So, given the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel, why do I object so strenuously to Kerry and Chris Shook's new book, Be The Message? Frankly, the first tip-off that this book wouldn't exalt the Lord came when I heard that Rick Warren had written its forward. My discomfort increased as I researched the Shooks and discovered that his blog uses a variety of Bible translations and paraphrases, depending on what point he wants to make at any given moment. And when John and I watched one of his sermons on YouTube, we saw a man-centered pragmatism that used Scripture sparingly and with the purpose of bolstering self-esteem.
The first chapter of Be The Message begins with the famous quote by Saint Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." I have to wonder why an evangelical, at least one that (as a pastor) presumably had enough theological training to understand the distinctives of Protestant doctrine, would base a book on a quote by a Catholic mystic.
Furthermore, the quote has absolutely no Scriptural basis!
Our behavior can, and definitely should, adorn the gospel. Long-time readers of this blog know how adamantly I believe that Christians must lead lives that demonstrate obedience to the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that a true reception of God's grace leads to a lifestyle of repentance and obedience. But our personal integrity, despite its critical importance, can only communicate the deception that human morality gains God's approval...unless we accompany that behavior by verbalizing the Gospel.
People must hear that all have sinned, and no amount of moral reform can atone for our transgressions. They need to hear that Christ shed His blood on the cross to appease God's righteous wrath, and that the Father raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. They need to be told that only by trusting His finished work on the cross can they escape eternity in hell. Our behavior, in and of itself, not only fails to communicate that message, but could even potentially send the false message that we can earn salvation by how we live. And that, dear readers, would be the worst possible message.