I’d like to issue a challenge to those of you in my audience who still attend fundamentalist churches. (The rest of you can try this too as a control group). The quest is a simple one: next Sunday try to find Jesus in your pastor’s sermon.

In a Christian church one wouldn’t imagine that it would be too hard to find Christ. Yet, as I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time last month listening to sermons from some who are proclaimed to be the premier fundamentalist speakers in America, it has struck me that Jesus is strangely absent most of the time. It’s profoundly disturbing.

I’ve heard sermons about dad’s teaching their kids, and how to deal with life’s struggles (pray more and be more thankful!) and all kinds of guilt trips and pressure to conform…but there’s no Jesus. Nothing is more awful to behold than Christians who have forgotten who Christ is or the centrality of The Gospel in our message. It’s tragic. It breaks my heart.

Without Christ there’s no redemption for our broken condition, just condemnation of our struggles. Without Christ there is no power to vanquish sin and death just the weakened arm of flesh trying desperately for a perfection it can never attain. Without Christ there’s no joy but rather a dreadful commandment to rejoice without really knowing why. Without Christ we are of all men most miserable.

Oh, and if you really want to get weirded out, try this too: count the number of time the preacher references himself and his own stories and then compare them to the mentions of the works and ministry of Christ. You’ll likely be surprised.

138 thoughts on “Christ?”

  1. If this post makes no sense, I lay all the blame at the feet of whatever manufacturer churns out the generic brand cough syrup I’ve been swilling down.

  2. not that i remember very many sermons from my fundy past, but i think in general jesus isn’t really mentioned until the invitation, unless the text is actually from the gospels. usually, though, the pastor is the hero/savior in much of the sermon content.

    1. He gets a mention at Christmas and Easter and at the invitation. Sometimes in a Prophecy Conference He gets talked about coming back on a white horse to kill everybody.

      Other than that, it seems to be a mixed bag. We tend to hear a lot more about old testament prophets and warriors than we do about Christ.

      1. Darrell: “Nothing is more awful to behold than Christians who have forgotten who Christ is or the centrality of The Gospel in our message.”

        The President of the Fundy Bible College I attended preached a sermon on why the Cross of Christ was not Central to the Gospel. He said it was the Second Coming. The only thing more shocking than the sermon was that not only was there no one around me shocked, but I heard general approval. You aren’t kidding when you say prophecy is one of the few places you’ll hear a fundy preach Christ. For some Prophecy trumps Gospel.

  3. Wow!his is an interesting litmus test – maybe my church isn’t as fundy as I think it is: our Pastor has been going through a verse by verse study in the book of John, so pretty much ALL we’ve been talking about (on Sunday mornings, at least) is Christ! We’re right at the point where Jesus was illegally brought before the religious leaders, and then Pilate. Christ has been the central theme and focus of this message series.

    Kinda makes me feel better about my church. πŸ™‚

    1. “our Pastor has been going through a verse by verse study”

      This is a pretty good indication that your church is definitely not fundy. Expository preaching is rare in fundyland.

      1. There’s definitely different camps in the IFB. In the circles in which I grew up, expository preaching was praised. (Maybe that’s why I ended up loving God’s Word, which led to studying it, which led to stepping away from fundamentalism!)

        1. same here

          It seems the majority here have been exposed to just one or two branches of IFB fundamentalism…mostly in the Greenville, SC or Pensacola , FL area, neither of which is indicative of what i have been exposed to.

          Also, I know of quite a few who openly oppose the two camps mentioned above and are very Christ centric and expository.

          But there are alot of the others out there!

      2. “Expository preaching is rare in fundyland.”

        All the Baptist churches I’ve been in have taken verse by verse book studies as THE way to preach to a congregation and snub those who would presume to preach topically. Expository preaching has become a real identifying fundie badge: I comb my hair over, I wear a suit every Sunday, and I’ve spent the last two years going through Romans. πŸ˜›

        1. I guess that means that even fundies can occasionally do something right.

          I wish I would have grown up with expository preaching instead of topical “preaching.”

