Tuesday, August 18, 2009

12 Causes and Inevitable Consequences of Sloppy Evangelistic Preaching

by Benjamin Valentine

      It is a beautiful Sunday morning. The church is full of people who spend between one and a half to two hours in prayer, singing, fellowship and listening to the preacher. Within the time of the church service, the preacher spends 45 minutes going through his text(s) from scripture, expounding on principles and applications relating to the Christian life. As he approaches the conclusion, he encourages the congregation to lower their heads and close their eyes in prayer. The worship team plays a series of quiet instrumental chords. With “every head bowed and every eye closed”, he calls people to respond and be ministered to. People raise their hands in affirmation.
      “Yes, I see that hand, thankyou.”
      Faintly, the sound of someone sobbing is heard in the background as the preacher continues. Last but not least, he addresses the visitors and unbelievers who may be present.
      “Last but not least, you may be here and you do not yet know Jesus. I want to give you the opportunity today to introduce him to you. He has a plan and a purpose for your life; he wants to lavish you with abundance and blessing. You may have been looking elsewhere for joy, love, peace and fulfilment, but only Jesus can fill that God-shaped Hole that only he can fill. You can have a life of purpose and meaning. All you have to do is repeat this simple prayer: ‘Jesus, I need you. I want to know you personally. I want you to come into my life. I want to receive the plan that you have for me. Amen.’ I prayed that prayer x years ago and my life has never been the same.”
      Those that responded approach the altar where the elders and deacons are ready to give counsel. The visitors who just recited the “sinner’s prayer” are joyfully congratulated. “Welcome to the kingdom of God!”

      Within the week, the church is quick to celebrate over the “salvations” that the Lord brought them. Cut to three weeks later. Nobody has seen the new “converts” in church. The small-group leaders call them and encourage them to attend small-group Bible study, but to no avail. Blame shifting starts to occur: Lack of follow-up? Lack of discipleship? Lack of relational connections? Every situation is put forward as a possibility, yet few bother to ask at all about what really happened on the Sunday that these “converts” made a decision to receive Christ. Did anything actually happen at all? It seems that many overlook the things that lead to those individuals making a profession. While there was definitely a call to respond, certain aspects of the biblical gospel message were definitely missing: a specific explanation of sin, the judgment of God, the reason behind hell, the purpose of the cross, the need for surrender, the cost of discipleship. It seems inevitable then, that the fruits of such a gross omission of the full gospel message would eventually reveal itself in such a tangible way.

      Sadly, such a scenario as that described above is not uncommon among today’s churches. So without further adieu, I thought I’d list causes as well as the inevitable consequences of what happens when a preacher fails to explain the gospel in it’s entirety and instead sugar-coats it and waters it down in the hopes of making it more palatable:

1. The omission of the exposition of God’s Moral Law leading to an abstract understanding of Sin and Holiness.
Psalm 19:7 states that 
"The Law of the Lord is Perfect for reviving the soul." We know that the ultimate revival of someone's soul occurs at conversion what someone becomes a Christian by accepting Christ into his or her life. The King James Version translation even goes as far as to say, "The Law of the Lord is perfect for converting the soul"(emphasis mine). What is it that the Bible says is perfect for converting the soul? Simple: The Law of the Lord. Now, upon reading Psalm 19:7, many Christians will no doubt cry out "Impossible! We are not subject to the law any longer as it brings death (1 Corinthians 15:56)." That is true, the law is not applicable for Christians. But emphasis should be given on the prior sentence's last two words: for Christians, as Christ has paid the price for our transgression through The Cross. So what about the non-Christian who is still living in sin? 1 John 3:4 state that "Everyone who sins breaks the law, in fact, sin is lawlessness." The moral law of God as summarized in the 10 Commandments represents the standards of morality by which God expects his children to abide by. It will be the standard by which God will judge us when we face him after our physical death.
      So what is the purpose of God's Law for the evangelist?
      In Romans 7:7, The Apostle Paul says to the reader regarding the relationship between Law and sin: 
"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.'" 
The purpose of the Law, as Paul writes, is to make the sinner aware of what they had done wrong against God.

1 Timothy 1:8-11 says 
"We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me."

King David wrote in Psalm 19:7 that "
The Law of the Lord is perfect for reviving the soul" because he regularly meditated upon God’s standard of righteousness and reflected upon whether he was living in accordance with it or not. Whenever he found that he had sinned, his conscience yearned for satisfaction and feared the consequences of being abandoned or turned away from God. In the same manner, the evangelist who seeks to bring people into a relationship with God must first explain the standard of God’s righteousness and allow the conscience to thirst for satisfaction in the form of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.

