Summary: We do not only need to know the story of creation, but we need to see how we are part of it and how it all becomes relevant for our lives today.
The entire story of the Bible from the Israelites as God’s chosen people, to the Christian church, is about not being the same as the rest of the culture. God has always asked us to be different from the majority culture that we live in. Toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century now, the North American church seems to be trying to become more like our culture in an effort to draw more people. But my friends, God never said to fill seats, He said to make disciples. Even Jesus didn’t convert everybody. A disciple is a true follower of Jesus Christ.
When we lure people by being seeker-sensitive it’s in a sense like being a dishonest salesperson. We lure them in the door then we wack them with the truth. But we don’t even do this well. The problem is, in order to keep these people, we have to continue watering down the message and make it relevant so we don’t offend anyone. Offending people takes more courage, we just need to make sure we are not offending them with our behaviour, but we let Jesus offend them with His word.
Church growth people argue that the church became unpopular so it had to change to be more compatible with the culture. Is the church more popular now than in the 50’s? Well there are more churches with over 5000 people, more pastors driving Mercedes, but the reality is that there are fewer people attending church and reading the Bible than ever. One has to question the motives of the church growth movement. I personally don’t see it being based in Scripture.
Mark Dever is one of the most respected writers on church health, not growth, but health. He pastors a large church in the cesspool that is Washington, DC. He believes that we need to return to a model of church that makes us look different from the culture not more like it, just like in the early church. In Romans, Paul said not to be conformed to the world, that we are to be conformed to the image of Christ. Why do we feel like we have the best ideas on how to run church, when it is so clearly laid out for us in the Bible? The way God intended it to be. Remember whose church it is?
Well folks that is why I am committed to expository preaching of the Bible. Here’s what Dever says in his recent book “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church”:
I don’t have time to get into a detailed discussion of what expository or expositional preaching is, but basically it is preaching from the Bible text itself and choosing the theme of the sermon based on what the original writer in the Bible intended it to be. Not picking a topic and finding some scripture to back up our own ideas.
Listen to what Colossians and 2Timothy have to say about what we need to be focused on as Christian leaders: read Col 2:8, 2Tim 4:1-4 … That’s not good.
In the Christian church we are not just dealing with ideas about God, which is what a lot of preaching is these days, and I must admit it’s tempting. Yes we get more understandings and ideas about how we are to be, but the core of our faith is to find ourselves experientially in the story of what God has said and done through history. Apart from this real history that we read in the OT, there is no Christian faith. Yet some modern Christian churches call the OT the “Hebrew Bible” and all but ignore it.
If we simplify the story, it’s about God’s creation of a world, and a human race that He created in His image, to oversee His creation with the Creator’s instructions. But human beings did not and do not want to be servants of anyone, and therefore have from the earliest, disobeyed the God who ultimately only ever wanted us to live in the kind of bliss that the Trinity enjoys. Since the Garden of Eden, God has forever tried to show us that following Him is the way to life abundant, even through allowing horrible punishment towards His people and ultimately to His son, so we could experience what it is like to be where He is.
The goal of the Bible is not to simply distill out of it themes and principles from another time and try to apply them to our situation. It is to help us see that we are these people, and that we are part of the story that is not yet complete. The book of Acts ends very abruptly and I wonder if after Jesus comes and brings the book of Revelation to pass, if there won’t be an expanded version of the book of Acts, or an Acts 2 for us to read in heaven. This book would be about us!