Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Founders Ministries: Thirty Years of Working for the Recovery of the Gospel

For thirty years Founders ministries has worked for the recovery of the gospel and the biblical reformation of local churches. Our doctrinal commitments set that agenda for us. Because theology mattes to us, the message that is proclaimed in the name of Jesus Christ matters to us as does the nature of the church that He has established.

This is as it should be for all followers of Jesus. The written Word of God reveals the good news of salvation. It tells us not only the content of that news but also how that message actually creates new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because Christ and Christ alone is the only Savior of sinful people the good news of His life and work is the content of gospel proclamation. This is what it means to "preach Christ"--to set Him forth as He is revealed in Scripture as the One whose life, death and resurrection has accomplished redemption for all who believe. This is what preoccupied the early church. "And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not ceasing teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42). This is also what shaped Paul's understanding of his apostolic ministry. "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). So deeply embedded was this in his preaching that Paul could summarize his public ministry by saying, "Him we proclaim" (Colossians 1:28).

 Fred Malone has written an excellent series of posts on this subject that I highly recommend. What he has demonstrated very clearly is that preaching Christ is far more than merely preaching about Him. It is certainly more than preaching tips, principles or precepts to point the way forward to a more moral life. When compared to the messages preached in Acts and the New Testament Epistles, many modern sermons and Bible lessons sound more like Aesop's Fables than they do apostolic preaching and teaching. This is because they miss this crucial point: if Christ is not the point of the message then it is not a Christian message. Where this happens regularly you can be pretty sure that the gospel has been lost.

No faithful pastor or church intentionally turns away from the gospel. That is the path too often taken by those who have little or no regard for the Bible's infallibility. But those who do recognize the full authority and inerrancy of Scripture are not thereby immune to losing the gospel. Our danger is not that we will disregard it altogether. Our danger is, rather, that we will assume it. So, a message on "Five Steps to Being a Better Husband" might say good and true things without ever mentioning the relationship between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. When pressed about the absence of the gospel in the message, the preacher will most likely defend his message with something like, "Of course I believe that [the gospel]. We ALL believe that. It's assumed." And therein lies the problem.

Assume the gospel long enough and it will become distorted or largely disappear from a church. When that happens, the only antidote is the recovery of the gospel, including the reclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ that has been secured through His life of perfect obedience to the law of God, His substitutionary, sacrificial death on the cross and His victorious, death-conquering resurrection from the grave. When this message is returned to its pride of place in the life and ministry of a local church then the other biblical teachings out of which it arises are also seen more clearly. The universality of sin that leaves sinners totally depraved and without spiritual life or ability, the efficacious, regenerating work of the Spirit who, like the wind, blows where He wills, the eternal, sovereign electing grace of God that was given to us before the foundation of the world--these and other truths will inevitably find their proper place in our preaching and teaching when the gospel of Jesus Christ is made central.

This conviction is what has driven Founders Ministries from the beginning. It is what continues to direct us into the future. We rejoice to see a growing resurgence of gospel-centrality through the efforts of various groups and across many denominational lines. That bodes well for the future because as the gospel is recovered it will be more carefully proclaimed. And as it is more carefully and widely proclaimed we can expect the Spirit to more widely bless its proclamation. It is, after all, the gospel that is "the power of God for salvation to all everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

So the effort to see the gospel recovered and faithfully proclaimed is far from an academic exercise. It is a matter eternal life and death.



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