TheoThought 300

David W. Hegg

 

The Mission of the Church

Current Challenges to the Church

 

Introduction: The mission of the church has never been up to the church to decide. The church is not her own, but fully and permanently joined to Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Yet, over the centuries of church history the church has often been the victim of “organizational drift.” That is, the church has wandered away from the mission given to it by Christ, to follow selfish paths. This module will explore the biblical teaching on the mission of the church and present some of the current challenges to that mission.

 

The Mission of the Church

 

The mission or function of the church answers the question: Why does the church exist? The answer comes in three parts:

 

1) To glorify God

The first function of the church is to recognize, understand, praise, and promote the glory of God.

 

A) This follows from the fact that the “chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” (Westminster Catechism Question #1):

 

Psa. 115.1     Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,    for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

 

Psa. 57.5     Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!   Let your glory be over all the earth!

 

Is. 24.15   Therefore in the east  give glory to the LORD;   in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.

 

Luke 2.14     “Glory to God  in the highest,    and on earth  peace  among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

B) This follows from the fact that Jesus himself expressed his mission in terms of giving glory to God:

 

John 11.4 But when Jesus heard it he said,  “This illness does not lead to death. It is for  the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

 

C) The church is understand its existence in terms of the glory of God:

 

Rom. 15.7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

 

1Cor. 10.31   So, whether you eat or drink, or  whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 

2Cor. 1.20 For  all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our  Amen to God for his glory.

 

2Cor. 4.6 For God, who said,  “Let light shine out of darkness,”  has shone in our hearts to give  the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

2Cor. 4.15 For  it is all for your sake, so that as  grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving,  to the glory of God.

 

Phil. 1.11 filled  with the fruit of righteousness that comes  through Jesus Christ,  to the glory and praise of God.

 

Phil. 2.11 and  every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is  Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Note: This first facet of the church’s mission is facilitated through worship in all of its forms:

            • The careful study of God’s Word

            • Praise through prayer and music

            • Obedient living

 

In essence, this first facet of the church’s mission is directed at God himself.

The church exists to recognize, understand, praise, and promote the glory of God.

 

2) To Demonstrate God’s Glory to the World

 

A) Through Works of Love

 

From the beginning of the biblical story the people of God were to be distinct from those who worshipped other gods. This distinction was to be seen in their behavior, and especially in their love for God and one another. “Doing good” has always been a hallmark of God’s people.

 

Psa. 34.14   Turn away from evil and do good;   seek peace and  pursue it.

 

Psa. 37.3     Trust in the LORD, and do good;    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

 

Psa. 37.27     Turn away from evil and do good;   so shall you  dwell forever.

 

Is. 1.17  learn to do good;    seek justice,   correct oppression;    bring justice to the fatherless,   plead the widow’s cause.

 

Luke 6.27   “But I say to you who hear,  Love your enemies,  do good to those who hate you,

 

Luke 6.35 But  love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and  you will be sons of  the Most High, for  he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

 

Gal. 6.10 So then,  as we have opportunity, let us  do good to everyone, and especially to those who are  of the household of faith.

 

1Th. 5.15 See that  no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always  seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

 

1Tim. 6.18 They are to do good,  to be rich in good works, to be generous and  ready to share,

 

Titus 2.7 Show yourself in all respects to be  a model of good works, and in your teaching  show integrity,  dignity,

 

Titus 2.14  who gave himself for us to  redeem us from all lawlessness and  to purify for himself  a people for his own possession who are  zealous for good works.

 

Titus 3.8 The saying is  trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful  to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

 

Titus 3.14 And let our people learn  to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not  be unfruitful.

 

Heb. 13.16 Do not neglect to do good and  to share what you have, for such  sacrifices are pleasing to God.

 

Acts of Mercy

 

Mic. 6.8  He has told you, O man, what is good;   and  what does the LORD require of you   but to do justice, and to love kindness,    and to  walk humbly with your God?

 

Matt. 5.7   “Blessed are  the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

 

Matt 5: 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so  that  they may see your good works and  give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

Matt. 9.13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For  I came not to call the righteous,  but sinners.”

