Why do we insist on complicating things or dressing things up to the point they are almost unrecognizable? Countless churches have already jumped on the sermon series bandwagon, pastors having forgotten the mantras of their mothers so many years ago: “If everybody else jumps off of a sermon series, are you going to jump too?“
Or something like that.
And don’t think I’m against them, because I’m not. A good series every now and then adds spice to a worship service. I’m just amazed at how many people use the same ones that some of their fellow pastors are using (can you say canned?) with the same points?
But I digress. I understand preachers are competing with a society that lives and dies by the latest fad, the most up-to-date smart phone, the quickest podcast, and has developed a soundbite mentality. And I know sermon series, contemporary services, movie clips,and increasingly dramatic methods of presentation are almost a necessity these days. I’m knee deep in a similar service myself and loving almost every minute of it.
But sometimes in the excitement and the drive to both reach more people and keep the church relevant (THERE’S a topic for a blog post), we forget the main thing:
The message of the gospel is simple.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. In other words, God loves you so much he sent his son to die for you.
And the best way I’ve found to reach people is simple honesty. Putting whatever the message is in its simplest terms. As a military friend said to me after he cussed out the person who rear-ended his car, “Plain talk is easy to understand. Now he understands he should have been paying attention.”
So you can imagine how stunned I was to hear in the middle of a sermon recently that some people have a food insufficiency. Or when I read articles about rethinking heaven and re-imagining Jesus.
No. It’s not a food insufficiency. There are people who are hungry and they don’t have enough to eat. That’s a fact. Which image paints a true picture, someone who has an insufficiency, or someone who is hungry? And heaven is simply what it is…not whatever concept we come up with that might make the idea a little more palatable to today’s man or woman. If people see heaven as little more than a reward for following Jesus, maybe it is because we have not adequately shown that the reward comes in the following, not from a heavenly carrot dangled in front of us. And the Jesus who died and rose again is Jesus enough. You can’t improve on that. And if how he lived, how he died, and the fact that he rose again on the third day does not fit with your way of thinking, it is not Jesus who needs to be viewed in a different light.
Such thinking isn’t new, but it seems to be escalating. And I think the problem is a desire to make the message more palatable instead of making it more understandable. We’re afraid of offending people. We’re afraid society will label us as harsh, insensitive, or tell us we’re wrong. In short, we’ve come to the point that the church now lets society dictate the message.
And that’s dangerous.
And that kind of thinking needs to be reimagined.
Because the message is what it is. Jesus is who he is. And there are people out there who have no homes, no food, no family, no friends, no resources, and no hope. Those people do not have an insufficiency. They are people who need.
They need us.
Not a rethought version of what we could have been.