Every person I talk to that works vocationally for a church or ministry has frequently said something about their current fear or former fear of offending their congregation by their message. Whether it's by saying Jesus is the only way to a post modern culture, the uneasy task of calling out the sins of their listeners and the subsequent feelings of guilt that are sure to follow, or by demanding repentance to an audience that is there to be entertained, it seems like all teachers have over-thought the offensive nature of the Gospel of Christ. Instead of letting the Spirit speak through them, they have been speaking out of the worldly wisdom commonly used by marketing and strategic planning consultants as opposed to the eternal wisdom of the living God. (See 1 Corinthians 2 and 3). This does not mean that in speaking to believers and non-believers the Love of Christ does not radiate through us in our words or actions, especially if we're speaking and acting out of the Spirit.
I've spoken frequently about the fear based teaching we get on Sunday's or otherwise and I've personally offended numerous brothers in Christ who disagree with my stance on the lack of the Gospel being preached out of the pulpit. My view on this is in no way to be seen as a cheap attack on the church through a barely read blog. By no means do I hate the church, and to make this clear, I do believe it is an important aspect to developing community like we see in Scripture. However, like the churches in the book of Revelation, the lack of the Spirit in today's church is somehow both concerning and inspiring (quite a paradox). It is concerning because of the worldly wisdom being taught while inspiring to every follower of Christ who must see this as an opportunity to "bring the Spirit back" (there's a cover for you Justin Timberlake).
In my devotional time this morning I came across a fantastic quote by Oswald Chambers. To set the context of the quote, Chambers is speaking about Luke 9:57-62 in which three men tell Jesus that they will follow Him wherever He will go. Jesus, ("knowing what was in the heart of man"-John 2:25) chose not to praise these men for what they had to to say. Instead he responds by offending them in numerous ways asking them to completely abandon their whole life which included ditching the funeral of one man's parents and in another case just saying good bye to them. Their words were not enough, he wanted followers by both word and deed. He desired the men to come to the end of their finite perspective in exchange for an eternal one. Of course, this would make no sense to the Evangelist today who's goal appears to be getting a person to "pray the prayer", hand them a free bible and get them "plugged in" to a church who uses the bible (What?! How silly does our method sound when it's actually written out? But it's true.).
Chambers goes on to say,
We would have said, "I can’t imagine why He lost the opportunity of winning that man! (the one who says he'd follow Christ "wherever") Imagine being so cold to him and turning him away so discouraged!" Never apologize for your Lord. The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to be hurt or offended. Jesus Christ had no tenderness whatsoever toward anything that was ultimately going to ruin a person in his service to God.
"The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to be hurt or offended". Those words have convicted me all day and they should convict you too. Unfortunately for me I realized today that I'm easily offended, and I'm recognizing that if the Lord is offending me, then I haven't abandoned all of myself to the point that I no longer have any pride in my own life. If I'm being offended, then there is something in my life, some sin, some desire, some temporal pursuit that I have refused to let go of. If Jesus is offending me, then I have not taken on his perspective in that particular area of my life. If Jesus is offending me, I should take pride solely in the fact that I am his and he is pruning me so that I may be turned into the wine that others will smell and taste him as I'm being poured out on this world.
Of course, recognizing that Jesus' teaching is what offends as opposed to our own wisdom for a Sunday sermon, weekly bible study or morning Men's group is an important aspect of the discerning Christian teacher or disciple of Christ who aims to speak truth into the life of family,friends or those who don't know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Understanding our position and sphere of influence is an important gift, and packaging a message in your listeners language is not only important but crucial in helping them understand the word of God. But keep in mind, if the truth of God's word is being sacrificed, if you are afraid to offend people in hopes that you may be able to save them by your own rhetoric, I'd urge you to remember John 6:65 in which Jesus says"...no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
It is God who does the enabling, it's not your crafty words or funny intro to your sermon and if you are speaking by the Spirit it's very possible that the words you say may offend somebody in a way that God is hoping for. If they do, don't feel bad, instead you should experience joy that Jesus has showed up and don't forget that as Chambers said, "Jesus Christ had no tenderness whatsoever toward anything that was ultimately going to ruin a person in his service to God." Don't get in the way of God pruning his chosen ones, don't quench the Spirit of God, instead be still and listen to what He says to you so that you may speak the truth in Love.