In describing the applications of the Law for the Christian today, Bakers’ Theological Dictionary states: 
The Law prepares sinners for the gospel. No one can receive eternal salvation by
works of the law (Gal 2:16) because none perfectly keeps the law (Rom 3:23), and
violation of any part of it makes one guilty of the whole (James 2:10; cf. Rom 2:25;
Gal 3:10). Instead, salvation is a gift obtained by faith, not works (Rom 4:4-5; Eph
2:8-10; Phil 3:9). Nonetheless, the law was meant to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24). It
makes the sinner conscious of sin (Rom 3:20; 7:7; 1 John 3:4). It provokes and
incites rebellion (Rom 5:20; 7:13), thereby making on fully accountable before God for
violation of his moral requirements (Rom 3:19; 4:15; 5:13; 5:13; 7:8-10). By this
means, the law shows sinners their need for a mediator to redeem them from the
Law's condemnation (Gal 3:13). Hence, the law is an essential prerequisite in
preparing sinners for the gospel.i

Unless one explains God’s actual stardard of what and is right and wrong, “Sin” and “Holiness” are nothing but abstract words.

2. It encourages cheap grace/easy-believism
Sadly, the prevailing view within the 21st century church as to what actually constitutes saving faith growing more and more shallow, with anyone who claims to be a Christian finding others that are willing to accept a profession of faith regardless of whether or not the person’s behaviour shows any evidence of commitment to Christ.
Many protestant churches are quick to boast about being above tradition, ritual and superstition for the sake of defining Christianity as "a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ",yet in the same breath, such churches will freely measure such on the basis of whether people recited a man-made prayer.This watered-down understanding of salvation and the gospel itself is commonly called easy-believism and it stands in direct contrast to what Jesus actually teaches.ii When Jesus asks everything of us, he’s not just explaining the cost of being a disciple, he’s talking about what it requires to truly enter the kingdom.
      Today, easy-believism teaches that saving faith is merely being convinced or simply giving acceptance towards the gospel and does not have to include actual repentance or commitment to the person of Christ. However, when we examine the gospel accounts, Jesus recognised no distinction between belief in him, and commitment to him. Discipleship, in his own eyes, was not something that was to be left for only the elite among those who had his name within their personal vocabularies; he was expecting anyone that would declare him as Lord to be willing to drop everything on the spot and follow him no matter what the resulting costs would be, even if it resulted in suffering and death. One does not begin as a nominal “Christian” then choose to become a committed “Christ-follower” later on. Full surrender to Jesus’ lordship is not an addendum to the biblical terms of salvation, but rather the call to submission is really what is at the heart of the gospel.

3. It facilitates False Conversion among potential believers
Jesus himself said 
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24, New King James Version); the greek word for “strive” is agōnizomai ἀγωνίζομαι, which Strong’s Dictionary defines as: “to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), figuratively (to contend with an adversary), or generally (to endeavor to accomplish something): - fight, labor fervently, strive.” As is the case with natural childbirth, the process of being born again culminating in a genuine conversion is a painful, agonizing process. Sadly, the truth is that in any given altar call on a Sunday service within contemporary churches, agōnizomai is rarely seen when one responds to an invitation to respond to the gospel call.
      Preaching that fails to expound the true gospel message can only be expected to fill the church with false converts who lack genuine assurance as to whether they have actually encountered the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The late D. James Kennedy said, “The vast majority of people who are members of churches in America today are not Christians. I say that without the slightest contradiction. I base it on empirical evidence of twenty-four years of examining thousands of people.”

      The Bible speaks of false brethren explicitly in Scripture. It speaks of false apostles, false prophets, false teachers, and false conversion. And hardly ever do we hear teaching on the latter. Jesus warned: 
17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Matthew 7:17-23 (New International Version)

      While “evildoers” is used by the NIV for Matthew 7:13, other translations will use “wicked people” or “workers of lawlessness”; they are characterised by having not the righteousness that is necessary to stand before the holiness of God without condemnation.

2 Timothy 3:1-9 warns:
1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

While false converts may outwardly be able to put on a façade of “a form of godliness but denying its power” by way of talking the talk, behind the scenes, their actual lifestyle shows absolutely no effect with regards to the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. They’re still living under the bondage of their sinful nature unashamedly without remorse. Eventually, their double-life will catch up with them as will be demonstrated by the damage they will afflict on others within the church while showing that what seemed to be genuine growth was nothing more than a mask for the complete emptiness of any conviction with regards to the things of God and the subsequent transformation of life that results despite coming across as having a seemingly know-it-all attitude.
17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit” and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." 
2 Peter 2:17-22

4. The Church fails to be Salt and Light to the community
In 1996, a survey conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York found that “eighteen percent of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians”. That is, of those who murdered their own unborn child, nearly one in five professed faith in Jesus Christ. That is a little difficult to reconcile with the fact that Christians are supposed to love God and to love others as much as they love themselves.

