Churches try all sorts of ways to attract people to their services. Some focus heavily on music and large scale productions while others have turned to large youth oriented carnivals and rallies. Still others spend large amounts on advertising and market research. Of course many still rely on the ICP’s (incredibly corny phrases) posted on the sign out front. But when the music stops and the carnivals close, have any been brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus?
Only God knows the precise number of those who are saved and those who are lost. But it sure seems that we are not gaining any ground. In 2004, the Barna group reported that 34% of American adults are unchurched, that is, they have not attended a religious service, except for a holiday or special event like a wedding or funeral, in at least 6 months. That was a 92% increase from 1991. In 2010 some researchers estimate the ranks of the unchurched were growing by 1 million every year.
Clearly, something is not working.
As we explore this question of why we are losing more and more souls, we can identify some Biblical landmarks to help us gain some understanding and possible right the ship before it sinks completely.
- Some will be lost. Indeed, most adults will choose lives of rebellion ().
- Salvation is in Jesus only. ().
- The Bible, only, points us to that salvation and is true (; ).
- The message of salvation is entrusted to men (; ; ; ).
- We are to preach all of God’s word (; ; ).
- That word is powerful (; ).
Based upon the forgoing 6 points, am I wrong to conclude that we are not preaching the word in its totality and in its power?
There seems to be a gross imbalance in preaching today. In an effort to attract and not to discourage, we preachers, me included, like to preach feel good sermons. We want people to leave the services feeling good so that they will come back next week for another shot of encouragement.
There’s a problem with that.
I have never in my life gone to the doctor for encouragement. I go when something is wrong and I need to be fixed. Sometimes his words are encouraging. Sometimes they are strong, harsh and even painful. I still return, and maybe even more so, when his words are tough.
Preachers must talk about sin.
Preachers must talk about repentance or change.
Preachers must talk about hell and consequences.
If we do not then we do not preach the “whole counsel” of God. If we do not, we show our lack of faith in the power of the word to change men and save souls. If we do not, we suggest that only part of the Scriptures are powerful. We cheat our hearers and give them false hope so we can build our attendance numbers. That’s eternally wrong. We can do better.
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13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (ESV)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (ESV)
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (ESV)
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (ESV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (ESV)
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (ESV)
27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (ESV)
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (ESV)
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (ESV)
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (ESV)