Why We Seldom Hear The Gospel Preached
- Thursday, November 21, 2013
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
Seduced by relevance and relationships, I found it easy to neglect the cost inherent the Gospel. Relevance and relationships are great tools for getting people to come and enjoy church.
However, I have noticed among many churches and church leaders a thundering silence when it comes to sharing the true essence of the Gospel.
Dietrich Bonheoffer put the Gospel like this: “When Jesus Christ calls a man He bids him come and die.”
In fact, I dare say that the Gospel is not fully communicated until people have enough understanding to say, “No.”
Jesus put it like this to the rich young ruler: “Go and sell all that you have and come and follow me.” Jesus looked on him with compassion as he turned to walk away. I can imagine the disciples thinking, “Surely, Jesus didn’t mean like that. Surely, he will call him back. We need people like him. But, Jesus did mean it that way and He let him walk away.
Bonheoffer put it terms of cheap grace and costly grace: “Cheap grace doesn’t cost a person anything, and leads to Hell. Costly grace costs a person everything that he has, and leads to Heaven.”
A.W. Tozer, a Canadian pastor and writer put it like this: “Thank you America. You’ve given us instant coffee, instant TV dinners, instant communications and now you have bequeathed to the world instant Christianity by which a person can walk down the aisle of a church and say, “I believe in Jesus,” and in thirty seconds complete a divine transaction that he/she need seldom think of ever again."
In a generation of relevance and relationships, it’s easy to keep quiet about the cost of discipleship.
Once upon a time I was in a small group discussing the importance of understanding different cultures and responding accordingly. We were studying was Acts where Paul was preaching to the Greek inteligencia about Jesus and the Resurrection. We discussed how Paul referred to their idol dedicated to an “Unknown God” (just in case they had forgotten one). He spoke in terms that identified with his audience and with their cultural understandings.
A discussion ensured about how to make the church more relevant to our contemporary culture. We stopped there and it was time for fellowship and refreshments. But first, I asked for permission to address an intriguing sidelight to the passage which only comes through in Greek.
Unlike English, Greek words are masculine, feminine or neuter and are declined accordingly. In Greek the word “Jesus” is masculine and the word “Resurrection” is feminine. The Athenians thought Paul was introducing them to a pair of new gods named “Jesus” and his female compatriot named “Resurrection”. They listened gladly until it dawned on them that Paul was really talking about a new God named, “Jesus” and his physical resurrection. About that time Paul got to the point of the Gospel: “God commands everyone to repent…” Most of the Greeks began mocking Paul and his speech, called him the “Babbler” and climbed down the hill. They faced the Gospel’s demands and they rejected it. Several remained and wanted to hear more.
That night, Paul, scorned by the most prominent philosophers of his day, spent the most depressed night of his life.
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