Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear is calling on American churches to put Gospel evangelism “above all” other issues, including politics, social justice and worship preferences.
In the upcoming book, Above All: The Gospel is the Source of the Church’s Renewal, the lead pastor of The Summit Church of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, exhorts American churches to be more active in evangelism.
“What the church needs now is what the church has always needed — a return to the Gospel. This isn’t nostalgia for a bygone age. I’m not, in the words of one pundit, ‘sacrificing the future in search of the past,’ and I’m not trying to make anything great again. What I am trying to do is show us that the only way to save the future is by going back to the very beginning,” wrote Greear.
“This book is intended to be a wrenching look at how secondary things — quite often good things, sometimes even necessary things — have displaced the Gospel as the main focus in the life of the church.”
In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, Greear explained that he believed it’s “not that most churches in the West have made any kind of conscious decision to go away from the Gospel,” but rather allowed “secondary things” to be elevated as “the essential thing.”
“In First Corinthians 15, Paul says that the Gospel was of first importance to him. First importance implies that there are other important things in the church. And there certainly are. And Paul talked about a lot of things, but this one is of first importance,” said Greear.
“It’s got to be what we’re characterized by; it’s got to be what we’re identified by. I believe the Gospel should both be the source of the church’s power and renewal and … the proclamation of the Gospel ought to be the focus of our mission.”
Greear also said that while things like “community ministry” and “social justice” can be “really good,” nevertheless doing them “without Gospel proclamation” is only “making people more comfortable as they’re headed to Hell.”
“Politics is another one,” he added. “I think politics is very important, but I know that for me to get involve in political agendas would hinder my ability to preach the Gospel to all people.”
“I’ll always tell our church, ‘I might be wrong about global warming, but I’m not wrong about the Gospel.’ So I don’t want to let my opinions about the former ever keep people from hearing me on the latter. So I will deliberately show some restraint in how I talk about things so that I can make sure that people have plenty of bandwidth and opportunity to hear the Gospel.”
CP talked with Greear about his new book, plus other topics like how evangelical churches should respond to the 2020 election cycle and how The Summit Church seeks to follow the complementarian model of church leadership while also allowing women to serve as teachers. Here are excerpts from the interview.
CP: In the book, you talked about how in order to multiply the church, pastors need to shift their focus from “seating capacity” to “sending capacity.” What advice would you give pastors who focus on seating capacity to shift to sending capacity?
Greear: There’s often a false dichotomy put forward in churches in the West, and that is some churches focus on growing wide and other churches focus on growing deep. And it almost seems as though they are mutually exclusive.
So even the church conference circuit, you got conferences that are designed to have you grow your church and you’ve got ones that are focused more on taking your people deep.
What I believe from studying the Bible is that depth and width are never at odds and that those who grow wide without growing deep are not really as wide as they think are, because Heaven counts disciples, not converts.
And those who grow deep without growing wide are probably not as deep as they think because depth and the Gospel always leads to an urgency in evangelism. And if we’re ever going deep with Jesus, and it’s not leading us to reach out wide in our witness and our serving and our meeting need, it means that we’re not really as deep in the Gospel as we probably think we are.
CP: In Chapter 5, you wrote: “evangelicals have lost a lot of moral authority in recent years because of our apparent willingness to wink at sin when it serves our interests.” Would you say this has been a bigger problem in 2016 as opposed to earlier years like the 1980s or has this always been an issue with evangelicals in politics?
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski