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
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.