Saturday, August 09, 2008

Christ with no Christ?

Tragically I have witnessed in the greater Atlanta area new churches spring up and experience rapid growth. These churches have been established with the understanding that they are not your mom's and dad's church, but rather are committed to a "new thing." They claim to be doing church differently. Part and parcel to this difference seems to be a different gospel proclamation. Recently I listened to a sermon from the pastor of one of these places. The sermon was not very long, less than 30 minutes (I'm cool with that if the message is clear and biblical). But the tragic aspect to the sermon was that while his words were lauded and on occasion he was applauded, the message he preached proclaimed nothing of Jesus Christ. For nearly 30 minutes he stood up before a so-called church gathering and said nothing of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Correct me if I am wrong, but did not Paul say, "We preach Christ and him crucified?" Can we preach Christ and not mention Christ? Can we proclaim the faith and not proclaim the Author and Finisher of that faith?

Robert Smith in Doctrine that Dances writes:

As Jesus admonished that the Scriptures be searched because they testify of Him (John 5:39), preachers of Christian doctrine make Christ the heart of their preaching. If the Bible is read backwards, one will see that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). This means that in the mind of God, Calvary was a forethought and not an afterthought. God did not react to the fall of Adam and Eve, but rather He pre-acted before the the fall of Adam and Eve. The Old Testament proclaimed that Christ is coming. The New Testament announced that Christ has come and will come again. (p. 23)

raeme Goldsworthy in Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture writes:

Is it possible to preach a Christian sermon without mentioning Jesus? I want to avoid simplistic answers here. Perhaps I can put it another way: Why would you even want to try to preach a Christian sermon without mentioning Jesus? Is there anywhere else we can look in order to see God? To see true humanity? To see the meaning of anything in creation? (p. 115).

While the temptation in preaching will be strong to proceed directly from, say, the godly Israelite to the contemporary believer, this method will inevitably produce distortions in the way we understand the text. There is not direct application apart from the mediation of Christ....While, no doubt, the direct approach will produce nice thoughts and, to a limited extent, even edifying ones, we simply can not afford to ignore the words of Jesus that the Scriptures testify to him. (p. 116)

Christ without Christ? Friends, where there is no Christ, there is no church. This is a sad and growing trend around here. May we stand firm upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. And may we preach it from every text of God's revealed Word.


Flavel's friend said...

Dear Pastor Carter,

Greetings from Canada.
I am encouraged by your angst and perplexity regarding these supposed 'Christ Center-Churches' in Atlanta. You quoted this citation from R.Smith:

This means that in the mind of God, Calvary was a forethought and not an afterthought. God did not react to the fall of Adam and Eve, but rather He pre-acted before the the fall of Adam and Eve.

NICE QUOTE!! It brought up a good insight. Lately, this whole notion of reaction theology is problematic. If God reacted ... then God is not sovereign rather he is simply trying to put out 'forest fires' whenever they flare up. What is more is that we are now left with process theology (no thanks!). Further, salvation begins with man's need rather than God's glory.
I have appreciated your blog and I want you to know that I am praying for you and your ministry. I recently bought a copy of: Black and Reformed. I look forward to reading it. I suspect that some take the title to be a paradox (not me)
Nevertheless, I look forward to reading how you argue your position. Also, your book: Hesed ... looks like a nice gem for sermon prep.


~Blake Wittenberg.

Anonymous said...

This is a sad reality - just was talking to my son about this tonight...but praise God for His always faithful remnant...

here's an added qoute from Spurgeon that I found long time ago on Between Two Worlds:


"I believe that those sermons which are fullest of Christ are the most likely to be blessed to the conversion of the hearers. Let your sermons be full of Christ, from beginning to end crammed full of the gospel. As for myself, brethren, I cannot preach anything else but Christ and His cross, for I know nothing else, and long ago, like the apostle Paul, I determined not to know anything else save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. People have often asked me, "What is the secret of your success?" I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel,—not about the gospel, but the gospel,—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news. Preach Jesus Christ, brethren, always and everywhere; and every time you preach be sure to have much of Jesus Christ in the sermon."

Anonymous said...

Pastor Carter-
Sir, would you say that in a sense (and perhaps in a very small sense) this is an African-American contextualization of Emergent theology? As an African-American, I have sat in numerous churches that suggested, as you stated, that God is doing a “new thing,” that there is a “shift” taking place in the body of Christ, and that we ought not be concerned with the “old stuff,” but rather focus on the newness of God in “this generation.”
In reading the book “Why We’re Not Emerging By Two Guys Who Should Be,” I wondered how relevant such information was for me as a Black Christian. However, in thinking about how Emergent leaders seek to lead their people away from Christ, beginning with undermining of the sovereignty and sufficiency of Scripture, I began to see how some African-American pastors do the same thing with their grandiose claims of God’s newness. Moreover, in making these claims, and in taking the focus off of Christ as He is revealed in Scripture, a vital tenet of Christian theology is almost always circumvented, the atoning work of Christ.
People are exhorted to concentrate more on the “fresh” thing that God is going in this present age (which always seems to translate into something material and superficial, whereas in Emergent churches it tends to be something ethereal and mystical), rather than the glorious “old” work of God, done through Christ, graciously applied by His Holy Spirit.
This is my first time responding to a blog post, though I read your blog often. I was just wondered if you saw a similar connection.

ajcarter said...

