I sometimes hear about churches who have been criticized for “dumbing down the Gospel.” Usually the criticism is about their use of modern music, preaching of practical messages, or their getting too big because they are “too entertaining” and “only telling people what they want to hear.”
Well, there are certainly a few churches out there who have probably gone a bit overboard in their attempts to reach people, but I think that a lot of “dumbing down” happens in other ways.
Here are five ways that I believe churches can really “dumb down” the Gospel:
1. Preach only to the choir.
That is, tailor your preaching and services to those who already have experienced the Gospel. Use insider lingo. Assume everyone in the room knows where the book of Micah is in the Bible. Assume everyone has brought a Bible with them. Assume that everyone knows all of the songs you’ve been singing for years. Assume that everyone in the room is a Christian. Assume that everyone in the room understands the meaning of “Propitiation” and a host of other theological terms.
2. Equate “spiritual maturity” with “knowledge” only.
Don’t emphasize doing anything. Emphasize “knowing” everything. Name the 12 tribes of Israel? Check. Define “Propitiation?” Check. Memorize a lot of Bible verses? Check. Dig “deeply” into Scripture to discover nuances of Hebrew and Greek that put the passage into historical and cultural context? Check. Congratulations. You’re mature. Because of course, the “Spiritual Maturity” test involves written “fill in the blank,” “true/false” and “multiple choice” answers…
3. Wrap & build your Theology around a human Theologian or movement.
Put that Theologian’s name or movement in your church name, way of thinking, and pretty much everything you do. Seriously. Just that one guy. I’m not talking about your denomination or affiliation, but rather, your overall perspective. Example: Larry started the Recycled Church movement. So I’m a Recycled Larryiest and we are a Recycled Larryiest Church with a theology of Recycled Larryism.
Use these descriptions and “Larry” rather than or along with Scripture to “defend the faith.” ….Of… Larry, I guess?
4. Separate it from everyday life as much as possible.
Make your preaching and your worship service so unconnected to the rest of the real world that people easily leave it at church and pick it back up the next week. Think to yourself that this is what it means to be “holy” or “set apart.”
5. Make it as dull as dirt.
For heaven’s sake, don’t be interesting or captivating. That would be entertainment, and if anyone is enjoying any part of your worship service, you must be doing something wrong.
So there you go. Five ways to dumb it down.
Here is what I believe is a better way:
I believe spiritual maturity is about becoming Christ-like.
I believe unbelievers should be present, welcomed and helped to understand as we present the Gospel.
I believe we should learn from and be influenced by Theologians but not wear them on our jerseys like football teams.
I believe the Gospel should impact every area of life.
I believe the Gospel is the best, most exciting news on the planet and that it is wrong to communicate it in a dull and lifeless way.
When we forget that “Gospel” means “Good News,” the “dumbing down” cannot be far behind.