LOTD: Is Bad Preaching the Problem?

LOTD: Is Bad Preaching the Problem? June 1, 2012

John Wilson, doing that thing he does.

I enjoyed reading John Wilson’s thoughts in the Wall Street Journal’s “Houses of Worship” series. Wilson is the editor of Books and Culture, a voracious reader, and a bit of a gadfly to everyone, always prodding for more careful thought.

What most intrigued me was this paragraph:

Consider the alleged exodus of young people from the church. “We won’t lose students because we didn’t entertain them,” said the dreadlocked Philadelphia activist and preacher Shane Claiborne on Twitter. “We will lose them because we haven’t given the FULL gospel.” Mr. Claiborne’s comment made me think of another gifted preacher, Jesus, who also met with a mixed reception. “From that moment,” we read in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel—after Jesus said that “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”—”many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.”

I’m not sure exactly the point that John Wilson means to make in this paragraph. He doesn’t really make the tension explicit, but there’s a strong tension between the first quotation (from Shane) and the second (from Jesus). Surely Jesus gave “the FULL gospel,” right? And yet Jesus “lost” followers by droves. I agree with Kierkegaard on this: when you give the full gospel, you will drive people away. Narrow is the way and few will walk upon it. When confronted with the full gospel, not only in its attractiveness but also in its offensiveness and its challenge, in the way it calls us to die to ourselves and then take up the cross daily, we’re more likely to thin the flock than to fill it. Thousands followed Jesus when they thought he might serve their worldly interests; when the teaching grew hard, and the sacrifice he required became clear, only the twelve remained — “and one of you is a devil.”

Jesus was not exactly concerned with dwindling numbers. He wanted true followers. Consider that. The greatest preacher in the history of Christianity drove them away by the thousands.

Read the rest from John Wilson for your Link of the Day.

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