      Some years ago, George Barna revealed that sixty-two percent of Americans claim to have “a relationship with Jesus Christ that is meaningful to them.” Yet a Gallup Poll taken around the same time found that, of those Americans who say they have a relationship with the Savior, approximately ten percent were what Gallup called “a breed apart”: “They are more tolerant of people of diverse backgrounds. They are involved in charitable activities. They are involved in practical Christianity. They are absolutely committed to prayer.” 

      “True Love Waits”, a program sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the most famous evangelical efforts to reduce premarital sex among youth. Since 1993, 2.4 million young people have signed a pledge to wait until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse. Did these youthful believers keep their promises? In March 2004, researchers from Columbia and Yale Universities reported their findings taken over a seven-year period among a sample of twelve thousand teenagers who took the pledge. Sadly, they found that 88% of these pledgers reported having pre-marital sex; that is, only 12% kept their promise. The researchers also found that the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases “were almost identical for the teenagers who took pledges and those who did not.”iii

      That means there is a great mass of people who say that Jesus Christ is meaningful to them, but who are not “a breed apart.” They are not involved in good works, nor are they tolerant of others. Neither are they involved in practical Christianity nor committed to prayer. That means there are millions of people in the world who insinuate that they belong to Jesus Christ, but whose lives don’t match their claims.
      A church that does not preach the full gospel message can only hope to fill itself with false converts who are still under the bondage of unrepentant sin. Such a church, unless it deliberately chooses to change it’s approach, will never be able to be salt and light to it’s host community if it’s congregants are not set apart by the power of the true gospel.
21you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." 
Romans 2:21-24

5. The Body of Christ is plagued with witchcraft and demonic influences arising from within the local church
43"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."
Matthew 12:43-45

While a superficial response to a compromised gospel presentation may be sufficient to temporarily dislodge any possible demonic influences upon an afflicted non-christian, if such an individual is held back from receiving the empowerment that comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit associated with the preaching of the full gospel, he will only find himself being a greater victim compared to before he made his profession. He will continue to be a conductor for demonic influences as long as he remains within the church. Furthermore, if allowed to admission and advancement in important ministries, he becomes the “mole” from which spiritual sabotage will inevitably be committed against true believers.
13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 
2 Corinthians 11:13-15

6. It hinders the task of disciple-making
Most church leaders will freely admit that there is indeed an inconsistent ratio between the number of decisions for Christ per annum and the actual attendance within the church due to people falling away and backsliding. Where there will be difference of opinion is with regards to determining the source of the problem and it's solution. There are those who would affirm that there is indeed a crisis regarding contemporary preaching and evangelism; the way the gospel is being defined via the modern methods simply does not bring about the genuine repentance and faith necessary to produce true conversion, and as a result you end up with goats instead of sheep fiiling our pews.
On the other hand, there are others who will say that the problem lies not in the gospel presentation, but in discipleship. That is, the health and genuineness of the person who has made the decision to receive Christ can be determined through what they get fed spiritually, and hence those who backslide are simply those who didn't receive adequate follow-up and teaching.
      But the question I'd like to raise is that if one's evangelism is sloppy and compromised to the point that it creates lukewarm converts, can additional discipleship through teaching make up for it?

      Let's consider a hypothetical scenario: You have a medium-sized (1000 member) church. In addition to the Sunday sermon, there are small-group meetings during the week, one-on-one mentoring, and a ministry college/seminary. All of which are under the stewardship of elders and deacons who willing give of their free time to serve as volunteers on top of full-time employment.
      The pastor on a weekly basis preaches an easy-going, "feel good" message: no mention of sin, little to no use of scripture, minimal theology; and it's concluded every Sunday with an altar-call to recite the "Sinner's Prayer". People respond and make superficial commitments to follow Christ. After a while, the stagnant nature of these professions becomes obvious: disinterest in prayer, frustrating follow-up, people turning up to small-group meetings yet showing little enthusiasm.
      Noting the lack of enthusiasm among the new believers, the pastor decides to create an improved discipleship program to supplement what the church already has. At first it seems to work: people are getting fed and nurtured. however the downside is that the leaders who have already availed themselves to other discipleship sectors start to feel stretched as in addition to full-time work and volunteer ministry, this new program requires more of their personal time to the point that they have to sacrifice the precious hours set aside for their own worship, prayer, bible study and evangelism. Stress takes it toll, leading to mental exhaustion and burnout to the extent that the pastor is approached by those requesting to be released so that they may step down. As the number of leaders dwindles, so does the quality of discipleship, and the sheep begin to starve spiritually. What is supposed to be a loving environment that facilitates the moving of the Holy Spirit leading to powerful transformation in peoples' lives soon degenerates into "Survival of the Fittest" based on which leaders have the greater measure of mental and emotional dexterity rather than anointing in the areas of teaching and pastoral care. It essentially becomes a ministry of the flesh.
      Rather than examine the integrity of the foundation, the leaders simply pile more weight upon it. It would be akin to a pregnant woman giving birth to a still-born only to be wrongly instructed by the midwife that the dead infant may be resuscitated via breastfeeding.

