We all know of churches which have sought to make themselves “relevant”. Whenever you hear about this happening, you should run for your lives. Really. The problem is, in the attempt to be cool, trendy and with it, they make themselves anything but a New Testament church.
In fact, they almost always shrink the gospel if not eradicate it altogether in the process. We have far too many examples of this, and it is as heartbreaking as it is now familiar. One church after another caves in to the spirit of the age, and simply redefines itself in terms of that which is acceptable to mere worldlings. These churches and church leaders think they can do things better than God.
They think they can remake the gospel message in their own image. But that is simply called idolatry. Yet it happens all the time. Consider the latest example which has just been brought to light. Here is how one write-up about this trendy American pastor and church goes:
“A minister in Oregon has launched a sermon series entitled ‘Church S*cks,’ and is announcing seeker-friendly changes to his Sunday services, as a way to attract people who dislike church. Tony Crank, who leads One Love Church in Eugene, claims that churches talk too much about sin, and are not welcoming enough to visitors.
“‘Some churches have become the kind of place where you point the finger, and you condemn and rebuke and you’re really quick to do it,’ he told television station KVAL. ‘And so, I think that is definitely lending itself to people not wanting anything to do with church and thinking church s*cks!’
“Crank says that he doesn’t want to be considered a preacher, because he does not agree with preaching at people. He states he’d rather be known as only a pastor, and doesn’t want to ‘waste your time’ on Sundays. ‘I just like to have a conversation with everyone, just like I do at the coffee shop if we were talking one on one,’ he told KTMR.
“This past Sunday, Crank shared a story about how his dog urinated on his mother when she came for a visit. He tied the story into his belief that churches are too quick to make people feel bad about their sins. Crank also used the phrase ‘Don’t get your panties in a bunch’ when speaking to the congregation.
“One Love Church mailed out hundreds of flyers this month to homes throughout Lane County to announce the series. Crank has also made adjustments to the Sunday services, as sermons will now be kept short to thirty minutes and secular music will be sung at times to accompany the messages, instead of solely worship and hymns. Songs may include those recorded by Katy Perry, known for her hit pro-lesbian song, I Kissed a Girl, and Maroon 5, known for their song Doin’ Dirt.”
So there you go folks: the really cool and really hip church. The trouble is, even second-rate pagan religions can do things much better than this. Playing Kate Perry songs and throwing around some racy language is not exactly going to bring in the masses. Indeed, I suspect it would just drive people away – in droves.
What a joke. And of course more important than this moonbattery is the fact that the very heart of the gospel has been ripped out and cast asunder. Without the preaching of sin we have no gospel – none whatsoever. Everything about the biblical gospel hinges on the reality of sin.
This is the message of the New Testament throughout – indeed, of the entire Bible. Simply consider the opening chapters of the New Testament. Immediately we are faced with the reality of sin. The first thing we read about John the Baptist is this:
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’” (Matt 3:1-2). The passage continues: “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (vv. 5-6).
And what is the first thing we find said about Jesus? “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt 4:17). And in Matt 5-7 in the Sermon on the Mount he spends much of his time talking about sins. He not only talks about murder, but he says hating your brother is even sinful. He discusses not just adultery, but condemns lustful looks as sinful as well.
Sin, and the need for repentance, is of course at the very heart of the message of Jesus. And the disciples all preached the same message as well. The truth is, there is no Christian gospel if we do not first preach about sin and the need for repentance.
Without this fundamental starting place to the gospel message, none of the rest of it makes any sense. Indeed, go back to the first chapter in Matthew. There we read about the birth and naming of Jesus. In Matthew 1:21 we read this: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
The very reason Jesus left heaven, the very rationale for the incarnation, the very purpose of his coming to planet earth, is to deal with our sin problem. That is why he came, and that is the entire basis for his mission on earth. He came to save sinners.
This is stated throughout the New Testament. As Paul put it in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” So without the concept of sin, the entire biblical narrative falls to pieces.
It is absolutely crucial that people be made aware of the fact that they are sinners who are alienated from God, and headed for a lost eternity. Unless we are fully aware of our dire and deadly condition, the good news of the gospel makes no sense at all.
Yes the grace of God is great. Yes his love is fantastic. But these attributes of God make sense only in light of our extreme predicament. We are sinners upon whom the wrath of God is resting heavily. And we cannot undo this weight of sin and guilt, and our due punishment.
That is exactly why Jesus came. Thus there can be no good news of the gospel until we first hear the bad news of the gospel. And it must always be in that order. No wonder Francis Schaeffer once rightly said, “If I had one hour with every man, I would spend the first 45 minutes talking to them about God’s law, and the last 15 minutes talking about His great salvation.”
So any church that thinks it can become trendy and relevant by not focusing on sin is simply deluding itself. It has already moved itself outside of the gospel, and is instead simply preaching fashionable worldly mush. And it will do no one any good.
Indeed, such a truncated and biblically anaemic gospel will simply send any listeners to the very depths of hell. It is not a gospel at all but a false gospel, formulated in the pits of hell, and designed to drag as many people there as possible.
The desire to be cool, hip and relevant is certainly not being promoted and fomented by God, but comes from the enemy himself. It is the old, old story of the true gospel that people desperately need to hear, not some new-fangled novelties which are but half-baked versions of what the world has to offer. Let me conclude with some remarks by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Sermon on the Mount:
“What is it that thus makes the Christian a special person? What is it that accounts for this uniqueness? What makes him do more than others? It is his whole outlook on sin. The Christian man has seen himself as utterly hopeless and condemned; he has seen himself as a man who is utterly guilty before God and who has no claim whatsoever on His love. He has seen himself as an enemy of God and an outsider. And then he has seen and understood something about the free grace of God in Jesus Christ. He has seen God sending His only begotten Son into the world, and not only that, sending Him even to the death of the cross for him, the rebel, the vile and guilty sinner. God did not turn His back on him. He went beyond that. The Christian knows that all this happened for him, and it has changed his whole attitude towards God and to his fellow men. He has been forgiven when he did not deserve it.”