From the Archives: 10 Mistakes We Make with the Gospel

Tags 

1. Referring Rather than Declaring

It’s one thing to say “the gospel is central to all we do.” It’s another thing to declare that Jesus Christ died for sinners and rose again. It’s yet another thing to integrate the gospel into how we look at every part of ministry. Note the difference between these statements:

Statement 1: We have a children’s ministry to further the gospel in the lives of children

Statement 2: We have a children’s ministry because we all come into this world as sinners in need of rescue by a living, sinless Savior. It’s never too soon to start learning this freeing truth (Matt. 19:14, John 8:32).

Statement 3: God’s gracious plan is to transform bearers of guilt and shame into genuinely holy bearers of His name. Our church exists as a tool of God for that gospel purpose, and our children’s ministry exists to fully extend the church’s efforts to the youngest among us.

Statement 1 merely refers. Statement 2 declares. Statement 3 integrates. “Children’s ministry” can be replaced with any number of local church efforts, with details adjusted. The point is that we too often settle for reference when we ought to go all the way to integration.

2. Not Going There at All

Of course, an even greater problem is failure to get to the gospel even by reference. I’ve seen this happen even on occasions when an audience very likely to include multiple unbelievers is sitting right there ready to hear! I can’t begin to comprehend why a believer would pass up an opportunity like that. Romans 1:16?

3. “By the Way…”

More commonly, I have seen the gospel tacked on to the end of messages on occasions where it ought to have been the topic because the audience consisted mostly of the religious-but-confused.

Funerals are a typical case. It isn’t the time for homilies on the uncertainties of life, with an “Oh by the way, Jesus died for sinners,” in there somewhere. Most nursing home or assisted-living facility services are in this category as well. By all means, wrap the essentials of the gospel in a theme that has broad appeal, but we should devote the bulk to explaining and illustrating the gospel point by point.

It’s been my experience that believers never tire of this sort of preaching either. I can’t tell you how many times in 13 years of full time pastoral ministry I saw mature Christian audiences come alive visibly while some corner of my mind reflected, “I’m just preaching the gospel … again!”

4. Using Inaccurate Language

I probably cringe visibly every time I hear any variant of “ask Jesus into your heart.” The slightly more adult “invite Christ into your life” is really no better, nor is “make a commitment to Christ.”

It may be overstatement to say users of these terms are teaching a false gospel—but not by much. The Scriptures are clear that unbelievers do not become Christians by asking Jesus to relocate in some way. Nor do we pass from death to life by means of “a commitment.”

Yes, humans use language imprecisely. Genuine conversions take place in response to sloppy gospel appeals and people who are truly in Christ often express their faith in incomplete and inaccurate terms. They are no less accepted in the Beloved for all that.

But people who love the gospel and are leaders in preaching and teaching it can do better than to use sloppy language.

5. Isolating It from Its Implications

There is a kind of gospel reductionism that plagues many ministries. While they are good about including the essential core principles of the gospel (sin, judgment, Christ’s provision, the response of repentant faith), they are not equally good about asking “why?” and “so what?”

Why? God’s purpose in saving isn’t just to relieve a few from the consequences of Adam’s sin and their own. His purpose is to transform (Eph. 2:8-10, Rom. 8:3-4, 18-19). A transformed life here and now (yes, even a “victorious life,” in a manner of speaking) is a necessary implication of the gospel.

So what? That being the case, no ministry is sufficiently gospel-honoring if it doesn’t aim to grow disciples who are increasingly distinct from the lost. The result is a strong expectation of change, not ministry that encourages believers to bask in the blessings of the gospel without heeding the demands of the gospel.

6. Overuse of Jargon

Well-meaning gospel preachers often overuse terms only familiar to experienced believers. “Are you saved?” doesn’t mean a thing to many of those most in need of the gospel message. “Do you have a clear testimony?” sounds like courtroom proceedings. And “You don’t know Jesus,” sounds like a truism—how can anybody know a person who died thousands of years ago?

