Preaching a different gospel, that was the very thing Paul warns against. A different gospel seeking the approval of man….not God. With the onset of social media and hyper-autonomy, one thing is clear: this is the generation of self. Much of the evangelical church has joined in with an underlying focus on social issues and personal well being. The church shouldn’t be a marketplace for positive feelings, life direction, or community action. These days, many ministries seem more like rotary clubs or community centers. The only notable difference is there may be a cross on the roof and a meeting on Sunday. We have an abundance of social services, community centers, and personal growth seminars. The church needs to be the church and not morph into another moral people networking club.
I have been a believer for 30 plus years now. Over that time, I’ve seen many good efforts to reach the world. Good bible believing ministries have went to the inner cities, suburbs, and marketplace to reach the lost. We are charged with reaching out and helping the least of these in a real tangible way. Before I proceed, let me state that there are many churches that are still reaching out in compassion and preaching Christ to the glory of God….the ultimate result.
Wanting to see the body of Christ grow and lost people enter the kingdom is paramount and it’s one of the main purposes of the church. I’m not anti large church, conference, or church growth. I attend a very large church. The leadership passionately loves Jesus and makes the ministry all about him……that’s the difference. I’ve attended some great events and left re-charged and fired up about Jesus. I believe any pastor, teacher, or leader who sees growth as a direct result of unashamed, unapologetic, preaching of the gospel balanced with truth and love is glorifying God.
Here is the problem: Replication, revenue, books, events, conferences, sales, members, and growth seems to be the end game for many ministries….not the gospel. There has been a very disturbing trend over the past few years. Ministries are adopting a marketing mentality. There are large events held by well know names in evangelical circles that espouse tactics for attaining mega-growth and being relevant to the world. Many ministries today focus on achieving a shallow end result: numbers.
There is a focus on: what people want in a ministry, what would make them want to attend, and how to create an experience. This marketing and selling of the Christian life is an idea peculiar to this generation. There is no model in scripture for making the church an experience or how to draw a crowd that will want to return. The biblical model is a community of believers who is totally dependent on the Lord to show up. He and he alone will draw the lost in…..not the color of the welcome signs or an over abundance of activities for everyone, that really won’t matter. It’s not that those things are wrong, but the people in the world who are at the end of themselves and seek hope, come to church looking to encounter Jesus….not for the property, experience, or a sermonette.
The marketing & growth scheme that’s popular in much of the evangelical church today is wrong and won’t make true disciples. But why won’t it work you ask? First, because it’s man-breathed…not God-breathed. Secondly, because like all sales pitches, it focuses on benefits vs. cost. If the benefits outweigh the cost, then it’s a deal. But when cost dwarfs the (perceived benefit), well….buyers remorse sets in. We need to quit placating and squirming in order to get people to accept the gospel…..a different gospel of self worth, my wants, and little personal commitment with big benefits. The goal shouldn’t be to fill the pews, but to make disciples. Because when real life happens, people need a genuine relationship with Jesus to draw strength from. We need to tell the truth: Following Jesus will cost you everything, life will still be hard, you’ll need to find your identity in Christ alone, and die to yourself daily…..but living for him is so worth it.
It’s sad to see numerous ministries adopt this posture. Teaching on living a successful life, being a better person, or compassion……for compassion’s sake, and then a prayer at the end doesn’t make this right. If we really want to attract the world, then we need to quit acting like it. Lost people won’t see the need for a savior if we push a: whats in it for me gospel. They will respond to the gospel when the word is spoken boldly and they see the condition of their heart before a holy God. There is nothing more effective then a believer full of truth and grace lovingly live out the gospel before a hurting world.
As Christians, we can’t afford to compromise this message. If we do, it puts us on par to be spewed out like the Lord describes the Laodicean church in Rev 3:14. Lukewarm, apathetic, comfortable and complacent. This is not a game. We can’t go through the motions. Eternity is on the line for a lost world.
Marketing our churches aesthetics, making Christianity a life enhancement, and making God seem relevant to our generation…that’s the prevailing wind today. Any Christian with their eyes open can see this is a growing trend in the church today. A.W. Tozer saw it coming. He said, “Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as he is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify him to bring him nearer to our own image.” Tozer – The Pursuit of God. Friends, Jesus and Christian life isn’t a commodity to be marketed.
The early church saw explosive growth. But how was that possible? There were no growth seminars. There were no focus groups. There wasn’t program after program. So why the growth in the 1st century? Jesus was enough!
Lost sinners of Paul’s day are no different then the lost people in the world today. There was the same sin, blight, loneliness, hard hearts, and death that we have now. Paul didn’t try to find common ground with the world, but he did have a broken heart for the world. How was his message relevant? He just preached the gospel. The simple, perfect, life changing power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing we need to see the lost in our generation come in. We, like the Christians of the early church have an obligation to preach the gospel. This is done by living a life that glorifies God in our world, the marketplace, home, and everywhere. We do this with our words and our actions.
In a season when a significant part of the evangelical church is plagued with worldliness and desires big numbers, but bears little fruit……we need a real change. I say this….not in a critical spirit, but with a heart that longs to see believers live out a genuine faith before a sad dark world. People need to see what a life changed by the gospel looks like. Christians who realized their heart condition was hopeless without Jesus, are powerful witnesses to a hurting world because we know he is the only hope. If believers are faithful to the gospel….the unchurched, unloved, and hurting, around us will respond. Buildings, an experience, and activities don’t change people. People in the world see us….people changed by the power of God, that changes people. They will see how we love one another and the Lord. Thats what a hurting world needs to experience.
There are words that seem foreign and outdated to some ministries now. It’s as if we’ll mention them and scare would-be converts away. Words like: sin, judgement, hell, conviction, repentance, atonement, forgiveness, love, submission, fruit, and Heaven. They represent a life changing relevant gospel. These words will be the only things that matter in 100 years.
What would actually happen if we made our walk and ministries all about Jesus and him alone?
We would have true converts, not decisions. We would have true disciples, not attendees. We would see real lasting fruit in people’s lives, not momentary emotional change. These believers would impact the folks around them and that is where true growth comes from. Christians that walk in humility, love, and are rooted in the word of God are truly effective.
Hell doesn’t fear growth seminars, campus structure, and strategic planning sessions. Hell shudders and Heaven rejoices when a Christian lives holy, speaks the gospel boldly, and bears fruit. Let’s get back to basics, prayer closets, fasting, whole hearted worship, hunger for the word, love for fellow believers, our church, and this lost world. The gospel is enough. It has been effective for 2,000 years. Let’s not take our cue from the world.
If we really want to do something so radical and so different that the world and religious people around us will stand up and take notice, then we must quit tampering with the gospel and boldly live it out. Jesus: He’s our only purpose.
All for Him,