 

Matt. 19.19 Honor your father and mother, and,  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

1 Thess. 5.14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish  the idle,   encourage the fainthearted,  help the weak,  be patient with them all.  15 See that  no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always  seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  16  Rejoice always,  17  pray without ceasing,  18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  19  Do not quench the Spirit.  20 Do not despise  prophecies,  21 but  test everything; hold fast what is good.  22 Abstain from every form of evil.

 

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to visit  orphans and widows in their affliction, and  to keep oneself  unstained from the world.

 

B) Through Proclamation of the Gospel

 

Note: As important as good works are as a means of displaying the glory of God, they are only a means to an end, and not the end itself! Too much evangelism is devoid of the gospel. We simply must get all the way to the Gospel at some point, and always be pointing to it along the way!

 

• Jesus:

 

Matt. 9.35    And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

 

Mark 1.1  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,  the Son of God.

 

Mark 1.14    Now after John was arrested, Jesus  came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,  15 and saying,  “The time is fulfilled, and  the kingdom of God is at hand;  repent and believe in the gospel.”

 

Luke 20.1    One day,  as Jesus  was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel,  the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up

 

The Church

 

Matt. 28.18-20 And Jesus came and said to them,  “All authority  in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Go therefore and  make disciples of  all nations,  baptizing them  in   the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them  to observe all that  I have commanded you. And behold,  I am with you always, to  the end of the age.”

 

Acts 8.4   Now  those who were scattered went about preaching the word (“gospelizing”)

 

Acts 8.25   Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem,  preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

 

Acts 8.40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

 

Acts 14.7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.

 

Acts 14.21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had  made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,

 

Acts 15.7 And after there had been much  debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you,  that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear  the word of  the gospel and believe.

 

Acts 16.10 And when Paul  had seen the vision, immediately  we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

 

Acts 20.24 But  I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only  I may finish my course and  the ministry  that I received from the Lord Jesus,  to testify to  the gospel of  the grace of God.

 

Rom. 1.16   For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is  the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew  first and also to  the Greek.

 

1Cor. 1.17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and  not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

 

1Cor. 9.16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For  necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

 

1Cor. 9.23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel,  that I may share with them in its blessings.

 

1Pet. 4.17 For it is time for judgment  to begin at the household of God; and  if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who  do not obey the gospel of God?

 

Rev. 14.6   Then I saw another angel  flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to  those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

 

3) To Promote Maturity in Christ-followers

 

The third purpose or facet of the church’s mission is toward those who, having heard the gospel, have been brought to faith and repentance by God the Spirit through the imparting of new life. As “newborn” children of God, the church is the vehicle through which they are brought further and further along the path of spiritual maturity.

 

2 Pet. 3.18 But  grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of  eternity. Amen. 

 

Eph. 4.14 so that we may no longer be children,  tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in  deceitful schemes.

 

1Cor. 14.20   Brothers,  do not be children in your thinking.  Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be  mature.

 

Eph. 4.13 until we all attain to  the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,  to mature manhood,  to the measure of the stature of  the fullness of Christ,

 

Col. 1.28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that  we may present everyone  mature in Christ.

 

Col. 4.12  Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always  struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand  mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

 

Heb. 10:24 And  let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and  all the more as you see  the Day drawing near.

 

 

• The church accomplishes this facet of its mission through:

            - Proper instruction from God’s Word

            - Mutual accountability and encouragement to grow in grace and knowledge

            - Mutual use of spiritual gifts for the common good

           

 

Current Challenges to the Mission of the Church

 

1. MIssional Drift:

The greatest threat to the church in our day is a monumental shift in the focus of the church away from the glory of God. This shift has resulted in the devolution of worship, the gospel, the shape and importance of biblical doctrine, and preaching.

 

In the last decades of the 1900s, a monumental shift took place in the North American church. Some credit Bill Hybels for this new philosophy, and he certainly is the one most associated with it. In building Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago he determined to have a church that existed for the unchurched. This fundamental shift in the focus of the church – away from God’s glory, to the “felt needs” of the unchurched – created a run-away philosophy of ministry that has since become a dominant presence in the North American church scene. These churches are known as “seeker-driven” in that their every doctrinal and programming decision are predicated on what will be most attractive to a “seeker.” Seekers are defined as those who do not know God, but are “seeking” something that will improve their lives. These churches attempt to wrap Jesus in packaging and programming that will be attractive to the felt needs of their community.

