Preaching Jesus vs. Pleasing People

(c) 2008, The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.
(This pamphlet is free, but please look at our web
site for other publications: www.ftstl.com)

Luther Preaching the Gospel

“For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved
it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

 

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Suppose you visit a church.  The sermon is about how to succeed in life.  Point one is to be kind to yourself, for Jesus said that we must love our neighbors “as ourselves.”  It is negative not to love ourselves.  Point two is to think of positive thoughts, for how can you achieve success with negativism?  Thus, believe in yourself.  Point three is to follow three easy steps to financial success.[1] After all, God wants to bless His children, doesn’t He?

If someone who knew nothing about Christianity were to visit this church a dozen times, hearing basically the same things, would he understand what Christianity is all about? Does this sort of teaching help us to know Christ?

Now suppose you enter a Mosque.  You hear: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”  You attend a dozen times, and always hear that creed and the Koran explained.  Would you know what Islam is about?

What is wrong with this picture?  Can we win spiritual battles with materialistic mantras while Islam teaches their people the essence of their faith?

At the so-called Christian church mentioned above, there is no mention of sin, no mention of the Triune God, no mention of the Incarnation, no mention of the death of Christ on the Cross for our sins, no mention of His bodily resurrection or ascension, no mention of the Bible as the Triune God’s infallible revelation of Himself, indeed, no mention of anything that is distinctively Christian.  At too many local churches, the Bible has been turned into a popular psychological manual, and Christ-centered preaching has been traded for motivational pep-talks designed for self-improvement.  God may not be glorified, but worshipers go home happy, and that seems to be all that matters.

We are told that people do not want to hear about sin, judgment, and the crucifixion, but are the congregation’s preferences relevant?  Has the Church in the past taken its message from the people’s desires or from God’s infallible Word, the Bible?  Is the pulpit determined by the pew or the pew by the pulpit?  Let us consider a few reasons why preaching must be focused on the message of the Church and of God’s Gospel as revealed in the Bible. Continue reading