Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pulpit Evangelism

Interesting debate from the intellectuals gathered around Blogotional's contention that preaching is about maturing a flock and not evangalizing.

Interesting might not be the best description. Disconcerting is more appropriate.

I'm neither a scholar nor a professional minister, so perhaps that's why I have a hard time understanding how maturing the flock is somehow a detour or deviation from the plain message of what Christ did on the cross. I cannot think of a single message that does not somehow relate back to the promise of Jesus, the realization of Jesus in the flesh, and the fullfilment of it all in Jesus' death and ressurection.

How is that popular authors like Jerry Cook and Steve Sjogren can be so influential as modern-day thinkers and methodologists while having such a great influence as evangelists in their own congregations? It is because they always remain focused on the main and plain.

Think of any Christian sermon a preacher might give, putting weight into the maturity of the material, and consider how it ultimately relates to the Gospel message:

Message: Gifts of the spirit, determining gifts, fostering gifts, using gifts
Bottom line: Gifts are the tools of the church to minister to each other and to hold revelation of God's power to those not yet saved.

Message: Prayer and fasting
Bottom line: Both are needed for discernment to see what God is doing today, which is to discern how God is revealing Himself to the world right now, where He's doing it, and what He's requiring of you.

Message: Holiness, obedience, faith
Bottom line: No matter how far you work your way into Hebrews, it is impossible to avoid the message of the cross in relating how holiness is only achieved by submitting to the power of the cross. It is not by our works but by the work that God does in us. It begins at the moment we give in to His will by accepting Christ.

I'm not out to criticize anyone, but I do not believe Paul was arguing in favor of moving beyond the simple understanding of the cross by moving away from it. The message of the Cross by any name is the underpinning to all Christian messages. Maturation may be best defined as a continually deepened understanding of the most plain and simple precepts of our faith. As the Spirit writes His law on our hearts, He creates an abiding faith, a joyful contentment that does not want, a yearning for more of God and less of our own flesh.

As I mature, going on 17 years of Christian adulthood, I find I yearn more and more that basic meal of bread and wine. It is not that I do not know that message or that I need to be saved again, but that my journey into God's understanding continually leads me back to this wisdom:

It all leads back to the Cross.

I suggest anyone who thinks this is not the very basis for every Christian message you could possibly give from the pulpit might be missing an important ingredient in their education. You do not have to abandon the flock to grow it, nor do you have to obsess over the flock to keep it. I believe God made it all simple enough, even though we sometimes think we need tosegment and micromanage what he's already perfectly organized.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. Curious, though. How do you contrast this current position with your previous post that remarks on your lack of evangelistic zeal?

Gaddabout said...

Hey! Glad someone weighed in! Why the anonymous tag, though?

I believe the two positions to be in harmony. In fact, this post grew out of the last post. Short of a true and purposeful calling to the office of evangelist, I believe evangelism is the natural outlay of a Christian's daily walk. It is delivered in the flow and fed by the spirit -- both in those who are inspired to seek and those who are inspired to speak on God's behalf.

I do not feel inspired to get up on Mars Hill to reason with the pagans. That is not in my gifting nor my personality, although I would gladly do it if God asked me without the Jonah response. When I tried to do it as a young Christian, I appeared to do more damage than I helped advance the Kingdom of God. God just does not seem to put His words in my mouth in that manner.

On the other hand, I am wholly comfortable talking about my faith with non-Christians in the manner I discuss it with brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not set out to evangelize. I only intend to lead a transparent life, constantly revealing what God has done in me and what he is doing in me. Honestly, I haven't met many people willing to have that kind of transparency, either, but I don't remember what it was like to live otherwise. I freely talk about often times heavy theological issues in my newsroom. The other day I got to explain the glossalia phenomenon to an agnostic, the varying opinions on it in church, and two types of intepretations on what defines "speaking in tongues." This led to a discussion about Christ and my belief of His revelatory power today. I didn't change his mind, but other topics are now on the table because I have this co-workers implicit trust.

To correlate, I believe everything about our faith -- our theology, our methodology, our very lives -- should point to the one thing that seperates us from all other religions: Jesus. You don't have to make a concious attempt to evangelize if the immutable truth of Christ is the grid by which all things are interpretated. When you do that, evangelism becomes an intuitive rather than a cognitive pursuit. I believe it can be a more powerful form because the implication is you are being led by the Spirit with a discernment about what God is already doing.

Broken Messenger said...

Matt,

Great post! I've tossed you some comments and a link from my site. Blessings to you....

Brad

Milton Stanley said...

Well said. I'll be linking to your post this evening. Peace.

Mick Porter said...

I totally agree on the need for Christ-centred preaching in all things - couldn't agree more that "I do not believe Paul was arguing in favor of moving beyond the simple understanding of the cross by moving away from it".

However, this is in many ways the issue. I hear sermons on the radio etc. that just don't capture the redemptive message and apply it to anyone, mature or immature. And Blogotional's concerns about mature Christians' needs not being met in preaching must still be relevant.

I have linked back to your post.

Gaddabout said...

My childhood was spent in a church that had no understanding of redemption. It was a little like a church Peter might have planted -- before the ressurected Jesus restored him. Lots of altar calls, not much equipping of the saints. The people suffered.

I think there's a big difference between an evangelistic message and meeting the needs of your church from the pulpit. Surely, as a pastor, you start with the later -- but with the full understanding all power for service, all redemption, all gifts, all love ... the source of all of it is the cross. I believe if that understanding comes across while you are equipping the saints, there is an implicit evangelistic message in every sermon.

More on my POV on a previous post: http://gaddabout.blogspot.com/2005/05/naturally-supernatural.html

John Schroeder said...

The discussion continues. Ihave linked to it here.

Milton Stanley said...

I linked to your post one more time today. Peace.