The new century gives us a wonderful opportunity as pastors and Christian people to look ahead and consider our vision and priorities. I am reminded that the apostle Paul spoke with clarity when he addressed the church at Colosse concerning Christ: ‘that in all things he might have the pre-eminence’ (Colossians 1:18).
As pastor of a church that is seeking to obey the Word of God, and attempting to follow the pattern of the Scriptures for both faith and practice, I am often left wondering whatever happened to that exhortation?
Why is it that so many churches are far removed from being Christ-centred in their ministry and church life? Without focusing on why this shift has taken place, let me suggest some simple and brief solutions to help remedy the situation.
I believe that one of the great needs of the hour is for the church to return to a Christ-centred ministry. This would include being Christ-centred in worship, preaching and living.
It is hard to imagine a church planning, preparing, and actually attempting to lead the people of God in worship, without having a focus on Christ, who is the Lord of the Church. But this is often the case.
In many churches, Christ is the forgotten reason why we worship at all. In my opinion, if Christ is not lifted up, no true or meaningful worship is taking place at all. Whatever might be happening, true spiritual worship is not being practised.
Focus on Christ
In the book of Revelation, particularly in chapters four and five, we are given a wonderful and stirring glimpse of throne-room worship as it unfolds in heaven. There is a major feature that we should note in those chapters.
What we see clearly is that the worship of heaven is focused on the person and work of Christ. As he saw this great vision of the throne in heaven, and the worship that surrounded it, John tells us: ‘Lo, in the midst of the throne stood a lamb as it had been slain’ (Revelation 5:6).
In his vision John saw a Lamb smeared with blood. The symbolism pictures Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all God’s elect. He died on the cross as our substitute. The blood of Christ was shed that we might, by God’s grace, be justified and have peace with God.
Mediator and Priest
Jesus is now living in the presence of the Father as our great High Priest who makes intercession for us. The point that John makes (and one we should never forget) is that in the centre of the throne-room of heaven is the risen Christ. There, he is worshipped and adored as the one who died for our sins and now stands in the Father’s presence as our Mediator and Priest.
This is the element so often missing in many churches and worship services today. Christ is sadly absent, or reduced to a place of secondary or minor significance. I believe that the more Spirit-filled and sensitive we are as pastors and people, the less of a problem this will be for us.
A second area of concern is that of preaching. The pulpits of our Christian churches need to be far more Christ-centred. Once again, this is often not the case in many places. If we are lacking in true blessing from the Lord, it may be because we have not been holding forth the precious Son of God and his gospel as we ought.
Recently, thumbing through a volume of sermons by C. H. Spurgeon, I came across this amazing quote that speaks to this very concern. ‘Put more Christ into the sermons. Ministers should study, most of all, to preach Christ. The most successful preachers have always been pre-eminently preachers of Christ.
‘This is reasonable, because Christ is, above everything else in the universe, what all men most need. There comes a period in the history of every man when he realises this fact. A clergyman was one day visiting a dying man. He read a chapter to him about heaven, and then sang two verses of the hymn commencing “There is a land of pure delight”, when he was interrupted by the sick man with the request that he would sing the hymn beginning “There is a fountain filled with blood”. He who knows Christ knows everything else. It is Christ, and not heaven, the dying need’.
Not afraid to live
When we preach each week to the people under our ministries, we should remember these words. People need to hear of Christ. People need to hear the gospel of Christ. People need to hear that the only way to have peace with a holy God is through the finished work of God’s dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We should also notice that another great need for us today, as we face the coming century, is to challenge our people and congregations to holy living for the glory of God. We do not live for ourselves but for Christ.
Our entire lives should be a sacrifice to him. If Christ died for us, and bore our sins on the tree, then we should not be afraid to live in such a way that people see his grace and presence in our lives.
These are three things that I believe the church needs to recover in our time. Christ-centred worship, Christ-centred preaching and Christ-centred living. May we all labour to this end.