Says Paul Washer:
I want to submit to you, I believe in personal one-on-one discipleship, but, my dear friend, the Church got along for a thousand or more years without it, without what we know as personal, one on one, discipleship with all the books and all the different things.
I want you to think about this. One-on-one discipleship became gigantic in the late 70s and until today. What was the cry? Just as many people are going out the back doors as those coming in the front door and the reason why that is happening is because we are not discipling people.
The reason why it is happening is because people aren’t getting converted, because his sheep, they hear his voice and they follow him, whether you disciple them or not.
Now we ought to disciple, but that is not why they are leaving. “They went out from us because they were not of us” (1 John 2:19). And they hardly got a chance to be of us because they never heard a true gospel and no one ever dealt with their soul.
So we spend a fortune discipling goats, hoping they will become sheep. You can’t teach a goat until he turns into a sheep. A goat becomes a sheep by the supernatural working of the Spirit of almighty God.

7. It creates false expectations about the real nature of Christian living
In his sermon “Hell’s Best Kept Secret”, Ray Comfort uses the analogy of a parachute-user to describe the tragic error of modern evangelistic methodology:
Now listen to what the modern gospel says. It says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. He’ll give you love, joy, peace, fulfillment, and lasting happiness.” In other words, “Jesus will improve your flight.” So the sinner responds, and in an experimental fashion, puts on the “parachute” of salvation to see if the claims are true. And what does he get? The promised temptation, tribulation, and persecution. The other passengers mock him. So what does he do? He takes off the Lord Jesus Christ, he’s offended for the word’s sake (Mark 4:17), he’s disillusioned and somewhat embittered, and quite rightly so. He was promised peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness, and all he got were trials and humiliation. His bitterness is directed toward those who gave him the so-called “good news”. His latter end becomes worse than the first: another inoculated and bitter backslider.iv 

      The tragedy of using the supposed promise of life-enhancement as a lure for receiving Christ is that first of all, it is actually not an accurate portrayal of what believers were promised to face while here on Earth:

35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated?38 wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.of whom the world was not worthywandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Hebrews 11:35-38 (English Standard Version)

19When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name sake.(I) But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 10:19-22 (English Standard Version)

10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." 13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." 15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
Acts 9:10-16(English Standard Version)

3We put no obstacle in anyone way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 the Holy Spirit, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, genuine love; 7by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10(English Standard Version)

Hardship was regarded by the New Testament Church as a norm rather than an oddity. What the modern gospel supposedly promises deliverance from was in actual fact the inevitable reward for the first Christians.
In response to the chorus of a popular praise song composed by a church best known for preaching the modern message, John Piper says that a God-centred approach to Christian living 
“is very much aware that every day with Jesus is not ‘sweeter than the day before.’
Some days with Jesus our disposition is as sour as raw persimmons. Some days with Jesus we are so sad we feel our heart will break open. Some days with Jesus fear turns us into a knot of nerve ends. Some days with Jesus we are so depressed and discouraged that between the garage and the house we just want to sit down on the grass and cry. Every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before. We know it from experience and we know it from Scripture.”v

Secondly, Christians who do undergo such hardships while still adhering to such a definition of the gospel must honestly ask themselves why it is that they’re not living the way they’re meant to. Either they’re not saved on the grounds that their circumstances are contrary to the “gospel”, or the gospel that they are partaking of is false to begin with. Furthermore, preachers who are aware of such hardships among those that God has placed under their care must be willing to lower the bar and compromise their standards of pastoral duty and care if they really want to be faithful to the modern message. Such a mentality can only prove self-destructive to a church in the log-run.
Does this mean then, that Christians are doomed to a life of pessimism? Ray Comfort continues:
“Peace and joy are the legitimate fruits of salvation, but it’s not legitimate to use these fruits as a draw card for salvation. If we continue to do so, sinners will respond with an impure motive lacking repentance.”

