I recently attended an event involving a number of key leaders of Protestant church organizations, all established to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ: to proclaim and publish His good news. Speaker after speaker gave lectures and workshops with a lot of "God talk," as I’ve come to call it, much talk about love, peace, justice and God. But, I noticed a conspicuous absence of one word: Christ.
Now, I’m quite certain that most of the speakers had Christ in mind as they talked about God and the Bible and the Church, but…no Jesus. It is not a fluke. Anyone who spends much time examining popular Protestant literature and listening to popular so-called "Evangelical" preaching, quickly realizes that, apparently, in much of Protestantism, the Name above every Name, Jesus, is optional: the specific articulation of the Gospel appears to be optional in much Protestant church culture, unless it is some kind of evangelistic rally. I know that generalizations always fail, but, it is something I continue to notice across all sorts of media: books, magazines, videos, blog sites: Jesus optional. Christ should be the main point of Christianity. Is He?
And lest we Lutherans begin to pat ourselves on the back, let us instead confess our own sins of omission and commission on this point: is Christ the center and focus of al that we say and do? Let us take warning from this and strive all the more to proclaim the Gospel and to preach and teach and confess, in all our vocations in life, the Name above every Name: Christ.
And let us also pray that the Lord would bless and protect all our faithful shepherds in Christ who are leading us to the green pastures of Christ’s holy Word and Sacrament. God bless these faithful men.
Here is an interesting blog post by Michael Spencer, an Evangelical blogger, who always gives me something to think about:
Recently I listened to a sermon. Preached by a Christian, a Baptist,
a minister at a church, a graduate of a Christian school training
ministers to serve and communicate Jesus.
This preacher gave a message that he had worked hard to prepare; a
message he had presented before. A message he deeply believed in.
It was a message well organized, passionately delivered and
completely sincere. It was a message with an application about having a
purpose in living that many people need to hear.
So why am I writing about that sermon? Did it change my life?
I’m writing about that sermon because it was a perfect illustration of Christless preaching.
There was not a single mention of Jesus. Not once. Not in any way. Nowhere.
It was as if Jesus had never been born. It was as if Jesus never existed.
Jesus made no difference, made no contribution, determined no truth,
solved no problem, offered no hope, performed no miracle, never
interceded, never atoned, never taught, never lived the truth. Jesus
made no claims, offered no invitations, defined no choices.
In fairness, the sermon was on an older testament story, but I am
holding the preacher responsible for somehow preaching a Christian
sermon, not a motivational talk. Christian preaching, no matter where
it comes from, is necessarily oriented to the person, work and gospel
of Jesus Christ in some way.
This was a talk about human motivation, with no more salvation than
knowing God wanted you to change your own life, find a purpose and
accomplish more in the future than you did in the past.
In short, here’s what we heard:
Your big problem is that you are tired, stressed and not doing much with your life.
What you need is a passion for the dream of what you can do with your life.
God wants you to trust him so that you’ll have a dream and a purpose.
The story of Joshua illustrates this.
And the premise: I’m going to tell you how to have a great life.
“Great life?” Sound familiar, anyone? Think “blinking teeth.” Think “Best Life Now.” Think “Becoming a Better You.”
People ask me all the time why I call myself post-evangelical.
Reformed watchbloggers routinely refer to the term “post evangelical”
with contempt. Many others seem to prefer some other term to more
accurately map themselves on the journey of faith. Are critics of the
term “post-evangelical” paying any attention to evangelicals?
Let me suggest that if the sermon I heard represents what we have to
look forward to in evangelicalism, then being post-evangelical means
that Jesus matters, the Gospel is the Biblical good news and
faithfulness to either requires an intentional removal from what is
happening in evangelicalism. Post-evangelicalism is a place to stand in
the midsts of a tide that has washed everything out and left the
flotsam and jetsam of a crumbling, degraded culture on the beaches of a
vacillating, deluded church.
When a preacher can stand in the pulpit, hold the Bible, represent a
significant church and the training of a major school, claim to expound
the meaning of the Bible and never even once mention Jesus or the Christian good news at all, there’s something monumentally wrong at work.
“Houston, we have a problem….Jesus has left the sermon.”
Were this the latest version of the new age or even the leftist
fringe of the mainlines, I’d not waste five seconds of my life pointing
out such a sermon. But this preacher stands in the heritage of
centuries of Baptist and Protestant preaching, a heritage that has been
relentlessly Christ-centered and zealous for the Gospel. This was
supposed to be Christ-centered Protestant preaching, preaching that
answered the sign I have up in the back of our chapel: “Sirs, We would
Yet that heritage was nowhere to be found in either style or
content. The influences here were entirely stand up comedians and
motivational speakers. The audience’s love of entertainment and felt
need of amusement and motivation were sovereign. The motivation was
self-improvement with God’s help.
What kind of Christian life was this speaking to? What kind of need
for evangelism? Nothing I recognized. This was human effort to solve
human problems, all done as a way of saying “I’m trusting God for a
Was Jesus less than clear on what he thought was a “great life?” Is
the New Testament obscure on the “life” we’re talking about. It IS a
sin to waste your life, but for Christians the value that’s added to
life is JESUS and JESUS alone. There’s no way to relegate Jesus to the
category of “no need of further mention” so we can get on with the
Where is the Kingdom of God and its crucified, risen and exalted
King? Where is the centrality of Jesus Christ and his distinctive call
to discipleship? Where was the uniqueness, the beauty, the worthiness
and the radical revolution of Jesus? Where is the community Jesus is
building and the New Creation Jesus is bringing?
I can no longer protest, or even properly lament, when those set
aside by the “church” with the intention of proclaiming the Word so
easily abandon and exchange it for a completely Christless motivational
At the moment that preacher stood up, one person in that room needed
desperately to hear the hope that is mine in Jesus. Despair stalks me.
Satan and life dominating sins war against my soul. Religion,
motivation, church, music, the pretense of piety, the rituals of
synergistic schemes of salvation- all offer me nothing. Christians have
failed me. Institutional religion mocks me. Friends do not know me.
Give me Jesus, give me Jesus, one soul cries.
Can someone sing “In The Cross of Christ I Glory” as I turn my back
and walk away from this kind of religion? I’m looking for the one who,
when asked for a great life, said sell all you have and come follow me
to the cross.