Preaching Articles

When Gianna Jessen (an abortion survivor) spoke at our church recently, she said many memorable things. The one I’ve been thinking about most is to be a follower of Christ you need to be willing to be hated.

I agree.

Of course, this does NOT mean being hateful. Nor does it mean seeking to be hated. Or having a persecution complex, so you think people don’t like you because you’re following Christ, when they actually don’t like you because of how you’re acting.

I am all for graciousness, kindness, and servant-hearted love as we speak the truth. I seek to practice this with the nonchristians I’m around. But at some point the greatest kindness we can offer them, coming out of a life of humility and faithfulness to Christ, is the good news about Jesus. That good news actually involves some very bad news about human sinfulness, which is what makes the cross an offense, meaning that it ticks people off.

The danger comes when we live in such fear of being mislabeled that we don’t step forward as unapologetic and unashamed all-out followers of Jesus. They can call us Jesus freaks or ignorant or uncool or intolerant or anything they want, that’s fine. We should do what we believe pleases our Lord, regardless of how it pans out in opinion polls. That includes loving others and giving radically and ministering to the down and out and addressing addictions and saying we think it’s wrong to kill children of all ages and helping people find alternatives. We do such things not seeking the approval of our culture, but of our King.

If we seek our culture’s approval, we’ll either never get it or get it only at the expense of failing to represent Christ. We are promised that if we “live godly lives in Christ Jesus” we “will suffer persecution.” If we’re not suffering persecution, at some level, then what does that suggest?

We should certainly be nice, and it’s sad when Christians aren’t. But it’s also sad when we imagine “niceness” has greater impact than it really does. Niceness is not the gospel. Some modern concepts of evangelism are little more than being nice to your neighbor and loaning him your hedge clipper and hoping that somehow he will come to Christ without your actually having to say the WORDS of the gospel that would run the risk of him thinking you’re weird. Our good example is important, but it’s not sufficient. There are actual truths that must be grappled with in surrendering to Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-6). And these truths are expressed in words.

I’m all for audience analysis and understanding the perceptions of this generation and speaking in a way they can understand. But instead of letting the world set our agenda and the ground rules of what we can and can’t say, let’s ask the Lord how best to take the timeless message of the gospel to these people.

But—and I say this coming out of some of the conversations I’ve had with cool Christians—the answer is not altering the contents of the gospel to make it something everyone can easily agree with. If the gospel becomes nothing more than the reflection of a worldview they already have, it has nothing to offer them. It’s God’s gospel. Given the price He paid on the cross to offer it, He has the right to say difficult things such as Jesus is the only way to the Father and we are hell-bound without Him. That message is not popular and never will be. Our job isn’t to edit the message, but to deliver it.

Among some believers the new definition of a good Christian is holding your beliefs privately, not challenging those who publicly share beliefs that dishonor Christ, and avoiding controversy at all costs lest we be perceived as “those kind of Christians” who hate gays, oppose abortion, favor inquisitions, and love to burn witches. We so much want the world to like us that we end up distancing ourselves from the historic Christian faith, from biblical doctrine (including hell), and from churches (because they’re all hypocrites except us). We end up making ourselves indistinguishable from the world, and therefore have nothing to offer the world.

Sometimes we assume the moral high ground by rolling our eyes at those street preachers, congratulating ourselves that we aren’t like that. Street preaching’s not my thing, but I can give you names of people who have come to Christ through street preaching. It’s more of a stretch to name those who’ve come to Christ through Christians who think it’s not cool to tell people the biblical truth that they need to repent of their sins (a synonym for evils; basically a big insult) and turn to Christ to be saved from hell.

It’s not our job to be popular. We are not contestants on American Idol. And we are not Christ’s speech writers or PR team, airbrushing Jesus so He has greater appeal to people who don’t want to hear what He said about sin and hell. He’s the King, He calls the shots; we’re just His ambassadors. So let’s represent the real Jesus, the whole Jesus, not just the culturally acceptable one.

There is nothing new or postmodern about the gospel turning some people off. That’s always been true, just as it’s always been true that some people are longing to hear it and will deeply appreciate the fact that you had enough courage to tell them about Jesus.

As D. L. Moody said when someone criticized his approach to evangelism, “I like the way I do it better than the way you don’t do it.”

It is not gracious and kind to withhold the gospel from those who, according to Jesus, are going to hell without Him. Sometimes what we imagine to be our graciousness and kindness is actually indifference or cowardice.