8. It hinders and discourages believers from doing personal evangelism
Following from point seven, who in their right frame of mind would want to share a message that they themselves do not identify with? When believers undergoing trials and hardships are told to bring what was preached from the pulpit into the harvest field, they become the unwilling victims of accusations of hypocrisy on the part of those who are against Christianity. The authenticity of our testimony is immediately put under scrutiny. Who is going to believe the validity of our personal witness if our circumstances are not visibly better than those without Christ? You don't want to mention anything negative. The false gospel of “God loves you and has a Wonderful plan for Your Life” has only served to produce multitudes of people who perpetually wear these emotionless smiles out of fear that by being honest and upfront about the realities of life, Christianity will seem empty and lifeless. Don’t talk about health problems. Don’t discuss relationship breakdowns. Don’t discuss relatives disowning you because your newfound faith conflicts with their own beliefs. Don’t say or do anything that would make the gospel seem like a killjoy for people’s lives.
      Does this not mean that the rich and affluent who are without Christ have no need of the gospel? Try using the “happiness gospel” on the Moran family from 
Underbelly and see just how open they would be as to whether or not they would consider it to be “relevant” in terms of meeting them “where they’re at”…
Would it not be more ethically reasonable for a preacher to tell a non-believer upfront before giving a call to respond what the cost of their commitment to Christ may be?
9. It openly challenges the authority of Scripture
Whether it likes it or not, how the church - from it's senior leaders down to the new believers - chooses to define the gospel message via preaching and evangelism has a systemic impact upon all aspects of church life. If the message is constantly being watered down, then not only will it fail to lead people to salvation, but it will stunt and hinder the growth of those who already have been justified through Christ.
      It is by the inspired Scriptures that one discovers the nature of God, of man, of sin, of Christ and of course, the Gospel. When one seeks to redefine the gospel, they are inevitably bringing into question whether Scripture Alone is an adequate axiom of authority from which to originate and test all that is done for the sake of Christ. In the modern approach to "ministry," the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and "worship" is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church.vi
      An example from church history would be the ministry of Charles Finney. While Finney no doubt was bold with regards to his evangelism, his preaching nonetheless had severe theological flaws stemming from what was no doubt humanistic influences that were subsequent from his education as a secular solicitor. As such, his view of salvation was determined more by the ideals legal system of his day rather than the Scriptures. As such, when one reads Finney’s literature, important doctrines such as original sin, regeneration by the Holy Spirit and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness onto the believer are haphazardly downplayed, if not openly denied. By not being in full agreement with the orthodox view of original sin, Finney portrayed man’s relationship with the Law of God as one of full ability; God would never be so unkind as to give a law that man could not fulfil with his own power and will. Finney’s Jesus was seen no as the sinless “Lamb of God who has come to Take Away the Sins of World”, but rather as the ultimate moralist. Salvation according to Finney, was merely a state of mental awareness and decision rather than a complete transformation of one’s nature. Finney concluded that those doctrines – explicitly taught throughout the first five chapters of Romans – were nothing more than “theological fiction”.vii
      As a result, towards the end of Finney’s ministry, many of his peers started to note the eventual fruits. Places that were once hotspots for revival and evangelistic zeal became lukewarm. Prospective ministers fell into gross sin. Cities that experienced widescale “awakening” later became strongholds of pseudo-Christian cults such as Mormonism. All because Charles Finney refused to preach to gospel according to scripture.

10. The Church is held back from experiencing the joy of true Praise and Worship
Such an approach to evangelistic preaching makes it impossible for true worship to take place, because worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the our worldly thinking and perspectives. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Gospel. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of Christ unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s grace. But the gospel as defined by contemporary Praise and Worship today is neither profound nor transcendent. It doesn’t go down, and it doesn’t go up. It merely aims to entertain.
      Is it not surprising then, that when one looks at the lyrics found in the Praise and Worship of prominent Australian megachurches, the focus is more upon glorifying the attributes of the believer rather than the attributes of a just and holy God as well as the mercy and grace of a perfect savior? When sung in a corporate environment, what do such lyrics ultimately say about our theology?

11. It inoculates congregants against future admonition
“He that spares the Rod hates the child” Proverbs 13:24

Apart from the Holy Spirit moving in revival and reformation within biblical guidelines, it is next to impossible to convince a congregation up to it’s neck in life-enhancement preaching to suddenly shift gears and preach the true gospel.
      I remember a while ago, a group of Christian brothers who shared a house together kept a garden where they grew wheat-grass. The grass would then be grinded up and the alkaline-rich juices extracted. Apparently these juices are supposed to bring chemical balance to our body given that what we ingest most of the time is actually acidic. On one particular Sunday, I went over to try a sample. Just before that, I didided to go to McDonalds to get a Quarter Pounder Meal as it had been a busy day at church. As soon as I took a swig of wheat-grass juice afterwards… you get the picture.
      Similarly, when you have a church that has never heard the full gospel message and you suddenly have someone who has the conviction and anointing of the Holy Spirit to preach the whole truth, the immediate reaction is that you’re going to bend over and hurl. In such an environment, the biblical gospel becomes so strange, so alien to the point that when God opens he door for it to be preached, the seed can only fall on soil that has been covered in concrete.