Well, my unknown friend, I do believe you have hit on something of a definite, though loose connection. While the theology and philosophy of the Emergent church is not explicitly on mass display among African-Americans, the effect of it can be seen more and more. While most of the proponents of this "new church" would not express Emergent ties, their practices and convictions would definitely fit well within the Emergent stream.
Sadly and tragically, African-American churches tend to catch on to trendiness and make a profession out of it and many times appear oblivious to what we are doing.

Thanks for stoppin by and droppin a brother a line. You got me thinkin.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting assertion anonymous. I echo Pastor Carter's comment, but I too have wondered if what we're seeing in the Black church (particularly here in the ATL) is the push toward Emergent with a side-order of "seeker sensitive" and a large "Oneness Pentacostal" with light ice (excuse the reference...I missed lunch).

I too am tired of hearing "this ain't your grandmama's church - this is a 'new thing'" or "we don't do 'church as usual'". My grandmother lived with me and my parents when I was growing up. She went home to be with the Lord at 92 years of age, and we all attended the same church in my hometown of Chicago. Grandmama would plead the Blood of Jesus over you if you thought about acting like a fool, she would admonish my older sisters for "being mannish wich yo old fass tale selves" and carried a bible that was so worn from reading that it would disentigrate if the wind blew too hard.

Basically, Grandman was a real Christian - she didn't want "her best life now", she didn't need to be loosed, and she didn't need to "watch this". I fled the Word of Faith/Seeker sensitive/Emergent heresy earlier this year and I'm still trying to find "grandmama's church" (although I think I found it at SWCF).

Great article...

BTW - I've been meaning to add "Why We're Not Emergent..." to my reading list but between Doctoral work, a wife and 2 kids, a job, an already long "must read" list of theological works I can't add another thing. Pastor Carter - why don't you read it and review it for the rest of us? :-)

Flavel's friend said...

Pastor Carter,

this blog seems to be somewhat of a dark horse. Being mixed race and rubbing shoulders with predominately white ecclesiology I would argue that the Black Church (proper) is less susceptible to the emerging movement for the following reason: pastoral authority.
In my experience with black ecclesiology in America and Canada there is more of a respect and reverence for pastoral leadership. As consequence, please correct me if I am wrong!)generally the people look to the pastor/teacher to instruct them. Whereas in white ecclessiology (the pioneers of the emerging movement) there is more of mistrust towards the preacher. Further they tend to think that the pastor has no more say than the individual congregation member. To the credit of Black ecclessiology a reverence for the clergy is still held in good standing even though it has its foibles.

your thoughts ?

ajcarter said...

Indeed Friend of Flavel,
You are correct. Thus, it would be wrong to characterize it as full blown Emergent. 99% of the people in predominantly black churches would not even know what Emergent is (for that matter most white evangelicals probably don't know either :-). Also, the nature of uncertainty within the Emergent stream would not sit well with African-Americans.

Flavel's friend said...

Pastor Carter,

thanks for the response.

your wrote:
Also, the nature of uncertainty within the Emergent stream would not sit well with African-Americans.

This statement is huge because it opens up the door for the reality that the white Church needs the Black Church! Imagine the potential of the American/Canadian Church if there was racial unity! Indeed there is a healthy disposition within the American/Canadian Black Church.

1.) it's respect and reverence for the preacher/teacher.

2.) as you stated it is suspect of movements which carry the odor of uncertainty.

I have enjoyed your blogs. I think you are becoming somewhat of a theological sheriff around these parts. Brother I am praying for you on a regular basis. And as I mentioned before J.I. Packer applauds your courage. And the courage of all the Black pastors who are striving to bring solid doctrine back to black communities.You are not alone, you have family in Canada praying for you and encouraged by your labors.
As a young pastor I am gleaning from you and the other brothers who comment on your blogspot.

thanks ...

keep the blogs rolling :)

Flavel's friend said...

Brother Carter,

i will comment on your response tonight after work.

something you wrote struck a good cord.


Reformed4ever said...

Anthony, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of those churches is Impact UMC! I have an indirect connection to this church: my brother-in-law and his family attend. I've listened to the pastor's sermons and they have nothing to do with the true gospel. I'm afraid that my family members' souls are in peril. If you know more about this chuch, hit me privately.

Pastor Jim said...

Dear Pastor,
Prior to starting a church near 285 on the westside of ATL I visited 32 churches and in sermons heard Jesus MENTIONED in ONLY FIVE!
Several never mentioned him in the lyrics of the songs - traditional or contemporary.

Oh Christ, have mercy on this city!

Reformed4ever said...

Isn't this something...on Sunday night after church I listened to the morning "sermon" at Impact UMC, and the pastor failed to mention Jesus Christ. I listened to the sermon the previous Sunday, and he failed to mention the name of Jesus Christ. In both sermons there was no application to the gospel. There was no mention of sin. This isn't gospel preaching. We who love the Lord and his gospel must continue to broadcast and live the gospel, but also mark those who by their actions in the pulpit have no love for the truth.