This thinking pervades much of modern Christianity. It has infected and poisoned the thinking of evangelical, fundamentalist Churches and preachers. It is this concept that lies behind the widespread use of gimmickry to lure an audience to hear the gospel. The idea is to use ‘bait and switch’ tactics to appeal to the worldly and the ungodly by using activities or music that appeals to them and then while they are not aware, slip in ‘the gospel’ and hope they won’t notice! ‘Christian’ personalities, rock music, a casual or party atmosphere created for worship, are all bait used to catch the unsuspecting and supposedly reach them for Christ with the truth.
Such an approach to the gospel of Jesus Christ is worldly, sinful, a slander on Christ, and a gross disservice to the souls of men!
To adopt ‘bait and switch’ tactics in dealing with the gospel is to go wrong on various important points. A consideration of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 will highlight these errors.
1. It is an error to think that man in his sinful condition can be appealed to by such attempts. Man by nature is a fool in God’s eyes. He lives in utter ignorance of God and His truth. Even the wisdom of the world- man at his best – is foolishness with God, v21! For this reason he rejects the gospel instinctively every time it is presented with all his being unless God regenerates him. Being dead in trespasses and sins the sinner is as completely proof against human influence spiritually as a corpse is to human appeal naturally. However, the ‘bait and switch’ approach is based on the fallacy that man’s opposition to the gospel is only superficial and can easily be bypassed or fooled into inaction by the clever use of the right lure.
2. It is an error to suppose that men have not always pressed for such modifications to the gospel. Paul encountered this very thing constantly, v22. The Jew demanded that God’s truth be enhanced and made appealing by the addition of signs and wonders. The Greek/Gentile audience insisted on the inclusion of the flourishes of the intellectual philosopher. In both instances they were simply insisting on the gospel being modified to appeal to their own particular interests! These approaches to worship and the gospel, while presented as thoroughly modern, are in fact not new at all! They can be traced right back to Cain’s wicked and failing attempts to modify God’s prescribed order of worship and gospel truth revealed in the sacrifice of the lamb. Any attempt to add or take from the gospel in an effort to fix its perceived deficiencies is but a revival of Cain’s ancient error and the errors of many misguided souls since. Today these things are still insisted upon, with the additional demand for worldly music, a party atmosphere etc. The fact that this is not a new phenomenon means we have ample Biblical data to guide us on how to deal with such pressure and the folly of accommodating it.
3. It is an error to think that there is a viable alternative to the preaching of Christ crucified according to the apostolic model. Even though he knew it would be unpopular and would in fact estrange certain sections of his audience, Paul had learned that there was no alternative to the preaching of the truth of Christ and His work of atonement as the only remedy for sin. No doubt Paul faced the argument that he could be so much more effective as an evangelist is he only made these concessions. But Paul knew that only this message, unadorned by the appealing additions that were lobbied for, became the power of God unto salvation. The gospel of Christ requires the power of God to make it effectual to salvation. Any attempt to modify the message is destined to forfeit that power and so render it ineffectual for the saving of the soul. To modify the gospel message so alters it as mean it no longer is the gospel of Christ but a wicked, soul-destroying parody of it. This is exactly what Paul had in mind when he warned: “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Cor 11:4 AV) The Saviour made it clear that to tinker with the words of God rendered them impotent to any good. “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matt 15:6 AV)
It is rank folly and a dereliction of duty to accommodate any desire to modify the gospel message, or the means by which God has appointed for its presentation to men, by dressing it up to appeal to the worldly minded. Any pressure to do so must be seen for what it really is: a worldly minded, carnal and devilish assault upon the truth of God. No matter where such pressure for change arises from this is what it is and it cannot be accommodated—but must be fiercely resisted—by any who would remain faithful to God and be an instrument of His power in the lives of men.
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 AV)