And “personal Savior”? I suppose the idea is that we don’t get to heaven by being in a crowd of people who claim the faith. There must be personal faith, and Jesus saves one sinner at a time. But the shorthand … I don’t think it works.

Arguably, all of these terms have their place, but there are other biblical (often more biblical) ways of referring to the basic need of the natural man, the solution God offers, and the necessary response. And pretty much any terms we use need illustrating and explaining, not just repeating.

7. Solving the Wrong Problem

This one is a cousin to “inaccurate language” above. The famous evangelical evangelists of the last several decades preach a “gospel” that solves the wrong problems. Rather than presenting human beings as fallen creatures who have offended a holy and just God, and who cannot fix that problem on their own, these pulpiteers present human beings as depressed, aimless, hurting from the misdeeds of others, grieving terrible losses, etc. These are all real human problems, but Jesus didn’t primarily die “for those tears.”

God became flesh, endured temptation, suffered at the hands of the chief priests and scribes, bore the wrath of the Father, rose from the dead victorious, and ascended to glory to solve the problem of sin and no other.

Yes, other things being equal, life is more “effective” and purposeful for believers, but these are secondary benefits to being reconciled to God. Let’s not confuse a subset of results of redemption with redemption itself. Jesus didn’t tell the woman at the well He was the answer to her difficulty forming lasting relationships, nor did Paul tell the Philippian jailer that Jesus was the answer to his out-of-control job stress.

I wish I could say this problem is unique to popular evangelical evangelists, but I’ve also heard many a fundamentalist preach a “gospel” that solves the wrong problem.

8. Neglecting Repentance

It probably goes without saying that so-called gospel preaching that aims at having “your best life now” tends to omit any kind of call to repentance. When you’re invited to “make a commitment to Christ” so you won’t be so sad anymore what could you possibly repent of?

But a sense of conviction that we have indeed done wrong—and are people of the sort who do wrong, even by our own standards (much more so by God’s)—is integral to conversion. Hence, the calls to repentance that we find in gospel preaching in Scripture (Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:22, 17:30, 26:20).

9. Too Little Worldview

Increasingly, we can’t assume people possess foundational ideas. These were already in place in the predominantly Jewish, first-century gospel audience and continued in the culturally-Christian audience that used to be the majority in the West—but they are often not in place in audiences today.

It’s possible to take the whole “back to Genesis” concept too far, but the trend is that teaching the gospel will require us to at least clarify Who we mean when we say “God,” and what sort of being we’re talking about when we refer to “Jesus Christ.” The savior concept requires understanding first that there is a holy God we will all answer to and that He is entitled to judge us.

10. Desperation

The consequences of rejecting Christ are eternal, and those who believe are indeed called to seek to persuade human beings to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:11, Acts 18:4), but in the power balance, God has more than enough to draw and convert and we have none at all. We shouldn’t resort to trying to shout the gospel message (literally or metaphorically) to folks who are not listening, much less manipulate them into a response through dramatic stories or high-pressure tactics.

The Calvinist Jonathan Edwards famously preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But he did so because He believed it was his responsibility to declare the truth vividly and emphatically (and logically) not because he believed the sinners were somehow actually in his own hands.

More on #3?

Are you saying that theoretically spiritually mature audiences came alive when you "tacked on" the Gospel on a (otherwise unrelated) sermon, or when the Gospel was integral to it?  Not quite sure what you were getting at there.

Yay!

Well said! I came to many of these same conclusions, ironically, when I preached through the Book of Acts and had to study and explain Peter, Stephen and Paul's apostolic sermons.

I'll add my own thought:

  • It has always been amazing to me how the apostles always included the resurrection as the key component of the Gospel, and yet today it is rarely mentioned - it is always the Cross which is emphasized.
  • Look at your tract racks - how much of your literature mentions the resurrection in its explanation of the Gospel?
  • It it doesn't, you should throw the tracts out. They're not the Gospel.

