An Unchanging Message and Ever Changing Methodologies

Examining the importance of reaching the next generation.

Dr. Bryant Wright
Dec 1, 2019    38m
In this sermon Dr. Bryant Wright discusses the importance of reaching the next generation of Christ followers. He explains that in order to grow, the church needs to find new ways to teaching the unchanging message of the gospel to the next generation of believers. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.


Leadership Pastors Youth 

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Dr. Wright: 00:00 Now today I want to talk to you about a very important topic to stay or be a healthy church, and that is the church needs to have an unchanging message, but ever changing methodologies. And to understand that theme, we're going to look at two biblical texts. So if you have a Bible, I want to ask you to turn first of all to First Corinthians chapter 15, and as you turn there, go ahead and find the Gospel of Luke that is earlier in the new covenant. We're going to be coming back to Luke 5, but we're going to starting our reading First Corinthians 15. And if you don't have a Bible, just get where you can look on with somebody sitting close by you, because it really does help you to not only hear the word, but to read the word and let it penetrate your heart.

Dr. Wright: 00:55 So we're going to begin in First Corinthians 15, and out of respect for God and his word, let's stand now for the reading of God's word. First Corinthians chapter 15 verse 1, "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." Now turn back to the gospel of Luke, and we're going to be reading and chapter 5, chapter 5 of the gospel of Luke. Matthew, Mark, Luke, if you're new to Bible study, and in verse 36 it says this, "And he, (Jesus was) also telling them a parable, (Parable number one) No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old." Parable number two, "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins, and no one after drinking old won wishes for new. For he says, the old is good enough."

Dr. Wright: 02:48 Father, as we stand before you, the King of the universe, what a privilege to be able to hear directly from you, from your word. And so Lord, right now by the power of your Holy Spirit, may you speak to our hearts, speak to our minds, and speak to our wills, and give us a better understanding as individuals in what it means to follow Jesus. But also Father, speak to us as a church, the Body of Christ, and may you be glorified in it. For we pray this prayer in Jesus' name, amen.

Dr. Wright: 03:35 The name Eastman Kodak would be a name that would be familiar to those of you who are grandparents and up, because for about a hundred years, the Kodak company dominated the area or the industry concerning cameras and film. As a matter of fact, in the 1970s about 75% of all cameras sold were Kodak cameras, and even more astounding, almost 90% of all film that was processed was Kodak film. They were the big daddy of the industry. And then in 2012 they declared bankruptcy. Why? Because a new age of cameras was taking place called the digital camera. And as many of you who only know a camera through your iPhone might be astounded to think, Kodak just years ago had a phrase coined about them that every American understood, and I realize many of you who are Millennials and Generation Z may not have ever heard it, but it was called the Kodak moment. And it was one of those times, it was such a special moment in a person's life or a family's life that they would take a picture and it was called a Kodak moment. And yet by 2012 they declared bankruptcy. You see, great businesses that just continue to do the same thing they've always done that made them rich, often fall into bankruptcy. And what is so interesting, is this happens with healthy churches. Many of you may not realize what a healthy church you're blessed to be a part of in Shandon. We are blessed to have a healthy church at Johnson Ferry in North Atlanta, It is a privilege to be a part of a healthy church, but any healthy church can become a dead church in just one generation. And a key to remember of what God wants us to understand today, is the importance of any healthy church having an unchanging message, but ever-changing methodologies of doing ministry.

Dr. Wright: 06:15 Now let's go back to First Corinthians 15, and let's see what the word of God tells us about the unchanging message that we know as the gospel. Look at verse 1, "Now, make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preach to you, which also you received, in which also you stand." Now, many of you would know that the term gospel means good news, but a lot of you may not know that it doesn't just mean good news. Now listen, are you listening? Don't miss this. Gospel means good news that follows bad news. There have been a lot of soldiers that have been trained at Fort Jackson. Imagine one of those soldiers winds up in one of our special forces units in Syria fighting the remnant of ISIS there, and then his family gets word that he's missing in action. Now, there could not be worse news for a family back home, then to hear their loved one is missing an action, that would be very bad news. But then if three days later that family of the loved one who was captured is rescue by some of his buddies in the special forces unit, he has been a part of, that would be incredibly good news after devastating bad news.