12. It grieves the Holy Spirit's rightful place within the church as the source of power, conviction, counsel and comfort
7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.8When he comes, he will convict the world of guiltin regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:9in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;10in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
John 16:7-15

In a tragically ironic fashion, while most contemporary preachers will boldly declare the benefits of spirit-led living to their congregations, when it comes to the declaration of the gospel, much of modern preaching actually seems to be intentionally focused on circumnavigating the very things that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will actually do.
Exactly how is it that a preacher can make the claim to be under the anointing and unction of the Holy Spirit yet in the same breath declare that things such as explaining the nature of sin, future judgement and the righteousness of God are unnecessary?
      Can you remember the last time you heard a gospel proclamation that was so powerful and dripping with Living Water to the point that in your brokeness you feared that the weight of heaven's glory in all it's breadth and splendour would come crashing down upon the fragility of your own soul? When was the last time you ever heard a preacher make any mention of hell in specific terms as opposed to merely hearing about “an eternity without Christ” superficially? The question then is not so much if a preacher is spirit-led, but rather based on the content of his message, does it really reflect the genuine character and person of the Spirit of God, or is it a counterfeit set in place to pronounce the subtle doctrines of devils?
      I dare say without fear of contradiction that the fundamental reason why we do not hear such a clear explanation of biblical concepts such as this is simply because the preacher himself simply doesn't believe in it to the point of actually being concerned. Why doesn't he believe? Either he is ignorant as a result of failing to understand the very subject matter of his preaching or he honestly doesn't see the God of the bible as being wholly the same as the God he himself believes in and aims to lead people to (idolatry). Such a mindset is not that of one who is intimate with the Holy Spirit.

So, we now come to the obvious question: how can all of this be prevented?

      If you're a preacher, please bear with me as it is not my intention to lecture out of a “holier-than-thou” spirit; rather my desire is to speak as a brother and fellow servant in Christ who has witnessed the effects of a compromised gospel up close. James 3:1 makes it very clear that “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” As believers, when we stand before God on Judgment Day, we will not stand as condemned sinners because the righteousness of Christ which we have received via the gospel has been imputed to our account. The cross is what mkes the difference between heaven or hell. However, we will be judged on the basis of being faithful in doing the things that we have been called to do in God's name as empowered ministers:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 
2 Corinthians 5:10

      I'll repeat this point once again: as Christians we are not subject to the wrath of God due to our sin having been paid for by Christ. However we will be judged and rewarded on the basis of what we do for God now that we've been saved. No doubt, one of the key things believers – especially pastors, evangelists and preachers in general – will be evaluated on is their stewardship of the gospel itself:
11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 

There will no doubt come a day when the question of what is the correct way to evangelize will be finally answered – and it will be answered with a refiner's fire that will consume anything that does not have it's basis in the truth.

      No doubt every minister would rightfully wish to receive the joy of obstaining his full reward. Steve Kreins, pastor of First Church of God, Waco, Texasviii, recalls how God was quick to correct him for failing to faithfully preach the full gospel message:
I have been a pastor for 25 years. I always thought I was doing a reasonably good
job. Kind of like the folks that tell you they consider themselves "good people." I had tried to preach, what I thought, was the whole counsel of God. I prayed, over the years, with many people to accept Jesus and make Him Lord of their lives.
My wife Judy and I moved to Ruidoso, New Mexico about six years ago to plant a church. Shortly after arriving I was convicted that something was horribly wrong with my ministry. I read the scriptures and prayed earnestly that God would show me what was wrong. The feeling continued to grow and I became depressed and moody. I asked Judy to pray for me and explained my problem. I didn't know if this was the Holy Spirit convicting or Satan attacking. She prayed that God would reveal the cause of my depression and make Himself clear as He revealed any problem with my ministry for Him.
That night I had the most terrifying, realistic, blood chilling nightmare any man has ever had. I am a Vietnam veteran and I know a little about nightmares. Nothing in my experience has ever come close, nor do I ever want it to, to the horror of that night!
I dreamed that it was judgment day and I was standing right next to the throne of God. I noticed that to my left and my right, were pastors as far as I could see. I thought this was odd that the Lord would reserve this front row space for pastors only.
I looked out across a space of only a few yards and there were millions, maybe billions, of people, yet I could see each one of their eyes staring at me. As I studied this group I noticed that I knew many of them from times at the altar or ones who had sat under my teaching. I was pleased to see that they had made it to heaven, but confused because they didn't look happy. They looked very angry and hateful.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Away, I never knew you." I was suddenly frightened that what I was seeing was those who "thought" that they were saved. Then I saw all of them pointing a finger at each of us pastors and together, in one voice that shook my soul, "WE SAT IN YOUR CHURCH AND THOUGHT WE WERE SAVED. WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US WE WERE LOST?"
Tears were pouring down my face and the faces of all of those pastors. I watched as one by one those people were cast into hell. One and then another, and another, and another... until they were all gone. I died inside as each one screamed in agony and gnashed their teeth, cursing us as they went into the lake of fire.
Then I was looking into the face of Jesus and He said to me, "Is this the part where I'm suppose to say, ' Well done my good and faithful servant?" I woke up with a scream and my heart pounding and I was begging Jesus to forgive me.
I died a million deaths that night. Since that night I have done two things on a daily basis. I do everything I can to preach the law before grace in the hope that conviction of sin will bring a sinner to true salvation. The other thing that I do is pray for every person I have ever preached to asking God to repair any damage I have done. I also never believe anyone when they tell me they are saved. It is my duty to challenge them and search out the solidness of their salvation.ix 

Perhaps you may have a similar tugging of your concience within your heart that you haven't been able to explain yet is now becoming clear. You may have indeed received from the Holy Spirit admonisions in the form of dreams, or (while less dramatic), people within your immediate fellowship telling you of these things. Be encouraged, for Christ obviously wants you to continue in ministry by proclaiming what you now know to be the truth.