I recall hearing a missionary candidate from a KJVO bible college preach in church once, years ago. I was asked afterwards, "whaddya think of the sermon!?"

  • Me: "It was worthless.He kept mentioning the Gospel, but never explained what it was. He's not fit to spread the Gospel if he can't explain it."
  • Him: "Well, I think it was implied . . ." (man is offended at my comment)
  • Me: "The title of the sermon was, 'Ye Must Be Born Again.' He never told us what it even means.
  • Him: "Well, we know what he meant." (man is still offended) 

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Tyler,

Tyler,

I think I get what you’re saying, but,

Do we throw out John 3:16 since it does not mention the resurrection?  Do we throw out the entire chapter (John 3) because it does not mention the resurrection? 

I believe the full gospel includes the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus.  Also, the fact that Jesus is God.  And that Jesus was without sin.  Yet inspired Scripture itself does not always include each detail. 

David R. Brumbelow

David

I get what you're saying, too, but let me help you get what I'm saying. If you're preaching the Gospel, you must include:

  • Jesus perfect, sinless substitutionary life for you, in your place
  • Jesus' willing, sacrificial, substitutionary death for you, in your place
  • Jesus' miraculous, bodily resurrection
  • Jesus ascension and present work in heaven for the called

When you preach a passage, you don't always have everything in the text. John, for example, describes events before Jesus' work was finished. In that case, I think you have the responsibility to explain the whole Gospel while you preach the text you do have.

The apostolic proclamations preserved in the Book of Acts, written after the Spirit illuminated the disciples, after Jesus' completely finished work, always emphasized (1) fulfilled prophesy, (2) Jesus' death, (3) Jesus' resurrection. Perhaps one day I'll make a comparison chart of the elements of Peter, Stephen and Paul's apostolic sermons, to see what issues they focused on. I think the apostolic sermons function as our best descriptive examples of what Gospel preaching looks like.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

John 3 and the Resurrection

It's worth noting that if we take a look at the entire narrative by Christ in John 3, it does state clearly that the "Son of Man must be lifted up", a clear pointer to the Cross, which implicitly is a pointer to the Resurrection.  So in a manner of speaking, that passage does point to the substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection.  This is also hinted at when Christ notes that no one has yet ascended into Heaven.   He doesn't say it outright because it hasn't happened yet, but it is implicit.

So you don't discard John 3:16, but rather you use it in context.  

The Gospel Defined

I Corinthians 15:3-4 (in context) seems to define the basic elements of the Gospel.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

On "commitment"

Article:

I probably cringe visibly every time I hear any variant of “ask Jesus into your heart.” The slightly more adult “invite Christ into your life” is really no better, nor is “make a commitment to Christ.”

It may be overstatement to say users of these terms are teaching a false gospel—but not by much. The Scriptures are clear that unbelievers do not become Christians by asking Jesus to relocate in some way. Nor do we pass from death to life by means of “a commitment.”

Faith is "commitment": See John 2:24, "But Jesus did not commit​ (πιστεύω) Himself to them, because He knew all men"

πιστεύω is commonly translated "believe" (in John)

On #3

Bert Perry wrote:

Are you saying that theoretically spiritually mature audiences came alive when you "tacked on" the Gospel on a (otherwise unrelated) sermon, or when the Gospel was integral to it?  Not quite sure what you were getting at there.

#3 is meant to be seen a mistake like the others. So what I'm talking about there is occasions that beg for preaching the gospel but instead, the speaker opts for a warm devotional about whatever and somewhere along the way mentions that Jesus died for sinners.

So my gripe with that one is that when we have an audience like that, we should preach a gospel message...  the whole thing aimed at explaining and highlighting the importance of that truth and our response to it.

