Western evangelicalism tends to run through cycles of fads. At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how "vision" consists in clearly articulated "ministry goals," how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitute the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without employing these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible.We depend on plans, programs, vision statements--but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing. Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. (pp. 25-26--emphasis added)Powerful words. Christ and his cross kept central or idolatry--these are choices set before the church.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
"Nothing But Christ Crucified"
These familiar and powerful words come from Paul in 1 Corinthians 2.2. I've been preaching a series of sermons on the cross of Christ and I began the series with this passage from 1 Corinthians. Along the way I've come across some outstanding quotations on the cross of Christ and I hope to post some of them here. One of the most moving statements that has been incorporated into at a few sermons comes from D. A. Carson. Dr. Carson is a professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has written scores of books and articles. In his wonderful little book The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians he states the following: