12 December 2007

A Few Words on 1 Corinthians 1:21-22

by Phil Johnson

"It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

hat can be taken two ways. It might mean that although preaching seems a foolish strategy, that is the strategy God chose anyway.

Idiomatically and contextually, however, it makes more sense to interpret that verse way it has been translated in most of the modern versions: "It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (ESV, emphasis added).

In other words, it is not just the strategy of preaching that seems foolish to human wisdom. It is the message itself. The gospel is an announcement that seems foolish and naive to the fallen human mind.

What is it?

According to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, it's the news that Christ died for our sins and then rose from the dead. That, of course, is shorthand which Paul develops more thoroughly throughout his epistles. But notice that even the Cliffs-Notes version is full of ideas like propitiation, justification, and resurrection—and it culminates in a demand for repentance and a call for faith. So it's nothing the typical person wants to hear, and in the mouth of a determined preacher or Bullhorn Guy who persists in proclaiming it anyway, it sounds like sheer foolishness.

But Paul says this supposed "foolishness" is actually the wisdom of God, which is wiser than men. It's the most potent weapon we could unleash against the sin and darkness that holds people in bondage: the gospel, a message worldly people will always and invariably deem absolute foolishness, until the Lord opens their hearts to receive it.

Paul is directly arguing against the mindset that prevails in most of modern evangelicalism. The driving concept behind church growth and church marketing today begins with The idea that we need to find out what people want and adapt both our message and our delivery accordingly in order to reach them effectively. Pastors expend great amounts of energy taking opinion polls and canvassing their communities to find out people's tastes and preferences (especially with regard to style and subject matter). Then they make it their main object to reach those "felt needs."

Now there's no question such an approach has sometimes been effective in drawing huge crowds. You can see it in several of the largest churches in the country. But can it be effective in the long-term? Is it more effective in reaching people for Christ, so that their lives are transformed and they truly live for him?

The answer to that question is clearly no. It is not a biblical strategy. It is precisely the thing Paul says not to do.

Does anyone seriously think Paul would have passed muster with any of the self-styled experts giving pastors marketing advice these days? No wonder he died virtually alone, after reporting to Timothy, "All who are in Asia turned away from me" (2 Timothy 1:15). Paul made the biggest marketing blunder of all: he failed to deliver what his "customers" wanted. In fact, he knew full well what people's preferences were, and he flatly refused to cater to them.

He makes this explicit in 1 Corinthians 1:22:

"For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom."

If Paul followed the wisdom of modern church-growth experts, what do he have done? He would have given the Jews a sign, and he would have dialogued about philosophy with the Greeks. That is the very approach many people today try to follow. They usually don't consciously and deliberately abandon the gospel, but they try to mold it and shape it so that it sounds like wisdom to people who are seeking a message with some philosophical sophistication.



But notice what strategy Paul actually followed instead: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (v. 23). The Jews want a sign; we give them a stumblingblock. The Greeks want wisdom, we give them foolishness.

Now, why did he do that? Did Paul just want to be perverse? No. Keep reading: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."

The gospel is the greatest sign of all, and it is the greatest wisdom of all unto them which are called. The elect see it, even if no one else does. It is "the power of God"—more potent than any cosmic sign. And it is "the wisdom of God"—wise enough to make all the wisdom of this world seem like mere foolishness by comparison.

But it only one class of people recognize the power and the wisdom of the gospel: "them which are called"—the elect. They are the ones who will respond to the gospel.

And they will respond. Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (John 6:37). "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). Those who are called effectually by the Holy Spirit will recognize the wisdom and power of God in the gospel. That's why we must proclaim that one message, and not obscure it with political rhetoric, philosophical arguments, or other useless forms of earthly wisdom.

What seems mere foolishness to the worldly mind is actually the only thing that can reach sinners because it is the true wisdom and power of God.

Phil's signature

65 comments:

polycarp said...

Amen!