My point w/the last paragraph under #3 is that we shouldn't think that because some or most of those present are believers, we have to preach a "practical" or Christian living etc. sort of message. The believers will be blessed also from a well executed gospel message.

Commitment

My take on "commitment," besides its ambiguity, is that it's not biblical language in a response-to-gospel context. "Believe" is a perfectly good word. Especially with the indefinite article tacked to the front ("a comittment to...") it sounds like shopping for internet service or something: "to help you make a commitment we'll throw in that you'll also have a happier more trouble free life now!" So in this sort of evangelism, the "better life now"/felt needs angle takes the place of the free knife set to get you to make "a commitment."

Pretty far removed from the NT.

Expansion

"Jesus ascension and present work in heaven for the called"

Sorry for triple posting. Trying to do a bit of quick catching up. I think we should avoid another mistake (#11?) of thinking that we have not given the gospel if we haven't delivered an entire core Christology. As important as so many truths about Christ are, we cross over from gospel to implications-of-gospel, etc. And sometimes saying more is communicating less. So how much Christology we go into depends on the situation.

Point Taken

I suppose you can leave out the ascension and Jesus' present intercession, but I always add it because, well . . . Jesus did go back, and He's doing something up there!

My basic point was that we should always include the resurrection in our proclamation.
 

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

11. Limiting its reach

 

Jesus could attract a crowd to listen to Him:

"29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. 32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan." (Matthew 15:29-38 ESV)

--------------------------

"13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children." (Matthew 14:13-21 ESV)

--------------------------

"2 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:2-12 ESV)

--------------------------

Jesus attracted great crowds, consisting of believers and unbelievers alike.  I won't go into a lengthy thesis on the whys or the hows here; I am simply pointing out that He did. 

When/If we do not, what's the problem?  Is it that the Gospel is no longer the "Good News"?  Is is because the Gospel is no longer what unbelievers desperately NEED?  Is it because the message of the Gospel has changed?  Of course not! 

I am convinced that the reason fundamentalism often struggles to attract hearers for the message is that it needlessly creates impediments (in its methodology, preferences, attitudes, priorities, etc.) that can keep unbelievers at bay, and therefore keep them from hearing it in the first place.     

I think a lot of these impediments have become so ingrained (perhaps "enshrined" is a better word) in fundamentalist culture that fundamentalism (by and large) can no longer even fathom or conceive of the problem.  Objectivity has become virtually impossible.

A symptom of this is the "smaller is better" movement that seems to have swept through fundamentalism in recent decades.  Rather that reacting against the fact of its dwindling numbers (and decreasing influence), fundamentalism has instead concluded that its predicament is a sign of its faithfulness. 

Meanwhile, the Joel Osteen's of the world draw the crowds that fundamentalism should be striving to reach.

Larry

You wrote:

I am convinced that the reason fundamentalism often struggles to attract hearers for the message is that it needlessly creates impediments (in its methodology, preferences, attitudes, priorities, etc.) that can keep unbelievers at bay, and therefore keep them from hearing it in the first place.

Jesus attracted large crowds because of his miracles. This is clear from the Gospels.

From my perspective, your comments (above) reflect a basic disagreement over what the purpose of "church" is. I don't believe corporate worship is primarily for evangelism. I believe it is for believers to worship their Lord. This presupposition will determine what a church does, and how it does it. I think the Gospel is spread primarily through personal conversations, personal evangelism, and deliberate evangelistic ministries from the local church (e.g. AWANA, VBS, etc.).

You wrote:

A symptom of this is the "smaller is better" movement that seems to have swept through fundamentalism in recent decades.  Rather that reacting against the fact of its dwindling numbers (and decreasing influence), fundamentalism has instead concluded that its predicament is a sign of its faithfulness. 

It's always difficult to generalize about an entire theological movement (e.g. Baptist fundamentalism). From my perspective, none of this is applicable. I didn't grow up as a Christian, and have little blind allegiance to a particular "camp." You seem to be speaking more about blind partisan fundamentalists, so-called "company men" who are anxious to toe the line, no matter what. These people exist, and we've all met them. They're "F"undamentalists with a capitol "F."

