Muddied Methods and a Mixed Up Gospel

Muddied Methods and a Mixed Up Gospel

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by Timothy Jerry
 A few weeks ago I took a group of youth from our church to a rally that was designed to reach lost young people. The setting was typical of what I have come to notice in these types of outreaches in recent years. Complete with all the bells and whistles of music and lights, setting the stage to resemble a modern dance club.
As expected, there was a great deal of enthusiasm from most of the crowd, as young people packed around the stage, dancing and cheering, as they were caught up in the moment.
Now contrary to what you may think, I see nothing wrong with Christians having a good time and enjoying some good wholesome entertainment. So let me make it clear when I say that I really don’t have a beef with this aspect of these events.

Over the years I have been involved with a number of these events and have come to some conclusions that may not be popular, but which I feel need to be addressed.

Looking for that one big breakthrough: Christian leaders in America seem to be constantly looking for that one big thing that they hope will sweep people into the Kingdom of God and change the face of our nation. We should have learned by now that this simply does not work. I have never seen any of these big events have a lasting impact upon any churches or communities.

The fact is that we are simply not carrying forth the great commission as the body of Christ and are looking to these events to do the job that individuals need to do. Less than 3% of American Christians have ever shared their faith with someone.

The cost typically does not equal the impact: The amount of money that is invested in reaching the lost through these big events simply does not measure up. What we typically see is the altars filled with Christians rededicating their lives for the 30th time, along with a sprinkling of a few lost people. Most of these according to recent studies will probably never be seen in a local church again.

Now I know that many will protest with, “If only one person is saved isn’t it all worth it?” No, not really, when you consider the fact that this person could have been just as easily reached if their Christian friends who invited them would have the boldness to proclaim the gospel to them in the first place. In the end we need to ask ourselves if we are just wasting thousands of dollars to reach the reached and feed the fed.

Over hyped evaluation: My experience is that Christian leaders tend to use faulty reasoning in evaluating the impact of these events. Much of this comes from the erroneos idea that if a good amount of people attend the event, that somehow it was a success. If the goal were numbers that may be true, but if the objective is salvataion of the lost then attendance cannot be the bottom line.

Just because someone in the United States responds to an altar call does not equal a changed life. If the goal was evangelism then I would have to conclude that we need to measure the impact in a long term manner, by the criteria of how many of those who answered and altar call are found in churches or youth groups a few months latter?

A flawed gospel message: My biggest problem with nearly all of what we commonly call the preaching of the gospel in the United States today is with the message itself.

Most gospel presentations go something like this. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants to fill that void in your heart and bring healing to your life.

If you will receive Jesus into your heart you can find fulfillment and peace. This is followed by a so-called sinners prayer that is usually along the lines of “Dear Jesus, come into my life, fill me with your love, save me and make my life complete, Amen.”

What is typically missing from these gospel presentations is any mention of repentance. The message of the gospel is presented as if our salvation is completely God’s doing, with absolutely no requirement on our part.

People have come to mistakenly believe that because the gospel is a free gift that cannot be earned by our own human merit, that somehow it is a cheap and easy faith that exacts absolutely nothing from us. This simply is not the gospel as declared in Scripture.

Because much of the American church is proclaiming a gospel without repentance, is it any wonder that our churches are being filled with professing Christians whose lives have little resemblance of the Christ they profess to follow?

”The problem we face is that we have taught a faith that doesn’t transform people….We’ve made the test for salvation doctrinal rather than behavioral, ritualizing it with walking the aisle, praying to receive Christ, or signing a doctrinal statement.

Perhaps we’ve made it so easy to get into “the life” that we’ve made it nearly impossible to live the life.” Bill Hull, in his book ‘The Complete Book of Discipleship

“Let nothing short of radical change of heart satisfy you in your coverts…” William Carey, the pioneer missionary to India

While I realize that many Christians struggle in putting to death the works of their carnal appetites of the flesh, the only real evidence of our salvation is a change of behavior. There simply is no such thing as salvation if it does not lead to a transformed life.

