There is a growing tendency in youth ministry to try to make the gospel message seem cool to the unregenerate mind. Slick websites, and “cutting-edge” movies are being produced in mass in the hopes that the gospel message will have an extreme makeover. The goal is to turn Christianity from geek to chic, to transform what is often considered the nasally nerd of belief systems into the pop jock. Some think that the gospel needs a fashion consultant and fitness trainer to compete with other “sexier” theologies and philosophies that rule the philosophic runways in America.
In this brave new postmodern world (a world where “whatever” you believe is fine as long as it doesn’t impinge or infringe on anyone else) we don’t dare just come out and share the gospel! Instead we connect with others, hoping that the gospel is mystically transferred by some kind of invisible osmosis to our friends. Because to bring it up and lay it out is to risk being ridiculed as irrelevant, closed minded and, well, stupid.
This is nothing new. Two thousand years ago the great Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians who were struggling with the same kinds of things. Corinth was like the average American town, a rich city full of progressive, permissive people. They too were tempted to do some plastic surgery on the gospel to make it more good looking to their picky, pretty friends. So Paul reminds them of something important:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world…For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom….” I Corinthians 1:18-25
The word “foolishness” in the Greek language (which was the language that the New Testament was written in) is “moria.” It is where we get our English world “moronic.” What is Paul saying? That the fundamental message of the Bible is Forrest Gumpish to those without Christ, that you’re dumb and I’m dumber if we share the message of Jesus outloud with others.
Why does it seem so dumb to “those who are perishing”? Here are a few reasons:
- To say that “Jesus is the only way to heaven” seems beyond narrow minded to to the unsaved, it seems flat out arrogant.
- To say that “Salvation is by faith, not by good works” seems unfair to them. After all what about all the “good” Hindus, Muslims and Mormons out there? Right?
- To say that “there is no one good, no not one” seems ridiculous to them. After all isn’t every baby born innocent? (By the way, it’s usually people without babies that proclaim this one the loudest. It’s hard to think of babies as innocent once you see their reaction the first time they don’t get their way. WHAAAAAAAAA!)
Ridiculous, closed minded, foolish, stupid, moronic…yes, that’s us. No matter how we try to spruce it up the message is foolishness to the unregenerate mind.
Not much has changed in 2,000 years.
But in spite of the fact that this message may seem dumb to some, it still manages to invade and persuade the souls of millions of people every year. Although the gospel is built on the teachings of a singular man who claimed to be God, supposedly died on a cross and hypothetically rose from the dead, this “religion” has infiltrated the planet, transformed entire cultures and split history’s calendar into two parts. This obscure Jewish carpenter turned Rabbi turned Savior turned this world upside down…without an army, without technology, without coercion. Go figure.
What does this mean for you as a teenager or youth leader? It means that you should actually enjoy the fact that your message is underestimated, discounted and ridiculed. As we share it with others we should expect questions, skepticism and persecution. It’s part and parcel of preaching the gospel message. Always has been. The gospel message is timeless. It is timeless in its power to change lives and its power to elicit disdain.
The gospel may appear moronic to unbelievers at first but when God opens their hearts to believe, all of a sudden the gospel not only makes sense but seems ingenious, divine, soveriegn! “To those of us who are being saved it is the power of God.” At the moment of salvation this message illuminates the mind, awakens the heart and empowers the soul.
So when you share this message expect raised eyebrows and condescending smirks. Some will think it’s stupid. Others will dismiss it as irrelevant. But when the Spirit of God turns the heart switch on, this mighty message will light up the darkened soul.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do our best to share the gospel is culturally relevant even cutting edge ways. We need better movies, websites and outreach tools in the church today. All I’m saying is that at the end of the day, no matter how cool or relevant we try to appear to the outside world, our message will be considered stupid until God opens their hearts to believe.
Thank God for this stupid message that saved our souls and is changing our lives!
*This article was rewritten and adjusted from an old Stier Straight article. I think I’ll sue myself for plagiarism!