Dr. Wright: 07:36 Now, how does that relate to the gospel? Well, first of all, there is very bad news. All of us are sinners, and because of that, all of us are separated from God. And because of that, if we don't find a way to deal with our sin problem, we can stay separated from God for eternity if we die with an undead dealt with sin problem, Jesus calls this hell, it is permanent separation from God. Now, some of you come to church today, you're looking for an encouraging word. You're sitting there saying, my goodness, I was already in mourning in light of what happened yesterday, and now you're giving me all this bad news. That's terrible. Well, I've got some good news that follows the bad news, and that good news is that God loves you, I'm talking about you, so much that he sent his son Jesus. And he didn't just send his son Jesus to show us what God is like, he didn't just send us his son Jesus to show us how we're to live, but he sent us his son Jesus to give his life for us. And in giving his life for us on the cross, he literally died a substitutionary death. In other words, he paid the penalty we deserve for our sin, which is the judgment of God that is seen in death, He died in our place. But the good news continues, He did not just die on the cross, He was raised from the dead and he has conquered sin and death so that we can be forgiven of any sin. I'm not talking about just certain sins, He will forgive you of any sin that you are guilty of in the past. And not only that, through Christ, when we come to believe in him, we receive the righteousness of God because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. And not only that, because of Christ, we have victory over death and can begin an abundant eternal relationship with God that lasts forever and ever. That is the greatest news that you're going to ever hear after terribly bad news. That is the gospel. That's what it's all about.

Dr. Wright: 09:47 And this was prophesied in the old covenant, look at verse 3 of First Corinthians 15, "For I delivered to you as of first importance that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. What scriptures? It's obviously old covenant scriptures as Paul is writing this. "That he was buried, and he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. What scriptures? Obviously the old covenant scriptures. Now when you look at the prophecy of Christ' death on the cross in Isaiah 53, or in Psalm 22, read it later on today this way, you'll be amazed. It's almost a a word by word account of exactly what happens to Jesus on the cross, prophecy 700 and a thousand years before the event occurred. But there's also prophesy of Jesus' resurrection from the dead in Psalms 16 verses 8 through 10, read it later on, a clear prophecy that the Messiah would not be held captive in the grave, but that he would conquer death. So this has been prophesied before, this good news of the gospel.

Dr. Wright: 10:45 But what is our response to this? Look at verse 2. God's word says, "By which you are also saved, if you hold fast the word which are preached to you, unless you believed in vain." Now the gospel has to be believed first of all. In other words, you have to believe in your mind that Jesus is the son of God, that Jesus died for your sins, that Jesus Rose from the dead. That is essential in faith. But then we have to receive this in our heart. People that just have head knowledge of who Jesus is, and what he has done, are no different from the demons of hell. They clearly knew Jesus was the son of God, they identified Jesus as the son of God, they profess their belief that Jesus is the son of God. The demons of hell, but they're not going to be in heaven. You see, an individual has to receive Christ in their heart. There is belief, there is receiving, and then there is salvation from hell, from death. As we receive forgiveness, and we're made right with God and we receive the gift of eternal life, we have to make that decision. And when we do, then we're called to share that good news with others. The church is called to proclaim this good news to every people group on the face of the earth. That is our understanding of the gospel.

