In my first blog, I wrote about “Easy believism” and the problem of nominal Christianity (Christian in name only). I have asked myself the question, “has the Gospel been watered down in the modern era?”
In my experience as a Pastor, I have had individuals tell me that when they were saved, that they did not repent of their sins. This caused me to ask hard questions. Was this the majority of people in churches or a small minority? As we look at statistics for the Southern Baptist Convention, we have to be honest. In the 2018, Annual church profile, membership in SBC churches was 14,813,234 while weekly attendance was 5,297,788. (http://www.sbc.net/becomingsouthernbaptist/fastfacts.asp). This means that close to 10,000,000 people who had at one time claimed a personal faith in Christ and had professed that faith through baptism, as a practice, do not show up on a weekly basis for a Worship Service (or any of the churches meetings for that matter). Why the big discrepancy? Does it have anything to do with the message that we are proclaiming?
Walter Chantry, in his book, “Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic” continues:
“Our ears have grown accustomed to hearing men told to ‘accept Jesus as your personal Savior’, a form of words which is not found in the Scripture. It has become an empty phrase. There may be precious words to the Christian- ‘personal Savior.’ But they are wholly inadequate to instruct a sinner in the way to eternal life. They wholly ignore an essential element of the Gospel, namely repentance. And that necessary ingredient of Gospel preaching is swiftly fading from evangelical pulpits, though the New testament is filled with it.
When Jesus began His public ministry, His message was ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15). As He met the woman at the well, His Gospel insisted that she turn from adultery. Encountering Zacchaeus, Jesus turned him from thievery to philanthropy. Now the demand to the ruler is ‘Turn from your lust for riches. Repent!’
The apostles preached the same message. Those who were closet to Christ and understood His evangelism ‘went out and preached that men should repent’ (Mark 6:12). On the day of Pentecost Peter urged pricked hearts to ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins’ (Acts 2:38). As he preached in the temple after the lame man was healed, his Gospel was again, ‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19). Peter was clearly obeying our Lord’s great commission. The only account of that commission which records the doctrinal content of the message to be preached is Luke 24:46-47. Here Jesus insisted ‘that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in this name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’
…Today men are properly told to confess their sins and to ask for forgiveness. But evangelists and pastors are forgetting to tell sinners to repent. Consequently this misinformed age imagines that it can continue in its old ways of life while adding Jesus as a personal Hell insurance for the world to come. Treasures on earth AND treasures in heaven. Who would turn down that bargain! Pleasures of sin AND joys of eternity. That is a good deal! Sinners are not being saddened, as was the young ruler, to learn that they must turn from sin to have eternal life. Yet it is the sine qua non of the Gospel promises. Scripture always joins repentance and remission of sins. Repentance is necessary to forgiveness.”(pp 48-50)
Is it true that many people see the Gospel as something to do to get the “get out of Hell free” card? Is it true that it is like a fire insurance policy to them but doesn’t actually impact their lives? It is good to ask questions because they drive us towards the answers. In my next blog, we will look at some evangelistic practices that while well intentioned may be contributing to this problem.