        2. All the fundies I grew up around were rabid topical preachers. Even at college. My first exposure to expository preaching didn’t come until I started visiting non-Baptist churches.

        3. And there is still a difference in Expositional Preaching and the Verse-by-verse preaching that many Fundies do. Just because a thing is called Expositional doesn’t make it so. I have sat through many Fundie sermon series that were verse by verse… and were anything but expositional.

          Fundie, King James, verse by verse preaching does not Expository make. πŸ˜‰ Especially if he concludes with detailed instructions on how to make application of the message just preached. Sort of an, “Here let me sum it up for you and tell you what you are supposed to take from this message. Let me tell you what to think and how to act in light of this message.
          All that is, is a bait-n-switch style of preaching. Here, this looks like it’s expositional but I have a gotcha waiting at the end. πŸ™„

        4. Right on Don. That is what I was exposed to. Verse-by-verse preaching, but no matter the book, no matter the chapter, no matter the verse, it always came back to what WE are not doing right. What we are not doing enough of. How we are not as holy and righteous as the preacher.
          But at the end of the day, the preacher can boldly proclaim that he preaches the Bible.

      3. it depends on how you look at it. lots of fundy pastors CLAIM to preach expositionally just because they preach through books of the bible verse-by-verse. but in actual fact, they take a block of scripture and generally conform it to teach the same thing: if you’re not saved, you need to get saved; if you’re saved & not right, you need to get right. how else can they make every message dovetail perfectly into the exact same altar call? other passages of scripture are referenced and often pulled out of context or spiritualized to help with the “exposition.”

        true expositional preaching yields an enormous array of preaching topics that are tied to what the text actually says. it’s not easy an easy thing to do well, and you can’t just rely on the “spirit’s leading” 2 hours before the sermon is due to be preached, but it’s very interesting when done properly.

    2. I’ve had both types, with both fundy churches.

      My old completely wacky church was almost all expository.

      My current one has never gone through a book that I know of. We’re doing a series on well-known Bible stories where (to his credit) he does preach from more than one verse. I don’t mind the one verse every once in a while, but it gets really old when it’s pulled completely out of context.

  4. When I did hear a messages about Jesus, it was rare. Funny, but those were the messages that I always enjoyed the most. Maybe because there was some true worshiping of the savior going on, not just yelling.

  5. Now, **this** post is much better named for a post of the week, nay year. Jesus Christ is what Christianity is all about.

    You are right, though – it should make us weep.

    I’ll be interested to see how this goes.

  6. This reminds me of going to church in middle/high school–I would literally keep a tally of the word “Jesus” used in sermons–not talking at any length about Him, but just the word in passing. I think the lowest was around 6 or 7 times (and this includes the “in Jesus’ name” of the closing prayer).

    Ironically, my family didn’t like the lack of Christ in the church services (certainly come up on the car rides home!), but “there wasn’t a better church” to go to…

    And then people wonder why I became Orthodox?! I am so thankful to God for leading me to a place where I can worship in spirit and in truth…if I actually wanted self-help or a guilt trip, I bet I could find it, but certainly not in church!

  7. If Jesus “is” mentioned is it the Jesus that is revealed in Scripture or is it a Jesus the MOg has wrapped up and packaged in a convenient single size serving?

    Just because some pulpiteer stands and says “Jesus” in his lecture/hollering match doesn’t mean he is talking about Jesus, the Christ who was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified acording to Scripture prophesy, was buried and was raised bodily (again according to scripture prophesy), and who now once again sits on His throne in heaven.

    Many of these self-called, self-anointed so-called preachers might as well be talking about Jesus their landscaper.

  8. Darrell – This is so weird. I just posted the following comment earlier today:

    I remember Jesus being mentioned in a positive light during the opening prayer/introduction by the pastor. During the sermon, not so much. We ALWAYS heard about how great and holy the preacher was though. It got to the point where I started to count the number of times I heard the pastor use the word “I”, or used the term “I believe” (really just his idea of hermeneutics), or told stories of his righteous struggles. All the while belligerently telling us how we fall short.

