I have been savoring some timely books lately about living and ministering with the gospel in mind.
Books like Creature of the Word by Chandler, Greiger and Patterson that tout a new kind of preaching, and a new kind of church community built around integrating the gospel into every part.
Many preachers and churches do not focus on the gospel. They focus on good works. They focus on what we can do for God, instead of what He has done for us. And if this foundation of Christ isn’t laid clearly in every sermon, we can end up attempting to serve God in our own power, which will leave us flat out exhausted and disillusioned.
I’m just beginning to intake and appreciate this way of living, so I by no means am an expert here, but the sentiment is so wonderful and so breathtaking that I want to share with you what I understand so far.
My late grandfather-in-law, G. Mark Denyes, pastored and led a church near the Twin Cities for more than 40 years, from a group of families meeting in the basement of a home to one of the largest facilities in the Midwest with thousands of families each weekend. His adoptive father was a Methodist minister in Canada for many years.
For years, he had preached good works, and late in his life he came to understand the gospel of Christ. He repented and lamented in his journal (we still have a copy of it today) that for so many years, in so many congregations, he hadn’t ever preached the gospel, but had failed by instead calling people solely to live better.
I believe there are many ministers and Christians like this today. The light switch of the gospel hasn’t turned on in their hearts and lives. Like John Wesley, after serving as a missionary for years, their heart hasn’t yet been “strangely warmed” by the gospel. We need God to do this in us—to show us that there is no other way but Christ. To reveal it to our minds and our hearts for our good.
Every other religion (just about) has good works. What makes them any different from us? Some are more “good” (if you can say that) than us. They don’t even drink caffeine, while many of us drink too much. Some cover more of their bodies than we do out of a desire for sexual purity, and to squelch lust. Some pray far more often than we do.