Why We Seldom Hear The Gospel Preached
- Dr. Roger Barrier Preach It, Teach It
- 2013 21 Nov
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Julie said later in the car, “Did you see how some squirmed when you said that the Gospel is only fully presented when people are led to point where they have to make an intelligent, determined choice, “yes or no”?
The cost of discipleship is the most expensive decision we can ever make.
I was teaching in the Ukraine, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to several hundred Ukrainian pastors and wives concerning the cost of discipleship. If anyone knew of the cost these persecuted Christians certainly would. Under the communists they had been on the front lines of martyrdom and persecution every day for years.
I began one teaching session by addressing Paul’s longing in Philippians 3:10-11: “I want to know Christ—and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection of the dead.”
“How many of you want to know Christ?” I asked. All hands rose.
“How many of you want to experience the resurrection power of Christ?” All hands rose.
“How many of you want to share in the fellowship of His sufferings?" No one moved. They, like very few others, understood the cost of following Jesus. Slowly, one hand went up … then another … then another … until all hands were in the air. Several men and women raised both hands!
We must help people understand the difference between cheap and costly grace. Their eternal destiny is at stake.
Some may feel I am minimizing the importance of relevance and relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many churches are using relevance and relationships as creative ways to lure people into a user-friendly church setting. I agree wholeheartedly with this tactic. Relevance and relationships are essential in laying the foundation for sharing Christ. However, this is only good if the church has other ways to give people enough information and truth to make an intelligent decision to follow Christ, or not.
Decisions come in all shapes and sizes. The easiest person I led to Christ was a high school friend sitting in the front seat of my car. He looked at me and said, “I want to be a Christian. Can you tell me how?”
“Of course I can.” We talked about the wages of sin and the need for forgiveness and the life-time surrender to Jesus Christ at any price. He said, “yes” to Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior and he and his family have followed Christ faithfully ever since.
My most heartbreaking experience was watching a man cry as he said “no” to Jesus. Keeping his mistress meant more than following Jesus.
Julie led an ex-con to Christ one evening in her office at church. He prayed all the right prayers and said all the things. We arranged for several Christian friends to watch over him and help him along in his Christian life. He ate Easter dinner with us. He was so grateful.
Several months later we discovered that he was a contract killer. He stabbed his target 37 times behind an office complex. He and his “employer” are in prison for life without parole.
Wisdom and balance are essential in leading people to Christ. After all, no one has to know everything.
Buckner Fanning was approached by a seeker who was having trouble believing that the miracles were true—especially the Virgin Birth. Fanning advised him go ahead and think and act as if he had commit his life to Christ and to let the miracles take care of themselves. Several months later he returned to say, “I can see now how it all fits—even the Virgin Birth.
No one must know everything and have all their questions solved before they can have their sins forgiven and make a decision to follow Jesus at any price.
After all, I became a Christian when I was seven. I didn’t even know what a virgin was.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.