A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to go door-to-door on a TCW (travel, canvass, witness) trip. It was a great opportunity to help a new church get their name out in the community and offer the Word of God to people who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to hear it.
As we went from one house to the next, there seemed to be two common reactions: The home owner would come to the door, find out we were from a church, and quickly close the door in our face, or, they would come outside and listen to what we had to say.
As I think back to this experience, it reminds me of the fact that the reactions to the Word of God today haven’t changed from what they were 2000 years ago. When Jesus spoke, He inspired either the deepest devotion or the fiercest anger from those who listened.
Many in the modern church today think they can change this. They are embarrassed by what Paul called “the offense of the cross.” The spirit of the so-called “Church Growth Movement” has infected people across denominational lines. The assumption is that people are not turning to God in the numbers they once were because we are not packaging the product in an attractive way.
I read through a few surveys given out to both younger and older generation “church-shoppers.” The surveys complained about such things as traditional worship, lack of day care, or not enough entertainment. Some are turned away because they subtly believe that the Ten Commandments are too strict. When the pastor refuses to rewrite the Bible or negotiate with their sin, they seek out a place which is more accepting, more “loving.”
The truth is the offense of the cross is just that, an offense. It is facing the ugly truth that we are all great sinners and therefore we all need a great Savior. But are we to push that truth aside for the sake of not offending those who would otherwise join our congregation?
Maybe the prophet Elijah should have struck a compromise with Ahab and Jezebel, started a therapy group for uptight souls who just couldn’t cozy up to the alternative lifestyle of Baal worship (like those uptight souls who can’t cozy up to gay marriage). Maybe John the Baptist would have kept his head if he had been less judgmental of Herod’s affair with his brother’s wife. If only Stephen hadn’t told the Jewish leaders that they were stiff-necked and resisting the Holy Spirit, maybe he wouldn’t have been stoned. Would the ministry of Jesus have gone better if he had used kinder words to win friends and influence people?
No church worthy of the name Christian will dare to change the reality of two rules. The 1st rule is this: When the Word of God is preached, some will, by God’s grace, be converted; while others, by their own fault, will reject the Word. Rule number 2: A true Christian cannot change rule number one! No matter how many marketing strategies one uses to bring people in, the true and changeless Word must continue to be taught.
Yes, the world has changed, and it will continue to do so. But Jesus is not worried about that, because what He is and what He brings us remains the same. What Jesus was to Abraham, David, Paul, Luther, your parents and grandparents, He still is to you and me today! Thank God for that! Thank God for the changeless Word in an ever changing world.