I don’t think anyone became a Christian that night, and it’s not that surprising.
The passage was unusual, certainly, and I doubt if more than a handful of people there were familiar with it. But that shouldn’t really have been an issue because a good biblical theology would have been able to travel from there to Jesus quite plausibly, and with good effect.
And there was an appeal, and a prayer. So what could go wrong?
Well, how about not preaching the gospel.
The preacher preached about God, and knowing him, and the difference he makes. All of it true. He was trying to be engaging and unusual. All of it well-intentioned. He was trying to make a back-door connection between the longings and failings of his unbelieving hearers, and the One who addresses both.
But without the gospel of our crucified Saviour, it’s missing THE truth that explains all the others and shows why they are true too.
And we know that the cross is a truth which attracts as much as it repels, which is possibly why my winsome, building-a-bridge preacher friend was trying to walk round it.
It won’t do. Be as relational, hospitable, seeker friendly as you like – unless you lift up the cross, people will not come Christ. They will not properly see their need, or his magnificence. God’s justice and his love will both be out of focus.
Keep the vision clear before you as you preach.
4 comments on “2013 Top posts #8 – Why no-one was converted, and I wasn’t that surprised”
I’m with you on not avoiding the offence of the cross, but what about something like Acts 17:16-31? I’m pretty sure I’ve preached on that in an evangelistic context without making a big deal of the cross, though I expect I mentioned it – but the lack of emphasis on the cross would have been in the name of trying to emulate Paul’s argument, rather than a fear of putting people off. I’ve heard Keller on it saying something like “this is only a summary, and of course Paul would have gone on to talk about the cross, so let me tell you about that” – really? Did Luke get it wrong?
No I don’t think Luke got it wrong! But he has an observable strategy of repeating his material with increasing brevity while expanding what is unique. So I think TK is right to assume what Paul would have gone on to say, because of the way Acts is constructed.
Thanks for this Chris – you’ve really got me thinking. I’ve heard it argued that the gospel in summary is simply ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ – ie you can preach the gospel without explicit reference to the cross. Sure, the exposition of the gospel must be done in a way which doesn’t deny the cross. But it’s ok sometimes to leave the cross as implicit rather than explicit, trusting that if the Holy Spirit brings about regeneration, the newly converted person will hear a fuller exposition of the gospel in the future and will embrace the truth of the cross as and when they hear it (and likewise those who aren’t truly converted will not embrace it). I’ve relied on that ?logic when time constraints/ designated passage etc. mean that I would have to sacrifice other things in order to preach the cross in any kind of full way. What do you think?
Well, I guess any gospel presentation is going to be reductionistic, because it will take eternity for us to fathom the cross! But I guess it depends on how you unpack ‘Christ’ and ‘Lord’ in that summary. Acts uses ‘Prince and Saviour’, or ‘this Jesus whom you crucified God has made both Lord and Christ’. In fact the Acts summaries use the cross a lot, and when not explicit (see my comment to Tom, above) I think that’s more down to Luke’s writing style than a change of substance.
Also worrying are gospel presentations that don’t mention the resurrection…