So then, what is the true saving gospel?
Simply put, The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.
What is Sin?
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Romans 3:23

4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
1 John 3:4

What is this law that we have all transgressed?

10th Commandment: "You shall not covet."
“Have you ever desired something that did not belong to you?”

9th Commandment: "You shall not bear false witness."
“Have you ever told a lie?”
“Yeah, maybe once or twice.”
“What does that make you?”
“A liar.”

8th Commandment: "You shall not steal."
“Have you ever stolen anything? Regardless of value”
Some will say yes, others “never.”
”Are you sure? You’ve never stolen anything? Regardless of value?”
”But you just admitted that you were a liar.”
”Okay, maybe when I was a kid.”
”And what do you call someone who steals?”
”A thief.”

7th Commandment: "You shall not commit adultery.
“The bible says ‘You shall not commit adultery’: any form of sexuality – in act as well as lifestyle and preference - outside of the covenant of marriage between God, man and woman. Jesus said, ‘Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ Have you ever looked at someone with lust?”
Who of us can say that we are pure of heart? Remember that God has seen every thought you have had and every sin you have ever committed.

6th Commandment: "You shall not commit murder."
“Have you ever murdered someone?”
God-willing, your answer should hopefully be “no.”
That’s good to hear. Have you ever called someone a jerk, moron or idiot? Jesus said, “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” and “Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Further, the Bible tells us, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.” This is because God does not simply judge our actions; He knows the intentions of the heart.

5th Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother."
“Have you always treated your parents in a way that is pleasing to God?”
God does not forget the sins of our youth. While we may have had difficult – even abusive – relations with our parents, they are still the ones God chose to bring us into the world. The Bible tells us “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”(1 Samuel 15:23)

4th Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy."
“Do you regularly set aside time to rest and thank God for his blessing upon your life?”
God requires one day out of seven and you have failed to give Him what He has demanded. How many times you have failed to bow your head before your meal and thank Him for the food He has provided? How many thousands of times have you just greedily dug in without thanking your Provider?

3rd Commandment: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."
“Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain?”
”Yeah, I do that everyday.”
”So instead of using ‘S-H-I-T’ to express disgust, you have taken the name of the One who gave you life, breath and everything precious to you, and you have dragged it through the mud. People don’t even use Hitler or Osama bin Laden’s name to swear and you use God’s name? That is called blasphemy and God promises He ‘will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.’”

2nd Commandment: "You shall not make for yourself any graven image."
Perhaps while reading this note, you're thinking: “I don't care what the Bible says, Ben. What you're saying is completely wrong and I don't agree with it. My God is a God of love. He doesn't judge or condemn and he certainly wouldn’t send anyone to hell.”
You’d be right.
Is your God the One revealed in Holy Scripture? If not, then you have made your own god to suit yourself—you have committed the oldest sin in the Book. Scripture warns that no idolater will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

1st Commandment: "You shall have no other gods before Me."
“Has God always been first in your life?”
Do you love God above all else? In fact, the Bible says that we should so love God that our love for Mom and Dad and brother and sister should seem likehatredcompared to the love we have for the God who gave those loved ones to us.
We are alsocommandedto love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Jesus spoke of a Samaritan who found an injured stranger, bathed his wounds, carried him to an inn, gave money for his care and told the inn-keeper that he would pay for his expenses. We call him thegoodSamaritan, but in reality he wasn't "good" at all, he merely obeyed the basic command to love his neighbor as himself. That is a picture of how God expects us to love our fellow human beings. We should love them as much as we love ourselves...whether they be friend or foe.
Have you loved God with all your heart? Have you loved humanity as much as you love yourself?

Who of us can say we are not guilty of breaking these Commandments?Allof us have sinned, and just as with civil law, you don't have to break ten laws to be a lawbreaker, so the Bible warns, "For whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."

      The Bible says that "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27b) since "we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:10-12). When you stand before God on Judgment Day and have the whole record of your life read out with the entire Universe as witness within the heavenly courts, will you be innocent or guilty? Will you go to heaven or hell? Listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to your conscience. You know that you will be guilty, and therefore end up in Hell.