Dr. Wright: 12:10 But why is it that so many people, and you'll find in every culture in every people group that the majority of people do not receive the gospel. Why is that? Well, it's been said that they are really two major reasons that people don't become a Christian. One, they don't know a Christian. Two, they know a Christian. That was probably the two biggest reasons that people don't become a Christian. There's either no one to tell them the good news of Christ, or the Christian that they have met is so unattractive to them by their spirit, their attitude, their character or their hypocrisy, that they want no part of Christianity. But we also know deep down, that the major reason any individual doesn't receive the gospel in faith is because of personal sin. Because most of us would really rather be in charge of our life. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, what did they want to do? They wanted to be their own God, that's what most of us choose to be and do. That's why in every culture, every people group, the majority are not going to receive the gospel. It's because they do not want to let go of that sin nature of I'm going to be in charge of my life and my destiny. Is that you? I have very good news for you. If today you choose to believe who Jesus is, and believe what he has done for you on the cross and the resurrection, and you under the conviction of the Holy Spirit receive the gospel in faith by receiving Christ into your heart, you will receive salvation from hell, you'll receive forgiveness of all of your sins, you'll receive the gift of abundant eternal life. What's holding you back from receiving the greatest news you'll ever receive? Let this be the turning point of your life, your day of destiny.

Dr. Wright: 14:16 Now that's reasons why most individuals do not receive the gospel, but what is the church's role? What is the major reason that so many churches have a hard time communicating the gospel and sharing this gospel with the communities where they have been planted? There are two big reasons. One, you have a lot of churches that embrace a changed message. Now in the mission of the church that never changes, Christ has given us the gospel, the good news, that never changes to be proclaimed to every person on the face of the earth. But there are a lot of churches, modern day churches, who feel like if they're going to reach today's youth, if they are going to reach today's world, they've got to change the gospel and change the word. So when they're controversial passages in the word of God, where God says something is sin or evil, that person begins to say, no, it's not evil. It's really good for today's culture. Or you have people who began to share what is called a half gospel, or a half truth, that contains nothing about the bad news that proceeds the good news of the gospel, and this idea that most everybody in their own way is going to wind up going to heaven.

Dr. Wright: 15:30 I remember when I first went to seminary, I was incredibly naive about a lot of things of seminary and doctrine and theology. And my first course, it was a pastor teaching that course, he was an adjunct professor there. Actually from the state of South Carolina, and we went to play racquetball after one of the classes that day. I thought he's a pretty cool guy. And after we finished our racquetball match, he said, well, tell me a little bit about your story. And I was telling him some of my testimony, and then he looked at me and he said, now, Bryant, you don't believe that you've got to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus to be a Christian, do you? And I thought, well, he's probably just playing the devil's advocate, I'll get a little that here at seminary. But he was dead serious. Cause he put his arm around me after that? And I said, yes, I do believe that. And he put his arm around me and he said, son, after you've been here six months to a year, you'll get over all that. And I began the most miserable three years of my life, being bombarded in that seminary day after day with something that was not the gospel and the true word of God. And the spiritual death in that place, oh my goodness, it was hard to describe. Now, thankfully through a miracle of God, that same seminary is a vibrant, alive, spiritually rich, and biblically grounded seminary today with the leadership of Al Mowa that's been there many years. It's just awesome seminary today, but it's hard to describe how compromised on the message they were in just a short time ago. So a lot of churches make the mistake, they feel they got to change the message. And all that results is, dead churches, and dead denominations.

Dr. Wright: 17:18 But there's another reason that churches don't remain healthy, and that is an unwillingness to change their methodologies. They are bound, and really enslaved, to old methodologies that may have been very meaningful in their own lives, back in the 60's, and the 70's, and the 80's, and all the way back to the ancient world of the 1990's. Really had impact on their life, and so many get bound by those methodologies that were rich to them, but have no meaning to the generation of today. And so churches become very provincial. You know, it's a really amazing thing to me that sometimes the most liberal churches theologically, are the most provincial and unchanging and their methodology. It's just uncanny, you see it time and again. But you can also see it in churches that have been true to the gospel, churches that keep preaching the gospel, but are spiritually dead today.

