Every generation seems to have its own idol. Each one represents the spirit of the age, a false god who shapes the ethic of the culture at large. All too often, these idols find their way into the church. These days the idol of the age is best represented by what I would call “the cult of nice.” The cult of nice is a code that shapes ethics and whose appeal springs from its disarming simplicity. The basic rule of the cult of nice can be summarized in this sentence: “Whatever does not spring from niceness is not of God.”
When Christmas comes around, we remind ourselves of the need to observe it all year. For some reason, we never talk this way about Easter. We celebrate the Christmas spirit, but we seem to know nothing about the Spirit of Easter. We approach Christmas with excitement that builds for months. Its approach is announced with colored lights, a mountain of gifts, and endless parties. We are sad to see it go. Contrast this with Easter, who arrives sheepishly, bearing only a ham and a few jellied candies. The Bible's view is radically different. The cross has a unique place in the proclamation of the gospel and the believer's life.
A former student of mine recently asked me how I thought the coronavirus was affecting pastoral ministry and preaching in particular. How do you preach in an environment like this? The simple answer is that you do the best you can, given the circumstances. Preaching is challenging enough under ordinary conditions. The nature of the current crisis has completely upended our normal patterns of meeting and communicating. Preachers are speaking to empty seats and recording their messages for broadcast over social media. As one popular meme observes, we are televangelists now.
ccording to a recent survey by Lifeway Research, about a third of Protestant churchgoers believe that God will bless them if they put money in the offering plate. Two-thirds say that God wants them to prosper. One out of four believes that they have to do something for God in order to receive a material … Continue reading The True Prosperity Gospel
Once upon a time there was a young girl who lived in a small village. She was poor but virtuous. One day, shortly before her marriage was to take place, she was startled by an unexpected visitor. “Do not be afraid,” the visitor said. “I have good news for you. You are going to have … Continue reading The Myth That Became Reality
How do you offer comfort to people who have no reason to hope for it? What can you say to those whose loved ones have ordered their lives in such a way that they have left little room for God?
One of disparities between apostolic preaching and our own is the degree to which we have marginalized the gospel. We have not abandoned the gospel, only relegated it to the outskirts of our Christian experience.
I have been preaching long enough to know that the power does not lie in my rhetoric or my structure, as important as those things are to my preaching. This is not the first time that the Holy Spirit has stolen my thunder.