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 (Matthew 7:13-14).
- Salvation is in Jesus only. (John 14:6).
- The Bible, only, points us to that salvation and is true (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16).
- The message of salvation is entrusted to men (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 5:18).
- We are to preach all of God’s word (Acts 20:27; Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 4:2).
- That word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 55:11).
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.