The gospel message preached faithfully from the Scriptures will be a stumbling block to those who want a comforting, encouraging, feel-good sermon each week. Sadly, many modern-day churches are doing just that. But the wisdom of man is foolishness because it has no answers. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12). What seems right to men is to preach a gospel that fits the culture. It’s non-offensive, and it makes for good crowds. People want a gospel that fits their life, not one that requires change, obedience, faithfulness, and pursuit of holiness.
I don’t think any pastor, teacher, or member of a church has not experienced some disunity that has arisen out of a non-theological matter. In my decades in the church, I have witnessed one, maybe two theological splits from friends and fellow pastors. That’s it. The rest, well, I am sure your familiar with them all—foolish things.
Paul’s appeal to the church at Corinth had similar issues: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor 1:10). Paul had been informed “that there are quarrels among you” (1 Cor 1:11). In the church today, there will be conflicts, often from different personalities, and that’s not uncommon. However, these divisions were substantial.
Many were saying they followed different men—some Paul, some Apollos, Cephas, and some Jesus. This can be deeply problematic even in today’s church, as, for instance, some men follow YouTube sensations who are “celebrity pastors.” They can say some good things, but their main interest is in gaining audiences, not followers.
What the modern-day church lacks is sound, biblical, expositional preaching from the pulpit. Many are doing this, and I am grateful for this, but what lack of this produces is exactly what Paul is dealing with, people following the most culturally-fit so-called preacher on the internet instead of a local pastor preaching the Word.
Paul explains his unpopular position on preaching, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void” (1 Cor 1:17). He knew the cleverness or wisdom in his own speech would be worthless at changing a man’s heart. Only God can do that through the Spirit of God. His proclamation was to preach Christ and nothing else.
Men have tried to reinvent the gospel over the years to make it more attractive. The world wants something new and exciting, even at church.