Yesterday I was at a leadership conference. One of the main speakers talked about what he considered a failure of the Church today. He pointed out that in Jesus day that crowds would flock to hear Him teach. That what Jesus was teaching was creating a stir and had the interest of a watching world. Yet, the message we seem to be proclaiming in the church today is not causing a stir, and people are not flocking to our buildings to hear our message. The world is not watching or listening. And very little life change is happening. Even for those who are attending our churches, very little life change seems to be happening. He went on to ask, “Why?” Why don’t people flock to hear our message? Why isn’t life change happening? The answer – he felt that the church is actually getting the message wrong! He felt the problem with our message to be that we had boiled the gospel message down to “you need to get right with God, pray this prayer and you will have a seat in heaven.” Is this really all the message is about? Is it all about making sure people can say they believe a basic few doctrines, pray the right prayer, and then they get the promise of heaven? Is that what Jesus taught? Or is that just part of the message?His view of the message of the gospel went something like this. The Old Testament (OT) has three main stories – The Exodus, The Exile, and The Priestly/Sacrificial stories. He pointed out that we seem to only focus on the Priestly/Sacrificial story. He focused on the Exodus and Exile stories and referred to them as ones of “journey” and “marginalization and restoration.” He talked about how these were stories of God delivering people, “saving” them, and bringing them back to new life in the OT. He felt that this part of the message was something that we were overlooking in the Church. He then went to the New Testament and referred to an account of Jesus’ life where Jesus talks about his purpose. In Luke 4 it reads, “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'” He asked us, which of the three main OT stories does what Jesus read here refer to? They seem to reference the Exile and Exodus stories, but not to the neglect of the Priestly/Sacrificial story. The gospel of Luke then goes on to record Jesus performing miracles – healing lepers, raising the dead, setting people free. And, surprisingly, he never once stops after helping someone and asks them if they believe in him and would they like to pray a prayer to make sure they have a seat reserved for them in heaven. The conclusion of this matter and the point of the speaker, I think, was for us to consider just how complete our message is. Are we offering a life changing message – reconciliation, restoration, deliverance, etc. Or are we just offering the Priestly/Sacrificial story part of it – salvation – without truly being concerned for the whole person and the wholeness that God intends for peoples lives. Too often, we have people pray a prayer, tell them that they have a seat in heaven, and their lives never change. We have not taken the time to offer them the Exodus and Exile story. We have not told them about how God cares about every detail of their lives, and how He wants to bring wholeness in their lives where there is brokeness. We have not told them how God can deliver them from their brokenness and their marginalization.
Anyway…If you’re out there broken and marginalized, I hope you will discover that God cares about you. And he wants you to experience renewal and wholeness. He wants you to be made new and experience Him. You are already on a journey. He wants to journey with you.