“All men will hate you because of me.” Mark 13:13

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18   

This article appeared in the Spring 2009 Eternal Perspectives and originally appeared on Randy Alcorn’s personal blog, January 28, 2009. Visit the blog at to read Randy’s latest thoughts on the Christian life, discipleship, books, family, and more.

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Charles Ingwe

commented on Jul 6, 2012

Thank you Randy for this message. Considering all you have highlighted I trust I am one of the many this message was destined for. I preach blessings in christ but that key to all that is staying in christ ( word of God, becoming the word of God by being obedient to the leading of the spirit). However, we are in age when we need to know that evengelism is not only needed out their but right in our churches were almost everyone is claiming to be born again. I have realised that many in church today are convinced that christ is savior but not converted. When you talk much, as the spirit leads on the need to cry for purity of our temples for say a month without touching on material blessings, You start to see wrinked faces.

Jim Ressegieu

commented on Jul 6, 2012

Thank you Randy!! As I read the article I kept thinking there are more and more people who proudly say, "I'm gay," "I'm transgender," "I belong to a group many think is a cult," and these folks push their agenda making it seem that their beliefs or lifestyles are biblical. And where is the Christian in all of this? So often they are in church, comfortably sitting in their pews hoping that someone will come in the door that they can witness to in the safety of the sanctuary! Why are these cults and lifestyles growing? Because their adherants are not afraid to share their beliefs--what's happening to the Christians who have the greatest life-changing story to tell?

John Mury

commented on Jul 6, 2012

I like how Billy Hybels defined "seeker sensitive" - to eliminate every barrier between the seeker and God except the scandal of the cross. And to that, I say, "Amen!" People are going to reject Jesus for all kinds of reasons; let's just be sure that if it does happen, it happens because of what the cross says about God and about us and not because of something we did or were not willing to do.

Dr. Thomas Norton

commented on Jul 8, 2012

Thank you Randy, for the clear call to speak the truth of the gospel of the Kingdom. We cannot be true to our Savior or our calling as pastors or preachers without boldly sharing the high cost of sin as well as the the greater payment of Christ for our sins. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:29, ESV). May we be willing to pay the price to be an obedient disciple of Christ.

Sterling Franklin

commented on Jul 8, 2012

More articles like this, please! Amen, stay faithful to Jesus and proclaim His truth obediently!

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jul 9, 2012

Christians are actually more intolerable than others when proven wrong about sin because they do not believe in the real Jesus based on his unique self-revelation in his death on the cross. (John 16: 5-15 ff.)

John E Miller

commented on Jul 11, 2012

We must remember that the hatred of the world is directed at every child of God according to 1 John 3:13. The fact that one might be a preacher or pastor does not set him apart or elevate him in any way. In that chapter the Apostle John uses the example of the first two men born into the world. He says that Cain "was of the evil one". The less we follow the behaviour pattern of the world, the more it will hate us because our faith and our resulting way of life condemns them. This puts the responsibility on every preacher to preach the cross. It's centrality in preaching gives men and women no excuse, but we must remember that our lives must be in accordance with its message. So called "seeker sensitive ministry" blurrs the message and avoids the cutting edge of God's word. Satan claps his hands from the sidelines.

Bryan Thompson

commented on Jul 13, 2012

Thomas Sowell said, "When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear." Wise words. I think they apply here.

George Warner

commented on Aug 15, 2020

THINK UPON ROMANS 4:1-8. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty about things that the Bible says are not your fault. If the idea of telling someone things that would frighten them frightens you, just begin by handing them a pamphlet or booklet, or put one through their letterbox. This is a lot easier than speaking to people of uncertain character. The Apocrypha and the Bible warn about the danger of this. Jesus Sirach said, Before a stranger do no matter of counsel, for thou knowest not what he will bring forth (Sirach 8:21). Jesus Christ said, Give not that which is holy unto dogs etcetera (Matthew 7:6). A prophet is not without honour except in his own house and his own country. No physician heals those who know him. Try to avoid preaching to your next door neighbour. Preach to strangers who live 40 miles away and ask Christians from 40 miles away to preach in your street. This is similar to how police officers work in the UK. Confucius said, When the way prevails in the land be bold in speech and bold in action. When the way does not prevail be bold in action but conciliatory in speech. This connects well with what Jesus Christ said. Jesus only lived on Earth for about 30 years. Many of us have or will be here for significantly longer.

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