Preaching is the greatest calling of God. It is the means by which He calls sinners to Himself and the means by which He equips those He calls for service. Preaching has been downplayed in the church. In some churches it’s not only downplayed but has been replaced. Listen to how some churches view preaching. One church advertising their church wrote this: “There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty message.” Another church in their advertisement wrote: “Services at [the church featured in the article] have an informal feeling. You won’t hear people threatened with hell or referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome, not drive them away.” Another one wrote: “The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won’t hear a lot of preaching about sin and damnation and hell fire. Preaching here doesn’t sound like preaching. It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk. It breaks all the stereotypes.”
Preaching today has been replaced with being “clever, informal, positive, brief, and friendly” (John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, 47). The reason why preaching is being downplayed in so many churches is “to make it more appealing to unbelievers” (MacArthur, 45). “The experts are now telling us that pastors and church leaders who want to be successful must concentrate their energies in this new direction. Provide non-Christians with an agreeable, inoffensive environment. Give them freedom, tolerance, and anonymity. Always be positive and benevolent. If you must have a sermon, keep it brief and amusing. Don’t be preachy or authoritative. Above all, keep everyone entertained. Churches following this pattern will see numerical growth, we’re assured; those that ignore it are doomed to decline” (MacArthur, 45). This kind of thinking is at the heart of “the market-driven, user-friendly church.” It’s goal is to give people what they want. George Barna says, “This is what marketing the church is all about: providing our product (relationships) as a solution to people’s felt need” (Marketing the Church, 51). The problem with this kind of thinking is “‘felt needs’...determine the road map for the modern church marketing plan” (MacArthur, 49) instead of the Bible.
“The Bible, not a marketing plan, is supposed to be the sole blueprint and final authority for all church ministry. Ministry should meet people’s real needs, not salve their selfishness. And the Lord of the church is Christ, not some couch potato with the remote control in his hand” (MacArthur, 51). “The real problem—the root of all such troubles—is human depravity, an issue that is carefully skirted (though seldom overtly denied) in the teaching of the typical user-friendly church. No longer are pastors trained to declare to people what God demands of them. Instead, they are counseled to find out what the people’s demands are, then do whatever is necessary to meet them...The effects of such a philosophy is apparent; more and more people-pleasers fill the pulpits of our churches. Moreover, Scripture is overruled by the marketing plan as the authoritative guide for ministry” (MacArthur, 49).
Charles Spurgeon, commenting on Jesus’ ministry says, “I did not hear Him say ‘Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow." Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, "Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are." If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods” (Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats).
When Paul wrote to the Galatians and confronted their turning away from God who called them in the grace of Christ “to a different gospel” (1:6). He said in Galatians 1:10-12, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What does God have to say about His church? Is it to be a “seeker-sensitive” and “user-friendly?” Its it to tailor itself to the felt-needs of its people? Is preaching to be replaced with being “clever, informal, positive, brief, and friendly?” (John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, 47).
2 Timothy 4:1-5 specifically answers this question. Listen to what it says: I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
Paul tells Timothy that the time is going to change. People will want to have their ears tickled but he must preach the Word when he has opportunity and when he doesn't. How about you? Are you preaching the gospel today? Are you preaching it even when there is not any opportunity?