  9. Darrell, would you post a link to some of the sermons you referenced? Or give the names of the pastors who gave these Christless sermons.

    Just curious.

    1. Zion Detroit? Zion Lutheran (Fr Braden) I presume? I’ll be there this Sunday while in Detroit for a wedding. I’m a CTS student, friends with a guy from there. Small world.

  10. I am a Lutheran pastor. I have never had much contact with the Fundamental world, but I see this kind of Christ-less preaching all the time in Evangelicalism (as seen on TV) and in Lutheran preaching that wants to be like generic American Evangelicalism. I make it a point to preach very clearly every time I preach Christ crucified for sinners. You may find some of the sermon reviews on the Lutheran internet radio talk show, Issues, etc ( helpful.

    1. Yes, Issues Etc. is a great program. Also give a listen to Chris Roseborough’s Fighting For The Faith program on Sermon reviews, usually those of the “seeker-sensitive” churches, are done on a regular basis.

    2. Great point! Its not just fundamentalism that leaves out Jesus. There is a lot of legalism and moralism in evangelicalism also, it is just wrapped in modern b.s.

    3. In my experience and observation Charismatic Pentacostalism is the worst–Jesus name is thrown around alot, but that’s it. hardly any reference to His character or teachings…and what is said is abberant at best

      1. Seconded. πŸ™‚

        And although my church’s priests generally have excellent homilies, I like that every single activity is centered on Jesus, no matter whether I’m sitting, standing, kneeling, singing, speaking, or listening. I never had that feeling growing up and it’s so nice to have found it now.

  11. I don’t know if I really wanna see the results of this. I enjoy mocking fundies quite a bit, this sounds like something I’d rather not know, honestly.

  12. YES!!!!!

    Any churchgoer who attends a service where the pastor is the hero of every story – RUN! Get outta there! Flee for Christ’s sake.

    That is not gospel preaching.

    Fundies, or any other Christ-less preachers need to retire. The world doesn’t need anecdotes, moralism, or legalism – it needs Christ proclaimed in all his glory.

    To all of the preachers whom this post applies to, get over yourselves. It is not about you. You didn’t die for our sins, so quit fawning over yourselves.

    grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!! I am ticked! Darrell, you hit a nerve with me on this post.

    God is passionate about getting his glory and I would hate to have to face him having been one of those wolves who took praise that was rightfully his for themselves.

    You preachers should know better, and you will be held to a higher standard than the sheep you mislead.

    Soli Deo Gloria.

    1. Truth proclaimed! When you begin to know the living Christ, you don’t need all that legalism to motivate you to do what you should. You get your marching orders from the top!

  13. The key is that you have to listen beyond just lip service. It is not enough to only say the name. To preach Jesus is different then to name drop Jesus. Fundy pastors do a lot of name dropping, but very rarely do they preach Jesus. Very rarely does Jesus actually shine through the rhetoric outside of name dropping.

      1. Truth. After reading today’s post, I went to my parents’ fundy Baptist church website and pulled up the most recent Sunday morning sermon. I made it about 10 minutes in, and the pastor had only dropped Jesus’ name once in the sermon title.

  14. I used to hear a lot about Paul. I used to hear a lot about the Virgin Birth, a WHOLE lot about the Atonement, a lot about the Resurrection, a lot about prophecy and the Second Coming, a lot about Christian living according to Paul. I hardly ever heard anything on the actual words of Jesus from Matthew, Mark and Luke. ❓

    1. ^ This.

      Reading what Jesus had to say about helping those who are in need (notice what He says to the goats when they are turned away from heaven) transformed my husband’s view of what our church should be doing.

      We were actually told before that the Sermon on the Mount didn’t really count because it was kingdom preaching, and the kingdom hadn’t come yet. That shocked me; supposedly Biblical people telling me to basically ignore what Jesus said because it didn’t apply to today. 😯

      I’m personally struggling with the issue of loving the unloveable, the one who mocks you or hates you, your enemy. This was so underemphasized in all the churches I’ve been in, and yet it is ESSENTIAL to being a Christian!!!

