7 Here is a sample of John’s preaching to the crowds that came for baptism: “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming judgment? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say, ‘We’re safe – we’re the descendants of Abraham.’ That proves nothing. God can change these stones here into children of Abraham. 9 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
Can you imagine words like this being preached today?
I’m not sure about your world, but in mine I’ve been so busy trying to figure out how to deliver the gospel message in a “relevant” and “edgy” way; a way that won’t “offend” or “turn off” those who are hearing it for the first time.
Consider the context in this sample of John’s preaching we’re given. Jesus had yet to start his public ministry – so very few (if any) had heard the gospel. So – everyone can be considered a “seeker.” Yet, John is out there with “fire and brimstone”, not holding back, telling people God’s ax of judgement is poised, ready to sever the roots of any who do not produce good fruit. Hardly a “seeker-sensitive” service, I’d say.
Then, the questions to John:
10 The crowd asked, “What should we do?” 11 John replied, “If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” 12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 “Show your honesty,” he replied. “Make sure you collect no more taxes than the Roman government requires you to.” 14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money, and don’t accuse people of things you know they didn’t do. And be content with your pay.”
No fancy story, no 3-point sermon with clever words that all begin with the letter “p”, no worship songs to “soften their hearts and prepare them to receive the sermon”, no video clips of secular movies “designed to tie in a person’s real-world experiences and give them a handle to hold so they can relate to what’s being said”.
Just plain, honest truth.
I think people just want the truth.
Do you remember last October when Willow Creek Church rocked the entire “seeker-sensitive” movement when they announced that they had been wrong in their approach? Pastor Bill Hybles issued this statement: “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have … taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”
Just plain, honest truth.
Where is our voice in the wilderness today? Who will tell people they need to stop sinning – plain and simple. Who will tell them they need to read their Bible and become disciplined to learn God’s Word? Where will our disciples come from? How will we tell the truth?
By the way, I do think that making worship services relevant and utilizing video and other tools to get the point across is very effective and should be pursued with excellence. However, God is impressing upon me the responsibility we have as church leaders to tell the truth – not some watered-down, feel-good, mamby-pamby gospel – the truth!
What is God telling you?