      This may sound strange, but the worst thing you could do at this point of time is to try and clean up your lifestyle—you realize that you have sinned, so from now on you will keep the Ten Commandments, do good deeds, say the right things and think only pure thoughts. But should a judge let a murderer go because he says he will now live a good life? No, he's in debt to justice and therefore must be punished.
      The Law of God is merely like a mirror—all a mirror does is show you the truth. If you see egg on your face, you don't try and wash yourself with the mirror, it's purpose should be to send you to water for cleansing. Neither should you try and wash yourself with the mirror of God's Law...that's not its purpose. The sight in the mirror is not a pretty one, but if you don't face it and acknowledge that you are unclean, then all that "dirt" will be presented on Judgment Day as evidence of your guilt, and then it will be too late to be cleansed.

      Perhaps you think that God is good and will therefore overlook your sins. But if you were guilty of terrible crimes in a civil court and said to the judge, "Judge, I am guilty but I believe that you are a good man and will therefore overlook my crimes," the judge would probably respond by saying, "You are right about one thing; I am a good man, and it'sbecause of my goodnessthat I am going to see that justice is done, that you are punished for your crimes." The very thing that many are hoping will save them on Judgment Day, God's "goodness," will be the very thing that will condemn them. If God is good, Heshouldpunish murderers. liars, thieves, etc., and Hell will be their dreadful fate.

      It was no small thing for Jesus to die for us. The only thing that would satisfy the demands of Eternal Law was thesufferingdeath of the sinless Son of God.What love God must have for you!He suffered unspeakable agony, so that you wouldn't have to be punished for your sins. His sacrificial death and resurrection mean that you need no longer be in debt to the Law, and God can now grant you everlasting life if you obey Him -- death no longer has a legal hold upon those who belong to Jesus Christ.

      That's the full gospel message.
      Salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit, took you despite being "dead in transgressions and sins" (Ephesians 2:1), and "not able to understand the spiritual things of God because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14), began working on your heart, removing falsehoods, strongholds, molding you into being Born Again so that at just the right moment, you would no longer be hostile and resistant to our Heavenly Father and the Work of his Son, but rather you find your eyes being opened wide, your conscience no longer justifying itself but is instead convicted of "sin, righteousness and judgement" (John 16:8) to the point that you cry out "what must I do to be saved?" after which you receive the message of Christ and him crucified prompting you not by human willpower, but the direction of the Holy Spirit, to make to the declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord, leading to a new creation, whose attitudes, affections, and priorities have been forever changed once and for all so that idolatry becomes worship, obligation becomes privilege, hostility becomes love and anguish becomes joy.

The signs of a true conversion are:

1. A repentant atttitude.
7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
Matthew 3:7-9

2. Thankfulness to God for salvation.
10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:10-12

3. A selfless life of producing good works.
15Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Hebrews 13:15

4. A pattern of righteous living
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philipians 1:9-11

6. The fruit of the Spirit
19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:19-23

7. Genuine love for other believers
9Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:9-11

8. Hunger to know and apply the Word of God properly 
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2-3

If you are Soundly saved, it is because God himself, out of unmerited love towards someone who should have known wrath, stepped down from heaven with his arms opened wide to embrace you as his own daughter. You don’t begin the Christian life with this and then leave it behind and get stronger with something else. God strengthens us with the gospel to the day we die.

I've just described above how Scripture defines the gospel and the resulting conversion experience. As a Christian, you may have been a believer several years, but at the end of the day, does your personal testimoy hold up to how the Bible describes getting saved? All too often when it comes to experience we are quick to make assessments based on first impressions, but all things considered, what does God have to say? Truth be told, if anyone professes to be a born-again Christian yet cannot articulate a biblically sound conversion experience detailing a legitimate before and after transformation of the entire self, then in all likelihood such a person has not had a genuine conversion.

If you're a preacher – whether you are a pastoral leader or an evangelist – is that how you define the gospel and in turn determine whether someone is a Christian or not?
8Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.
9Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.11Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
2 John 1:8-11

Do you have the assurance that you will be rewarded fully for continuing in the teaching of Christ? Or have you run ahead to join those who will be found without it? Whose works are you really sharing in?


Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Baker Academic, 2001.

Rick Holland. “A Primer on Lordship Salvation”. Crossroads College Ministry, Grace Community Church. Preached 2nd July, 2000. 
http://www.gracechurch.org/crossroads/... Read More
Ronald J. Sider. The Scandal of the Evangelical Concience: Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world? Baker Books, 2005. pg 18-23.

Ray Comfort. "Hell's Best Kept Secret". 

John Piper. "The Bible: Kindling for Christian Hedonism"

John Macarthur. "Biblically-Anemic Preaching: The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message"
John Macarthur. Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church becomes just like the World. Crossway, 1993. pg232.
Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. The Way of the Master: Intermediate Training Course. Living Waters Publications, 2006. pg 26-27.

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