A Gospel Manifesto

An Earnest Call For Evangelical Leaders To Recover The Gospel From Its Present Humiliation

by Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Pastors and church leaders, in particular, are under enormous pressure today to satisfy the immediate demands of the marketplace at the cost of the gospel. People want what they want when they want it, or they will drive down the street to the First Church of Where-It’s-At to get it. Are we leaders losing our nerve? Have we come to feel that the gospel itself meets people’s needs less convincingly and helpfully? But think about it. Without a clear understanding of the central truths of our faith, where will the wisdom and motivation to live godly lives come from? We are constantly offering people “Five Steps to (whatever)” in answer to their problems. But it is not working. To a shameful degree, we Christians are morally indistinct from the world. Why? One reason is that we think piecemeal, and our lives show it. We do not perceive reality from God’s perspective. We perceive reality from the perspective of our ungodly culture, and then we try to slap a biblical principle onto the surface of our deep confusion. Consequently, very little actually changes. What we really need is not to be pandered to but to be re-educated in reality, as it is interpreted for us by the gospel. We need to know who God really is. We need to find out who we really are. We need to understand what our root problem really is and what God’s merciful answer really is. And we need that new perception of reality to percolate deep down into our affections and desires, reorienting us radically and joyfully to a whole new way of life. But if we frankly feel that the plain old gospel offers very little for people’s real needs, then we have never really known it at all...

O desolate evangelicalism, what do you mean by your stylish fads and restless search for ever new “relevance”? Why are you so insecure that you long for the world’s approving recognition? They despise everything you hold dear! “All things to all men” is no license to cater to the whims of the consumer. Christ alone is Lord. Or have you yourself forgotten his majesty? And why are you so boastful of your numbers and dollars? How poor you really are! Come back to the gospel. Come back to the wellspring of true joy and life and power. Sanctify Christ again as Lord in your hearts. Wake up! Strengthen what remains, for it is on the point of death. But if you will not return to the centrality of the gospel as God’s power for the church today, then what reason does your Lord have for not abandoning you altogether?
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