 

The “seeker-driven” philosophy of ministry is solidly built on Arminian theology in that they believe seekers just need to be convinced that following Jesus will make their lives better. This philosophy of church life grants all power to the free will of the seeker, and the church is in a place to leverage that will through attractive, felt-needs based programming.

 

The bottom line is the Bible becomes less of a benefit and more of a hindrance. Preaching, musical worship, doctrine, and a host of other church essentials are reshaped to be more attractive to the unbeliever. Everything is on the table and can be shaped however seems best in order to attract unbelievers to the church.

 

2. The Devolution of Worship

 

Note: Devolution = degeneration, decay, dissolution, disintegration, compromise, lessening, melting,

 

Perhaps the most noticeable effect of “seeker-driven” philosophy is the devolution of worship in the church. Almost without exception, “worship” is now understood as “congregational music.”

 

Yet, worship is never music. Neither is it prayer, or preaching, or silence, or meditation.

 

Worship is engagement with God. While we use many tools, or avenues to engage with God none of them encapsulates worship by itself.

 

Illustration: If I hold up a hammer and call it a house you would consider it absurd. A hammer is a tool I may use to build a house, but it is not the house itself! Neither is music worship. Rather, it is a means by which we may engage with God if we are approaching him in spirit and truth.

 

It is in this devaluing of worship to the point of equating it with music that the seeker-driven philosophy has had the most effect on the church. Music has become the essential ingredient in the “attractional” model of church life.

 

This has changed congregational participation into more of a concert setting where the professionals play and sing at a volume level so high the congregation can’t hear themselves singing. This does away with element of congregational worship built on the “one-another” command of Col. 3:16 (see below).

 

A second consequence of this change is that it has turned engagement with God into a personal, consumer-driven experience. That is, people are now coming to a gathered worship service with a personal expectation to feel or experience something they find meaningful rather than coming to be part of what God is doing in and through his people. The “corporate” sense is being turned into a “personal” experience as songs are more and more designed to provide an individual experience rather than a corporate one. Much of the music is “I” rather than “we” and centers on the individual’s vertical relationship rather than being inclusive of the horizontal elements of true corporate worship.

 

Lastly, much of the music used to worship today is shallow theologically, emphasizing relationship and experience to the almost total eclipse of knowledge of God. “Knowing God” has become experiential rather than intellectual. Worship has moved from knowing God and appreciating what the Bible teaches about his character, nature, attributes, will, and plan to “feeling” his presence, “experiencing” his love, and “sensing” his power.

 

When we turn to the Bible, we find there are certain fundamental themes that run through the whole concept of “worship”: fear of God, holiness, celebration, knowledge, etc:

 

1Chr. 16.29  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;   bring an offering and come before him!    Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

 

Psa. 2.10    Now therefore, O kings, be wise;   be warned, O rulers of the earth.

11   Serve the LORD with  fear,   and  rejoice with  trembling.

12   Kiss  the Son,   lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,   for his  wrath is quickly kindled.    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

 

Psa. 86.9   All the nations you have made shall come   and worship before you, O Lord,   and shall glorify your name.

 

Psa. 95.6    Oh come, let us worship and bow down;   let us  kneel before the LORD, our  Maker!

 

Psa. 96.9  Worship the LORD in  the splendor of holiness;     tremble before him, all the earth!

 

Is. 6.1   In the year that  King Uzziah died I  saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train  of his robe filled the temple.  2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had  six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called to another and said:    “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;    the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4   And  the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and  the house was filled with smoke.  5 And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost;  for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the  King, the LORD of hosts!”

 

John 4.24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 

Col. 3.16 Let  the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,  singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,  with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  17 And  whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,  giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Rom. 12.1    I appeal to you therefore, brothers,  by the mercies of God,  to present your bodies  as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 

Phil. 3.3 For  we are the circumcision,  who worship  by the Spirit of God  and  glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

 

Rev. 14.7 And he said with a loud voice,  “Fear God and  give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and  worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the  springs of water.”