I don't think the majority of Pastors who would self-identify (even secretly!) as fundamentalists would agree with your comments. The company men will become angry and defensive when they read your words. The rest of us will shrug, because it isn't applicable to us.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

I completely agree:

 

"I don't believe corporate worship is primarily for evangelism. I believe it is for believers to worship their Lord."

-------------------------------------------

Yet corporate worship shouldn't exclude evangelism.  1 Corinthians 14 assumes the fact that unbelievers will at times be intermixed with believers in worship services.  I'll note that you have recently written on SI about the fact that you have found that to be true.

(I wasn't limiting my comments to corporate worship services only, anyway.)

-------------------------------------------

In writing what I did above, it wasn't my intent to make everyone happy.   

Big Crowd Evangelism

Larry, 

I'd be careful to not take what Jesus' accomplished in the way of drawing an audience and make it prescriptive to our evangelistic efforts.  As Tyler pointed out, the reason those crowds formed was for the healing, and for many to witness God's power and working.

Clearly, the era of "big crowd" evangelism has gone from America.  I don't see any biblical mandate that we should endeavor to bring it back or to sustain it.

Crowds also have a tendency to dissipate once the gospel is truly given.  Note John 6:66.  Whatever the historic failings of Fundamentalism are, I'm not ready to attribute the death of "big crowd" evangelism to them.

John B. Lee

Larry

I get what you're saying. I also appreciate the stand you've always taken about how a large church isn't "evil." There is a stereotype in fundamentalism that a large church must be theologically compromised, or borderline apostate, in some form or fashion. That isn't necessarily the case, and you've been right to point that out.

To my point about corporate worship:

  • If you believe the primary goal for corporate worship is for professing, covenant believers to worship their Lord, then you will not be focused on erasing so-called "impediments (in its methodology, preferences, attitudes, priorities, etc.) that can keep unbelievers at bay."
  • If you're referring to extra-biblical attitudes and traditions, they I'm with you. If you're talking about orchestrating church so that it is more welcoming and comfortable for "seekers," then I disagree. I don't care if "seekers" are comfortable at church. They should be very uncomfortable. Thus, we've circled right back around to, "what is the goal when the church gathers?" I believe it is worship, not evangelism.
  • I preach the Gospel in every sermon I do, because unbelievers are likely always present, even among the professing "believers."  

To your point about making people happy:

  • I get that you don't write to make people happy. No worries. I think your comments about a perverse pride about "smallness" in fundamentalism is probably more commonly found among those further to the right. Depending on whose fundamentalist taxonomy charts you look at, these are the so-called "imperial fundamentalists" or "hyper fundamentalists." These are the men who seek to build empires, and/or are heavy into identity politics - Christian-style. These people, generally speaking, would probably fit your description (above).
  • For the rest of us, I really believe there is no perverse pride in smallness. I think we just preach the Word, shepherd the flock, and don't spend a lot of time pondering the identity politics of baptist fundamentalism.   

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Jargon

Aaron,

I have found the jargon problem to be a big issue among volunteers at church. The well-meaning Sunday School teachers so often want to use those catch-phrases, and when you try to gently correct, some of them get angry. Many times they can't really explain the Gospel without those terms, and then cannot explain what those terms actually mean when pressed. They're worthless terms. What happened to "repent and believe the Gospel?"

I never figured out how to lovingly and gently convince people to stop using those phrases. I made a big mistake once, when I I asked a CEF trainer to come by and do some children's evangelistic training. Big difference in theology there! I learned then that, if I want evangelism and doctrinal training done, I should just do it myself, or train somebody else to do it.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Jargon... and Jesus' crowds

Yes, the jargon is a big problem... not just in the crusade evangelism model, but IFB has its own special (though many would be surprised to know how similar IFB jargon is to, say, Assemblies of God jargon). As an example, in more than a dozen years pastoring, and a decade of ministry with youth before that, I never used the expression "get saved."

