his glorious excellencies, and we present the gospel boldly, clearly, and with unction. Still nary a crack in the surface of reception. It is like preaching, as they say, to a brick wall.

Should we switch things up? Try another tack? Testable non-results is one of the reasons so many churches tuck the gospel behind fog and lasers or adjust their teaching to the 7 Steps busywork of moralistic therapeutic deism. I mean, isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?


Brothers, let us be "out of our minds" together on this. Let's preach the word in and out of season. Let's commit to the utter foolishness of preaching, understanding that sometimes God puts us on purpose before a crowd for whom the gospel hardens, not softens.

There may be other reasons (fixable or not, adjustable or not) why we see little fruit, but it will never be because the gospel is being preached.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
-- 1 Corinthians 2:2


Foibled said...

Insanity it is, then. I'm crazy about it. People are crazy to reject it.

Matt said...

Ha! Good stuff, Jared. I used the definition of insanity recently at the pentecostal evangelical college I go to in the Seattle area because all we hear in chapel is surface level emotional moralism. I thought to myself, "the reason why we hear these bs sermons all the time is because they don't work." We demand shallow sermons that inspire us a little to 1) avoid hearing the ugly truth (despite the beauty of Jesus!) and 2) we conk out and need another shallow sermon to get us going again. I fight between wanting to be proud and mock their shallowness and deep sadness for their spiritual condition. Thanks, again Jared!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this bro. Appreciate anyone not trying to give Jesus some 2011-makeover to try and make Him "cool" enough for people to respond to. May Christ just blow-up those He calls with His amazing beauty; unadjusted, unprettied, unabridged.

Terry said...

Thanks for these words, Jared. New England is not the only place where congregations will sit stoically while the gospel is preached.

I guess I am insane as well because I just keep preaching Jesus week after week.

Joe Kappel said...

Thanks for this reminder, brother. I'm grateful for your recent book Gospel Wakefulness. Last week, in reading the intro, I benefited greatly from your brief mention of 2 Timothy 4:2. That text was an anchor for my soul in a very discouraging time. The international folks who make up our church in Beijing, China must see past their idols of success and money to really see Jesus through the gospel. I'm sure grateful for the signs of gospel wakefulness I've seen in myself and them over the past few years. God bless you in your work in New England.

Dubbahdee said...

You are a complete nutbag. Thanks. ;-)