Tag Archives: Jared Wilson

Can Bible-Centered Preaching Win the Lost?

Pastor Andy Stanley has been making headlines by questioning what he calls “The Bible says” preaching. He says we live in a post-Christian world, and many people have already dismissed the Bible’s authority. How can we reach the lost, he asks, with sermons that appeal to the authority of Scripture if our audience doesn’t already trust that authority?

Reader's eye view

You’d be shocked by how many students and adults in your church view the Bible as a spiritual book that says true things to live by as opposed to an inspired collection of documents documenting events that actually happened. This is why I will continue to insist the foundation of our faith is not an inspired book but the events that inspired the book; events that inspired writers, born along by the Holy Spirit, to document conversations, insights and events—the pivotal event being the resurrection. While it’s true we would not know these events occurred had they not been documented, two other things are equally true. First, they were documented years before there was a Bible (i.e., New Testament bound together with the Jewish Scriptures). Second, it is the events, not the record of the events that birthed the “church.” The Bible did not create Christianity. Christianity is the reason the Bible was created. The reason many Christians struggle with statements like these is they grew up on “The Bible says” preaching. And that’s fine as long as one first believes the Bible is inspired.

Stanley compares this faith in the Bible’s inspiration to Muslims’ faith in the Quran. If you don’t already believe the Quran speaks to your life, why should anyone appeal to it as an authority?

Jared Wilson points out the huge problem with this statement.

There is zero room here for the actual reality of the Bible as God’s living Word. There is zero room here for the supernatural reality that the Bible carries a weight with lost people they don’t often expect it to! But this inadvertent nod to materialism and pragmatism is certainly expected from those with a proven track record of treating the Bible like an instruction manual rather than as the record of the very breath of God.

If preachers are trying to Christianize people into acting like Christians because the Bible says they should, then yeah, they will have problems motivating people to do what they want. But Christianizing people isn’t the gospel. We can’t justify recommendations found in Scripture based on unbiblical worldviews in an effort to make non-believers look like believers. What we can do is tell them about Jesus, to talk about life in the light of Christ, and to marvel at the Son of God in their presence. What we want to do is demonstrate our preeminent love for the Father by how we love our neighbor, all the while speaking of the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).

How is anyone going to believe the Bible if we do not preach the Bible?

Some Churches Have Lost Their Way

How do you react to the claim that what a Christian does at church on Sunday morning is the most important thing he can do that week? I think some pastors have said this as a way of saying worshipping God is our most important act, but if that’s what they intend to say, they aren’t quite saying it. One could easily hear in such a claim that attending church that morning is the most important part of the week. Is that what worship is? Are we only able to worship the Lord in an organized service on one day or can we develop a lifestyle of worship for the whole week? Is the church’s mission to draw people into its organization or to declare the wonders of Christ Jesus?

Jared C. Wilson has experience in churches that put all of their creative energy into making the Sunday morning service exciting, unique, and attractive to the people of their city, and he believes those church leaders have lost the vision for Christ’s church on earth. The manner of the services and the theme of the sermons (or talks) point to good feelings and self-improvement. “But are they the real message of Jesus?” he asks.

Wilson’s argument in The Prodigal Church rests on his belief that what you win people with is what you win them to. “Pragmatic discipleship makes pragmatic Christians. The way the church wins its people shapes its people. So the most effective way to turn your church into a collection of consumers and customers is to treat them like that’s what they are.”

He urges church leaders to question their assumptions about what takes place in their services and programs. If their goal is make clear the claims of Christ or to help others make God of first importance in every part of their lives, then they are on mission regardless their presentation style.

You could walk away from the attractional church’s pattern of teaching and think you needed some more skills, some more enthusiasm, and some more advice, but you’d rarely walk away thinking you need more grace.

Wilson is careful not to overly criticize. He isn’t arguing for his preferred church style or saying that everyone has to agree with him on what makes for a good worship service. He admits we have different styles, but making consumerism a normal part of the American church does not lift up the name of Christ or apply his grace in healthy ways. That’s not a style choice. It’s a problem. It isn’t cultural sensitivity; it’s being co-opted by the culture.

The second part of the book offers many thoughts on how to do church well, including some stories of people who realized their manner of ministry didn’t accomplish their intentions. I heartily agree with and recommend this book.

Excerpt from The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson

Many attractional churches still preach that Jesus died for our sins, of course. But too often this message of Christ’s death has become assumed, the thing you build up to rather than focus on. Or, in too many other cases, this message is treated as the “add-on” to other messages, the proposition presented at the end of a message that is more about our personal success than Christ’s personal victory.

A cognitive dissonance can result for those who hear a message all about what they should do to be more successful or victorious or happy or what-have-you, only to then hear the proposition that Jesus died for our sins. To hear a lengthy appeal to our abilities, culminating in an appeal to our utter inability, can cause spiritual whiplash.

But the appeal is easy to see. Attractional is certainly attractive. These kinds of messages, over time, communicate to seeker and believer alike that Christianity is about themselves, making the faith more about self-improvement or life enhancement—which are things we all want deep down. But are they the real message of Jesus?

— From The Prodigal Church:A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo, by Jared C. Wilson

Though I am in no position to challenge Wilson’s assessment here, I want to offer the suggestion that the spiritual whiplash may be negated quite a bit by presenting the gospel with a heavy emphasis on personal choice. These preachers could be summarized as saying that since Christ has done so much for our eternal lives, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of it. Don’t you see how your life would be improved by declaring yourself a follower of Christ Jesus?

That may be a way to make converts, but it isn’t a way to make actual disciples.

His Kindness!

Jared Wilson tells a wonderful story on how we don’t want to be put a period where J.I. Packer puts an exclamation point.

Also, if you missed the news earlier this month, Packer, that greatly anointed author, has lost his sight. He talks about it in this interview.

No, in the days when it was physically possible for me to do these things I was concerned, even anxious, to get ahead with doing them. Now that it’s no longer possible I acknowledge the sovereignty of God. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” (Job 1:21). Now that I’m nearly 90 years old he’s taken away. And I won’t get any stronger, physically, as I go on in this world. And I don’t know how much longer I’ll be going on anyway.