I recently listened to a lecture given in a church on a Sunday morning by one of the leading voices in conservative, Christian circles. Though the speech was quite engaging, referenced the Bible here and there, and offered the speaker an opportunity to talk about his conversion to Christianity, it made little to no reference to Jesus Christ’s incarnation, ministry, death, or resurrection. Forgiveness for the hearers wasn’t mentioned, let alone proclaimed. The law which was preached brought condemnation to the speaker’s political enemies and those attacking our American freedoms, but unless you were a democrat or liberal, you were in no way called to repent. More than likely, the audience was confirmed in their convictions. They were made to look down on those who disagreed with a particular narrative that views America as God’s chosen instrument of democracy, freedom, and salvation for the world. The church’s security and success was made to depend on the preservation of the ideals laid out by our nation’s founders in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. It was a powerful speech made to rally the troops who are fighting for a Christianized America.
But, it wasn’t a sermon. The speaker wasn’t preaching. It was a lecture, a political rally, a speech. Powerfully delivered and influential to be sure. Some of the points I found engaging, others made me cringe, but none of it confronted my sins and none of it delivered Christ Jesus to me. It did not claim to, or even attempt to, explicate any portion of the Bible. No Law, no Gospel, and even though a verse was mentioned here and there, the scriptures played no more than an incidental role in the talk. (In fact, the only time God’s inspired word was mentioned was when the speaker announced that his latest books were miraculously directed by God!) Thus, it could in no way claim to be God’s Word to the people.
Except for this: The lecture was delivered on a Sunday morning in a worship service during the time dedicated to the sermon. The pulpit was handed over to a popular speaker who used it to proclaim a vision for our country loosely based on Christians principles. But, Jesus was not the focus, Jesus was not the center, Jesus was not really necessary. What mattered in this message was your country depending on your action for her very soul! One wonders if Jesus really matters for this church anymore.
Now, that last part may seem harsh, but if Jesus isn’t the main focus of the church’s sermons and worship, that church is moving away from Christ. It reminds me of the current situation taking place between the Seattle Seahawks and their future hall-of-fame quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL and has been one of, if not the, most significant player for the Seahawks for the better part of the last ten years. But now, rumors have been swirling that that Seattle is ready to part ways and is considering a trade for Wilson. Wilson’s distaste for the situation is no secret as he has discussed four other teams he’d consider joining. But, this past week, Seattle sent a not-so-subtle message to their fans that Wilson will not likely be the quarterback next year.
In the annual letter sent to season-ticket holders, the team recapped the 2020 season and then, in order to sell seats, set to build excitement for the 2021 season by telling fans what they could look forward to seeing great players like wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. No mention of Wilson. This is no small slight. Wilson is one of the most popular players in the NFL, an easy draw for fans, and thus a sure way to sell tickets. Not mentioning him in a sales pitch is either the biggest promotional blunder in franchise history or it’s a not-so-subtle way of saying Wilson is no longer a significant part of the team, if a part of the team at all.
I mean, not putting Wilson at the forefront of Seattle Seahawks promotional material is like, well, its like not preaching Christ in the pulpit on a Sunday. It forces you to ask, is this guy who once was so central to who we are really that important to us anymore? Yes, I’m sure the Seahawks will pay lip service to how they are working with Wilson in a manner that will be best for both parties, but when it comes to how the team actually uses or doesn’t use Wilson, it is clear they are not interested in him anymore.
It worries me that the church does this to our Lord. Sure, you ask folks if their church believes in Jesus, and they’ll say yes and point to some statement of faith on their website. But, when it comes to how the church actually preaches Jesus, if He is preached at all, it is clear that they aren’t all that interested in Christ anymore. What matters is saving our nation, defeating our political enemies, taking back the White House! When protecting our freedoms becomes the subject of the “sermon” then it has ceased to be a Christian sermon and has become a political lecture. The church is in essence saying, “Sorry Jesus, but we are going in a different direction.”
Right now, many of us in the church are worried about losing her freedom of speech. And, I would suggest, with some rather good reason. I think the rights we have are dangerously close to being compromised. But, I have to wonder, are those who are thus worried preaching the gospel in the first place? A tyranny that denies the church her right to preach Christ is a terrifying prospect. But, Satan is just as pleased with a church who is free to preach Christ and chooses to go in a different direction, to trade Christ for a more politically expedient or culturally relevant option. Political freedoms are vitally important, but not more important than preaching Jesus Christ crucified!
The pulpit belongs to Christ Jesus. The pastor is not free to hand it over to anyone else. It is the Lord’s time to attack us in our sins, to forgive us with His blood. He does not use the pulpit to make political pharisees or sell books, but to forgive sinners from across the political spectrum. Now, maybe your church doesn’t want Jesus to use the pulpit to kill and make alive, to convict and forgive. Maybe you want to hear and be shaped by a word that differs from Christ and Him crucified. If that’s the case, then at least be honest enough to say that you are preaching in a different direction.