This post especially flies directly counter to the various EC braches of the "simple church" movement,the "organic church" movement, and even (I believe) the home church movement, as all of these attempt to shape their message around their audience and/or attempt to increase in popularity or progressiveness (relevancy).

If all those who have been martyred for their uncompromised faith and unpopular could enter the postmodern church conversation, I often wonder just what they would say--or scream--to us.

polycarp said...

typo: "unpopular message" is what it should have said.

Theophilus said...

We have defined 'success in preaching' for too long by the pragmatism of numbers.

Pulpiteers, to be "successful" have moved the goalposts in what response to the gospel looks like. Thus, any hack can offer cheap grace and then say he has earned his wages, by pointing to a large quantity of seats being gently warmed by posteriors.

A closer look shows a profound lack of saving grace in far too many of those seats.

Could it be (gasp!) that the "customer" Paul had in mind was also the Author and Finisher of his faith?

Eduardo said...

This is one of the best posts I have read. Beautifully exegeted. Shall I add that your interpretation is correct according to what Paul says after in 1 Corynthians 2:14.

This should be a rebuke to all the false teachers out there. Thanks!

Kevin Sorensen said...

I'm left wondering if it means that those who argue against the foolishness of preaching (in practice, at least) are not "called" if only the called will truly understand the Gospel of Christ. If only the called with understand it, then you might think that only the called will "get it" when it comes to realizing that this is what we're to preach. This will obviously open up a whole new can of worms, if pushed too hard, but sadly, when you hear and see what some SS churches do, it makes you wonder.

Thanks, as always Phil & Company. Keep up the good work.

Kevin (www.aclutteredmind.org)

Johnny Dialectic said...

Imagine a "church growth" org with the slugline: "We preach Christ crucified." How long would it last?

donsands said...

Excellent teaching!

"their lives are transformed and they truly live for him?"

Amen.

We love Him, because He first loved us.

Paul considered his heritage and achievements nothing but dung compared to knowing Christ.

Christ is what life is, and what life is about.

Secularists think the Cross is absurd and foolish, and the Religionists disregard it, for it crushes all their religious works for God, and their logic of what morality is.

Carla Rolfe said...

Amen - good message today.

Kevin said...

Don said: Secularists think the Cross is absurd and foolish, and the Religionists disregard it, for it crushes all their religious works for God, and their logic of what morality is.

Yes they do. And what did Jesus say to his disciples before being crucified?

Matthew 16:24-25"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Thank you Phil, this was an incredible post!

SeanS said...

Phil, you need to take more vacations. This was probably the best post I have read at this site so far. It is such a blessing to hear the correct interpretations of Paul. He really was a facinating man of God.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

My hands are getting sore from clapping in raucous applause for the continuous series of excellent blog posts by Phil Johnson and the other Team Pyro Members!

Absolutely outstanding work done for the Glory of our Savior, Lord Jesus! Kudos gentlemen, kudos.

Also, I loved the graphic of the Hasidic Jew doing a Kung-Fu pose! That was kewl!

Stefan said...

Wow. So much substance packed into so few words. The sheep are starving, and the world laughs!

The Gospel message is so simple, that once one "gets it," why would one ever want to let it go? Everything else pales in comparison. Why would one ever want to dilute it or expand upon it in any way?

Not that any of us should boast for "getting it," for it is by God's grace that He saves us sinners in spite of our sinfulness.

And may God open the eyes and ears of those who don't currently "get it," that they too will see the Gospel no longer as folly, but as the roadmap to eternal life.

Mike Riccardi said...

This really was a great look at that passage. You've heard it preached on a ton of times, but it never gets old. They want this, we gave them that. What kind of strategy is that? It's the one that understands how people get saved, that is, the elect will be effectually called.

This hits on something that I think so many nominal reformers get horrendously wrong. So many people who say they're soteriologically reformed (at least on doctrinal statement paper) evangelize and witness in a way that is Arminian in practice. If we know that God will save His own elect by the preaching of His Word (or, the sheep will know Me by My voice, if you like John 10 better), why do we try to do anything other than just proclaim the gospel as clearly as possible, and then get the heck out of the way and let the Word and the Spirit do His thing?

Obviously, this isn't true of the seeker model. They make no qualms about being Arminians. But one of the thing that the emerging guys have said is that they're calvinistic, they're "reformed," in some sense of the word that they don't mind. But then they yell about having to be culturally relevant. It's really insane. The true message of the gospel, unadulterated, is, has been, and will be relevant to every culture just the way it's presented by God in His Bible. Let's just stick to that!

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Mark said...

Great post, but there is one thing I can't quite seem to get clear. Are you advocating that loud, abrasive, bullhorn-wielding street preachers are effective and Christ-like in their ministry. I am asking in a serious manner. While I understand that the truth of God will be foolishness to the world, I myself am put off and irritated by the street preachers and bullhorn guys in my hometown sometimes. I don't see how that is any more effective than marketing yourself to look good to people. I guess what I am asking is; "Is their a balance, and if so what does it look like?"

donsands said...

"the elect will be effectually called"

Amen.

The non-reformed brother will say this is the antithesis for evangelizing.
I understand their point to a point.
However, I tell my non-reformed brother there's something in me that burns to see people come to Christ.
It's a mixture of God being worshipped, which is foremost, and people not being condemned, and having others become brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Reformed evangelist has confidence that God's grace will find those who are lost, and open the eyes of those who are blind, and yet aches over those who do not receive Christ.

mark said...

Excellent post, Phil. It's a fine example of rightly dividing the word of truth.

mark said...

Looks like I'm not the only mark in town. I'll have to change my display name.

SolaMeanie said...

I often think of David numbering Israel, and God's rather severe response. Of course, the issue and context there was different, but the lesson is useful. Don't put too much stock in anything other than God's hand at work. Don't put too much stock in numbers, because numbers aren't necessarily indicative of the Lord's blessing.

beaconlight said...

Great post, Phil. This passage grinds the seeker-sensitive mythology into powder. Thanks for expounding the scriptures for us.
God Bless!
Brandon L. (A Peculiar Pilgrim)

stratagem said...

At those times when we may momentarily wonder if what we believe is nonsense, it's helpful to recognize that God designed it to sound like nonsense. Or, at least he recognized that it would sound that way to a lot of people, whether that was his purpose or not. Yet the faithful will persist, trusting God rather than their own minds or reasoning ability.

chicagolandmark said...

Okay. New display name.

To the other mark: Do the bull-horn guys and street preachers you're talking about declare the truth in love? If so, I think we would have to give them the benefit of the doubt and pray for the success of their ministries. Who are we to judge another man's servant? To his own master he stands or falls.

I've got a lot of respect for those called to such ministries. Granted, there are those not called to them, that practice them anyway, that abuse them and bring shame and ill repute to the name of Christ, but that's really no different than the zillions of guys who have appointed themselves to the pulpit.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Phil,

I agree wholeheartedly. How could I not? It's Scripture. It's also what we do. We go out and preach the message, unvarnished, every week. Whether we grow numerically, according to Jesus, is dependent on the condition of the soil (Mt. 13).

Which brings me to a few questions. Why do even conservative evangelicals put so much emphasis on an invitation methodology (inviting unbelievers to some special event, many times with music)? Young pastors are generally convinced that to be a "success" (get big), they need a slick website, a kewl brochure, snazzy greeters, comfortable, casual dress, expansive parking, an especially decent building, and some events, especially around holidays, that will attract in unbelievers. This type of strategy was taken further by the Warren types and even more so by the emergent. In other words, it has become a matter of degree. Why should they stop their extremes if conservative evangelicals are using essentially the same strategies, just toned down?

Should anyone be given the impression the music will "help" the gospel? Where in Scripture is that concept? We might say we don't believe that it does, but if it is what we do, are we not betraying our belief with our practice?

chicagolandmark said...

"servant of another" Not "man's".

Don't want to leave myself open to charges of heresy.

chicagolandmark said...

Kent,

The form, the style, the degrees of such...don't you think that's all just a matter of taste that falls within the boundaries of our liberty? So long as a man called of God, an approved workman, declares the whole counsel of God, then Christ is being served faithfully. Wouldn't you agree?

Half a gospel in a hut certainly wouldn't be better than all of the gospel in a palace.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ writes: "The driving concept behind church growth and church marketing today begins with The idea that we need to find out what people want and adapt both our message and our delivery accordingly in order to reach them effectively. ...
Now there's no question such an approach has sometimes been effective in drawing huge crowds."

I have often wondered about this, scratching my head and pondering about the true effectiveness of pandering to the lost.

Here are my tentative thoughts which I submit for the constructive feedback from the TP readership: The Seeker-Sensitive, the LibProts, and the Emergents are like fishermen throwing out wide nets trying to catch "fish" who would otherwise not entertain the thought of embracing Christ. In their own way, as goofy as it is, they are trying to fulfill the Great Commission. They forget the end part of the Great Commission about making disciples and teaching them to observe ALL the things of God.

We complain about how they present the Gospel and they complain about how we present the Gospel. Civil war between Seeker-Sensitive/LibProts/Emergents on one hand versus Conservative Evangelicals on the other.

Anyways, with regards to the wide net metaphor, I'd like to cross over to the 4 soils parable and seeing if that has analytic applicability to Phil's post on 1 Cor 1 as well as on Gospel Lite. The SS/LibProts/Emergents are knowingly spreading seed to as many people as possible. AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. As to the charge of making "shallow disciples" or "false converts", perhaps they shrug their shoulders. They might say that some of the seed will fall on fruitful soil and that's all they can do. As for the rest of the seed falling on different soils, they say that it's just the way it is. And that the larger point of their defensive comeback is that they are spreading the seed of the gospel!

Naturally, the substantive objection is that they are spreading spiritually adulterated seed and that is why Team Pyro exists. To purify the seed that's been artificially processed to adapt to and take root in bad soil. LibProts/SS/Emergents will argue that the seed needs to be artificially processed. Team Pyro says no way, Jose.

LibProts/SS/Emergents say that they go for "volume". Team Pyro says to go for "true" disciples and let God take care of "volume".

LibProts/SS/Emergents will say who is Team Pyro to say who is a "true" disciple or not. Log. Eye. Speck.

Team Pyro says Scripture teaches to guard against false teachers.

Back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Foolish stalemate.

Anyways, with regards to pandering, I'm of the hope that of the people who do get drawn in to the gospel from those churches, that many of them will move in their spiritual journey towards a more biblically faithful obedience to Christ by eventually moving over to a conservative, historic evangelical church community.

Let the LibProts/SS/Emergents plant their adulterated seed (after all there's nothing you can do to stop them), and then let TP-like churches pick up the disenchanted leavers of the LibProt/SS/Emergent churches.

How's that sound?

WayneDawg said...

Awesome writing. Spot on and well stated.

chicagolandmark said...

tuad,

The problem with that is the vast majority of congregants in SS/LibProt/Emergent churches are deceived into believing that they are saved, when in fact, they are not.

For the truly saved to stand around saying, "Well, we can't do anything about it, so let's cherry pick the small percentage that repent, and tough cookies for the rest", seems to fail both of the two greatest commandments.

No, say I. We should gird up our loins, dress ourselves like men for battle, and contend for the faith. Expose error. Rebuke it. Not peacefully coexist with it.

mark pierson said...

"But it only one class of people recognize the power and the wisdom of the gospel: "them which are called"—the elect. They are the ones who will respond to the gospel."

A M E N !!!

Mark said...

Chitown mark,

Thanks for the input. I agree with what your saying there. It does seem to me that the ones that rub me the wrong way seem to be angry with the people they're "preaching" to. Putting it in that light seems to make it a bit more simple. You have to understand I am in the Bible-Belt and we got all kinds of Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Primitive Baptist, and the like that will make huge signs that denounce people's sin and how much God hates them. If that is alway we communicate on our sandwich-board signs and and through our bullhorns... that can't be loving. It's like seeing someone drowning and yelling at them the obvious fact that they are... where is the help? where is the soulution? why do i want to talk to a guy that is yelling at me. stop yelling and help me. Does that make sense?

Stefan said...

Stratagem wrote:

At those times when we may momentarily wonder if what we believe is nonsense, it's helpful to recognize that God designed it to sound like nonsense.

Yes, now that you mention it, it's strangely reassuring to know that alone among "sacred" writings, the truly sacred Holy Writ is probably the only one that concedes that its basic message may seem like nonsense. It can afford to concede that, because it's built on solid rock.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

No, say I. We should gird up our loins, dress ourselves like men for battle, and contend for the faith. Expose error. Rebuke it. Not peacefully coexist with it.

I hear ya' Chicagoland Mark. I'm more like you in that regard than not.

Here's where I pause: To a fallen world who has an Adversary-controlled media, they will say, "Look at how the Christians fight amongst each other! Doesn't Jesus say that his disciples should love one another and that's how we'll know Him? But all they do is fight! I want no part of that and their judgmentalism of each other!"

What happens is that when a true undershepherd (not a hireling) fights off a deceiving wolf, onlookers don't see it that way. They only see two purported and alleged Christians warring over silly pieces of doctrine. Unbelievers witnessing the battle between an undershepherd vs. a false teacher have no idea what's a true gospel and a false gospel. They just see in-fighting and they hate it.

The second consequence to refuting the doctrine of a false teacher is that there are some lukewarm people in the pews who get turned off by the doctrinal soldiers and warriors for Christ. They say to themselves: "I don't want to get involved with that. Let me just help out setting up chairs or preparing the food. That other stuff is too contentious and doesn't look loving to me."

So there's a double-loss involved in exposing and rebuking a false teacher.

I'm inclined to say it's still worth it, but it's not costless.

Pax in the Advent Season.

chicagolandmark said...

mark,

Makes sense to me. We could search all scripture and not find a prophet of the Lord who preached condemnation only. There is always a command, offer, etc., to repentance and right relation to God. So if your local bull-horn guy is offering up only condemnation, it might be worth confronting him and correcting him.

In Acts 18 we see Apollos, full of zeal, preaching about Jesus (accurately even), but being ignorant of the whole story. A brother and sister took him aside, filled him in on the missing details, and he became a great help to the church.

Food for thought anyway.

chicagolandmark said...

Peace to you as well, tuad.

In response, I'm inclined to not worry about what the world thinks, good, bad, or ugly. We should set ourselves on living to please God, not men.

Mike Riccardi said...

The form, the style, the degrees of such...don't you think that's all just a matter of taste that falls within the boundaries of our liberty?

It depends on what you're talking about here, but I think the answer is no. It falls into the whole "doctrine in one closed hand, methods in the other open hand" fallacy that Driscoll sowed before the 2006 Desiring God Conference.

The reason I say that is because methodology cannot be divorced from doctrine. Paul says we speak spiritual truths in spiritual words. Paul tells Timothy to follow the pattern of sound words. Jesus talks about having been told what to say and what to speak. We're told not only what to say but how to say it. And we're given principles that govern our practice. So to say they're in totally separate hands is inaccurate.

Something that I've quoted before that is applied to preaching but can be applied to ministry in general:

And it is exceedingly instructive to note that there are three stages through which preaching has repeatedly passed with the same results. The first is that in which scriptural truth is faithfully presented in scriptural garb. That is to say that not only are all the doctrines asserted which truly belong to the revealed system of redemption, but they are presented in that dress and connection in which the Holy Spirit has presented them without seeking any other from human science. This state of the pulpit marks the golden age of the church. The second is the transition stage. In this the doctrines taught are still those of the scriptures, but their relations are molded into conformity with the prevalent human dialectics. God's truth is now shorn of a part of its power over the soul. A third stage is then near in which not only are the methods and explanations conformed to the philosophy of the day but the doctrines themselves contradict the truth of the Word. Again and again have the clergy traveled this descending scale and always with the same disastrous result. ... May we ever be content to exhibit Bible doctrine in its own Bible dress. -- R.L. Dabney, Evangelical Eloquence

Phil Johnson said...

Mark: "Are you advocating that loud, abrasive, bullhorn-wielding street preachers are effective and Christ-like in their ministry?"

I'll grant that there are plenty of street evangelists who seem possessed with the spirit of that girl in Acts 16:16-18. What they say is correct but they manage to make it monotonous, angry-sounding, or otherwise nails-on-the-chalkboard irritating. They can indeed be a detriment to the ministry of the gospel.

It seems to me, however, that the real problem today is not so much an abundance of those types, but a disastrous shortage of sound, true, clarion voices who are proclaiming the true gospel boldly. And all the best advice of the most high-profile "experts" nowadays seems bent on urging Christians never to do or say anything that might upset "Unchurched Harry."

So where are the gospel preachers? In times like these, I'm loath to criticize anyone who is doing street evangelism at all--especially if the only complaint would be that they're too loud or not culture-savvy enough.

Phil Johnson said...

Chicagolandmark: "We could search all scripture and not find a prophet of the Lord who preached condemnation only. There is always a command, offer, etc., to repentance and right relation to God."

Good point. The only exception to that rule I can think of would be Jonah, and the main lesson of his story is all about the sovereign grace and goodness of God.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

In response, I'm inclined to not worry about what the world thinks, good, bad, or ugly. We should set ourselves on living to please God, not men.

Chicagoland Mark, what say thee to the editorial content of Christianity Today? They write:

Who Do People Say We Are?

It doesn't hurt to listen to what non-Christians think of us.

... Christians are wise to wonder what non-Christians think of them; apologetics is about answering the criticisms, fair or not, of the secular world. ...

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/december/23.21.html

Christopher said...

Amen, Phil. This post is being emailed to many, many people.

Tartanarmy said...

Great message! And God is calling everyone right? The whole world, amen.

Mark

centuri0n said...

I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew that those really are Mark Pierson's arms.

centuri0n said...

I am going to write a post about Kent's comment here, btw.

Josh said...

This week I have been told I need to renounce Calvinism because I am destined to hell for such blasphemy and I was told that I am "really old-fashioned".

I pastor a small church and every week we seek to simply open the Word of God and preach the text with no agenda but to preach truth.

Honestly people have been coming to our church without anyone visiting them or asking them to come and I believe there is a reason for this.

People are drawn to the very words of God - not men. I had a lady show up at church who wanted to be a member just because we preached the Bible book by book.

I confess that I feel like a criminal because I am not using any clever methodologies and I feel that at any moment someone will call me a fraud because I don't even use power point in my sermons. Yet more people keep coming every week.

Is it because of what I do? Not at all - it is in despite of me - a fool who believes in the power of the Word not pragmatism.

In regards to asking others to give us their felt needs just look at Ephesians 4:17-20 - how can we expect unbelievers to know what they need?

This post makes me want to keep preaching "foolishly"

Drew said...

Josh. I'm doing the same thing, and getting the same results. But I'm emergent/ss/libprot, so apparently I don't preach repentance for sinners, or Christ crucified and risen (ps, I do!)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dear Drew,

I'm heartened to hear that you preach repentance for sinners and that Christ was crucified and risen.

Do you also preach to your congregation that they are sinners and need to repent of their sins, and that they need to have Christ as Lord and Savior?

Do you preach the whole counsel of God?

chicagolandmark said...

Mike Riccardi,

My bad. I guess I didn't make myself clear.

