“Feel-good” messages. That’s what my father called them the other evening when he described today’s typical church sermons. Once a tool to equip the follower of Christ, messages from the pulpit now merely entertain. Instead of education, people expect motivation.
Nothing ever happens overnight. Change occurs slowly. As churches become more concerned with keeping their members – and their tithes –organizations shift their focus from what needs to be said to what their audiences want to hear. In lieu of teaching basic tenets of the Christian faith, many preachers now share three steps to better relationships – a speech that could be given as easily in a Rotary club or a mosque.
What makes a Christian church Christian? Is it not the root word, Christ? Why do we hang crosses in the foyer? Is it merely the decorating trend of the 21st century, or is it to represent the greatest gift ever given to mankind? To evaluate how Christian your church is, ask the kids. Phil Cooke tells a story in his book Branding Faith of a young couple he observed in a jewelry store. In looking at cross necklaces, one exclaimed, “Who’s that little man on the cross?”
Through the years, Catholics have kept the Jesus figure on their crosses to recall His great sacrifice while Protestants chose to display the cross without Christ to emphasize His resurrection. But perhaps this has been done to a fault. Instead of emphasizing His resurrection, the empty cross has been a vehicle to deemphasize Jesus altogether in many Protestant churches. Jesus’ absence in the church is often more than merely pictorial. Ask the kids. “What’s that little cross on the wall?”
If the kids do not know what the cross represents, then they surely do not know who Jesus Christ is. If they do not know the historical Jesus, then they cannot know the living God. Don’t allow Jesus to be absent from the heart of your church or you will find that He is absent from the hearts of your children.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:1-4, ESV)