Dr. Wright: 18:28 When your pastor George was six years old, my wife Ann and I took our family to visit with one of the family friends we had met in seminary. And this pastor was also pastoring, and he was pastoring in South Carolina in a small town, and he was showing us around his facility. And it was the first time George had seen a church out in a small town that had the cemetery right next to the church, and so we were walking by that cemetery and George looked up at me and said, dad, is everybody in this church dead? And the pastor of that church kind of smiled and said, that's a good question. Because sometimes many of you have been in those dead churches that also were true to the gospel, but because they were not open to new methodologies of doing ministry, the church just shriveled up over time and died.

Dr. Wright: 19:25 Now in hearing this, this is a special word today for those of you of my generation, the Baby Boomer Generation, and those of you who may still be around from the greatest generation before boomers. This is the big question today. You are blessed with an incredibly healthy church here at Shandon, but are you willing to embrace not only an unchanging message of the gospel, but ever-changing methodologies to reach the next generations of today and days to come? Are you willing?

Dr. Wright: 20:08 Now, Jesus speaks to this, turn to Luke, the Gospel of Luke. He speaks to this in two great parables. Parable number one, verse 36 Jesus says, "No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. Otherwise, he will both tear the new and the piece from the new will not match old." Now, not many of you have to wear patches on old clothing. Years gone by a lot of people did this, and certainly in the first century they would do that, but the problem with attaching or sewing a new piece of garment to an old piece of garment is when that new piece of garbage shrinks, then it rips apart that old garment and it's now worthless to the person who wants to wear that garment. So when Jesus used this analogy in the first century, and really through most of history and cultures all around the world, people would understand that, that's parable number one.

Dr. Wright: 20:59 Parable number two, verse 37, "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out and the skins will be ruined, but new wine must be put into fresh wineskins". Now, it's always tickled me that my fellow Baptist ministers who often pride themselves in being people in the book, when it comes to Jesus making water into wine, and when Jesus talking about wine and these parables, they just skip them, don't even teach them. You know, a few years ago I was preaching about Jesus' first miracle when he turned the water into wine. And it was in January, about the third week of January, and at Johnson ferry, we serve the Lord's supper every Sunday in our bridal suite. For those who, about really 20 to 40 people who, just really would like to protect the Lord's supper every Sunday. And we have a couple of deacons do it. Well on this Sunday. I preached on the, Jesus turned the water into wine, and our new deacon chairman went into the room where the deacons put together the trays where the juice would be and then the bread and he walked in that room where that was done and he saw the tray was already done. It was ready to fill with juice ,and the bread was already there. So he went over to the [inaudible] we thought, boy, this staff is really on the ball, I didn't have to worry about doing that today. And he serves the first person the juice, and the guy went, whoa, real wine today. And our deacon chairman, he just heard this message on Jesus turned the water into wine. He was trying to make sense of what happened to the grape juice there, and couldn't really figure out what was going on. And later on he found out that because we serve the Lord supper on Christmas Eve, one of the deacons had left a tray of juice there in the deacons room for about a month. And so when they serve that tray that day, it had fermented, it had become real. Well, you see Johnson Ferry we pioneered a lot of paths of new directions in ministry there, and that was kind of groundbreaking for us in doing that.

Dr. Wright: 22:50 But Jesus here is telling a story about wine, and he's saying this, he's saying, look, no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Now, you only know wine in bottles, that's the only way you know wine today. But in Jesus' day it was put in wineskins, that was leather pouches that were so together, and Jesus and the people knew that if you poured new wine into an old wine skin, when that new wine fermented or when the grape juice fermented, it would expand and it would cause that wine skin to explode. And then you would not only have the wine skin ruined, but you would lose all that good new wine. Now Jesus is telling a story they can relate to. I mean, after all, he's the ultimate wine maker, He made wine at the wedding there at Canin. Folks, it wasn't ripple, it wasn't any sorry wine, it was good wine. They said it was the best. So he knows wine. And so he's speaking about something here, and he said, look, you don't want that to happen. He says, instead, in verse 38, "But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins." Now, what is this wine Jesus is talking about? Listen, are you listening? Are you listening? This new wine that Jesus is talking about, is that new life in Christ, that transformed life and heart like Jesus transformed the water into real wine. That's what it symbolizes. And he's saying, look, if you take new wine and put it in old wineskins, it's going to cause that wineskins skin to burst, and you've lost it all. That's really what he's talking about.