 

Rev. 15.4   Who will not fear, O Lord,   and glorify your name?   For you alone are  holy.    All nations will come   and worship you,   for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

 

Rev. 22.8   I,  John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them,  I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me,  9  but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant  with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those  who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

 

3. The Devaluation of the Bible

 

The missional drift in the church could only be accomplished with a corresponding devaluation of the Bible. We have seen the liberal assault on the Bible in terms of a denial of its inerrancy and infallibility. Yet, in the more evangelical sectors of the church, where these doctrines are verbally affirmed, there has been a much more subtle attack on the Bible.

 

In the “attractional, seeker-driven” model, the Bible is an obstacle to be overcome rather than a treasure to be sought, studied, honored, and obeyed. Seekers want relevance and immediate answers rather than an understanding of God’s nature and redemptive plan revealed throughout biblical history. Consequently, the Bible has been re-cast as a ‘good book’ from which some good principles can be extracted to “Christianize” more relevant intellectual fields such as psychology, leadership theory, learning theory, and the rise of technology.

 

People in “seeker-driven” churches typically do not consider a working knowledge of the Bible to be a worthy and necessary goal. They read, but from a selfish standpoint. They read the Bible to “get” something for today. The Bible becomes a self-help manual, or a rule book, or a devotional garden.

 

Much of the biblical story becomes the “stuff” of moralism rather than the very Word of God as churches refer to it along the way rather than teach it as the original authors intended it to be understood.

 

Josh. 1.8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but  you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  9 Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Psa. 119.9    How can  a young man keep his way pure?   By guarding it according to your word.

 

Psa. 119.11  I have  stored up your word in my heart,   that I might not sin against you.

 

John 17.17  Sanctify them  in the truth;  your word is truth.

 

Col 3:16 Let  the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,  singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,  with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  17 And  whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,  giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

2Tim. 3.16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 that  the man of God  may be complete,  equipped  for every good work.

 

Heb. 4:12 For  the word of God is living and  active,  sharper than any  two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and  discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  13 And  no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are  naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

1Pet. 2.1    So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  2  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual  milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—  3 if indeed you have  tasted that the Lord is good.

 

2Pet 1:19 And  we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention  as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until  the day  dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,  20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  21 For  no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God  as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

4. The Devolution of the Gospel

 

In order to make following Jesus more palatable, many of the elements of the gospel have been downsized or compromised. For example, the idea of sin, and repentance, have been almost entirely left out.

 

For example, when Campus Crusade first came out with the “4 Spiritual Laws” the first one was: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life.” Here we see the first compromise. If you search the Acts of the Apostles, you will find several gospel presentations. Not one of them begins with God’s love. All begin with Christ, his life, death and resurrection. Next they go to the guilt of mankind. Lastly, the command repentance and faith.

 

The gospel of today is primarily about Jesus being the answer to the needs of people. Jesus as life coach is a good definition of much of the modern gospel. But, if we lay the modern gospel up alongside the biblical gospel, we find great disparity.

 

Acts 2.36   Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that  God has made him  both Lord and Christ, this Jesus  whom you crucified.” 37   Now when  they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers,  what shall we do?”  38 And Peter said to them,  “Repent and  be baptized every one of you  in the name of Jesus Christ  for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive  the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Acts 3.17   “And now, brothers, I know that  you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18 But what God  foretold  by the mouth of all the prophets, that  his Christ would  suffer, he thus fulfilled.  19  Repent therefore, and  turn back, that  your sins may be blotted out,  20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ  appointed for you, Jesus,

 

Eph. 2.1    And you were  dead in the trespasses and sins 2  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following  the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in  the sons of disobedience—  3 among whom we all once lived in  the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body  and the mind, and  were by nature  children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  4 But  God, being  rich in mercy,  because of the great love with which he loved us,  5 even  when we were dead in our trespasses,  made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—  6 and raised us up with him and  seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable  riches of his grace in  kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For  by grace you have been saved  through faith. And this is  not your own doing;  it is the gift of God,  9  not a result of works,  so that no one may boast.  10 For  we are his workmanship,  created in Christ Jesus  for good works,  which God prepared beforehand,  that we should walk in them. 