So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls. And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. James 1:21-22 (NLT)

A faith that does nothing is worth nothing. James 2:20

 “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”Dietrich Bonheoffer, the Cost of Discipleship

“The gospel is free, thank God, but that does not mean that it is “cheap and easy,” and all too often that is the kind of gospel that has been presented.” Arthur Wallis, (The Radical Christian)

It is time for Christians to go back to preaching the gospel that includes the message of repentance. There simply is no salvation without a willingness to turn from one’s sin. The sinner cannot simply add Jesus to their lives, continue on with business as usual and imagine that they are now saved.

This modern distortion of the gospel is doing great harm to the cause of Christ in the Western church and needs to be rooted out and done away with.
I wonder how many thousands of people will be lost because they believe that they are saved, when if fact all they have done is prayed a prayer without ever surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.


  1. , Ask and you shall receive The lsseon I was taught was that if we importune God, if we persist and persist, even in a PUSHy way, then this is what it means to Ask and you shall receive. I heard preachers evoke the language of Jacob and say, You need to wrestle with God in prayer. You need to tell God, I won’t let go of you until you bless me and answer my prayer.’ Not only is that not the point of Jacob’s story, it reinforces the importunity of the PUSH method that is likely out of context.But I don’t think this is what Luke 11 is saying. It is saying, on one hand, that the man had the audacity to ask, even if embarrassing. Who wants to go his neighbors house after they are asleep and ask for some spare rations. Do you go at midnight to your neighbor’s for eggs because your guests are hankering for an omelet? No social protocol then and now say it is inappropriate. But not so with God whose house is always open.What is more, audacity is one of the translations we could give this importunity , as the NIV says. It can also mean (says the NIV) that the man inside the house wanted to protect his own reputation. He cared more about his reputation than his friendship with his neighbor.That fits into the context better ask and you shall receive. If you lack the audacity to ask, if you cannot come to God as one who loves you and open to you but are rather afraid or embarrassed, then you will not receive. You don’t even believe God is good enough to give. We need to understand the character and compassion of God. Later in the context, the character of God is reinforced that God will not give you a stone if you ask for bread. Have confidence that he cares. His motivation is as father and friend even more so than his reputation (if I’m reading the context rightly).In my own life, I find myself praying my anxiety to God I ask repeatedly (not vain repetition, but repetition) because I am not yet content with my situation or feel anxious about it and need his comfort and care. What I really want to know from God is this: Are you in charge? Are you aware? Can you help? Once I am confident in his grace and love in a situation, I find myself praying less about it and more resting in him. My prayer changes to what should I do next for my part while you do your part? rather than, Will you have a part? I’ve struggled with prayer, philosophically, because I’ve often wonder why God needs me to tell him what is going on when he can see the needs better than I can. God knew my mom was going to get cancer, had cancer, and would die from it. He loved my mom. My mom’s story was not contingent on my prayers for her God’s love for her were not contingent on my prayers for her. It all felt bizarre to me to be praying for something God cared more about this God who says take no thought for tomorrow for God knows your needs (Matt 6).And then there are folks who have no one to pray for them. Does God not help? And then there are those who are part of the church’s prayer-chain and have hundreds or thousands (or if on twitter, tens of thousands) praying, and are they better off, will God hear them more? There is certainly more PUSHing going on.My mom used to joke that she hopes God can ignore all the kooky prayers people are praying for her. All those who PUSH in the wrong direction.At the end of the day, where does it all leave us? I find it leaves us relaxing back into God’s care, sharing with him our struggles and worries, sharing with him what we would want to see, participating with him in focusing our hearts with his on all that is going on around us.Oswald Chambers said prayer doesn’t change things; prayer changes me and I change things. I don’t believe that. I think prayer does change things that is, God allows himself to be influence and allows us to engage with participation in his work. But he has the last word. I would hope he is resilient enough, secure enough in his own person, to know that no amount of PUSHing is beyond what his good, acceptable, and perfect will really is.In that I can take confidence that my prayers are heard by my father who gives bread instead of stones and invites me boldly to knock on his door at any time and for any need.

    • Thanks for your comments. I think we agree in part. I certainly agree that the point of the persistence with ones neighbor could be seen as you suggest. I would disagree with your Calvinistic approach to the will of God. I believe that God allows us a greater measure of cooperation in carrying forth His will through prayer than most of us realize or want to admit. Thank you for your thoughts and God bless.

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