A church without a cross

I heard a conversation some time ago between two people that went something like this: “I went to (such and such) a church last Sunday. What I really liked was that they accepted me just as I am, without asking me to change a thing.”

How was that again? A church that demanded nothing of its adherents? How does such a thing happen?

Of course the answer is easy to see and very human. Churches are worse than the anxious high schooler on his first day at a new school – he wants to be liked! He will do whatever it takes to be liked. He will cave in to conviction if that will make him popular.

So we have the odd scenario of the least biblically knowledgeable segment of the population – the unconverted and the uncommitted – determining the content of messages delivered from the pulpit.

Are we searching for an audience to hear our message, or are we searching for the message our audience needs to hear?

“Churches these days,” Richard Niebhhr once declared, offer “a God without wrath bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23,24).

The cross offends, not so much because there’s blood and sweat and pain, but because it declares the one thing men do not want to hear – that they are sinners, and not just that, but persistent sinners, incurable sinners, sinners whose debt was so great that nothing but the cross of Jesus would suffice to pay for it.

In a word, the offense of the cross is to our pride.

We don’t want to change.

We don’t think we need to change.

Which is why churches need to present a biblical message of commitment and obedience. That’s what men need.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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