The Blog: Pastor Parsley's Personal Blog Pastor Rod Parsley

Our Common Denominator

10/7/2012 4:02:00 PM — Twice last week in the tabernacle of World Harvest Church – at our midweek service and the next day at Valor Christian College’s weekly chapel service – a dance team from Pastor Louis Reyes’s Church of Joy in Zion, Ill., ministered. The team had a great impact on our students and the staff and faculty alike. But the team’s ministry was clearly targeted specifically to the age group represented by the majority of Valor students – less so to those with bifocals and gray hair.

There’s no shame in that; the Gospel is expressed artistically in a multitude of ways. The only problem is when the old folks in the audience decide reflexively that a hip-hop song can’t be “of God,” or when younger people turn their noses up at a choral anthem, mistaking a lack of volume for a lack of passion.

There is one thing that our varied expressions of faith can, and should, unite around, however, and that is the cross of Calvary.

The cross surely has a unique power to offend, as I note in my latest book, “The Cross: One Man…One Tree…One Friday.” But I am seeing in recent weeks that it also has the power to unite disparate groups within the Church. Perhaps we realize that if we cannot agree on the atoning work Jesus Christ did for us at Calvary, we probably don’t deserve to be called the Church anymore.

I’m pleased that The Cross has been widely endorsed by leaders from across multiple spheres of society:
  • Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former presidential candidate who now hosts radio and television talk shows focused on politics.
  • Jay DeMarcus of the country-music band Rascal Flatts.
  • The leaders of three of the premier Christian television networks in the world – CBN, TBN and Daystar.
  • Mariano Rivera, the recently retired all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball.
  • Long-time ministry leaders Dr. T.L. Lowery, Kenneth Copeland and Dr. Jack Hayford.
  • Newly prominent names in the world of ministry, including Pastor Steven Furtick, musician Rick Pino and Dr. Medina Pullings.
I’m proud to receive those endorsements, but of course the subject matter has more than a little to do with that. Bible-believing Christians may have sincere, severe disagreements about a whole host of things. But the sacrificial death of Jesus should not be one of them. And for most of us, that is the case. It’s unfortunate that a fringe movement calling itself Christian is openly questioning whether Calvary did the redemptive work that the Bible clearly says it did:
Today in some churches, if the cross is mentioned at all it is often only to warp its meaning and message into something more palatable to the modern sensibility. Thus, a stream of new books call for “reimagining” or “reinterpreting” or “rethinking” the cross of Christ.

Back in the middle part of the last century, the influential pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, the late Harry Emerson Fosdick, famously said that the traditional view of the cross and the doctrine of the atonement made Christianity a “slaughterhouse religion.” He also suggested the idea that Jesus suffered as a substitutionary sacrifice in our steads because of our sins, was a “pre-civilized barbarity.”

Building on that argument, some prominent leaders in the “Emergent” church movement today—many of whom are admirers of Fosdick and were deeply influenced by his teaching—seek to re-brand the astonishing events at Golgotha. They would have us think of it as a wonderful example of self-sacrifice and servanthood that we should all strive to emulate (in less blood-soaked ways, of course), rather than as a judicially necessary sacrifice of an innocent—payment for the sin-guilt of the entire human race.
The temptation is to be dismissive about such blasphemy. But because the perpetrators of this, let’s say, creative interpretation of history insist on calling themselves Christian, it becomes more important to contend for this central tenet of our faith. It’s one of the main reasons I wrote The Cross.

One of the most marvelous things the cross does is bring together a diverse group of believers who would seem to have nothing else in common. I’ve often said that one of the best things about our church is that you can look down the pew at a worship service and almost certainly find someone that doesn’t look like you. Most people assume I’m talking about skin color, and that is certainly part of it; I am proud to lead a multi-racial church. But it’s also true of economic status, educational background, and a host of other factors.

No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, there is a place for you at the foot of the cross. And, as Paul notes in one of his letters to the house churches at Corinth, that’s the way it always has been:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, ESV, emphasis added
I receive no greater joy as a pastor than to look out at my congregation and see the hip-hop generation, the classic rock enthusiasts and the choirs-and-organs crowd all worshipping together, united in their awe at what Jesus Christ accomplished for them at the cross.