Yes, I know, any terms we use have to be explained, but I want to explain the Bible not explain our in-house jargon. Yes, the term "saved" is in the Bible but it's never something you "get." And if you study the term comprehensively, it's both something believers have and something they are growing in (Philippians 2:12) and something they are waiting for (1 Pet 1:5). So "get saved" is not the best way to put it. (It also sounds grammatically a bit backwater, which, other things being equal isn't a virtue.)

We have wonderful terms like "born again" (yeah, it's been abused, but it's a Bible term) and regenerated and passing from death to life and being "in Christ" and reconciled and justified and  standing in grace and so forth. The biblical terms provide great opportunities for looking at the wonder of it from different angles.

About Jesus' crowds...

I know this might be hard to believe, Larry, but the crowd size was never the point. Often enough, He was trying to make them smaller. Mark 7:36, 8:30, 9:9.  Compare Mark 4:11-12... and then whole John 6:22ff ("I am the bread of heaven") sequence. Jesus knew He was turning off the crowds and was not surprised at the result. A few highlights...

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (ESV, John 6:41)  

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (ESV, John 6:52)  

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (ESV, John 6:66)  

The Luke 14:26-33 sequence (and similar passages) are not example crowd-drawers either.

No, it was always about getting the truth out there for the benefit of the few who had "ears to hear."

Spring, 1987 (30 years ago):

 

I was 24; my younger sister & her future husband were both 22.  He wanted to see Fourth Baptist, so I drove the three of us to Broadway & Fremont in north Minneapolis, where the old Fourth Baptist complex loomed over the neighborhood.

As we walked the halls, showing my now brother-in-law the various rooms & spaces, around a corner came a familiar face.  Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters recognized my sister & I as graduates of Fourth Baptist Christian School, and stopped to talk.  He was in his late 80's, and was sharply dressed in a dark suit.  He hadn't been the pastor at Fourth Baptist Church since 1982, but that school year (1986 - 1987) was his final year (I believe) as president of Central Seminary.  For whatever reason, he invited us to sit down with him---he had some time to talk.  Perhaps he saw three young, eager faces, and he was willing to humor us.  He had a reputation for having a strong temperament, but I remember his patience & kindness as he casually chatted with us for a brief time that afternoon.

My brother-in-law, currently a pastor in Illinois, lapped up every word.  I remember he asked several questions about pastoral ministry, which Dr. Clearwaters answered in some detail.  I even remember a self-effacing comment he made, which made the three of us laugh out loud.

Even in his late 80's, he spoke with conviction, with passion, with vision.  He could leave one with the impression that nothing was impossible.  That mindset seems to be nearly extinct today within fundamentalism.

Larry

I disagree. You've been talking to some pessimistic people. Smile

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Where at?

 

TylerR wrote:

I disagree. You've been talking to some pessimistic people. Smile

 

HERE, it seems so much of the time......

I'm sorry I come across as cranky lately.  It just seems that we get so bogged down in endless conversations about 1) music, 2) alcohol, 3) "Convergence", 4) the extent of the Atonement (the latest thing), and other intramural squabbles that other things, like say the Great Commission, get downplayed.

I try to suggest that we should think big, get bold, about spreading the Gospel to a larger, wider audience, and I get replies (for example) that tell me the age of mass evangelism is history, so we might as well just forget about it.

Resources

Larry:

Most of our churches don't have the resources to do mass evangelism on the scale like you're suggesting. It's not that I, for example, am not interested. It's just that the concept of mass evangelistic events is divorced from my practical reality. My best "big number moment" from my personal experience is when I planned and executed a evangelistic event in the town square, and 60 people came. Even then, I had to use a brass ensemble from Maranatha to get them to come. You live and minister in a completely different context than I do.