      1. I’ve heard this one before too, and it totally blew me away. How do you even reply to that? How can people who claim to be Christians so easily dismiss so much of what Jesus said?

      2. The Lutheran view of the Sheep and Goats is different..
        so is the sermon on the mount.

        The sermon on the mount is essentially showing us our need for a savior, since none of us actually DO what the sermon on the mount teaches. It is not even possible. It is why we need Christ. “I never commit adultery” …”Don’t even LOOK with lust or you are guilty..”
        The point was that we are guilty.. the Pharisees were guilty. We can’t be righteous on our own.
        The sermon on the Mount applies, but not as law that we have to follow in order to really be Christians. Real Christians will of course try to follow them, but the real lesson in the Sermon on the Mount was that we are really messed up people who need Christ because we are not that righteous.

        1. Yeah, the Sermon on the Mount totally takes any self-righteousness we might have and totally trashes it: not even THINKING bad thoughts? blessing our enemies? We need Jesus, because this is just not possible on our own.

        2. That’s the whole point of Christianity as well.

          It’s not about meeting a standard to earn God’s favor or get to heaven. Jesus did that for us. We can freely rest in his righteousness. It is a beautiful thing, and this is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion.

          It’s not about what we do, it’s about what he has done.

          Anything good that we do is then done out of worship, not obligation.

          I wish I could explain this to my fundie friends. It is very liberating.

  15. Darrell,

    I am going to have to disagree with you on one point. Your last sentence says “you’ll likely be surprised.” This is the only incorrect statement in your post. I would be all to surprised only if I DID find Jesus in their preaching.

    Even though I know that some people think that they are still too legalistic, this is why I like Piper, Mahaney, and many other T4G guys. They stand on the centrality of the gospel message, and they focus strongly on the life, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior! It was such a breath of fresh air when I discovered preachers such as these.

  16. Even worse, is having to listen to a famous fundy preacher (cassette taped) for Bible class, and then having to write a 1-2 paragraph essay on what he preached. Just trying to get out the one paragraph was painful. No substance or Jesus, just a whole lot of “look what i did” kind of b.s. Ironically, I got an “A” on these essays, and I would always ask my self “for what”? I didn’t really write more than a couple of sentences or put a whole lot of effort into it. 😐

    1. I had to do that as part of detention in high school. I got in trouble for talking about rock music (classic rock, had I been talking about current rock bands they wouldn’t have recognized the names) and I had to listen to sermons on tape on the evils of rock music, which included backmasking.

      Bleh. (Also no mention of Jesus, either)

  17. Interesting to see your response, Pastor Roemke. I finished my undergrad at Concordia University – St. Paul while still in a fundie church. The one religion class that was required was taught by a Lutheran Pastor, and one of our assignments was to visit a church, any church (one other than our own, if we regularly attended) and “find Jesus” in the service. I very much appreciated that assignment – it started opening my eyes, and also made me realize that Lutherans are Christians! :mrgreen:

    (Unless he was leading them to the barber shop…)

  19. I go to a fundy church, although not extreme. My pastor has been doing expository preaching on the words and works of Christ beginning with the Beattitudes for several weeks now. For what it is worth……….

    1. Same here Jerry….the Beatitudes on Wednesday (very Christ centric) and the last few Sundays have all been from the word of Christ with one oxception form proverbs that was still very centured on being like Christ.

      So glad our IFB Chruch is nothing like so many mentioned here.

        1. What’s that I hear? Is that God calling one of you wiseacres to the ministry of doing all my graphics work? 😯

  20. perfect timing-I was on an IFB site today viewing the flyer for their upcoming “Camp Meeting”. As I was looking at it I was thinking that Jesus is not even mentioned on this thing!

