We are looking at seven reasons that we ought to preach. So far, we have explored three reasons: (1)God commands us to preach; (2) God speaks to us through our preaching; and (3) Faith comes from hearing. Today we will examine a fourth reason to preach:
(4) The Church Grows When the Word of God Spreads
In Canada today it is increasingly trendy to draw people into the Church through culturally attractive gimmicks, such as cafés, book clubs, movie nights, art shows, etc. The list is sadly inexhaustible. Some gimmicks are neutral. Others lack any semblance of Christ at all. The most destructive gimmick is the let’s-pretend-we-are-not-a-church gimmick. When this happens, we try to grow the Church by abandoning cherished symbols, such as the Cross or the Lord’s Supper. Or, we try to grow the Church by building on a false foundation that ignores the Bible and good doctrine. Many of these approaches favour “connecting” and “bridge building” over the more traditional curriculum of the Church as articulated in Acts 2:42.
The goal of many of these efforts is to increase the numbers on Sunday morning (and for some, through the week). However, let us be warned: gimmicky, Cross-less, Communion-less, Bible-less, doctrine-less churches do not grow the Church, even if numbers appear to be climbing. A church built on anything other than Christ is dead and is not rightly called a church. In these dead churches, some of them mega-churches that have the appearance of success, the Holy Spirit departs, the spiritual life and vitality of the church darkens, and all that remains is a room full of unsaved people pretending. The only way to see the True Church grow is to spread the Word of God. And, the fount required is preaching Christ.
In the book of Acts, Luke establishes a very intentional pattern: The Word spreads and the Church grows; the Word spreads some more, and the Church grows some more (Acts 6:7, 9:27-31, 12:24,16:5, 19:20, 28:30-31). The early Church does not cave to gimmicks, apologize for important Christian symbols, or abandon Scripture and doctrine. To the contrary, Paul captured the approach of the early Church when he wrote, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). Giving the secular masses what they want in an effort to grow the Church is akin to giving Jews signs and Greeks wisdom without the Cross. Signs, wisdom, and culturally sensitive facades are not necessarily evil or counter to the Gospel, so long as they do not require us to stop preaching Christ. However, let us be clear in our own minds: signs, wisdom, and culturally sensitive facades will not grow the Church. And, in many instances (not all instances) they are, in fact, evil because their presence actively undermines the work of the Gospel in the local church.
So, whether signs, wisdom, and cultural fluff is evil or not, helpful or hurtful, the only way for the Church to grow authentically is for us to preach Christ. And let us engage knowing full well that this is a stumbling block to the lost, and folly to the post-modern humanists that we so deeply covet for our pews. Therefore, we must preach the Word trusting that it is God alone who grows the Church and trusting that He has decided to grow the Church through preaching. It is crucial that we remember that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain (Psalms 127:1).