I need to take a break from writing here to focus on our IFCA Annual Convention and Board meetings for the next couple of weeks and to take some time off with my family. I will return to writing on July 12, Lord willing.
If you’d be interested in viewing the Convention General Session speakers via Livestream, you can find out more information and register for the convention at the link below. Your prayers are appreciated!
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)
I don’t have any doubt that we live in a time when people clamor for mindless entertainment, where it seems that the more outlandish and stupid, the better. How else will history be able to understand pop cultural trends like the current infatuation with “poop emojis”and YouTube videos of people eating Tide laundry detergent pods?
However, as a pastor, I am troubled that the mindset that some people have had is that since this empty-mindedness is not going away, that people cannot handle the preaching of the Word of God with any depth. The argument usually is that people just don’t know their Bibles today, and so we must shorten the length of our sermons and simplify our messages—with some even saying that the church will need to abandon preaching altogether and instead should just have “talks.”
What is particularly dismaying is that theological liberalism often chooses to move away from the Bible, stating that Scripture cannot be accepted as it is given because it is intellectually untenable. A person could not believe in the Bible as it is presented in its grammatical, historical and literal setting andalso believe in science!
But that isn’t what we have all too often in Bible churches. Instead, there is a movement away from the Bible because even though we Bible-believing Christians can all affirm its truthfulness, we don’t want to dig too deep—it makes our heads hurt with all that history and geography and cultural stuff. And don’t get us started on theology! We have Bible churches that are often filled with people who prefer Bible-lite sermons that tell good stories and have lots of moralizing, but woe to the pastor who would dare to go deeper!
At least that is what a lot of pastors I have spoken to seem to think…
What I have found out is something quite different. Yes, many Christians are against boring sermons, and overly-long sermons. They sleep through sermons that have no point but are simply data-dumps and half-baked sermons that meander nowhere slowly. They leave churches where the pastor seems to want to talk about only his hobby horse doctrines or wants to flaunt his ability to use Greek grammar. Yes, it’s true, people don’t want that.
But we seem to confuse simplicity with simple-mindedness. We think that because they don’t want to hear a 45-minute sermon on the history of Tiglath-Pileser that they can’t stand real Bible preaching! So, in frustration, some pastors go back to vapid sermons. Stories, jokes, cutesy alliterations, we dress up like John the Baptist or the angel Gabriel. Why? Because we have not worked hard at going deep and wide. We have not prepared our biblical meal for everyone at the table to be able to digest the truth.
We can’t forget that people are at all sorts of different levels spiritually. Every church is like this. Some are unbelievers, some are babes in Christ, some are plateaued in their walk, some are maturing and others are going through a spiritual growth spurt. Don’t get frustrated by that man who wants you to go deeper every Sunday! Put a nugget or two in the sermon for him to chew on. Don’t scoff when that young couple ask the simplest questions—they are hungry! Feed them some application alongside your explanation of the text! Don’t chuckle at the hard-headed fellow who never seem to get it. Speak at his level and give him clear illustrations to cause that light to go on for him. We preach to real people, and so our sermons need to speak to real people!
My experience has shown that committed Christians don’t want shorter, watered down sermons. They don’t want a bunch of silly stories or jokes. They want the Bible! They want theology! They want to go deeper! And those “millennials” that so many people like taking jabs at, they thrive in churches where the Word of God is preached with conviction and depth.
Our sermons can’t be empty. But they can’t be boring either. We need to present the meat of the Word in the most pleasing way we know how. We need to break it down for the young in Christ and give those who are more mature something to continue to work out in their own personal study. By doing this, we will raise the bar of our churches—they will all grow in depth and breadth of their knowledge of the Word and their learning will, Lord willing, blossom into changed lives.
Robert Quinn, a leadership professor at University of Michigan, has joined others in pointing out that the origins of the word leader means to “go forth and die.” In his book Change the World, he writes: “Leadership authors do not understand that leadership means “Go forth to die.” If they did understand it, they would not be enticed to write about it—because people do not want to hear this message. Most people want to be told how to get extraordinary results with minimum risk. They want to know how to get out-of-the-box results with in-the-box courage.” True leaders are servants who die to themselves so others may flourish. True leaders go forth, not for themselves, but for others.
