Cross-less Christianity seems to be the norm for American Christianity. The Apostle Paul said he only wanted to preach Christ and Him having been crucified. That is the very message I preach each Sunday. Christ suffered, died, and rose again for our forgiveness: this is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe.
I hear talk about programs to revitalize churches. There is a bunch of discussion in these programs about things to do: evangelism, outreach programs, care for the elderly, children, and the like. This is all social gospel stuff. This is really diaconal stuff (aside from evangelism). It is good for churches to be involved in diaconal work among the community.
But where is the talk about the gospel? Why aren't there initiatives to encourage people in the study of the Word and the Sacraments? Why aren't there programs to revitalize preaching and teaching? I admit, I can be a better preacher; my constant goal is to become better and better as a preacher.
It seems we have really separated ourselves from history. The great movements in the Church didn't come about through programs, but through preaching Christ crucified. This should be our number one priority. If the Holy Spirit doesn't grow the church through the gospel, then no program devised by men and women will grow it.
Well, we can see numerical growth apart from the gospel. But is it really about numbers and statisitics? Shouldn't it really be about Christ crucified being preached? Shouldn't it really be about people hearing the law and the gospel: being told they have sinned and rejoicing in the fact that God has forgiven them on account of Christ? Is the gospel any less effective because 5 people hear it in church rather than 500?
Last Easter I watched several televangist programs. Mind you, this was ON Easter Sunday. Not one of the preachers mentioned Christ's death or resurrection. Only one mentioned Christ. What kind of preaching is that? That's certainly not the gospel! And yet, in American Christianity, such things are upheld as the standard because there is flash, entertainment, and large numbers.
The Word and the Sacraments are despised throughout American Christianity. The gospel is foolishness to many. Some want wisdom, others morality, still others profits and large numbers; but God wants the GOSPEL preached. God sent His only Son into the world in order to save the world. Christ suffered and died; He was the propitiation for our sins; He redeemed us back to God with His own shed blood. There is nothing we need to do to earn our forgiveness. Christ has done it all; we need only believe it. Christ rose from the dead; we are united to Him in our Baptism, and so on the last day Christ will raise us up and we will enjoy all eternity in our body and soul.
Christ crucified: that's the gospel that saves people. The Holy Spirit grows His Church throught the proclamation of the gospel. His time table is not our time table; His understanding of success is not our understanding of success. When we have Christ right, then the other things will simply fall into place. "Christ on the cross for me" is getting Christ right. It's the message that ought to be preached across America from the pulpits.