There always seems to be a great temptation to build a local church today by catering to the (fallen, sinful) appetites of the surrounding demographic. This is foreign to the message of the OT prophets. I don’t read this in the gospels or the epistles. I don’t think it’s what comprises Jesus’ admonition to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.
It ought to be the gospel’s power – and the gospel’s power alone – that builds the local church. (And by “build” I do not mean in numbers alone. As important as numerical growth is – and I’m all for it and desire it! – we’ve made it the golden calf of ecclesiological value in Western culture.) The gospel’s power should be demonstrated in our preaching, felt in our singing, be the life behind our fellowship and community life, and the very power that draws newcomers – believers and unbelievers alike – into our midst. But, generally speaking, so much of the focus of church growth strategies today is upon each congregation’s “product” they offer for sale. In a consumer culture, this can be a counterfeit for power from on high, the power of the gospel. It’s not hard to draw a crowd – but for the wrong reasons and with the wrong method(s). However, many fail to realize that the medium is the message, and when the message is anything other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, our churches are no different than corporate America. Is it any wonder when we’re putting all the emphasis upon things (to draw men) that God hasn’t sanctioned (in His Word) that the Church doesn’t share Christ consistently or challenge the culture winsomely? Is it any wonder why we see little of the cross’ power in our midst and in our church ministry throughout the week when we preach and promote a “gospel” that does not want to know the suffering of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3.8-10)?
We must go to and through the cross. This hurts. This purges. This kills our selfishness. This murders our vanity. Yet, it is there we find Jesus in sweet intimacy. We minister with divine power. We know resurrection victory. We experience authentic congregational growth. We spawn generational legacy. We convict and show compassion for the culture.
“God, give us grace to desire to go to the cross. Help us to boldly preach its power and freedom – to one another, the lost, and ourselves. We’re scared what that might mean. We fear men. We fear what you might take from us. We’re petrified to die to ourselves. Lord, may our desire for our own selfish preservation be eclipsed by Your Holy Spirit’s passion within us to know Your Son – no matter the cost. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
“If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross…This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament…” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer qtd. in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas