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"More Comedy" with Jesus

This is an article I wrote for the Centre Daily Times for March 23rd, 2013 which speaks of a trend among many pastors to take their calling far less seriously than they ought.
"More Comedy" with Jesus

Clowning around with the Gospel?

At a pastor’s conference in 2011, John Piper, long-time pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, quoted a book by Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. He said this: “‘If a Muslim liked your sermon, you didn’t preach a Christian sermon.  If a Jewish person likes your sermon, you didn’t preach a Christian sermon.’  Meaning, if you take any text from the Old or New Testament and preach a moral or inspiring story (which many pastors do), and people of various religions would say, ‘I feel inspired by that”, you’ve really blown it.”

Neither Piper nor Goldsworthy is saying Christian ministers should preach to offend or be disagreeable.  But if a message is truly Christian, laden with biblical content and genuine Christian teaching, it will be offensive.  It will be in conflict at some point with the convictions held by people of other religions.  Otherwise, it isn’t a genuinely Christian sermon.  It is entertainment.

Many Christian pastors are so fearful of offending the sensibilities of those who disagree with them that they flee to the very opposite end of the spectrum.  Two weeks ago I received an invitation to a ministers conference which was billed as an event with “More Comedy!!!”  Not just comedy, but more comedy.  And this was for presumably conservative Christian ministers.

This entertainment and amusement mentality amongst pastors is undoubtedly part of what motivated Piper’s quote.  Jesus was not a comedian.  He was not so affable and inoffensive that everyone who heard Him laughed and agreed with everything He said.  On the contrary, He told men the truth.  And they crucified Him.  

Jesus is universally held to be a “good teacher”.  He was a good teacher specifically because He told the truth.  It was that truth, namely, that He was the Son of God and therefore Deity, that the Jews considered to be blasphemy.  Of course, had Jesus not been the Son of God, the Jews would have been correct.  According to the Law of Moses, Jesus was to be put to death.  But the resurrection of Christ proved He was telling the truth after all.  God is not in the habit of raising blasphemers from the dead.

Christian ministers must be about this same business of telling the truth.  Our task is not to entertain, or to grow our congregations, or to be so inoffensive as to appeal to everyone everywhere with our Sunday morning or Saturday night “talks”.  Our primary responsibility as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to explain the Gospel message from the pages of Scripture winsomely, but with authority, and compel people to believe it.  The Gospel is not primarily about making people feel better or successful or happy.  It is about a Savior who came to save His people from their sins through the sacrifice of Himself for their sakes.

The Christian Gospel is not an entertaining message.  It certainly isn’t funny.  It is rather offensive.  But, believe it or not, it is the truth.  Pastors, don’t blow it.  Preach Christian sermons.

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