Sunday Morning Junkies

Many times when we criticize preaching and call out false teaching we have the preachers in mind. We think if we rid the country of false teachers our churches will be sound and our theology right. But there’s a great contibutor to false doctrine that we let go easy. We forget the supply is only available because the market demands it. Our minds don’t pause to imagine that the people on the pews are shaping the man infront as much as he purports to. We think the direction of flow is God to his servant and from pulpit to the congregation. In truth it works both ways and sometimes it’s what the preacher thinks the congregation wants that dictates the Sunday sermon. It’s the congregation to the pulpit and back without God in the picture. Paul warns of this in 2 Timothy 4:3

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 

2 Timothy 4 NIV

People will come to the preaching hour with a craving not to hear from God necessarily but to hear what their minds desperately crave. They come with an urge not always for false hope but whatever makes their hearts skip a bit. Some want to hear mind blowing mysteries and conspiracy theories. A great service for them takes them around fantasy kingdom where they wrestle with demons and leave with secrets only they know. Others want to be blown away by the genius of the man of God. These might fool you with a love of the Word but they are mere intellectuals in a lecture hall. For some it’s another Churchill show and they want to laugh their lungs out. They want a sense of emotion, someone who gives them the feelings. The man of God is easily deceived by these as they seem to flow with him. In truth they are all junkies thirsty for one more jab.

But even when we value God’s Word and want the preacher to point us to the text and context we can also have unrealistic views about preaching. If we expect every sermon will be top notch however we define it, we are no different from these guys. We are still driven by the itch of our ears not what and how God wants us to leave church that day. Yes we should celebrate great preaching that points us to Jesus and keeps our nose on the text of God’s Word. But if we expect it every Sunday we demand a standard the man of God can’t meet and it says much about us not him. In truth, it’s not the best sermon every Sunday that is the mark of a faithful ministry. It’s not the best meal in a great restaurant that keeps us growing and healthy. Sometimes we need some ugali, some omena and once in a while some veggies. It’s a people committed to God and his Word even when the church next door sounds like the Spirit has come in person. It’s when we choose to wrestle with the word and sometimes get it wrong and don’t deliver the best talks that we show we are truly committed to it.

I don’t want to say we should excuse boring preaching. I don’t say we put up with mediocre preachers as long as they quote the Bible. And we shouldn’t think a church can’t be faithful if it’s lively and growing rapidly. But we need to be careful we don’t set a standard for preachers that makes them aim at pleasing us more than God. If we do that we risk the man of God answering to our itching ears and that is neither right nor healthy. Preachers on the other hand shouldn’t be removed from the congregation or merely sing by their tune. Paul advice to Timothy is to both preach the Word all the times whether people like it or not, even when it leads to persecution but also to be invoved in the life of his congregants. To know when they need encouragement or rebuke.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

2 Timothy 4 NIV

The mandate comes from above but it has in mind a people easily tempted, easily discouraged, oftenly forgetful and who mostly prefer the world around them. The preacher needs to remember the medicine of the Word is what they need but careful also to make the right diagnosis. But the congregation needs to be careful lest they make the Lord’s servant doubt his tools of trade. We need to ask ourselves, if the sermon was not what we expected, is it possible we had the wrong expectations? Is it possible we have a wrong view of preaching and we expect it to be a daily meal outside? But when a preacher does his job well it won’t kill us to appreciate him as much as it is his job. That man is a man like any other and there is a lot that would easily discourage and deceive him to follow in the world’s steps like everybody else. Believe you me he’s no different from you. And if you are the kind that easily falls for one criticism imagine how he’d crumble with a thousand. For faithful preaching to work the congregation needs to be on board in the good and the not so good Sundays.

The Gospel strategy picked up by Coca-Cola


The greatest and most well known companies of the world still spend so much on advertising and they do that in the most prime hour. You won’t watch the news to the end before seeing an Ad from Coca-Cola even though when we say soft drink in any event that’s all anyone thinks. Why? Because even if the whole world knows they exist, even if you’ll find their bottles across the globe from Kalahari to Kazakhstan, they believe still more people would do with an extra soda. It’s not a question of how well known but how much more they can sell and remain relevant. They understand something that we don’t seem to get clearly within the church business. That what gets you in is what keeps you on and you don’t need to change the product only the marketing strategy. Believe in your product and speak of it like your believe it at every opportunity is the old skill in the book.