    1. This reminded me of when our church used a VBS from Group Publications. After the first day, the deacons figured out that a Catholic church in town was using the same curriculum and demanded that we not use it. When we refused, they tried to rip the curriculum apart looking for flaws; they came up with the accusation that it didn’t clearly say that Jesus was the Son of God (supposedly).

      Well, I took a look at the curriculum they were claiming was “better” and guess what? The whole week was spent studying Daniel! In contrast, the Group curriculum dedicated all of Thursday’s lesson to Christ’s death on the cross for us.

      I couldn’t believe that they were objecting to an awesome program that clearly presented the Gospel.

      1. Group’s VBS’s are always like that on night/day 4. It’s so good that churches from every denomination from Roman Catholic to conservative evangelicals use it.

      2. @pastor’s wife in case George puts this somewhere it isn’t supposed to be: Let me guess. The book of Daniel was used so that the End Times Checklist could be dragged in.

      3. The base chapel here uses Group VBS. The whole chapel is combined for it, Protestant and Catholic. There are two joint coordinators, one from the Protestant and one from the Catholic. Both of these gals were great. I was delighted to get to know the Catholic coordinator and hear her say how much she wanted to be sure that the kids learned about Jesus and how He is relevant to their lives. What a breath of fresh air compared to the stale re-circulated stuff we inhaled in IFB!

        1. dang george, that’s just too much to even try and fix… get those headphones off your head and… W-h-a-t are you listening to? One of whose sermons? A-R-E YOU CRAZY? no wonder you messed… dang, see what you’ve done? I was so busy fussing at you I didn’t notice we were still on SFL…. let’s take this to the other room.

  21. I wont be participating in this little test, because I couldnt imagine darkening the door, or subjecting my children to one of those hate filled, hypocritical, and cult like churches! Sorry!

  22. Darrell; I listened to three messages from different sources (more later)… but I need to know how to count… do we count just a mention of Jesus’ name? (such as “Some people won’t come to Jesus”), or does it have to be something about Him?

    Ditto for referencing self – does it need to be a story involving the pastor, or does any reference to himself count? Does a phrase like “I am a father; I have two boys and two girls” count as a self-reference?

    Others, feel free to chime in on how the counts should be done.

    I’ll post the results later…

    1. I think those things are permissable, but using himself as the hero in every sermon …is a red alert warning!

      Also, some sermons on some subjects may be less Christcentric, but just a bare mention of Jesus is not enough…..sometimes the word “Christian” when used properly, and accuratley i.e. “to be like Christ” is approvable.

      Jesus didn’t mention God in ever sermon by name, but He certainly stayed on subject even if it was about money or worldly worries.

      my 2 cents

    2. RESULTS:

      Listened to a message by Charles Spurgeon (note that I was also working, and sometimes was distracted, so I may have missed some)…

      References to Christ: about 4
      References to self: zero

      HAC-grad type church in the area:
      References to Christ: 0
      Stories about self: 3
      General stories: 4
      Stories about what a great church his church is: 2

      My church (just picked last Sunday’s morning message; I was out and didn’t know ahead of time what I’d find):
      References to Christ: 4
      Stories about self: 0
      References to self: 2

      1. I started years ago by reading Selections from Church Dogmatics. Wow. I was hooked. Fed my mind and my soul. Then I learned that he used to spend his Sunday afternoons preaching to inmates. Read the book of sermons. Inspiring. Then I started going for the Church Dogmatics volumes. Most who call Barth a heretic have never read Barth. Many can’t even pronounce his name properly. Sad. Sounds like you risked the lightening bolt and gave him a read yourself.

      1. I like Bonhoeffer as well. Start with Church Dogmatics: A Selection with Introduction (Ed Helmut Gollwitzer)to ease into Barth. You won’t be disappointed.

  23. Absolutley !!!!!!!!!…this is the biggest problem with any group–the abscence of Jesus.

    Jesus is to be in every sermon no matter the “subject” …..He is the main point!

    If not…whether it be Driscoll devotees, Hyles-ensians, Calvinists or whatever…get out! ….get out quick!

