Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Is the Church’s Focus Too Narrow?

Last week I posted a blog that centered on the breadth of topics in the Bible that are substantially ignored by our churches but which can be instructive for us today.  Such topics include immigration, the role of the Federal government, sexual cultural issues, personal responsibility, among others. Our culture and government have gone astray regarding each of these areas of concern.  The Churches inexplicably ignore these and many other essentials the Bible teaches.

In a number of churches I’ve attended I’ve noted an exceedingly narrow focus of sermons. 

In one Presbyterian church, the very well educated Doctor of Ministry preached as if he were nothing more than a teacher of ancient Biblical history.  He focused on the languages they spoke, the food they ate, the utensils that were used, the geography of the area, the form of money they used, the laws they tried to enforce and many other bits of historical trivia.  Nowhere in the sermons was there any attempt to draw spiritual analogies to current cultural or political issues and concerns.  And they called their building a “church.”

Another example:  I’ve attended a church where over a period of 50 Sundays the focus of the Sermon was centered on the need to accept Christ to receive forgiveness of our sins and then urging individuals to come up to the alter.  Can you guess how many have come up to the alter in that year to make a profession of faith in response to those dozens of hours of sermons?  None!  Not one. 

I certainly appreciate the central importance of preaching Christ and the need for salvation in our Churches.  Don’t get me wrong.  But I also recognize two more things:  1) The concept of knowing your audience, and 2) The great void in the teaching of other Bible topics.

If after a couple dozen Sundays of basically the same message with zero response one might realize that either everyone in the Church is already saved, or there are a few people who don’t want to show their hand.  In either case, I would suspect that an alternative message – alternative lessons - may be in order.  Protestants are often critical of the rituals of Catholics.  Protestants have some rituals of their own to overcome.  It reminds me of the old axiom of the definition of insanity regarding doing the same thing over and over.  You get the point. 

Preach Christ. But he had more to say than “repent and be saved” or “believe and be saved.”  Repent from what?  Believe what?

One thing that’s lacking in our culture and among many congregations is an understanding of the principle and consequence of “sin.”  A less “Christiany” phrase is “deadening of conscience.”  In today’s culture, understanding or accepting the concept of “sin” is eroding fast.  I know, I know.  Some don’t want to discuss this in our churches because it is a downer – it lacks “joy.”, “fun”, “excitement” – it isn’t “entertaining.”

Isaiah 53:3 reflects the burden Christ felt concerning the lost and sin around him.  He certainly felt little “joy:”

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Joy, like happiness, is elusive – too often based on superficial actions or events.  Joy without substance is dead, every bit as much as faith without works is dead. 

Today’s culture is killing conscience – mocking morality.  The culture is jettisoning bits and pieces of the definition of sin every week.  Think “homosexuality”, “gay marriage”, “gay clergy”, forcing Christians to celebrate these perversions in their professions:  photography, baking cakes.  Public schools are forcing acceptance of various perverse behaviors on our children, mostly sexual in nature, that used to be called “sin”.   Thirty years ago public schools began prohibiting the singing of Christian carols at Christmas.  Now they protect and defend the practice of perversions that have been clearly labelled “sin” for centuries by the Christian faith.  How far down we’ve gone since 200 years ago when Christianity was the norm in state governance, and since 50 years ago when we read Bible versus and said the Lord’s prayer in our public schools.

Our states and our nation were founded on Biblically-based Christian principles.  But to suggest that today is secular blasphemy.  Do the churches engage to refute these secularist lies?  No!  Not even many of the more conservative churches I’ve attended do this.  And the mainline churches:  They may as well redact 50% of the Bible with a King Sized Sharpie.

It is time for Churches to broaden their teaching and address the lack of understanding of some very basic concepts in Scripture, “sin” being one among many.  Without an understanding of “sin” and its partners, “conscience” and “self control”, there will be no understanding of the need for Christ and His offer of salvation and eternal life with Him.

Without this understanding, there will be no reason for “joy.”  Joy and a sense of fulfillment will be empty gestures until individuals accept the saving grace of Christ.  And to accept that, they need to understand what sin is, what their sin is, that they need to commit to their own self-judgement, and seek Christ for the ultimate solution.  Then joy will come.  Joy is a by-product of our salvation, not an end in itself.

Sure, Churches use all sorts of techniques to attract “the lost” to attend their services.  I’ve attended some really upbeat events, complete with rock bands, fantastic soloists, huge pipe organs, and thrilling light shows.  Joy abounds.  But is there any sense or urgency in needing Christ in all of that?  I suspect the entertaining “noise” masks much of the message.  Yes, I understand we are to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  But I sense that much of the “joyful noise” Churches produce is unto the lost and for the lost who will remain lost.

What about a congregation that already believes they have been saved?  What do you do with them?  That is where lessons in evangelism, discipleship,  teaching - among other spiritual gifts - would be very appropriate.  And that is where lessons that connect the Bible’s vast teaching concerning nationhood, governance, and the many cultural issues facing us today would be exceedingly valuable. 

The point is this:  Essential explanations of a Biblically-based Christian world view are being ignored in favor of excessively narrow teaching.

Having a congregation that feels confident in the numerous Bible precepts that impact our culture for good would have a high probability of producing “joy.” 


Anonymous said...

Here you go to start it off:

The Church’s mission, directed to all men and women of good will, is based on the transformative power of the Gospel. The Gospel is Good News filled with contagious joy, for it contains and offers new life: the life of the Risen Christ who, by bestowing his life-giving Spirit, becomes for us the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). He is the Way who invites us to follow him with confidence and courage. In following Jesus as our Way, we experience Truth and receive his Life, which is fullness of communion with God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. That life sets us free from every kind of selfishness, and is a source of creativity in love. - Pope Francis

Gerardo Moochie said...

I agree with everything "Anonymous" said.

Lest anyone miss the point of the blog, 90% of the people who attend church already know this and have heard it over and over 50 times a year. They need to at least occasionally hear different messages, of which the Bible has tons to give. Could church attendance be declining in part because of the repetition of the same message over and over? Is there no need for other messages that the Bible gives us that target many of the social and cultural ills of our nation, communities and families?

No, this is not an "all or nothing" wish. If "the gospel" as Anonymous has quoted is given 95% of the time and everything else 5% of the time, why can't the mix be 75%/25% or 50%/50%?

Seems the status quo folks wish the repetition to stay exactly as it is.

Gerardo Moochie said...

Concerning the "Pope Francis" quote, is this the same "Pope Francis" who was quoted, without rebuttal, that there is no hell? Is this the same Pope who some local priests have called a "Marxist?" It's not that I disagree with Anonymous's quote, but the source (Francis) has been less than orthodox and dedicated to facts and truth.