“Just preach the gospel” is a common retort Brady sees used online. He discusses why this is bad advice, and how this statement is being misapplied.
What’s In This Session?
- “Preach” is a verb. It demands a medium (1:59)
- “Preach” requires a listener (2:55)
- This statement is being misapplied (3:33)
- Timeless message in a timely medium (4:12)
- Attention is the most valuable commodity your church can possess (4:30)
- This statement does a disservice to the Gospel when it prioritizes mediums with less attention over mediums with more attention for the sake of tradition (5:32)
Show Notes & Resources Mentioned
- Pro Church Tools
- Pro Church Tools on Facebook
- Pro Church Tools on YouTube
- Brady Shearer on Instagram
- Brady Shearer on Twitter
- Alex Mills on Instagram
The Full Transcript
Alex Mills: Well, hey there. Welcome to Pro Church Daily the show where in ten minutes or less you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus. While we navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host Alex Mills and I’m joined, as always, the boss man, it’s Brady Sheerer, and today we’re talking about why just preaching the gospel is terrible advice.
Brady Sheerer: This is a common retort that see a lot on line and to prove that it happened twice just in the last week. And so I wanted to read what a thought like this sounds like because it comes up very frequently when you work in the digital space, when you work with new media and communication and so here’s one that came a friend of mine, Ryan Wakefield in a group that he’s a part of. Basically this was something that an individual said to him and his company so he shared a screen shot with us, it said, “With all your cute talk about who makes the best barbecue and what the leaders of Fortune 500 companies think about millennials, may I remind you, that God’s marketing strategy for reaching the youth in any culture has not changed in 2000 years. Preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified, his word, along. Has the power to change and transform lives if it is preached under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. A concept I didn’t hear mentioned once in this man centered, self congratulatory dialogue.”
Alex Mills: Wow.
Brady Sheerer: So I used that screen shot as kind of the basis for this episode of Pro Church Daily. But then just this morning as I was prepping, I got a comment myself, because we get about these once every week. This was on a YouTube video of ours talking about digital media, and it said the following, “The gospel of Jesus doesn’t need a strategy it’s not supposed to be a business. The early church and so many around the world risk their lives to spread the precious gospel. How many of us today in America would do that? Preach repentance, and the precious cross of Jesus, preach what Jesus taught, love the lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.”
So let’s talk about this phrase, the theological trump card of preach the gospel, the word preach is a verb, and let me begin this with a disclaimer, I do not disagree with the statement just preach the gospel, but what I do believe is it’s being misapplied in this context. So it’s this theological trump card, preach the gospel, but that word preach is a verb, it requires an action. And that action means that it necessitates a where and a how. So when we say, “Just preach the gospel.” When someone says that to me, my first response to them is okay let’s define that. How and where are we meant to preach this gospel. The other thing about the verb preach is that it requires a listener. You can’t preach a wall, you can, but it would be ineffective. It requires an individual or a crowd, a group of people that are listening. And so now what we get to do is we get to decide, okay, if we’re going to preach the gospel, how are we going to define this word, preach?
There are a couple of different things I think we need to be aware of. First, church attendance continues to decline in America and millennials, the largest generation in the America workforce currently is attending church at historically low rates. So the way that we think of preach the gospel traditionally, is we think of it being done in our auditoriums on Sunday mornings. In our sanctuaries on Sunday mornings. That’s where we think of, when we think of preach, in our 2018 context. The problem with this statement being used as a rhetoric against marketing, communication, digital media is that it’s a misapplication of the philosophy, and the principle behind preach the gospel in and of itself.
Let’s use an example, about 600 years ago the first bible was printed on actual paper. The Gutenberg Printing Press. When this happened Alex, people were not happy about it. People thought, this is a new medium, that is scary and dangerous and what have we as Christians done with this printing press medium? We have widely distributed the bible and made the bible the single most printed book in the history of humankind. We have taken a medium that was timely and we leveraged it to share a timeless message. Because at the end of the day, preach the gospel is most efficient and effective when we take this timeless message and we apply it and share it in a timely medium. When people get upset and say, “Just preach the gospel because this strategy is silly.” What I think they are misunderstanding is that we’re not recommending or suggesting the message ever changes, we’re just finding new mediums to share it through. Because, at the end of the day, attention is the most valuable commodity that a church can possess.
