Returning to preaching the Gospel and nothing but the Gospel, Part I

Emilie Bouvier, "Fertile Soil." (Split Rock Lighthouse State Park; Two Harbors, MN)Image © Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.

Learning is a cognitive process of acquiring acknowledge and skills that will be useful for daily living. Most people I know continue to acquire knowledge and skills throughout their entire lives because of their desire to constantly improve ourselves socially, politically, economically, cognitively, and even spiritually.

There are many ways by which an individual learns. It could simply be by watching and imitating; trial and error; being told what, how, when and why certain things are done the way they are; or simply by listening with the intent to understand and apply what has been heard. It is probably for these reasons that even though there are different ways in which people learn (some are visual learners while others are kinesthetic learners), the primary mode in which learning takes place even within this technologically advanced society is through listening (auditory). There seems to be something extremely powerful about listening in comparison to seeing (visual) and touching (kinetic).

When Christians and seekers come to church, they come for different reasons; one of which I think is to hear the Word of God. In other words, they come with the expectation of listening to God’s Word, either through the direct reading of the Holy Scripture or through the preaching of the Word in order to learn something that could change or improve their course in life. The Bible says, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). It is by hearing the message of the gospel that they come to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is by hearing the message of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that they offer themselves in baptism (Romans 6:3-5).  It is also by hearing that on the cross of Calvary, Christ defeated principalities and powers (Colossians 2:14-15), that faith and discipleship grow.

Equally important is the fact that by hearing God’s word, believers are transformed by both the law and gospel. In the same token when believers hear and fully understand that the steadfast love of the Lord will never cease (Lamentations 3:22-24), they are able to keep their hopes and dreams alive.  Indeed, it is when believers, or even seekers, hear that the Lord is coming back for His bride, the church, that they remain optimistic in spite of the trials and temptations they face daily.

But, the crucial question is what kind of “word” are we giving to people when they come to church? Are they listening to cute and funny stories? Are they listening to our opinion? Are they listening to the same news they heard on CNN? Are they listening to our version of some kind of article we read in the Wall Street Journal? Are they listening to the Biblical text? Are they listening to what the Spirit of God is conveying about Jesus and His ministry here on the earth? Are they reminded of Christ’s ability to transform their lives and His desire for them to become His ambassadors on the earth with all the responsibilities and privileges attached thereto? Basically, how much of our sermon proclaims God’s Word?

Dwell with these questions and check in next week to read Part II of this article series.