The things I was talking about being matters of taste within the bounds of our liberty, were the examples given that follow:

"slick website, a kewl brochure, snazzy greeters, comfortable, casual dress, expansive parking, an especially decent building, and some events, especially around holidays, that will attract in unbelievers".

Compromising doctrine is always unacceptable. I figured that to be implicit in my stating, "So long as a man called of God, an approved workman, declares the whole counsel of God, then Christ is being served faithfully."

In any case, I'll invoke the "it depends" clause of your response. I didn't express myself well enough to convey what I intended.

Drew said...

truth: yes, and, as best I understand it, yes.

chicagolandmark said...

Phil,

You're right about Jonah. I stand corrected.

dac said...

re: Jonah

Of course Jonah only did as God commanded unwillingly and unhappily.

Jonah is not a prophet I would hold up as a model of Christian behavior.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Glad to hear it Drew. I leave it to the rest of the TP readership to grill you further if they so choose.

Drew, you stand as an example of my thesis. You're a LibProt/SS/Emergent and you sow the seed of Gospel amongst the folks in your congregation. What happens next is of the Holy Spirit. I trust that you are assisting your parishioners in becoming faithful and fruitful disciples.

Pax in the Advent Season.

chicagolandmark said...

tuad,

I think if we live to be obedient to God, make it first priority to be God pleasers instead of men pleasers, then God will be faithfull to the church regarding the impact that we have on the non-believing world.

I don't see quietly dismissing any and all errors in the professing church, to keep up appearances for the worlds sake, to be the kind of love for each other that scripture says will cause the world to take notice of us.

Sorry, don't have time for the CT article right now. Maybe later.

Drew said...

pax christi, for sure!

Mike Riccardi said...

"slick website, a kewl brochure, snazzy greeters, comfortable, casual dress, expansive parking, an especially decent building, and some events, especially around holidays, that will attract in unbelievers"

I'm not trying to be overly nitpicky and critical here, but I think the above things are inconsistent with a biblical anthropology and soteriology, if these methods are employed with the idea that they'll attract more people. If someone sits around and says, "Hey, we should really revamp our website so more people will show up," or "What we really need is a cool brochure," or "The reason people don't stay is cuz they don't like dressing up. We should have casual dress," I think that's all folly, and inconsistent with what Phil wrote about 1 Cor 1 today.

I'm not saying, Mark, that you're advocating this, but I think it's helpful to press this issue a bit further, because there's so much potential for victory, and an equal potential for defeat and shaming the Gospel. All those things that were listed are mere incidentals, and should be viewed and treated as such. Is there anything wrong with having a website? With having welcoming and warm people greet those who enter? With having accessible parking? Certainly not. But there is something critically wrong with the one who places confidence in those things to "just get people there till we can preach them the unadulterated message."

chicagolandmark said...

Drew,

Just wondering...I've read some of the sermons on your church website...are they typically that short?

Drew said...

I think this is off topic, so you can we can discuss this further somewhere else (email is on the website--or you can post a comment there).

I usually preach between 15 and 20 minutes.

This is maybe where we get back on topic.

15 minutes is enough time to grasp one point of a text, maybe two, but it isn't enough time to fully exegete scripture for people's lives. It is enough time to point to the cross, and to resurrection. Is it enough time to fully grasp them? Nope. We'll need eternity for that.

Josh said...

Drew we are not doing the same thing then - I am boring the people to death with 45 minutes of preaching on average.

Also I believe that reading the text (which usually takes 10 minutes of my sermon) is more effective than I am - I am not as clever

I always think of this phrase and I do think it is applicable to this thread

Sermonettes produce Christianettes who smoke cigarettes

PS - I am not attacking you Drew - I simply do not think that we are approaching things the same way

chicagolandmark said...

Mike Riccardi,

I guess those incidentals just don't bug me that much. I go to a megachurch in the Chicago area. We've got all that stuff, and coffee shops too! Some weekends, touring musicians, who played the previous night in our worship center, provide the worship music in our Sunday services.

