The Gospel: Good News or Good Advice?

I am currently reading Michael Horton's great book Christless Christianity:The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. It is a spot-on diagnosis of the current state of Christianity and understanding of the Gospel in the American church today.

In Chapter Five--"How We Turn Good News Into Good Advice"--Horton writes,

It is just as easy to lose Christ by destraction as it is by denial. We keep expecting the ball to be fumbled by the liberals, when conservative churches are as often likely to be interested in someone or something other than Christ crucified this week. A woman who was struggling in her marriage told a pastor friend of mine that she decided to visit his church because her home church was going through a series on "How to Have a Better Marriage." "What I need to hear most right now is who God is and what Christ has done for me even though I'm a wreck. My marriage needs a lot of things, but that more than anything else." She was right.

I find this to be the case as well with those I visit with. Just this week I visited with a believing couple who are trying to discern God's will about their church home. The comment that they made to me was, "I am tired of hearing about all that God can do for me to make my life better. I want to hear about who God is and what He has done."

What we as pastors preach, will be what kind of churches result from our preaching. If our preaching is geared around making Christ and the gospel "relevant" to the culture around us and focusing on practical, contemporary application each week--telling people what to do to make their lives better--then we will produce people that are depending on the law and not on the Gospel. They will constantly be asking the question, "What must I do?" and seeking the answer week after week. However if we week in and week out preach what God has already done in Christ for them, which is the Gospel, then the product will be people who are secure in their standing in Christ and who He is and what He has done, rather than who they are and what they must do. Their "doing" will flow from their "being" in Christ.

Horton writes,

I hear someone saying, 'But we have to make Jesus and the gospel relevant to people in our own time and place." But what does it say about Jesus Christ if the relevance of his person and work cannot stand on its own?

I am concerned that when the church's basic message is less about who Christ is and what he has accomplished once and for all for us and more about who we are and what we have to do in order to make his life (and ours) relevant to the culture, the religion that is made "relevant" is no longer Christianity.

And so what is the job or the task of the minister of the Gospel? Horton concludes,

Nevertheless, ministers are not trained to be experts in economics, business, law, and politics. People may get a lot better financial, marital, and child-rearing advice from wise uncles and aunts or even non-Christian neighbors than from their pastor. Rather, ministers are trained to be wise in the Scriptures, which center on the drama of redemption. They are not sent on their own mission but are ambassadors and heralds sent from God to a world of sin and death. They are called to proclaim the most important and relevant announcement, which cannot be heard anywhere else.

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