A friend asks an interesting question, “How can someone go to a church for this long and still not become a Christian? He’s heard the gospel for so long.” Just to give some background, this church he’s talking about is his home church where the preacher hardly ever stays with the text when he preaches and he’s done it for years.
My initial challenging question to him is, “What is ‘gospel’?” In many of our congregations, the gospel follows the familiar plot of “believe in Jesus, get a better life, and go to heaven.” At best, this is a half-truth. At worst, this is a myth. If my friend’s friend has been going to church for years and hearing only this, no wonder he can’t believe. The fact is, many pulpits work this half-true plot into almost every single sermon, no matter the sermon is about creation or new heaven and new earth. The end result is a kind of tired and cliché sermon for years. How can anyone believe in something so irrelevant?
My encouragement to all those who preach out there is this. If you want people to understand the faith in a holistic manner, then you need to preach as if YOU understand the faith in a holistic manner. This means that we have to do our homework and understand what scripture really says instead of inserting what we want it to say. This means that we’ll have to snap out of our comfort zone in our old-fashion exegesis and dive into areas we don’t really enjoy or feel comfortable with. While the gospel can be simple for salvation, it can also be complex. Human beings are complex. We simply can’t assume that the same plot impacts every listener the same way. Different and varied plots of the Bible have something for everyone. If we learn to communication that variation, I bet both believers and unbelievers in the congregation will learn to appreciate the Bible much more. In other words, stop preaching the “gospel” already, and replace it with the real thing!