Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ok…admit it…you’ve glamorized a dynamic and gifted preacher before and you’ll do it again. We’ve also done it with Christian music groups and artist. Of course we can meet with God anywhere and we don’t need the Gaither’s help to meet with Him, but yet so many of you (my own mother!) would be excited for the opportunity to go to one of their Homecoming Concerts. The rest of you would love to see Jeremy Camp or Third Day or whoever. For me…I’d love to go hear RC Sproul (more or less old school Reformed) or Mark Driscoll (new school Reformed) preach if I learned they were in the area for special meetings. As all of the legions of faithful Semper Reformanda readers know…my pastor friend Jeremy and I attempted to help a guy drive a moving van out to Seattle with the hopes of catching all six worship gatherings at Mars Hill. We wanted to worship, learn from them and just hang out together. But I wanted to meet Mark Driscoll and I wanted more than to just shake his hand. I was really hoping to talk with him for a few minutes and thank him for providing all the teaching and materials for free. At one point Jeremy said he thought he could possibly wiggle our way into a lunch…with one of Driscoll’s associate pastors. I just smiled and said “oh, ok…yeah…that would be cool…” but in my mind only one word came to mind, “yippee”. I didn’t want to meet an associate at Mars Hill, man, I wanted to meet with Mark Driscoll. He’s a hero of mine!

Every pastors I run around with always discuss with one another who will be the featured preachers at various events. If you’ve ever run on the wild side with the Hells Angels…errr…I mean…Southern Baptists…you’ll know that when we put on a teaching conference it’s gonna be an ALL DAY THING. Twenty hours of preaching and teaching, then sleep for three…get up, shower, eat your free breakfast somewhere and get twenty more hours of teaching and preaching…then you drive home. We Southern Baptists want to make sure people get their monies worth at our conferences. So if you’re from the old school you prove your dedication to the cause and endure (errr…I mean enjoy) it all. But if you are like me, one of these young guys with pitiful attention spans…you can only handle about fifteen hours of preaching in one day. So my point is…the group I run with will look at the promotional material and pick which preachers we want to hear, which preachers we REALLY want to hear and which ones have names that don’t ring a bell (those are the ones which get missed).

I don’t care who you are…if you desire to walk closely with Jesus...regardless if you are an old school fundamentalist or a new school missional emerging type…you have hero preachers that thrill you…and you’ll go out of your way to hear them if you have the chance.

Beware…the rest of this article contains strong and passionate language.

Now just imagine if your friend called you up and told you about a certain dynamic preacher who’s in town and convinced you to join them in hearing him. Think about finding your way to a “good seat” and sitting down. Then, without any “worship” (please hear my sarcasm) an angry man charges before the crowd and begins to yell with angst:

“YOU VICIOUS PERVERTS! YOU JACK ASSES! YOU GOD HATING LIARS! WHY ARE YOU HERE? WHO TOLD YOU TO COME HERE? YOU ALL SHOULD HIDE YOURSELF IN THE PITS OF HELL BECAUSE YOU’RE DISGUSTING TO ALMIGHTY GOD! DISGUSTING! EVERYONE OF YOU! YOU’RE DISGUSTING! GOD HATES YOU! ESPECIALLY YOU SELF RIGHTEOUS ONES, YOU’RE THE MOST FILTHY OF ALL! YOU’RE NOT PITIFUL…YOU’RE FILTHY! YOU’VE CLOTHED YOURSELVES IN USED MAXI-PADS AND YET YOU’RE PROUD OF YOURSELVES?! YOU FILTHY BUNCH OF FOOLS! WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE? YOU’RE NOT READY TO REPENT, YOU’RE HERE BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN THOSE WHO ARE NOT HERE! GO TO HELL IF YOU’RE NOT WILLING TO REPENT!!! GET OUT OF HERE, YOU’RE FULL OF VILE AND POISON AND YOU’RE ALL UNTRUSTWORTY! YOU ARE ALL EVIL AND GOD KNOWS IT! HE’S COMING TO JUDGE YOU! THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE MIRACULOUSLY WILING TO REPENT AND SUBMIT YOURSELF TO THE WILL OF GOD MAY STAY…THE REST GET OUT AND GO TO STRAIGHT TO HELL WHERE YOU BELONG!”

What do you think would happen at that point? Of course, most of the pastors would be cringing, wincing and biting their nails. Some would be shivering and sucking their thumbs in the fetal position under the pews. This is not seeker sensitivity, this is not what the experts say to do! We’re supposed to be slick and cool and calm. We’re supposed to gain the trust of people by showing them how the Bible will help them have a nice productive life. We’re supposed to wear Hawaiian shirts with tan kakis, or at least have a super sweet, harmless southern accent with an attractive twinkle in our eye. We’re supposed to be happy and nice…we’re supposed to be discussion leaders, not thundering preachers of Divine Judgment. And we certainly don’t want people to think God hates them and is totally disgusted with them, for crying out loud! We’re supposed to have twenty five minutes for a PowerPoint, a poem, a small passage or two, three simple application points and a then a prayer, all of which should be building our self esteem and then we all clock out at noon. Sadly, many pastors would not “get it” I’m afraid.