If any of that brings people into the building that's great. But none of it will make them stay. Our preaching pastors typically serve up 50-60 minutes of expository preaching during weekend services, and don't shy away from any of the things the world might find offensive. The folks that come back, aren't coming for the coffee.

Do I like that I've got covered parking on raining and snowing days? Sure. But I go because the preachers proclaim God's word, unapologetically. They are true to their calling.

There are other churches in my neck of the woods that have even nicer amenities, but the preachers serve up Goat Chow.

What takes place in the pulpit, makes all the other stuff unimportant.

Stefan said...

Phil wrote:

Good point. The only exception to that rule I can think of would be Jonah, and the main lesson of his story is all about the sovereign grace and goodness of God.

Yes, we have no record of Jonah preaching a promise of salvation upon repentance for sins, but his prophesying bears just that very fruit—and we know that's why Jonah disobeyed God and didn't go in the first place: foreigners might be saved!

Nahum and Obadiah are about as unremittingly negative as they come, but they were only passing on the message they were given....

Stefan said...

(I guess it's not a coincidence that the three prophets who don't really get into Messianic promises or the future kingdom of God are the three who were sent to prophesy to non-Covenantal Edomites and Ninevites. Didn't stop the Ninevites of Jonah's generation from repenting, though, praise the Lord!)

SolaMeanie said...

At the risk of being offensive..

As someone who preaches and teaches on occasion, am I supposed to presuppose the stupidity of my audience and speak on the level of a "Dick and Jane" story? Or should I do my best to educate my hearers and try to lift the level of their knowledge?

If someone has been preaching to a congregation for 20 years and the congregation still can't find 2 Samuel in the Bible or tell you what salvation means, something is seriously wrong.

Perhaps a society -- not to mention a church -- gets dumbed down because the leadership keeps catering to it instead of challenging it. Maybe one Sunday, my class won't know the meaning of the word "soteriology." But I can guarantee you that they will know it the following week, and risk being quizzed if they don't.

Beth said...

Amen Phil!! Preach it brother!

See...this is why I'm so thankful. If the Lord doesn't do one more thing for me in this life…if He doesn’t continue to give me my “best life now”…if He takes everything I have from me…I will be eternally thankful for what He has already done. Because I know that HE caused me to "see it". I see all those around me, family included, who don't see it...who can't see it. I have no idea why the Lord has allowed me to see it but I give Him thanks without ceasing for His kindness towards me when I certainly didn't deserve it and I certainly wasn't looking for it. This is why I evangelize…I am so thankful I want everyone to know how good and kind my Lord is, knowing all along I can’t cause them to see it but He can, so I go in faith knowing that He is in control and thankful that it isn’t up to me.

Gummby said...

Chicagolandmark: "We could search all scripture and not find a prophet of the Lord who preached condemnation only. There is always a command, offer, etc., to repentance and right relation to God."

Phil Johnson: "Good point. The only exception to that rule I can think of would be Jonah, and the main lesson of his story is all about the sovereign grace and goodness of God."

Of course, the real irony is that Jonah knew his message would bring about repentance from the enemies of the Jews, and that in turn would forestall God's judgment on them.

Yes, the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man.

wenxian said...

Excellent post!

Indeed, much of our gospel seems plain foolishness to the non-believers.

Whats most sad is some people who call themselves christians [but are likely not] find it foolish as well.

What a sad world.

polycarp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dac said...

"Of course, the real irony is that Jonah knew his message would bring about repentance from the enemies of the Jews, and that in turn would forestall God's judgment on them. "

I think that is reading more into Jonah 4 then exists in the text.

dac said...

To me, 22 and 23 are one of the many verses that make me agree with the concept of election.

1:22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 1:23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

Even if I want to explain away v. 24, there is no way to overcome 22/23. How can I choose God when I cannot comprehend the gospel message?