“We should preach the gospel to unchurched folk, but give teaching to church people.”
I grew up going to two church services on a Sunday. One was for the church people. One was supposedly for the unchurched people. This second service always included a sermon that was a basic gospel presentation. Whether or not there actually were unchurched folk there is not the point. 6:30pm was the time for a gospel presentation.
But can we make, or indeed, should we make, such a strong distinction? I am not convinced. The reason is because I have heard enough preaching that is supposed to be “teaching” to realize that believers need gospel preaching more than something entirely different.
Too many have dumbed down the gospel to a transactional deal struck between God and the sinner at the point of conversion, which then recedes into the background as the new believer now learns to implement their responsibility with good moral teaching from the Bible. Learn this lesson. Apply this truth. Heed this warning. Follow this example. But gospel-less instruction can really start to sound like something other than Christianity.
Paul warned the Galatians when they started to think there was something more for them than an ongoing application of the gospel.
What about meat? Indeed, we should move on to meat instead of milk. How meaty do you want your gospel? But to move from gospel to something non-gospel is not progress, it is moving backwards into the fleshly world of religion. This is why some preaching could easily pass for instruction in another religion . . . responsibility-preaching will always appeal to the flesh, but it won’t be Christian. Some closing thoughts:
1. Preach the gospel to whoever is present, whatever stage of faith they may be at. The lost need it, and so do we. But preach the full, clear gospel, not a paper thin pale reflection of the real deal.
2. Since the gospel is at the core of instruction for believers, this means that every week can be both teaching for the believers and accessible for visitors. Special guest events can be great, but visitors may return the next Sunday, or they might even just show up on a random Sunday. Make every week seeker-safe.
3. Beware of the false “meat” of heavyweight responsibility preaching, or purely informational educative preaching. It seems more meaty to raise the bar and pressure people to perform better, or to edify their intellect through an educational presentation . . . but our biblical preaching should be driving the gospel deeper into a life, not taking people away from the gospel – that is never progress.