When Bonita and I were dating she had to do a placement at the hospital in Stratford. She found a place to room and board and one particular weekend I popped down or up or over, whichever direction it is, for a visit since she wasn’t able to get back St. Thomas way very often. We went and played raquetball at the local Y, went out for dinner, and hung out for a bit and then it was time to make my way back to Aylmer…in the dark. And I will be the first to admit that I am directionally challenged and somewhere along the road I made a wrong turn and ended up in Exeter…or maybe it was a few wrong turns. To quote Bugs Bunny “I should have made a left turn at Albuquerque.” The reality is that somewhere along the road I lost my way. That kinda reminds me of the church.
Sometimes my posts may come across as critical towards the North American church. Let me say that I have been blessed by some good things going on in the church. Our family found a great church home four months ago and have enjoyed the ministry and the passion for God’s Word in some of the people in our new body. We’ve heard some remarkable stories of the gospel changing lives there. There’ve been a number of pastor’s conferences that I have had the opportunity to be a part of. There are a number of churches and people who are really hungry for God’s Word.
Here’s my view from the cheap seats: we have sometimes been guilty of putting our hope in things other than the gospel….hoping in the dude at the front…in the music… in our programs…in our methods.
Many churches put their hope in the preacher. And he may be faithful to the Word but what if that causes people to look for what they believe to be greener pastures elsewhere because the Word convicts? God may want to shrink your church in numbers to grow it in health. The prophet Isaiah had a big ministry…of people being hardening to God’s Word! What if that preacher that you put your hope in dies? It seems that the gang in Isaiah 6 were really rattled when their king had passed on to the next life.
What about music? If we have a smokin’ hot band then that will draw people. Draw people to what? Draw people who really like good music? Many are looking for something on Sunday morning that ‘has a funky beat and you can dance to it’ to semi-quote an old line from American Bandstand. If it made my ears bleed it must have been really good! Am I suggesting that our music on a Sunday morning should be a horse and pony show? Absolutely not. But is the purpose of the gang at the front to draw us near to the One who saves or have us leave thinking it was a really good show. There is to be only one Big Show on Sunday morning and it ain’t us!
I talked with a man who was pretty excited about a particular program out of the U.S. that his church had adopted. As I sat and listened to him it appeared to me that the gospel was only secondary in this program. It seemed that Jesus had left the building in this particular program and many people didn’t even miss Him.
We have put our hope in various methods…altar calls, children’s ministries, the big event. I wrote for a few weeks on those key things to cause a church to move towards health. They may not be funky cool. They may seem vintage and old school but they are foundational. The gospel has been moved to the sidelines in many places while various other stuff takes centre stage. Many of our churches have lost it’s hope in the power of the gospel. There’s nothing wrong with some of these things but do we place our hope in them or in the gospel?
When Peter preached the gospel no holds barred in Acts 2, three thousand were saved and the power of the gospel was centre stage. When God knocked the Apostle Paul to his knees on the road to Damascus, that showed God’s power. When a jailer was freaking out and was about to slit his throat, the gospel saved him and his family. The thief on the cross did a one-eighty mid sentence insult, by the power of the gospel. The gospel has power.
Paul didn’t beat around the bush when he wanted us to know where the power was and is:
 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 ESV)
The power is in the gospel. The power is most definitely in the gospel. To quote John MacArthur ‘Only God’s power is able to overcome man’s sinful nature and give him new life.’ That power can bring someone out of darkness and into His marvellous light. So the question is this: have you put your trust in the tools or does your hope for a rescued and resurrected life rest solely in the power of the gospel?