Saturday Sermon: Keeping the main thing, 'the main thing'
As we see a decline in spirituality among Americans, I am concerned that we are not making the main thing, "the main thing." The church's prime responsibility is to make disciples followers of Jesus. This means we must be more effective in evangelization, and we must help people find their calling as disciples.
The Christian religion apparently does not appeal to some moderns who are caught up in worldliness and have been influenced by some negativism that is promoted today in the media. It's almost as though Christianity is out of style.
It's the young people who are not being reached - but young people have a sense of idealism and with the right atmosphere should be open to this faith. Our task is to reach them. While there may be some profit in wise use of the media, nothing beats the personal touch. The most important thing we need to do is to present the Gospel in easily understood terms and in a way that is logical.
Dennis McCallum's book, "Christianity, the Faith That Makes Sense," is helpful. Often, it is the lay person who witnesses the gospel to the unbeliever. If we depend on preachers to effect the conversion, then we must get those unbelievers into the church.
Some churches today are trying to do that with music, drama, snacks and special effects, but I'm not sure that is working. Most of the time, it simply brings people in from other churches.
When Paul the Apostle reasoned with the Greeks, he used sound logic, for the Greeks were thinkers, encouraged by the philosophers among them. While those philosophers did not understand the Christian religion, they provided a fertile ground for the spread of the gospel.
In my opinion, we would do well to use more apologetics. The word means giving a reason for what we believe, as well as the historical evidence and prophecies. This builds a good foundation for introducing the subject of sin and salvation.
Many highly educated people have come to the Lord as they considered all the evidence, not the least of which was Mortimer Adler, who was professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago.
Another way of getting the attention of the non-believer is the use of powerful testimonies. I would expect a few people in any given church to be able to share their dramatic experience.
Others may be invited in from across the country. We accept the testimony of characters in the Bible, but when we hear the testimony of someone we know or admire and how that experience changed his or her life, we can be deeply moved.
I would also suggest an annual retreat open to all members. This can be a time for sharing, a time to brainstorm ideas for improving the church's operation, including the methods of evangelism, and a time for scriptural emphasis.
By this means, every member has a say, and this is the way it should be. America needs a great revival. Let's start it in Victoria.
Raymond Smith is a lay minister and former President of Strong Families of Victoria.