As a pastor, I regularly receive letters, magazines, and emails about church. Various groups and individuals promote their segment of the action or their philosophy of ministry, which (of course) has led to great success. Success is nearly always measured by crowd size and/or dollar amount, and the uniqueness of the ministry is credited as the reason for great achievement.
“We grew from 30 people to 300 in 4 months!”
“We raised $300,000 for our project in just a few weeks!”
“We are a success because we tapped into people’s desire for… something other than THE GOSPEL!”
These stories are not just irritating; they are infuriating. I am not primarily angered by the foolish and simplistic measurements of success among many evangelicals today, nor is it the incessant desire to get the average church pastor to adopt some new way of doing church. These are both a nuisance, but I am astonished by the utter disdain we church leaders seem to have for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A local church pastor thinks to himself, “Gosh, I do wish more people in my town understood and loved the Gospel like I do. How can I get them to hear and believe?”
Then he receives 10 different advertisements about church growth and ministry success, all of them claiming to have discovered the key to reaching people with the Gospel. And all of them come with stories of personal success.
“Our water-slide, jungle-gym, and videogame all-in-one entertainment system has spiked children’s ministry by 400%! We are really reaching people with the Gospel now!”
“When I first heard about preaching from a glass box suspended by invisible wires from the ceiling, I was skeptical. But our Sunday morning attendance has doubled in 2 weeks! The Gospel is going forth!”
“We started theming our worship services about 3 months ago, and everyone really liked ‘Barnyard’ Sunday. I can’t wait for ‘Star Wars’ Sunday… I think it’s right after ‘NFL’ Sunday when we plan to have the game on the projector screen during the slower points of the service.”
At best, that local church pastor leaves the advertisement thinking that something other than the Gospel is the key to reaching people with the Gospel. Maybe he even begins to think, as the ad suggests, that the Gospel is unappreciated because it is irrelevant and ineffective. From this perspective, the Gospel is a problem that must be overcome by the use of some other means.
I want to say this clearly and emphatically…
Only the Gospel will actually transform you, your family, your church, and your town.
Preach the Gospel on Sundays. Listen to the Gospel preached on Sundays. Learn the Gospel story better and better. Think about the Gospel. Talk about the Gospel with others. Learn to apply the implications of the Gospel to fatherhood, motherhood, employee-employer relationships, stewardship, and a host of other aspects of life. Pray according to Gospel realities. Ask more probing questions about the Gospel. And then, then do all of this again next week.
Pastor, you don’t need to become an expert magician to reach your community.
Church, you don’t need to spend $250,000 on that next campus addition to entertain the people in your town.
We all need to know, believe, love, live in light of, and tell others about THE GOSPEL (Click Here for a brief summary of the Gospel).
If we will do that, you may just discover that the Gospel is more powerful and more compelling than you ever imagined.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16).