More than Coca-cola though Christianity has indeed gone out to the whole world with an even longer history. But our problem is we get easily comfortable whenever our small local community seems to believe in our product. For the most part we think all they need is some sense of association like going to church and we can take a back seat in the marketing business. So for the prime hour we let others have a say or get ourselves something new, something seemingly appealing, something we think the people need. But we all know if Coca-Cola did that they’d be dead within a generation.

But Coca-cola doesn’t let the change in the market deter them from their business and belief that more people should purchase their product. Instead they approach that culture, the new trends and preferences and show them why Coca-cola is the answer. They know something else we don’t seem to get, that though brands change and culture moves the needs are fundamentally the same. You’ve just got to reach the people where they are at and show them why they need your product. Same old Coca-cola, might take a new bottle and a more niche marketing strategy but the product remains the same.

Why is it that we let competitors convince us that our product is old news and irrelevant? Why would we give up our prime hour for something else other than the Gospel? We’ve got a product far better and more promising than Coca-Cola. For nothing changes people and offers what we truly crave than the Gospel. We’ve got a free audience every Sunday infront of our pulpits. A people hungry for the hope of the Gospel. If Coca-Cola ran a weekly church you can bet what their weekly message would be. Why do we deviate from ours?

I know there’s a lot more that fights the spread of the Gospel and things are not as easy as advertising. I know more forces visible and invisible are at play here. And there’s an offence the Gospel draws unlike Coca-cola. But still there are three things we can drawn from the world of advertising. One, we’ve got to believe in our product and say it like we believe it. Second, however relevant and widely accepted it is still we must keep sharing about our product to those who know and the many who don’t. Third, change in the market doesn’t mean we have to dump or change our product, we just need to reach the market where they are at. Coca-cola reaps as much as it gives to the marketing industry. Christianity would reap a great more if we invested everything we’ve got to the tested and proven product that is the Gospel. And especially if we valued the prime Sunday hour and reserved it for nothing else but the Gospel by teaching though the Bible story and pointing people to Jesus.

Now, in Gospel sharing there’s weakness with every illustration we pick and this is no exception. But I do honestly believe we do a great deservice to ourselves, our generation and our future when we hold loosely to the teaching and practice of the Gospel within our churches and Christian communities. If we believed half as much as Coca-Cola believes in their product and what they think of the market, we would never depart from the teaching of the Gospel even for a single Sunday. We would test and ascertain everything we preach and commit to by the Gospel litmus test.

You know what blows my mind away is that the Gospel product is not only what every man needs to hear. We are told it’s the very manifold wisdom of God that even the angels tap into to know our God. Imagine that! For you guys that love mysteries and big revelations the Gospel should be what you are all about.

12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 1 Peter.

See also Ephesians 3:10.

In other words the Gospel of Jesus is so powerful, so relevant, so central that the universe revolves around it. If angels were on earth they’d be all about the Gospel. They would sit as many times to learn from the Gospel as told in the story of the Bible. Why do we substitute it for something else? The world of yesterday, today and tomorrow is united by this central message. That man is desperately sinful and hopelessly guilty and ripe for God’s wrath. But that by the Gospel of Jesus wretched man has a place in the holy kingdom of God. By faith in Jesus man who is born dead in sin is rescued to be a saint and a son in God’s kingdom. The enemy of God is brought home and made a son of the family of God by faith in Jesus. That’s the product the world needs. There’s the hope for humanity. And it never gets old or irrelevant.

That message is what we need here and now. It’s what gets us in through the door of faith and what we need for the journey. Yes we can’t teach through Gospel tracts every Sunday that would be boring. Yes we must think about what our congregation face everyday and rightly apply this Gospel, faithful preaching demands this. Yes we cannot ignore the needs and the culture around us, we are here for a reason. But like Coca-cola and better we’ve got one product that has proved to work, the Gospel, and it’s what people need more than anything.