Despite what the giga-church pastors now say about communicating with “seekers”…there where times in Scripture when the man of God would in passion, literally, become unglued and would tear CROWDS of both “seekers” and religious piety apart. Down would come the pride, arrogance and perversion as the inspired preacher would strip away at them. The power and conviction of the Holy Spirit would be unleashed and a deluge of Divine wrath would pour forth causing both repentance and offense at the same time. Grace, forgiveness and then peace would follow the repentant…anger and bitterness would follow the unrepentant. In fact, such unglued prophets often times breathed their last at the bottom of a pile of large jagged rocks.

Of course these thundering messages of condemnation are not the only messages God has for humanity. And I’m not suggesting week in and week out your pastor deliver such messages (however, a solid month of steady hellfire, wrath and judgment behind the pulpit followed by a week of called fasting and then a Sacred Assembly would do all our churches good I’m sure). I’m simply pointing out the fact that such preaching, Biblically speaking, was not uncommon and yet it is extremely uncommon today.

We think the reason our churches are dying (first spiritually…then numerically and lastly financially) has to do with the music or the programs. Don't get me wrong, I’m into cool music and I wish both The Epicenter and Coram Deo will someday each have a cool slide for the kids to slide into their classrooms in. If your church is dying that is not likely the problem...it may be a symptom...but music is not the problem. The problem is that the last generation to ever hear such preaching on any kind of regular basis is dying off…an entire generation has come up, raised kids and is about enter retirement (the boomers) who rarely if ever had their spiritual asses beat like this (and are the ones leading our churches btw). God has been presented to that generation (for reasons which I simply do not understand) as a benign, toothless grandfather up in the clouds who's just happy if we're happy. If that generation spoke of “God” or “Jesus” to my generation at all…that’s the picture of Him we got, collectively. God is like Santa Claus…but even somehow nicer (and far less dangerous if you can believe that!). And the more we keep hawking these false pictures of Jesus around the more rapid our churches perish…and we don’t get it. We’re mesmerized by blind guides, foolish experts and unsubmissive leadership.

We don’t preach the Bible because we don’t trust the Bible and we don’t trust God to save sinners either…we’re convinced that we need to help the cause, soften the message and show people that Jesus is a lovable, harmless little fuzz-ball that just longs to be “accepted” by us. We don’t believe we’re preaching the wrong things, no, we just believe we need to preach more of what we are preaching…we just haven’t become contemporary or catchy enough with the “topics”. So we rearrange the deck chairs, play newer songs, ditch the ties and dresses…put a projector screen up…smile…and continue lose the power and anointing…and we continue to die. The lampstands are long gone in many churches...and nobody notices. We're dull of hearing!

I’m preaching through the life of Jesus Christ at The Epicenter by taking all the four Gospels and preaching the whole story in a chronological order. Those of you who join us are going to learn about a prophet of God named John. John preached brutal messages similar to the example I gave above. He would not ever, EVER, be invited to preach at any conference and they wouldn’t sell his books at our Christian bookstores. But his message was full of power and prepared the way for the Messiah…the Savior. Let’s get serious this week as we study this passage in the Gospel according to Luke.

Those of you not part of our church family, I will attempt to have the audio up on Semper Reformanda by Tuesday. What I hope to do is tie the blog here in with the preaching on Sunday. So every week I’ll have the introduction for the message and then we can interact with that…and then we can interact with the sermon itself in the comment section once it’s up.

5 comments:

Naomi said...

AAAAAAA---MEN! That was good Gary. I especially enjoy clicking on the links to see hilarious pictures.

Seriously though, good blog. Churches, Pastors, Christians need to get real, boldly proclaim the truth, and let God do the work.

Zac said...

Sounds interesting, Gary. Our differences aside, we certainly agree that we should not fear him which can kill the body, but Him who is able to cast both body and soul into Gehenna. I wonder, though, whether there may have have been in generations before God-as-toothless-grandfather a tendency to describe God in terms of child-abusing-rageaholic-stepfather. I'm certain you agree that both images are not what we find in the writings of the Prophets and Apostles. I'm all for mentioning the Divine Wrath and Judgment-- we should fear this and it should cause us to weep for our sins, and fall on our faces before God. Of course, I think of this as more than a recruiting technique or the recipe of a good sermon, but a way of life for Christians who are struggling to deny themselves and take up the Cross, which is the only way to salvation. Meditating upon the wrath and just sentence pronounced upon sinners is strong medicine which helps us to forsake the pride of the pharisee and obtain the publican's humility, clinging to the Savior's feet.

irreverend fox said...

Zac,

I read your comment several times...while I do understand we load some of the jargon with different understandings...yet...I more or less agree with each your points! We're doing great old friend!

Oh Zac...happy anniversary! lol...I met you and your lovely wife Arlie at the July 4th fireworks extravaganza of our favorite millionaires house! Remember? That might have been on July 4th...so...HAPPY ANNIVERSARY YOU WILD AND CRAZY EASTERN ORTHODOX GUY!

To all…what does it say about our condition when the comment “God hates you” is shocking and the comment “God loves you” is not?

Zac said...

Yes! I had forgotten that was our first meeting! Did you guys go this year? We just hung out and continued our unpacking process in the new place.

irreverend fox said...

hey Zac...no we didn't. we just got in early on the fourth and listened to the natives hoot and holler all night long as they ignited various forms of gunpowder into the morning!