Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Simple Call In A Complex World

When you get right down to it, the call of God on those of us who are asked into full-time vocational service, is pretty simple. When you stop and think about it, like Ezekiel, sometimes we are called to preach to cemetery-like people (valley of dry bones), and sometimes we are called to preach in a world that is not going to listen to us unless we somehow embellish the message (see Isaiah 6). We were never promised that we would spell-bind people with our superior oratory so that they would come flocking to us like they did Billy Graham, who made a career out of preaching a simple gospel message, by the way. We were never promised we would always be in places (suburban cities with multitudes of people) where the numbers would make us look good and we could compose a superior resume.

Most of us have found that God put us in places where it was hard to get people to respond and where they pretty well had their minds made up before we ever got there about how much time they were going to give to the church activities we design for them. More of us identify more with Ezekiel and Isaiah than with Billy Graham. After all, Graham did not have to put up with those deacons that we had to answer to each month. More of us identify with fired coaches than with those million dollar winners in the big schools.

Seventy percent of the churches in the BGCT, for instance, run less than 100 in worship each week. Only a small handful of churches in our denomination can be viewed as mega churches, and every pastor dreams that he will one day be in such a church.

But, back to my opening sentence. When you get right down to it, the call of God on those of us who are asked into full-time vocational service, is pretty simple. Wherever we are the message is the same; "Eternity is coming. Each of us will die. Only those who have accepted Jesus as Savior will live eternally with Him in heaven. Will you accept Him today?" Whatever else you may be preaching is virtually irrelevant. In the final analysis, that should be the sum and substance of every sermon we preach. Whatever path you take to get to that proposition, that is the message and proposition we have been called to deliver.

The message of the cross, resurrection, and coming again of our Lord Jesus is becoming far too obscured in present day preaching. Every sermon I listen to these days I look for how that message is being delivered. Now—there are lots of ways of getting to that message, and many scriptures on which we preach that will propel us toward that message. The truth is, either by design or by accident, too many sermons never get there. There is a lot of preaching today about how God deals with lonely people, hurting people, confused people. While it is true that God does care for them, the character of His caring is that He wants them to enjoy the prospect of eternal life with Him.

Oh, I know there are a lot of sermonic themes that are valid and helpful. Many in the small churches are preaching to people who have been saved for many years and a message of salvation by grace seems wasted on them. What they need is a message that will challenge them to get off their duffs and talk about Jesus with their friends. And many of them need messages of encouragement, because they despair about their church appearing to slowly die. I know all that. But I also know that God never allows His message to go to waste. If each of your sermons includes information for how people to come to Jesus, perhaps people would be encouraged to bring someone to hear that. If people knew that anyone they brought to church would hear the gospel, perhaps they would be inclined to bring someone.

I know all the reasons why we preach they way we do. I have done it for years. But, I also know what we were called to do when God called us to preach His Word. I sincerely believe we were called to a gospel message and that we allow too many sermons to go by without including the gospel message. When we get caught up in the psychological complexities of the world into which we were called to preach, and forget what we were called to do, we are being less than true to our call.


Sandi said...

Thanks, Ken, for being an example of keeping the main thing, the main thing. I heard the gospel for the first time at the age of fifteen - and responded immediately, trusting Christ for eternal life. I wanted to hear, needed to hear, and was surrounded with friends who knew Him and didn't share Him with me! If that could have happened to me over forty years ago, to get halfway through high school without hearing the gospel, how much more today?

Vivian said...
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