by Michael Gilbert (part 1 in a series)
There’s really only one fundamental reason to worship with a congregation – the character of its preaching and teaching program. It’s the Word that saves, not programs. It’s the Word of God that counts, not numbers. It’s the Word of God that matters, not how many visitors return. It’s the Word of God that should be promoted, not the ability or likability of any one preacher or teacher. It’s the Word of God that should gain our attention, not how many activities the congregation provides for “my kids”.
Hear Paul’s plea to a struggling Corinthian congregation, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Again, God’s message deliverer emphasized the innate, saving power of God’s Word when he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Rom. 1:16).
Congregations of the churches of Christ all across the U.S. are clamoring for a decrease in preaching in order to gain numbers and please the members. “Shorter sermons are better”, they say. The all too familiar refrain, “It’s hard to sit through a 30-minute sermon”, seems to be the sentiment of most ‘Christians’ these days. High School football games are three and one half hours, movies range from one hour and a half, to 2 hours in length – and that is fine – just give us a short sermon and let’s go home! The majority believe we need more prayers and less preaching, more singing and less preaching, more emphasis on the Lord’s Supper and less preaching. After all, we are already accustomed to “preparing our minds for the Lord’s Supper”, after which, we “prepare our minds” to endure the sermon. So, why not shorten (even cancel) the preaching service and alleviate the pain altogether? Skits work better anyway, right?
Why is it the case that modern Americans are so intent on offering things to God, but less intent to hear what God has to offer us through His Word? Why do we clamor for more singing, more Lord’s Supper time, more praying time, yet less time for allowing God to direct our lives by the “word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Pt. 2:23)? Oddly enough, no one ever complains about the lack of time devoted to the contribution!
It’s as if we’re saying, “Lord, what I have to offer you is important. But, what you have to offer me through your chosen messenger is simply too boring. Your Word is too hard to understand”!
Our prayer could be, “Lord, have mercy on us – for we are just humans. We’re not that bad – we send ourselves (and our kids) to 4-year universities and pressure ourselves (and our kids) to learn, but we just can’t get up the nerve to pressure ourselves (or our offspring) to “endure long sermons”. You’ll overlook that, right Lord?”.
Study with me over the next few weeks as Paul gives us 5 reasons why the preaching of the gospel must be increased, not downplayed, from 2 Tim. 3:1 through 4:5.