Geiger & Peck, Designed to Lead 
Many have noted that an alarming majority of our young people are not staying in the Church following high school. There are several contributing factors as to why this is, but one reason to add to that list is probably that we do not do well in developing in our young people a need to serve and grow into leaders.
That isn’t to say that many of this younger generation aren’t interested in serving and becoming leaders—we often are simply failing in taking them serious enough to develop them into leaders in our Bible Church movement. The results have been disastrous.
Not only do we find it more difficult for the younger people in our churches to stay in our churches, but those that do stay often move on to churches that they perceive are forward thinking and have a vision to win the world for Christ. They want to be involved in a living church. Although the millennial generation has been often lampooned as lazy, hyper-sensitive snowflakes that want everything handed to them, I don’t think that is a fair estimate of many, if not most of them (at least in the church).
As proof I can point to the revolutionary activities of several movements that have captivated the hearts and minds of our young people—from Bernie Sanders to Black Lives Matter to the LGBTQIA+ movement. That brings me back to the Geiger & Peck quote at the beginning of this post. Clearly these movements are driven and manned primarily by young people—the very same ones that are leaving many of our churches!
Maybe instead of youth pizza parties and volleyball we should be calling our young people to “Go forth and die.” BLM and other social issues have clearly demonstrated that many are willing to go out and do just that for causes that at best will only yield temporary answers, but at worst are soul-destroying at their core. Although I understand that those that leave the Church and run headlong into apostasy would not have been “fixed” or kept if they had served or trained to lead in our churches. I’m not saying that. But I also recognize that a shallow vision of a holistic church that ministers to every age of Christian as Christians, will lead to a departure of those dissatisfied with a church that has an appearance of life but is dead inside.
Ours is the most noble cause and our Leader went forth to die for us. And He calls us to do the same. Let’s stop soft-selling the gospel and stop coddling our youth. Let’s stop putting the bar so low and begin to raise it up again. Let us point them to the cross and then show them how to take it up and follow Jesus, dying if we must.
 Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development, B & H Bools, 2016, Kindle ed. Loc. 254-263.
“This is not a moment for timid souls. Boldness comes easily when you are in the presence of those who agree with you; it is difficult when you are standing alone in the midst of people who seek your demise. Boldness behind a pulpit is one thing; boldness in a city council meeting is another. Boldness is seen most clearly when you have burned the bridge that would have enabled you to retreat to safety.”
Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Cultures Assault on Christianity, 120.
We are at a critical point in the history of the world and the Church. Should the Lord tarry, our children will look back on these dark and trying days and judge whether we were courageous in the face of great opposition or see evidence of compromise and capitulation. What will make the difference? Can I suggest a few things from Acts 4:8-12, where the disciples ran into their first major confrontation with aggression?
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)
1. The disciples were filled with the Spirit.
This is the only way a group of Christ-followers who were cowering behind locked doors only a few days before could be so radically different. Courage and boldness is not for those of this type of personality. Boldness and courage filled the hearts of those filled with the Spirit.
2. The disciples testified to Jesus Christ.
The evangelical church is scattered and divided about a lot of things today—spiritual gifts, baptism modes, music, methodology, women in ministry, and more. Don’t get me wrong, hese are all incredibly important things. But the primary need for standing firm against the onslaught of the enemy is the gospel message. The heart and focus must highlight the cross of Jesus Christ and the atoning work accomplished. Everything else must be seen in its subordinate place.
3. The disciples upheld the importance of the resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection points to the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It is not tangential, but central. The resurrection of Christ points to our own future resurrection and glorification. If you grasp this, then courage is sure to come because nothing—NOTHING—can stop you. Not even death.
4. The disciples never forgot that Jesus was rejected too.
If you forget that they hated Jesus, you might be tempted into the sin of seeking to please man. But if you remember that they hated our Lord and crucified the Lord of glory, then we will not be surprised when they hate us as well—no matter how winsome or loving or kind we might be.
5. The disciples knew that there is no other hope for the world than Jesus.
If a person could be saved through Islam, or Mormonism, or liberation theology, then it would be much easier to just quietly practice our faith privately without any care about others because they’ll eventually get to heaven too. But the message of Jesus was clear—He is the only way to the Father. And that should embolden us because although some people might want to silence us or shout us down, we can’t be silent if we truly love them.
Brothers and sisters, don;t lose heart. Jesus is coming soon, but we have work to do and we can’t allow the shouts of the world to drown us out.
“The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”