Many of us have a small budget, fewer volunteers, and do the best with what we have. Most us probably don't spend time in intense discussions with church members about limited redemption or "Convergence." We probably preach and teach the Word, pray less than we should, work every day at our jobs, try and remember to do devotions with the kids, then try and rest for an hour or so before we do it all over again.

Most of us will never make a "big" impact, or ever be written about in books, or ever be remembered by anybody after one generation. I'm just not interested in making a big splash. I'm content to be a nobody, serving the Lord anonymously in my little corner of the world. Isn't that enough?

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Tyler,

TylerR wrote:

Most of us will never make a "big" impact, or ever be written about in books, or ever be remembered by anybody after one generation. I'm just not interested in making a big splash. I'm content to be a nobody, serving the Lord anonymously in my little corner of the world. Isn't that enough?

 

Everyone should be serving where God leads them; I have absolutely no problem with that.  (By the way: I'm a complete "nobody" by anyone's measure.)

Perhaps it's the recent "Home Church" two-parter that's gotten under my skin.  That article was rife with the "smaller is better" philosophy that's taken hold in much of fundamentalism (and which I've pointed out, with examples, is a relatively recent development).  Here are points taken from part one of that article:

  • If doctrine matters to you, you might need a home church.
  • If fellowship with like-minded believers matters to you, you might need a home church.
  • If the study of the Word matters to you, you might need a home church.
  • If yet another “awesome” program of dazzle and glitter makes you roll your eyes, you might need a home church.
  • If you’re not interested in a multi-gazillion dollar building program, you might need a home church.
  • If you’ve grown weary of perfect music by hired musicians or plastic-smiled primadonnas, you might need a home church.
  • If you’ve been kicked out of your church (“Brother, we think you would be more comfortable somewhere else”) because you asked too many questions, you might need a home church.
  • If your pastor doesn’t know your name, and never will, you might need a home church.

As someone who has been a member of a very small Baptist church (20 years) as well as a very large Baptist church (17 years), I hate to see such "us vs. them" attitudes promoted. 

Larry

I understand. If it's any consolation, Randy White (who wrote the articles) is a Southern Baptist and, therefore, likely wouldn't "qualify" as a "real fundamentalist" by some people's criteria!

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Pessimistic, or hurt?

I've seen a lot of clear hints that a lot of people here--myself included to a certain degree--are people who have been hurt by various expressions of fundamentalism.  A lot of the big arguments we get are when they come into contact with the proponents of those versions of fundamentalism (or at least what looks similar) who are also here.

But that said, I had to admit to myself when I read comments like "perverse pride in smallness" that I've seen that.  There is a legitimate case to be made for keeping churches smaller--harder to eradicate, closer to the communities they serve, easier for pastors to counsel, lower costs for building--but there is a subset of people who seem to believe that chasing people away and staying small when you don't have to is some kind of virtue.  I knew of a church where it seemed they felt that expelling believers because of ancient or nonexistent sins was a mark of spirituality.  

Gotta be a happy medium there somewhere, but all too often, God's people don't find it, that's for sure.

No repentance call is a Gospel mistake

Acts 17:30, "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."

Acts 26:20, "First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds."

Smaller....

I have a hard time getting worked up about "smaller is better," since I've just about always seen the opposite assumption. But I don't see the NT identifying either one as particularly relevant. Jesus' crowds, grow, shrink, grow, then shrink again... then grow dramatically in Acts 2... then scatter into many small congregations all over the world.

But as far as congregational scale goes, why not look at it practically--practically, but with NT objectives in mind. If we look at what local churches are directed to do in the NT, there just isn't anything there that they have to be large to accomplish.

Gotta be a happy medium there somewhere, but all too often, God's people don't find it, that's for sure.

I think the happy medium is for churches to focus on what they're supposed to be doing, not on how many of them are doing it.


▴ Top of page

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.