Monday, May 26, 2014


No Excuse

Barry Cooper:
In the last three posts, I’ve suggested four reasons we don’t disciple, despite Christ’s command to the contrary.

The fifth and final reason we don’t disciple has been bubbling underneath everything I’ve written so far: our churches are too often ashamed of the gospel and therefore assume the gospel.

Not long ago, I was invited to speak at a church near London. Numbers had been dropping, so the church was going to significant lengths to attract young people. They’d added another service at a more convenient time, they were getting in guest speakers from all over the country, they were spending money on marketing, and they had paid a worship band to come from 100 miles away.

I got chatting to a delightful congregation member about the reasons for their flagging, elderly attendance. “This may be a sensitive question,” I said, “but how’s the preaching of the gospel going?” His response came with a knowing and faintly embarrassed smile. “Well,” he said, “we have to give people what they want.”
I am not real fond of the language in that quote; "gospel" is a very plastic word. But what I Can agree with completely is the the idea of preaching aimed at "what people want to hear" is aimed wrong.

The essential question is "Why don't people want to hear it?" It's because the truth of it is not evident. Ask them, go ahead. People talk about how the church does not live up to what it preaches. It may come out lots of different ways - "judgmental" = "hypocritical" - "I can't tell the difference between people in the church and out of it" - so it goes. The point is promises come from the pulpit that are not evident in the congregation.

I am doing some electrical work around the house right now. You go to the hardware store and light switches come in two basic varieties - toggle switches and rocker switches. They look really different, They operate slightly differently, but they function in exactly the same way. Now here is the thing. If a light switch is not working and you replace it with a toggle switch and that does not work, then trying a rocker won't help. The problem is not the appearance of the switch - it is the underlying function of the switch.

So my question is this - if a church is flagging, what is wrong functionally? Things like music and worship times can affect the rate of growth, but not generate growth proper. Neither a rocker or a toggle works when the problem is the circuit.

Preaching is part of the circuitry of the church, but it is also much deeper. In the situation described, I would not ask merely about the preaching. Has the Holy spirit taken root in the congregation? If not, why not? Fix that and other stuff will take care of itself.


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