My sermon from Sunday, November 29, 2009 is up: “Got Those Highway ‘4D’ Blues? 4 D’s of a Missions-Active Church.” This sermon is from Romans 10:1-17 and kicked off our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering which emphasizes giving, praying, and going to International missions.
Trevin Wax writes an excellent article regarding low expectations:
In recent years, we have seen a number of TV dramas that eschew the traditional formula that leads to a neat resolution by the end of each episode. Instead, shows like Lost and 24 demand that the viewer stick with the program for its entire run.
Plot lines have become complicated, introducing dozens of main characters and a story line that taxes the memory and the stamina of the viewer. And yet, these shows are rated highly each year and have garnered millions of fans.
Is it not odd that the entertainment industry (whether through board games or television shows) is seeing success when it places high demands on the consumer? Fans of Lost talk about how nice it is to watch a show that actually expects something of the audience. Fans of Catan talk about how much more satisfying it is to win such a difficult game.
What can the church learn from this?
Kevin DeYoung brings to light the differences between the “old gospel” and the “new gospel” being put forth by contemporary evangelicals.
The New Gospel generally has four parts to it.
It usually starts with an apology: “I’m sorry for my fellow Christians. I understand why you hate Christianity. It’s like that thing Ghandi said, ‘why can’t the Christians be more like their Christ?’ Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and self-righteous. I know we screwed up with the Crusades, slavery, and the Witch Trials. All I can say is: I apologize. We’ve not give you a reason to believe.”
Then there is an appeal to God as love: “I know you’ve seen the preachers with the sandwich boards and bullhorns saying ‘Repent or Die.’ But I’m here to tell you God is love. Look at Jesus. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He loved unconditionally. There is so much brokenness in the world, but the good news of the Bible is that God came to live right in the middle of our brokenness. He’s a messy God and his mission is love. ‘I did not come into the world to condemn the world,’ that’s what Jesus said (John 3:17). He loved everyone, no matter who you were or what you had done. That’s what got him killed.”
This kind of stuff only hurts our mission to communicate the truth of the Gospel. If you think people using the word Christmas somehow makes our materialistic holiday extravaganza more pure you are probably not paying attention very well. Boycotting secular businesses that do not exhibit the kind of behavior that we think they should is the last thing that an unbelieving world needs to see.
Joe Thorn led a session at the Acts 29 Bootcamp in Louisville, Kentucky a few weeks ago on “How Theology Can Kill Your Church” (audio available here) (no, it does not go in the direction you may think). Thorn values theology (after all, he led the “Pastor as Resident Theologian” breakout session at the Bootcamp).
1. Your Theology is Under-developed
Under-developed theology leaves your church defenseless against false doctrine and heresy, and corrupts the spiritual growth of the body. We need a robust theological confession and culture in our churches.
2. Your Theology is Over-valued
Theology is over-valued when we find our identity more in a system than in the Savior. The dangers here are often pride and pugnacity. Good theology will always give a clear picture of God and self, which promotes strong convictions and humble hearts.
3. Your Theology is Compartmentalized
Compartmentalized theology is a purely academic discipline removed from Christian experience. The danger here is being satisfied with knowledge over transformation. We need “experimental Calvinists” who are not content to be right, but desire to be made right by the Spirit of God in conjunction with the truth of God.
4. Your Theology is Disconnected
When our theology is disconnected from the gospel, all of the above dangers are likely, and additionally our preaching will be little more than moralism. Imperatives apart from the gospel tell people to “do this,” and doctrinal preaching divorced from the gospel tell people to “know this.” In both cases people are not led to the grace of God in Christ, but to their own attainments. We need theologians who can show the connection between doctrines like sin, creation, the Trinity, etc. and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In short, I was aiming at encouraging our men to be passionate, convinced, humble, experiential, gospel-centered theologians.