Lee Society of Fellows
This is not your fathers Oldsmobile, declare the movers and shakers in the advertising field. By the same token, this is not the same generation that our fathers were called to reach with the Gospel. We are living in what has been called a post-Christian culture. It is an unseeded generation. Americans no longer rely on Judeo- Christian truth as a basis of public philosophy or their moral consensus. 1
The contrast in reaction to Supreme Court justices comments mark this change clearest. In 1952 Justice William Orville Douglas wrote, We are a religious people whose institutions pre-suppose a supreme being.2 A comment that went virtually unnoticed by the American populace since most agreed with its sentiment. One short generation later, in 1996, Justice Antonin Scalia was quoted as saying, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. 3 The culture was outraged. Some members of the media suggested that he should remove himself as a justice because of his bias.
How does the evangelical church win this post-Christian culture to Christ? First, by remembering that the New Testament churches spread the Gospel and won people to Christ in a pre-Christian culture. The similarities between the pre-Christian first century and the post-Christian twenty-first century are many. Secondly, by avoiding the temptation to allow the culture to set the agenda. And finally, by refusing to complicate the simplicity of the Gospel. We must keep the following in mind:
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel...
If we are to make the kind of difference in this post-Christian culture that the Apostle Paul and others made in the pre-Christian culture, we must not become ashamed of our faith.
Consider Pauls motivation (v. 14). He saw himself indebted to the unsaved because of the transformation that had taken place in his own life. Todays Christian is not likely to pay the price for evangelism if his only source of motivation comes from without. Our failures in evangelism stem not from a lack of desire or direction, but rather drive.
Consider Pauls method (v. 15). He simply wanted to preach (proclaim) the good news of Christ. We often spend more time developing a new method than in utilizing that method. Paul just wanted to preach the gospel! My roommates in college used to tease me about the elaborate study schedule I developed for finals week. They suggested that my grades would improve if I studied as much as I prepared to study! The same may be said of us in presenting the gospel.
It appears that to stand for Christ and to speak for Christ is going to become increasingly more risky. We may stand to lose jobs, friends, even standing in our community, but we must keep presenting the truth as the New Testament Christians did. Remember, they were mocked in Acts 2 and 3,000 souls were saved! They were imprisoned in Acts 4 and 5,000 men were saved! They were scattered in Acts 8 and men and women in Samaria were saved! We mustnt fret that our society is becoming less gospel-friendly, it means surely the fields are white unto harvest.
... it is the power of God unto salvation...
Christians often underestimate the power of the gospel. They forget the manner in which God works to transform His enemies into His friends. Men destroy their enemies, God redeems His! The church is expected to compromise the gospel in this age of tolerance and inclusiveness.
Dr. R. G. Lee wrote in his book Payday Someday, Christian principles are fundamental to righteous citizenship and government. Materialism and infidelity, clothed with the responsibility of science and rationalism have combined to destroy faith in the supernatural, in the reality of things spiritual, and in the verities of vital Christianity.4
We must remember the power to save is in the message, not in the act of carrying it out. To compromise the stinging rebuke of transgressors that they might be comfortable in the pig pen of sin is to do them no service at all.
The Earl of Rochester, reaching the end of his unscrupulous life said, Would that I had been a blind beggar or a foul leper rather than to have lived and forgotten God.5 Dr. Lee would have continued this day as in the days of his ministry to preach the uncompromising gospel of Christ, for in it alone rests the power to transform.
...for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
The term everyone implies the equality of the gospel, the universality of the gospel and the individuality of the gospel. The generation of Paul looked amazingly similar to our own, yet the Apostle believed that everyone could be transformed by its power.
In particular he mentions his target group. ...for the Jew first.... This crowd is representative of the religions of today. Scripture later reveals (I Corinthians 1:23) that the gospel was a stumbling block to this assembly. The gospel continues today to cut across the path of religious activity. Every false religion is based to some degree on works, to receive salvation by grace runs contrary to that concept. Should we leave the religious to their religion and doom? The New Testament Christian would not.
The second specific group mentioned is the Greeks. These were people of many different nationalities who embraced the culture, language, and customs of the Greek philosophers. They were considered wise; a picture of the intellects of today. The humanists, scientists, evolutionists. According to I Corinthians 1:23 the gospel is foolishness to these elitist groups. The simplicity of the resurrection message is scoffed at. Should the church turn its head in embarrassment of the gospel? May it never be so! We must not be ashamed of the gospel.
There is a third group mentioned in this same passage. The wrath of God is revealed against the fools of verses 24-32. This list includes many twenty-first century lifestyles. Coincidentally, reverse evolution is depicted in these verses as well. Notice in verse 23 how men evolve downward from incorruptible glory to an image of the corruptible!
Many church growth experts believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the Biblical truth which is proclaimed. But the fact is lost people are no more or no less separated from God today in this post-Christian era than they were in the pre-Christian era of the first century. The cross was offensive then and is offensive today to those who reject its power.
As a boy growing up with little or no Christian influence at home,
I became seeded with the gospel at school. There were, in those
days, devotionals to start the day, printed copies of Gods
Word posted in hallways and classrooms, and songs that told of Jesus
birth, death and resurrection. The seeding by the public is far
less likely today. This has led to the creation of an unseeded generation.
The church mustnt fret over the schools unwillingness
to sow seed. It is the responsibility of the Christian. The church
mustnt fret over a culture that is becoming less friendly
to the gospel. We must join Peter and John as they prayed in Acts
4:29, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your
servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.
Written by: Dr. Gregory W. McFadden, Pastor
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Greg McFadden has been pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hohenwald, Tennessee since 1996. He received the bachelor of science degree from Union University, the master of arts in Christian Education degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the doctor of ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary. He and his wife Sheila have two sons, Ryan and Joseph.
1 Colson, Charles, How Now Shall We Live, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, 1999, p. 22.
2 Douglas, William O., Zorach v. Clausen, 343 US 306, 1952.
3 Washington Post, Christian Soldiers in a Secular City, May 12, 1996.
4 Lee, Robert G., Payday Everyday, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1974, p. 133.
5 Lee, Robert G., Sermon entitled, Deity and Death and Disposition: Latest of Lee; 1973, p. 5.