We have one arrow in our quiver but the only one we need for all the wars of this life. For all arrays of our needs, wants and preferences only the Gospel has the cure. Everything else only calms the symptoms but the Gospel truly heals. We must believe this like Coca-cola believes in their product. We must say this like we believe it. We must share it regardless of how many associate with it. And even within our camps we must still teach and hold to it by teaching the Bible that teaches the Gospel as oftenly as is possible. Forget all those new trendy topics, if you want lasting relevance land with the Gospel. Give me the old Gospel message as taught in the Bible applied to life here and now.

There can never be enough talk of the Gospel within our churches and Christian communities. We may not call every sermon, every fellowship and mission trip a Gospel crusade but that’s what they should be. We should be known if ever for anything that we were a people drunk of the Gospel. We fail many times but we should rejoice whenever rebuked by the Gospel. Yes we enjoy all kinds of talks and humor goes a long way but without the Gospel we always leave empty. May the Lord help me never to tire, never to get familiar or presume I need anything more than the unadulterated preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel according to Coca-Cola is here’s more Coke for you. And our Gospel is that we need more Gospel teaching.

The Gospel is a Person

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I recently had an opportunity to preach through Romans 1-3 and it struck me how obvious the Person at the heart of the Gospel message is and yet how easy it is to miss him in our preaching and testimonies. That the Gospel God promised through the prophets, the Gospel he preached through the apostle Paul is the Gospel about his Son, Jesus Christ:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:1-4.

It’s surprising how sometimes even well-meaning Christians can miss this as they try to emphasize a particular aspect of our conversion or Christian living. Some will want to stress the prayer on conversion while others go for the transformed life they lived after. All the while missing the one who did it all, Christ and him alone. I don’t think we would miss this if we saw the tragedy of human sin for what it is as portrayed here in Romans 1-3.

Why does this matter?

But one might ask isn’t this a mere quibbling with semantics, questions of language and communication? I think it shows what is closer to the heart. It also misses the point of the Gospel when it puts all the weight on me; my prayer, my achievements, and accomplishments.
And before long the Gospel becomes all about me and what I do for God. It’s the same old lie, a “gospel of works” packaged in good Christian lingo.

Before long we start using this criterion to judge our Christian health and fitness and the status of new believers. Are they coming to church regularly? Are they committed to weekly meetings? How is their giving? What about their prayer life? We use the results of the Gospel as the foundation of our faith, not Jesus and what he has done to undeserving wretched sinners like us. We see our merits not his own.

Shouldn’t we judge them by their fruits?

It’s a good thing we want to see change and the Gospel will produce this in time but our problem is we want to see transformation instantly forgetting that this is not achieved easily by grit and human will. True transformation is what results from hearing the Gospel constantly; being encouraged and rebuked by the Gospel and establishing firm convictions in the Gospel that consequently affect one’s lifestyle. Behavior change must start from deep within otherwise it’s fake.

This is why we need to keep hearing the Gospel message. We shouldn’t be surprised then, that Paul was preaching the Gospel to a church whose faith was known throughout the world, see Romans 1:8. And this is what Paul does in all his letters; reminding churches about the Gospel of Jesus which is what the church of Christ in Kenya and all over the world needs.

We also need to understand that transformation is a slow, messy and a lifetime process that can only be achieved by Christ’s work through the Spirit in our hearts as we keep hearing and believing his Gospel message. Our words and structures are powerless without his work in people’s hearts.

Preach the Gospel and let God do the work

I think it’s our attitude that needs changing before we think of changing the Gospel message. We don’t need to beat up people demanding a particular result. Rather, we should preach the Gospel clearly by teaching the Bible faithfully and let God do his work in his people.

Remember God is the first preacher and Gospel worker and ours is simply to point people to him and his Gospel. It’s only him who can give life to the spiritually dead and conform them to the likeness of his Son.

The only weapon therefore in a Gospel worker’s quiver is the true Gospel as preached by God in his Word. It’s what everyone needs; the young and the old. It’s not well crafted motivational and charismatic speaking. Rather, ours should be to preach his true Gospel clearly and boldly, the Gospel that points people to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Because there’s true life-changing power in this Gospel:

16 …I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1. 

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