For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. - Romans 1: 16 (NIV)
Do we understand this verse anymore as preachers? Salvation is what this is supposed to be all about. There is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. There is no cleverness of man - neither Anthony Wade nor Tony Crank - that will contain the power to save anyone. Only the Gospel has that power. The other disturbing part of the quote from Pastor Crank however is the notion that people do not want to have anything to do with church because of all the do's and don'ts. You know - those weighty things we like to call doctrine. I saw an interview with Joel Osteen where he said that telling people what the Bible says they should and should not do is not one of his "giftings." If explaining correct doctrine is not one of your giftings then you are not a pastor nor a preacher. A point which Pastor Crank apparently must agree with since in the same interview he said that he does not view himself as a preacher, " I just like to have a conversation with everyone, just like I do at the coffee shop if we were talking one on one. " How tremendously hip. Of course you are not having a conversation with them - you are expositing the Word of God! Once again, without proper reverence this is where we end up. As a motivational speaker Joel Osteen blows Tony Robbins away. That is not the problem. The problem is that he chooses to give his motivational speeches while holding a Bible and pretending he is a pastor. When you open a church you need to realize that you are no longer at a coffee shop. The people coming to you do not need another friend - they need a Savior! The real reason why so many people are turned off from churches today is that they no longer see the difference between the church and the world. They see the rank hypocrisy from those that step up to the microphone to condemn the sins of the world only to fall prey to the same sins. They see the prosperity hucksters bilking poor people out of their last nickel chasing the blessings of God. They see that they can get out of church in less than an hour and hear some of the great secular artists they hear in the dance clubs like Katy Perry. When the church ceases to be a shining city on a hill then it starts to look like everything else they face in their daily lives. Why should they get up on a Sunday for that? Church is supposed to be different. It is supposed to provide an opportunity to meet with God and heaven forbid - consider their fallen state before Him! When are we going to realize this? Coming to Christ for friendship will save no one!
In the same interview, Kyle Cunningham, One Love Church's worship pastor said, " There is a perception that to come into church you've got to be perfect. Sometimes what that allows people to do is to kind of judge people that we might perceive to not be that kind of stereotypical perfect person. It turns a lot of people off to what the ultimate message of Christ is . " I agree that many people do not come to church because they feel so imperfect but it is not because of the people in church! I know because I remember feeling the same way before I went back to church. The reason why though is because of the weight of our own sin! Deep down it is not about feeling imperfect next to the other people but rather next to God! And guess what? That is how we are supposed to feel! It is called conviction! It is what leads to godly repentance and that is what leads to salvation! The ultimate message of Christ? What exactly do they think that is?
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." - John 4: 17 (NIV)
This is at the point in the Gospels when Jesus sets out to preach. Is Jesus love? Absolutely but do we so quickly forget that John 3:16 is the ultimate show of divine love? That God had to send Jesus to die for our sins? That is the Gospel message. That we all need to repent because the kingdom of God is at hand. You are not going to get that point over a latte at the local coffee shop listening to the latest Maroon 5 song. The ultimate message of Christ is not that He loves us. It is that He loved us so much that He was willing to die in our place for our sins! What the seeker friendly, purpose driven, friend of God theologies get so wrong is that they are designed to get the unbeliever to love the message and not the messenger. So the message is repackaged, redesigned and rebooted to offend as little as possible and thus unfortunately save as little as possible. That is because the truth is that the Gospel message of Jesus Christ does not need to be rebooted. It just needs to be preached. It does not need a conversationalist. It needs a preacher. It does not need a coffee shop. It needs a church.
Pastor Crank revealed much in his closing quote from the "Church Sucks" interview by saying, " N ow is the time for the church to not focus so much on the sins of people but rather welcome them back into a church home where they can grow in their faith. " This is a recurring mantra within the modern theories of church growth movements. That there is somehow an over-focus on sin! The Pope just said that it is not the business of the church to interfere in the spiritual lives of unbelievers! This is the end result of these lines of thinking! The truth of course is there is not nearly enough emphasis placed upon sin anymore in the modern church. If there was an over emphasis on sin then we would see more people saved. We wouldn't see so many people leaving the church and backsliding.
The website for OneLove Church reveals the roots of seeker friendly-purpose driven thought. Under the "About Us" section it says that they feel it is their responsibility to make sure that your time at OneLove is enjoyable and to that end you will find great people, incredible music and an inspiring talk about a God who is crazy about you! The people are here for you! The music is here for you! Even God is only here for you! We will get you out and back to your life in under an hour! Don't worry about the shortened worship! God is cool with that and apparently must be a big Katy Perry fan as well! It is all for you seeker because at the end of the day we don't want you to think that church sucks. The sad, pathetic end of the seeker-friendly road.
I say these things out of profound sadness because apparently the lack of reverence causes us to forget Scripture. I pray that Pastor Crank comes across the key verse for today and really does some reflection. I would be very careful with saying the church sucks. The church and Christ are one beloved. We are actually the bride of Christ, betrothed to Him.