    Whenever a preacher starts quoting other preachers–whether they be dead for centuries or living…more than once every few sermons , trouble is seeping in….but if a preacher preaches a single sermon without Jesus …there is trouble already!

  24. I once counted how many times a preacher said I in his sermon minus they prayer and when he quoted someone:137 times in a 45 minute sermon.

  25. Here’s what I learned from the last IFB church (minus the pseudo-spiritual garbage):

    1) Always cast your fishing line upstream, never downstream. Fish are more likely to notice it if you cast downstream.
    2) It is better to buy a whole bag of candy corn than a few chocolate creams. (I’d rather have the creams but hey, that’s just me.)
    3) Always check the tires you fish out of a dumpster.
    4) Some people will do anything for peanut butter.
    5) Always carry orange juice when you fast in case your blood sugar drops. (A good idea, actually, but if your blood sugar drops that dangerously then maybe you shouldn’t be fasting.)

    Good spiritual lessons learned? None.

  26. 91st! Cool! @ Darrel, your fourth paragraph was prolly a better sermon than most of the drivel we’ll hear Sunday. As Spurgeon said, “I just take my text and make a beeline for the cross”.

  27. This is one of my pet peeves. “Oh, we go to a Bible church!”. Do you realize how many sermons you can preach from the Bible without preaching the gospel or mentioning Jesus?

    “You Were Born to Taste the Grapes” NUM.13
    “How to BE A Woman of God” PROV.31
    “The Gifts of God” Psalm 103

    Those are just three…there are thousands…all valuable…just won’t get you to know a heck of a lot about Jesus.

  28. We have the Lord’s Supper every week. If what I say in the pulpit does not lead naturally down to the Table, where we meet with Christ, then I’ve really let the Church down.

    Now, back to writing a sermon about Jesus based on a text from 2 Samuel!

  29. Darrell,

    I go to a Fundamentalist church and Jesus Christ is central in most of our services. I say most not because I think it’s not necessary for him to be central in all, but because there are times when we honestly do just leave him out. Usually there is concerned discussion of this point afterward.

    I say this not to prove your point wrong, but rather to point out that there are some (many?) Fundamentalist churches that are still focused on the fundamentals.

  30. This article seemed fundamentalist to me. Is it supposed to be an ironic statement? This akin to the feeling I have gotten from people that saying “Jesus” is like a magical incantation and the world shifts because they just said his name.

    I don’t care if in an environment where it’s pretty obvious that Jesus is the center point that they talk about actual specific transformation in a person’s life that can or does occur because of Jesus.

    In 40 some years of listening to preachers I heard way too much of the word “Jesus” being spoken and hardly any specific, human, authentic ways his presense would work in our lives.
    Jesus didn’t promote himself other than saying his feet on the dirty ground actions with other humans showed the Father.

    But then again I’m not sure I have any skin in this game because I think “sermons” are an artificial construct, an overextension if you will of the gifting, among others, of teaching.

    1. It’s definitely a bit of an artificial construct; as Don said above, “Just because some pulpiteer stands and says ‘Jesus’ in his lecture/hollering match doesnÒ€ℒt mean he is talking about Jesus” in Scripture.

      In a way, it could remind me of a fundy who tried to prove Steve Green’s music was less Biblical than before because his earlier albums had more songs that referenced Jesus in the title than his later ones. I couldn’t believe the man’s logic. The songs were still about Jesus, no matter what the title said.

      But I think the important point that Darrell’s making is that WAY too many sermons are about other things than Christ. As Scorpio said the other day, he didn’t hear much about Jesus, but he knows a lot about the function of the OT tabernacle! I too heard more sermons on rock music killing plants and the dangers of Russia and the purity of the KJV than on JESUS. My brethren, these things ought not so to be!

    2. Above I made the point that name dropping doesn’t equal talking about Jesus. And challenged everyone to listen for Jesus to actually be preached and not just name dropped. More importantly just listen for the Bible.

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