The Gospel in the Background
Does Seeker-Oriented Evangelism Make the Most of Every Opportunity?
by Todd Wilken
From 1925 to 1976 filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock made 53 films. Hitchcock’s films are considered groundbreaking classics. The name "Hitchcock" brings to mind title after title— "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Lifeboat," "Rope," "Vertigo" and "Psycho." Hitchcock’s films featured stars like Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Claude Rains, and Jimmy Stewart.
Alfred Hitchcock was also famous for making cameo appearances in no less than 37 of his films. He never appeared for more than a few seconds, he never spoke any lines on camera, and he was always well in the background of the scene’s action.
In your church, on Sunday morning, does Jesus appear only briefly, say little, and stay well in the background? In the preaching that you hear each week, does Jesus Christ Crucified have a starring role or only a cameo role?
In the Church today there is a popular strategy for evangelism that effectively, and in some cases intentionally, assigns Jesus Crucified a place in the background; it’s called Seeker-oriented evangelism.
The Preeminence of the Explicit Gospel Message
The Church has been given the clear command to proclaim the Gospel. If the Church does nothing else, she ought to do that. Moreover, everything else the Church does do ought to be driven by, and oriented toward that proclamation of the Gospel.
But what is the Gospel? St. Paul provides a concise definition:
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
Christ died for our sins. This is the message of the perfect obedience of Jesus for sinners. This is the message of the suffering and death of Jesus for sinners. This is the message of the resurrection of Jesus for sinners. This is the message that the Church has been given to proclaim. This is the Gospel.
Just because Jesus is mentioned in a sermon, song or prayer doesn’t mean that the Gospel has been proclaimed. The Gospel is not the message of Jesus’ moral teaching, of Jesus’ example, or of Jesus as counselor, cook or cowboy. The Gospel is the message of Jesus crucified for sinners.
This clear Gospel message cannot be omitted, deferred or assumed in the Church’s preaching. It must predominate in all public preaching. People do not naturally know this Gospel, nor do they receive this Gospel by osmosis or gestalt it from passing references. They have to hear it clearly proclaimed.
This is abundantly clear in Scripture. Paul writes: I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:22-24), and finally, May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14).
Why must this Gospel be proclaimed? Because God creates saving faith in unbelievers and continues to strengthen the faith of believers only by means of this explicit Gospel message. Paul writes: I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16), and faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
More to come in future posts:::>