If we want to preach the gospel, we want to preach the gospel where the attention is wide and as deep as possible. Meaning if a listener is listening we want them to be deeply listening. And if a listener is listening let’s get as man listeners as we possibly can. So when we bring it back to that idea preach the gospel, I want to just preach the gospel, but I don’t think the most efficient way to preach the gospel is only in our Sunday mornings with a man, usually a man, maybe a woman, from a pulpit for 40 minutes with the spoken word. Why? Well because people are joining church in a declining rate in America and the next generation, the one that’s going to take up this next mantel and is the largest living generation in the American workforce is attending church at historically low rates so I think when you use this phrase, just preach the gospel, and it implies that the gospel must be preached in the way that it been always done traditionally …
Alex Mills: From behind a pulpit in a church on a Sunday morning.
Brady Sheerer: I think you are doing a disservice to that verse because you’re not preaching the gospel efficiently, that’s just based on attention and at the end of the day attention is something that we just have to follow, we’re not changing the message, but let’s change the medium otherwise people aren’t going to hear the gospel at all because where it’s being preached people are not hearing it.
Alex Mills: Yeah, and when you boil it down I mean we can all agree that that’s what we are trying to do as communicators in the church world where all the primary focus of everything that we do is to preach the gospel, and so I think you nailed it when you said that phrase is being misapplied and it’s often as a response in reaction to change. You know, people who are resistant to change, especially in the digital world, the way churches are using Facebook and social and all these avenues it’s often people who are resistant to that change who are saying, “No we don’t need to be doing these things on line we just need to preach the gospel.” And we’re all, when you quantify it, we’re all preaching the gospel. But like you said Brade, it’s like where is the attention being paid and it’s no longer the primary you listeners are no longer meeting in a church on Sunday mornings but they’re on line, they’re spending, you know over four times as much time on line as they are in church, on, you know during the week and so that’s where we need to take this timeless message.
I love when you say that a timely medium for a timeless message. We even see it in the life of Jesus you know, when he often would get into a boat and preach from the water towards the land, that was a timely medium, that was actually a unique way of communicating a message to a large group of people because he knew that water would actually carry that sound and enable his message to travel further distances to reach this large group of people that were congregating on the land. So instead of preaching from the land where it was convenient he actually got in a boat, got in the water and use a timely medium to preach his gospel which is this timeless message that we’re talking about. So if we see it the life of Jesus, why not employ all of these great opportunities that we have at our hands on the web, on digital, to reach a broader audience with the timeless message of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel, it is what we’re trying to preach. That’s what this is all about, but there are new avenues that are available to us just like the Gutenberg Printing Press that will enable us to reach more people with that message.
Brady Sheerer: I want to get back to that original comment that was made to me today on one of your YouTube videos. It said, the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t need a strategy. That’s the first line. The third line in this individual’s comments were, “Preach repentance in the precious cross of Jesus Christ, which is and of itself, a strategy.” So the thesis behind all of this is how are we going to the same thing we have done for centuries. Jesus was using the acoustical leverage of water to get his message to as many people as possible in that specific instance. Seven out of every ten American adults is active on Facebook. Ninety-five percent of Gen-Z uses and is active on YouTube. We now have the ability to preach the gospel in ways that even our lord Jesus himself did not have the capacity to two millines ago.
If we are going to look at this possibility and for the sake of tradition forsake that, I think that’s being very narrow focused. We’re actually not prioritizing scripture in my mind, we prioritize tradition. And when we do that it’s very dangerous because we are actively limiting ourselves and thus actively limiting the gospel simply because we’re afraid of new technologies.
Alex Mills: Yeah, the repercussion of that is that a big sector of the audience is not going to hear this gospel.
Brady Sheerer: That will do it for this episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you in another one.