I visited many churches for various reasons during 2020. In quite a few houses of worship, I experienced roughly the same thing. As the doors opened, I could feel vibrations from the percussion and bass in my chest. The smell of coffee would drift toward my nose and awaken me. The welcoming team would greet me and ask about my week with genuine interest. “Don’t forget to check in on social media!” they would say. Sign-up sheets for “groups who do life together” and other activities to “get involved” were on strategically placed tables. Finally, I’d enter the sanctuary, grab my seat, and listen to another in a long string of incredibly inspirational messages (although rather scarce in Scripture). These sessions made me feel good. They inspired me. I was very much in my element with my people.
But it wasn’t church.
To be clear, there was nothing “wrong” with any of the things I saw, felt, smelled, or heard. It’s simply that all too often, we fail to focus on the most important aspect of meeting together as a body: the gospel.
Alexander Campbell said, “The testimony of the apostles is the only and all-sufficient means of uniting Christians.” He placed an emphasis on New Testament Christianity, which is what drew me into the Restoration Movement. You see, the New Testament church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The New Testament church heavily relied on and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In a 2020 survey, Barna discovered 72 percent of current pastors believe the greatest concern for the Christian church is watered-down gospel teachings. Another major concern for preachers were “prosperity gospel teachings” (56 percent). Survey after survey has shown that Christians are tired of what I call the “cool church.” They long for substance, depth, and most importantly, the gospel.
Resurrection Sunday is April 4. It is the perfect time to emphasize what many in our movement are preaching every weekend—the passion of the Christ. Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, which necessitated a sacrifice to satisfy God’s wrath. For thousands of years, God’s people sacrificed animals to atone for sin, but that was not enough because animals were simply spoken into existence.
Humans, however, were made from the very breath of God—we were made in his image and likeness—but we are inherently unclean because of Adam and Eve’s legacy—their sin. Mere man could not pay sin’s penalty. The only true fulfillment was a sacrifice without blemish—without sin. That could be accomplished only by God himself, who came to earth in human flesh. Not because he needed us, but because he loves us and wants us.
Jesus displayed this passion as he hung in pain and agony on the cross for six excruciating hours.
After his brutal death, Jesus was put in a borrowed tomb because he didn’t have his own. But three days later, after the darkest time the world has ever known, a miraculous resurrection occurred in which Jesus conquered sin and death once and for all! Jesus died to save the thief who hung beside him (Luke 23:43), the Roman soldiers who took part in his murder (Matthew 27:54), and everyone else who were lost in their sins.
Jesus also hung on the cross for you and me. Colossians 1:17 says, “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (New Living Translation). This means that because Jesus is thinking about us, we exist. While he was on the cross, he was taking on the punishment we deserve because he could not stand the thought of living in eternity without us.
We now have the opportunity to respond to his story and share it with others. This is what the church yearns for. It’s what we are called to do. It’s for this reason the Restoration Movement is known and should be known.