The Key Way to Kill a Church
Mark Dever

Mark Dever

I’ve been pastor of the same congregation now for over 22 years, and do you want to know what causes trouble in the church? Absolutely nothing so much as confusing the gospel.

John Stott said that “The devil disturbs the church as much by error as by evil. When he cannot entice Christian people into sin, he deceives them with false doctrine.”

“A church confused about the gospel is worse than worthless. It is a blocked emergency exit. It’s an elevator to hell.”

John Perkins has said, “Something is wrong at the root of American evangelicalism. I believe we have lost the gospel — God’s reconciling power, which is unique to Christianity — and have substituted church growth. We have learned how to reproduce the church without the message.”

Friends, moral scandals involving sex and money tarnish a church’s witness. Family feuds can tear at a church. Gossip and envy, worldliness and selfishness can eat away at it. But teaching a false gospel kills it from its very core and center. It sets the whole course wrongly, its data is dirty, its assumptions are erroneous, its material is unsound. So, if you really want to trouble a church, start teaching a different gospel.

A church confused about the gospel is like a blind Uber driver. It’s like a forgetful historian. It’s like a colorblind artist. A church confused about the gospel is worse than worthless. It is a blocked emergency exit. It’s an elevator to hell.

Pastors, this is one reason we have to keep on preaching the gospel. We have to make sure the next guy they hire after us is at least right on the gospel because everybody here must know and clearly understand the gospel. We must keep preaching the gospel.

I don’t know if Jason’s going to tell the story tomorrow morning, but Martin Luther, when once asked why he was preaching on justification by faith alone for the twentieth time, he said it was because people didn’t remember it after the nineteenth.

“Teaching a false gospel kills the church from its very core and center.”

Keep preaching the gospel. We need to persevere in the truth and be sure we persevere in the truth and not let our preaching be subtly transformed into a different gospel. This can be subtle. We might not overtly deny the gospel, but we might ignore it. We might assume, “Well everybody here has heard the gospel. They’ve understood it. Even the ones who aren’t Christians have heard it a thousand times. I’m going to go on and preach on more interesting things.”

Oh, brother, if that’s your spirit before you preach, when you plan a sermon series, or when you’re working on a sermon, check your heart and check your Bible. Confess honestly to your fellow elders you’re facing that, and call it what it is. It is a temptation. And it is a temptation which will do no good to the congregation the Lord’s called you to shepherd.

 

(@MarkDever) is a pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., the president of 9Marks (a ministry for churches and church leaders), and the author of many books, including Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. He and his wife, Connie, have two children.This article first appeared on desiringgod.org.

Image courtesy Ben White, Freely Photos

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