Preach the real Jesus, whatever your style

Seems like we ought to be getting ready for Easter! It did come early this year. As a matter of fact, Easter will not be that early again until 2228! Surely Jesus will come before then. Speaking of Jesus ? a lot of churches are not.

I have been shocked by the avoidance of the name of Jesus. Dare to say mentioning sin, the blood, the cross, the resurrection or a number of other essential elements in helping people understand their need for Jesus.

North American Christianity in general and Southern Baptists in particular are in crisis. Our conversion-to-population growth ratio is at an all-time low. We have more buildings, education, money and technology than ever before. Yet we are doing less with more than any previous generation of believers. You have heard the dreary statistics: 70 percent of SBC churches are declining. Some say plateaued and declining, but unless you are growing you are declining; you can’t stand still. There is a lot of handwringing and finger pointing over this problem.

Numbers of young pastors have rejected the SBC model of cooperation. We have gone through “contemporary music,” the “Purpose-Driven” phenomenon and now the emerging church models. New forms are constantly in vogue.

Recently I heard about the Redneck Church. This flock, upon learning of the feeding of the 5,000, wanted to know whether the two fish were bass or catfish and what type of bait was used to catch’em.

We have become so niche-conscious that we may see a church start to target left-handed, blue-eyed 9-year-old girls who don’t like Hannah Montana. I’m for reaching all kinds of people in all kinds of ways, but we might be taking it to an extreme. Let me affirm much of the innovative church planting.

If I were 30 years younger, I would want to be on the cutting edge reaching the unreached with unique approaches as a church planter.

Music style is a preference, not a point of fellowship. Whether a guy sits on a stool or beats the pulpit is irrelevant. If he has bed-head, shaves his head or wears a pompadour, it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that churches both innovative and traditional uplift the Lord Jesus Christ, present clearly the gospel and depend upon the Holy Spirit.

Here’s my beef: Whatever style you are, present the biblical Jesus. Jesus had a virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious and bloody sacrificial death, bodily resurrection, and will have a visible return. I have been in churches recently that got so cute with their ministry that they forgot to present the gospel. And just because somebody baptizes a trough-full doesn’t mean the “converts” have been presented the biblical Jesus.

Use imagination and new tools, but know that only the Spirit of God can produce eternal results. We have become so slick in thinking we can “trick” people into conversion. It is the old “bait and switch” technique. We will make them think they really aren’t worshipping Jesus, never mention his name, don’t offend them and maybe they will be saved by some holy osmosis system. Paul spoke of the spirit of this world in 1 Corinthians 2:12. Don’t try to outsmart the Holy Spirit. Neither is it some jibber-jabber or some attention getting activity. Salvation is the clear, unmistakable work of the Spirit of God.

Willow Creek admitted error in their philosophy of ministry. It is hard to improve on presenting the gospel. People must understand their need. Conviction of sin is the first step toward repentance. How can a person repent if he doesn’t think he has anything to repent of? We have to preach the bad news before anyone will be ready for the Good News. We don’t have to be offensive in our methods, but the cross will offend.

The apostle Paul had a pastoral relationship with the church at Corinth. He pointed out shortcomings of the church in his first letter. In the book we call 2 Corinthians he confronted them about their infatuation with novelty. He used sarcasm to point out their rejection of his authority and the acceptance of deceivers. Paul was aggravated with the church that he started in its being so easily removed from the truth. He warned them about preaching another Jesus, receiving another spirit and having another gospel (2 Corinthians 11:1-5).

Even though Easter is passed, I urge you to boldly share the true gospel in the power of the Spirit by presenting the biblical Jesus.

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