The True Gospel

The name fit him well: Crazy Larry. Crazy Larry owned Crazy Larry’s Waterbeds in my hometown, and the locally produced commercials always solidified that reputation. In one commercial in particular, Larry stood on top of his own building, took off his pants and wrote the word “SALE” on his boxers. Then after these antics, he states, “I’ll drop my pants to make you a sale. Why? Because I’m Crazy Larry.”

Crazy Larry is now out of business. While it cannot be proven, it stands to reason that it might be in part to being so crazy. After all, the “crazy” moniker is good for a memorable commercial, but being crazy doesn’t guarantee successful entrepreneurship. Larry now probably realizes that being memorable doesn’t translate into customers, just spectators.

So why can’t the American Church learn the same thing? Why is it that at every turn there is another pastor, another leader, another congregation doing something to be memorable in the hope of attracting more customers? We run advertising campaigns to reach the masses. We have slick promotions and direct-mail pieces. Some larger churches have even added full-time public relations positions on their staff.

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with this. After all, we are called to go out and reach people for Christ. Therefore, we should not feel ashamed to use any creative means necessary to bring people to our churches to hear the Gospel, right? And we are called to be culturally relevant and reach people in ways they are used to hearing messages, correct?

The problem is that we, as Christians, are falling for the belief that the Gospel needs our help in some way. While we may not say that is true, our actions speak differently. We spend countless hours and dollars developing ways to be a unique and creative voice within the media landscape. Sometimes we even go the crazy route, all in an effort to attract attention to ourselves in the hope that our voice can be heard.

When we do this, we are attempting to add to the Gospel. What we are saying is that the Gospel is not enough to change lives—that it needs our help in some way to make it more acceptable or palatable. Our actions state, “Maybe if I present the Gospel in a slick enough way, maybe someone will accept it.” Or we say, “If I can make it less threatening or more culturally appropriate, then perhaps they will listen to what I have to say.”

In doing so, we have become willing to be more politically correct, to change gender roles for God, to personify God in ways He was never meant to be. And we have done so all in our feeble attempts to make the Gospel presentable to a world that doesn’t seem to want anything to do with it. Our hearts may be in the right place, but our actions have possibly been more detrimental than helpful. God doesn’t need our creativity to reach the masses. We have overstated the Mars Hill argument of Acts 17 far too often. In the passage, Paul is found using cultural examples to bring the Gospel to the people of Athens. While this is effective at times and is obviously biblical, we are taking it too far to overuse only the method found in this one passage.

It is the same Paul who also says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Paul goes on to say that “we [Christians] preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). If this is true, then we are doing it all wrong. We are spending all kinds of energy, time and money trying to remove the stumbling blocks out of our messages. We try all we can to make our words seem less foolish to the culture.

But the fact is that we are not called to make the Gospel anything other than what it already is. It is meant to be offensive. It is meant to separate father and son or mother and daughter. The road has already been labeled narrow, and any attempts of ours to widen it, reconstruct it and pave it are in vain. As messengers of this Gospel, our job is simply to carry it as it is, to allow it to be what it already is,and to leave the results up to God. For as Paul says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).

We don’t need more churches to be crazy. We simply need to be faithful.

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[Matt Conner is a church planter at The Mercy House in Anderson, Ind. He passionately loves the church for all it can be and can be reached at [email protected].]

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