I doubt many in the church realize what the Pastor experiences in his preparation during the week. How the warfare rages during his study. How familiar he has become with the satanic hiss that tempts him to water down the message. “Teach THAT and you’ll lose people. Quit being so serious. You need to be more upbeat, more positive, more user friendly. Tell more jokes. That’s how churches grow today!”
I recently taught a message on the church of Thyatira out of Revelation 2. In it, God sends a very severe warning to His people being seduced by the evil Jezebel into idolatry and sexual immorality. He warns them that His patience was running out and unless there was repentance, He would bring intense suffering and for some, even death. The message; Jesus takes sin in His church very seriously. The application; if He’s speaking to you about a sin in your life and has given you time to repent, take advantage of that time quickly. As Thomas Fuller put it, “You cannot repent too soon because you do not know how soon it may be too late.” Not a feel good sermon to be sure, but a necessary message for the church today.
As I studied and began to understand what Christ was really saying to His church, the warfare began. Fiery darts of fear and doubt began to be hurled my way, all dripping with the temptation to temper the message. “If you want the church to grow (I do. We are a new, small church) then tell them what they want to hear, and they don’t want to hear that!” This is a slippery slope that has claimed many victims. Water down one message to make it more palatable and it will make it easier to weaken the next. Eventually the pulpit becomes so compromised, that the gospel being proclaimed no longer convicts or converts. You can end up filling chairs with people converted to church but not to Christ.
The Bible rescues us here by providing many examples to pull from. Men who simply proclaimed what God said and left the consequences with Him. Men like Paul who was able to say to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” He could stand before God with a clear conscience, knowing that he had honestly proclaimed the comfortable and the uncomfortable. Truth that gave security and truth that sent a shiver up the spine because of its severity.
The ministry of Jesus, the greatest preacher of all, shows us that solid, loving but uncompromised teaching will cause some to leave. His message in John 6 created a mass exodus and we are told that many of His disciples stopped following Him from that point on. He knew that message would reduce the congregation, yet He still taught it. He also knew those who stayed, those who wanted to hear the truth even when it hurt, were the type of people He could turn the world upside down with. The point is loud and clear, teach the truth and some will look for the exit signs. If it happened to Jesus it will happen to us. We must accept this and stand against the temptation to lessen the impact of God’s Word to avoid it.
I believe that God’s Word is sufficient for the building of His church. That it will accomplish the purposes He sent it out for (Isaiah 55:10-11). I also believe you can build a church with a watered down message, I just wonder if it is God’s church that is being built.