Friday, April 11, 2008

Preaching the Gospel to the Church?

We were discussing some of the feedback we got from our team preaching on the essentials of the Gospel last Sunday, in conjunction with celebrating the Lord's Table. Most of the responses were positive. Like those who said they liked the way that each of us brought our own style and focus to the facet of the Gospel that we preached. Matt was passionate about the holiness of God and His demands for us to be holy. Darin brought a terrifically appropriate somber tone to his message on our depravity and its results. I was told my message on 2 Corinthians 5:21 pointing to Christ as the solution to our need reminded several people of John MacArthur's preaching (I take that as high praise!) And Bill was solid as always in tying all these pieces together in talking about what our response as God's people should be. Overall the feedback was that it was a very fitting and God-glorifying preparation for taking Communion.

But there were a few confused responses as well. Mostly because we preached the essential truths of the Gospel of Christ, but we didn't do an "altar call" or anything overtly evangelistic towards unbelievers. The messages we preached were intended to be directed at the Church, as a reminder of the central truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we as His people celebrate when we take the cup and the bread. The response we were calling for was primarily to remember Christ's sacrifice, to understand more deeply and savor the grace of God in His calling and saving of His people, to worship Him more fully and truly in light of this knowledge, and to follow Him more obediently as a result. But this seemed strange to a number of people. Their unspoken question seemed to be, "Why preach the Gospel to the Church? What's the point, we're already saved, right? The Gospel is for unbelievers."

Bottom line in this is I think the Church as a whole today is not used to having the Gospel presented and taught and preached, apart from evangelism. The Church seems to have put the Gospel into a box that is only to be brought out for converting the unsaved. Now of course, there can be no evangelism without the Evangel, the Gospel of Christ. It is this Gospel that God has ordained as the means and basis of gathering His Church. But I think we have failed to appreciate that it's also the Gospel of Christ that God uses to sustain and strengthen His Church. Even as redeemed sinners, we still fall into a lack of appreciation for His grace and forget who we were before He saved us. We need to be constantly reminded of these core truths that the entirety of Christian belief and doctrine and faith is based on. Not just in the context of evangelism, but in the context of the proclamation of the Word of God to His people, on a regular basis.

We always need to be refreshed in and by the basics, the foundational truths. Kind of like coach Vince Lombardi's words to his team after a humiliating loss: "Gentlemen, this is a football." We must be taken back to the place where we are reminded, "Christian, this is the Gospel." When we fail to have this regular Gospel diet, we as the Church become weak, ineffective, self-sufficient and self-absorbed.

I'm hoping that we as a team of leaders will be reinforced in these central truths next week through the messages and the interaction with each other at T4G. Because we as leaders of Christ's Church, of all people, need to be constantly immersed in the greatness of the Gospel of Christ as well.

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