 

Rom. 1.16   For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is  the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew  first and also to  the Greek.  17 For in it  the righteousness of God is revealed  from faith for faith,   as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

 

2Tim. 1.8   Therefore  do not be ashamed of  the testimony about our Lord, nor of  me his prisoner, but  share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,  9  who saved us and  called us to  a holy calling,  not because of our works but because of  his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus  before the ages began,  10 and which now has  been manifested through  the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,  who abolished death and  brought life and  immortality to light through the gospel,  11  for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 

 

5. The Devolution of Doctrine

 

The “attractional, seeker-driven” church model is primarily a “felt-needs” model. That is, the “felt-needs” of the unbelieving community become the primary focus of the church’s ministry. Consequently, doctrine has slowly become an “obstacle” to reaching unbelievers simply because it is not “relevant.”

 

What matters most is that the individual’s needs are met. Even after “accepting Christ” these people are taught mostly in the areas of practical Christian living, because that is what they are coming to Jesus to find. They want to be better husbands, wives, parents, and people in general, and simply want answers and strategies for life.

 

This explains why the pollsters tell us that upwards of 70% of Americans claim to be Christians, yet our nations moral and spiritual power is at an all time low. Those who truly are saved through the ministries of seeker-driven churches rarely are given a good theological foundation, and consequently, while being Christ-followers, they are ill-equipped to mature in their faith, deal with suffering, or proclaim and defend the truth of Christ before a watching world.

 

1Cor. 3.1   But I, brothers,  could not address you as  spiritual people, but as  people of the flesh, as  infants in Christ.

 

1Cor. 14.20   Brothers,  do not be children in your thinking.  Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be  mature.

 

Heb. 5.11   About this we have much to say, and it is  hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again  the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need  milk, not solid food,  13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is  a child.  14 But solid food is for  the mature, for those who have their powers  of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

 

6. The Devolution of Preaching

 

If you devalue the Bible, and take a rather “anti-intellectual” stand regarding the importance of biblical doctrine, and if the “worship experience” through music becomes a primary attractional element in corporate church life, then the natural consequence will be a devolution and devaluing of biblical preaching.

 

Fewer and fewer preachers are “proclaiming the whole counsel of God” (see: Acts 20:25-27 below) for fear that some of the aspects of the gospel and the biblical story will be either too hard to explain, experiencially irrelevant, or simply offputting to their audience. Few practice expository preaching, where the truth of the Word is derived from what the original author intended his original audience to understand.

 

Rather, most sermon series today are topical, addressing ideas, issues, and concerns that resonate with the audience. The audience has become sovereign in the relationship that is preaching.

 

Neh. 8.1   And all the people gathered as one man into the square before  the Water Gate. And they told  Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel.  2 So Ezra the priest  brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard,  on the first day of the seventh month.  3  And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.  4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose …  5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.  6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered,  “Amen, Amen,”  lifting up their hands.  And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.  7  Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites,   helped the people to understand the Law,  while the people remained in their places.  8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly,  and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

 

Acts 20:25 And now, behold,  I know that none of you among whom I have gone about  proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.  26 Therefore  I testify to you this day that  I am innocent of the blood of all,  27 for  I did not shrink from declaring to you  the whole counsel of God.

 

2Tim. 4.1    I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,  who is to judge the living and the dead, and by  his appearing and his kingdom:  2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;  reprove, rebuke, and  exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  3  For the time is coming when people will not endure  sound  teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  4 and  will turn away from listening to the truth and  wander off into myths.  5 As for you,  always be sober-minded,  endure suffering, do the work of  an evangelist,  fulfill your ministry.

 

1Tim. 6.20   O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.  Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”

 

2Tim. 1.14 By the Holy Spirit  who dwells within us, guard  the good deposit entrusted to you.

 

Conclusion

 

The church belongs to Christ, and he is the head, the boss, the master, and the only senior pastor. Thus, the mission and message of the church are his to command. The great responsibility of the church is to stay the course, to stave off the constant pressures of societal compromise and realize that the glory of God is her only righteous goal.

 

Resources

 

The Church in God’s Program, Robert L. Saucy

 

Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church, Gregg R. Allison

 

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem