We’ve all heard a lot in recent years about the great obstacles that faces us in reaching our generation. We are seeking to reach a generation raised in a post-modern setting, where the old values and ideas are no longer meaningful. We simply can’t present things as we once did or assume certain common ground as before. This new generation is suspicious of religion, has no appreciation for authority, has an evolutionary bias, and is biblically illiterate. Different remedies are being suggested to reach this generation. We must become post-modern in our approach, some say. Others say that we must engage the culture by becoming more relevant and in touch. We must watch the movies and the televisions programs; we must seek common ground through music, etc. Others have said that we must transform the way that church is to be done. Though I am exaggerating in what I say here, you could get the impression that the biggest stumbling block to the gospel is a tie, a piano, and hymnbook.
But you see the problem is much worse than that. The problem cannot be solved by drinking more beer, watching more R-rated movies, spending hours before perverse television programs, opening our collars, untucking our shirts, piercing our ears, getting “ink”, playing electric guitars, and beating drums. The obstacles cannot be overcome by turning the worship of God into a night club and using dirty language to tell Bible stories. You see, the problem is far worse than post-modernism. The problem is not with my neighbor’s liberal education or entertainment. The problem is with his soul. You see my neighbor is dead in sins and trespasses. He is at enmity with God. He is not subject to the law of God and in fact, cannot be! No matter how I seek to present the gospel (clearly, persuasively, passionately, and lovingly); it is either foolishness to him or a stumbling block. If he is dead, a newer tune, power-point, and showing clips from the latest Hollywood blockbuster isn’t’ going to cut it.
We need to remember that the gospel has come to other cultures were the outer obstacles were surely as great if not greater. What if our neighbors were not simply the university educated, Oprahized, porn-addicted, post-modern hedonist…but let’s say the citizen of a city that was built around the worship of a goddess, or the center of immorality, let’s say that he was a homosexual who ate things sacrificed to idols and partied with male Temple prostitutes? What if they knew nothing of the Bible and had never heard the name of Jesus? What could possibly reach such? Or let’s say that they were the product of years of apostasy from true religion given over to cold legalism and self-righteousness? Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? Sounds like we’ve got a lot to overcome! But it was into just such environments that the gospel came with power. Thriving congregations were left in Ephesus and Corinth and Jerusalem .
The old ideas of preaching the gospel, with the solid foundation of holy living (pursued in the fear of God), Christ-like love in our churches, and benevolent mercy to the lost, may seem lame and old fashioned in light of the many new ideas promoted today. Nevertheless, God has used plain gospel preaching in the past, empowered by the Word and the Spirit to reach the lost, and I am confident that He will bless it in the future.