There is an old saying that when the word of God is preached, a person is either converted or he gets angry. When Jesus Christ spoke, He inspired either the deepest devotion or the hottest anger from those who listened.
Many in the modern church these days think they can change this. They are embarrassed by what Paul called “the offense of the cross.”
The spirit of the so-called “Church Growth Movement” has infected people across denominational lines – in pulpits, classrooms and conferences. The assumption is that people are not turning to God in record numbers because we are not packaging the product properly. So surveys are taken of backslidden “baby-boomers” and younger, church-shopping “Gen-Xers” to find out why they no longer have an appetite for the Bread of Life.
The surveys whine about traditional worship, lack of day care, not enough entertainment. Some are honest enough to get the dead fish out onto the table: The commandments of God are too strict. The preacher refuses to rewrite the Bible or negotiate with sin. Or they can’t get past all those hypocrites in the church long enough to talk to God about their own sins. The offense of the cross is that we are great sinners and therefore need this great Savior. To hear that Jesus is the “Friend of sinners” is an infinite comfort to some. It is the ultimate insult to those who want to save themselves.
So maybe the prophet Elijah should have struck a compromise with Ahab and Jezebel, started a therapy group for uptight souls who just couldn’t cozy up to the alternate lifestyle of Baal worship (like those uptight souls who can’t cozy up to gay marriage). Maybe John the Baptist could have kept his head if he had been less judgmental about Herod’s sleazy affair with his brother’s wife. If only Stephen hadn’t told the Jewish leaders that they were stiff-necked and resisting the Holy Ghost – maybe he wouldn’t have died under a storm of stones. Would the ministry of Jesus have gone better if He had used kinder and gentler words to win friends and influence people?
No church worthy of the name Christian will dare to change the raw reality of two rules. Rule number one: When the word of God is preached, some will, by God’s grace alone, be converted; others, by their own fault, will become angry. Rule number two: Honest Christians and their pastors cannot change rule number one – no matter how many marketing strategies they use.
Many maintain that the world has changed too much – that Christ cannot be to us what He was to people long ago, that He can no longer snap the chains that bind our souls, nor cool the fevered hearts and minds of those who have lost their grip, that He can no longer inspire the faith, love, courage and self-less giving that He once did. Christ is not worried about all these changes in a world stampeding toward judgment. What Christ was to Abraham, David, Paul, Luther and your grandparents, He still IS to you and me. Thank God we still encounter this changeless Christ in an unchanging gospel!