Is the Gospel Enough?

Written January 24, 2011.

Is the gospel enough? Is it? Why then do we distort its simplicity by accessorizing it with our own traditions and doctrines? We have good intentions: filling our church building and making people feel good about themselves and secure in their salvation. But even the best intentions sometimes lead others astray. We advertise the church as a place where you can come with your head held high; you won’t be judged and you won’t be made to feel uncomfortable.

Recently an elder at a church in Nashville made the statement, “We need to be growing spiritually, but more importantly, numerically.” Did I miss the memo? Jesus wasn’t concerned if people didn’t follow Him. His radical message drove people away, and ultimately drove Him to His death. Yet He never backed down, never compromised. He never stopped to have a board meeting with His disciples and say, “Gee, guys, something’s not working here; we’ve gotta change the message a little to make it more palatable.” Jesus has called us to speak the truth, not alter it for the comfort of our audience! When feel-good doctrine begins to seep in, the message of the gospel has been diluted and tainted with selfishness.

The church used to be a place where contrite sinners came on their knees to surrender everything to God. Now it’s a self-help workshop where people come to learn how to get the most out of the Christian life. They come to hear the health and wealth gospel. They come to serve themselves – and we encourage it. Meanwhile, the pastors and elders call a board meeting. They look at the attendance record, scratch their heads, and decide something must be done. So they organize another program to showcase the selling points of the church to their community. Maybe it brings in a person or two, but their secret hopes of inspiring the rise of a mega-church never materialize. Why not? Why doesn’t it work? The truth hurts, but I’m just going to be blunt: Why would people want to waste their time at a church that looks just like the world? They can find a daycare to replace Sunday school. They can buy the latest self-help book instead of sitting in a pew to have their value affirmed. They can be successful with a little elbow grease and long office hours; they don’t need God for that either.

The church I attend is out in the middle of nowhere and, compared to most churches, noticeably devoid of programs and activities. If you go there on a Sunday morning, you will not find out how to get the most out of life. You will find out how to give the most out of life. You will not come away asking “How does this benefit me?” because Pastor Steve will have just made you painfully aware that it is not about you at all. The message can get rather uncomfortable sometimes. So why do 4,000 people attend Grace Chapel while the leaders at the church of the edited gospel are still looking at the membership roll and scratching their heads? Because people need the truth: the undecorated, honest, and sometimes painful truth of the gospel. It has always been enough in the past; what exactly do we think we can add to it?

You have to decide what your “gospel” is about. If it’s about you, don’t pretend it’s about Jesus. Go all out for yourself; don’t deny yourself any luxury, fun, or convenience. Drop the cross you’ve half-borne, half-dragged, and leave the name “Christian” behind with it. But if the gospel really is about Jesus Christ, make it about Him and Him alone. He will never settle inside your comfort zone; the cross won’t fit through the doors of the Convenience Church of Self. Not even for the 10:00 “You Are Special” podcast. We have to be kidding ourselves to think that we can improve the message of Christ. The gospel is enough.

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Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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