In our first post in this series we said that a godly church needs to be Scripture based church. By that we meant one that actually reads the Bible during its services.
Today we want to stress how important it is to find a church where the Gospel is preached.
The pulpit ministry of a church should simply be an extension of the church's Scriptural commitment. But you have to recognize that not all churches that "preach the Bible" preach the gospel.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, has expressed that much of what passes as "biblical preaching" in our contemporary society is nothing more than moralistic, therapeutic deism. That is to say, the minister will read a Bible passage(s) and then give you tips on how to live a better life. Coupled with vague references to a benevolent deity who would never send you to hell (so long as you are doing your best), this preaching amounts to nothing other than a mish-mash of self-help mumbo jumbo.
Such messages have nothing to do with the gospel.
True preaching of the gospel will no doubt explain the full extent of God's law. It will certainly point you to what God requires of your life. But it will also point you to Christ, the who has become the Savior of those who have failed to live up to that standard.
Let me give you a couple of illustrations. I grew up in a "liberal" church. This church had an excellent liturgy. They read large passages of Scripture, recited the creeds, and sang the old hymns of the faith. However, the preaching was a major fail. I actually sought to keep track of how many times the minister made reference to God or Christ. There were many weeks where I didn't hear a single mention of either.
I attended another church later in life for about 6 months. It was what you might call an "evangelical church." The people were strong believers and they sincerely loved the Lord. However, the pastor, though he too was a dear brother in the Lord, rarely talked about the gospel and pressed its significance upon the congregation.
Another illustration may be witnessed in the experience of one couple who attended a church I used to pastor. They had recently moved to the area and had visited many churches. Despite their best efforts, they failed to find any who even recognized our need for the gospel. In her own words, she said, "Nobody ever has mentioned anything about sin!"
Each of these is an example of a deep deficiency in a church's preaching ministry.
The ultimate point of a sermon should be to "bring Christ to the fore." That is to say, a minister should highlight what God has done (or is doing) through Christ to save sinners.
Of course, one shouldn't write off a church because he didn't hear the gospel once or twice in any given month. You'll want to look at the overall trajectory and consider whether or not the overall scope of the ministry is one that is gospel centered.
For instance, ask yourself questions like these: "Am I learning about Jesus here? Do I hear the gospel a good majority of the time? Is this a place where I could bring my unsaved friends and be assured that they would be confronted with the saving work of God?"
Another way to look at it is like this: When you leave church on a given Sunday, do you think, "Boy, I can do it!" (moralism). Or do you find yourself saying, "Wow! He did that for me?" (gospel).
If you feel greatly humbled and overcome with awe because you've met Christ at the cross, you know that this particular church loves the gospel and is committed to Christ.