Dr. Wright: 24:40 So what does that have to do with people coming to Christ and new Christians? How do we make sense of that? Well, let's go on to verse 39 at the end of the parable, this is what he says. He says, "And no one after drinking old wine wishes for new. For, he says, the old is good enough." Now, those who drink wine know, that old wine is seen as the good wine. And so the old wine says, well, the old wine, it's good enough for me. That's those people who have been followers of Christ for a good while. That symbolizes in this era in American culture, my generation and generations that have gone before us, and some of the older Gen X generation. And there's the thinking back to the sixties seventies eighties and even nineties where certain methodologies and ministries had an impact on your life, and many of you came to taste that new wine of the gospel and your life was transformed. And so when you think back to all of that, it had such impact on you, the mindset could be, well that was good enough for me. It can be good enough for those Millennials and Generation Z , that new generation that's following those elderly Millennials coming along.

Dr. Wright: 26:15 Here's the problem. Now listen, are you listening? Here's the problem, that old wine eventually runs out, and then there's no wine. And so the question for every generation that has lived a while, that has embraced what was at that time in their life, new wine of the gospel? The question for every generation that has lived a while that is in Christ, is are you willing to love the Lord and his church enough to see and be committed to the fact that there is going to be plenty of new wine in our church through the use of new methodologies and approaches to ministry, in order to reach the younger generation and the generations to come. And so Boomers, greatest generation folks, are you willing to do that so that Shandon that is a healthy church can be a healthy church 10 years from now and 20 years from now and 50 years from now? It is the question every healthy church needs to deal with, because just like businesses like the Kodak company that didn't adapt to the digital camera generation, every church is just a generation away from spiritual death. So what will it be? What will you choose?

Dr. Wright: 28:02 Do you know the reason your former pastor Dick Lincoln is no longer your pastor., and the reason that two weeks from now I'll no longer be the pastor at Johnson Ferry, is that both of us have been led by the Lord to realize that it was time to have the mantle of leadership passed off to a younger generation pastor that would intuitively understand how Millennials and Generation Z and generations to come think. It was really part of our stewardship of the healthy body of Christ. I'll tell you where this began in my own life, back in 2017 I was leaving an elders meeting one night and I was talking to one of our elders. He's in commercial construction and we were talking about Millennials, and you know Boomers kind of murmur about Millennials at times, and we were just talking about Millennials. And he was saying to me, he said, Bryant, you know our atrium...y'all have a big gathering place here outside your worship center where people all come in on Sunday, and we have this big atrium, a big gathering place on Sunday. He said, Bryant, you know our atrium. If a Millennial walks into our atrium on Sunday, they immediately know this is not a church for them. I said, what do you mean? He said, well, they immediately know it's not a church for them, it's a church for Boomers. I said, what are you talking about? He said, well, it's way too nice, it's way too traditional, they just intuitively know this is not a place for them. I said, I love our atrium. He said, yeah, you're a Boomer, I mean, you designed it. What do you expect? Well, I went home that night and I told my wife Ann, I said, I think I'm toast. Because first of all, I'm never going to intuitively think like a Millennial thinks, I can intuitively think like a Boomer thinks. And believe it or not Millennials, we boomers we were once cool, we were. I mean, I know it's hard to believe. We were once cool, we were with it, but those days are over. And I told Anna, I said, I think I'm toast. I'm not going to ever intuitively think like a Millennial.

Dr. Wright: 30:07 But secondly, I have no interest at all in leading our church through our eighth building program to renovate the atrium so that it looks like Millennials want it to look. Now, that began a lot of prayer in my life, it was over a year and a half of asking the Lord, is it time to hand things off? And God made it very clear that it was. And so the reason that George is your pastor, and the reason that one of your former ministers Clay Smith is our new pastor at Johnson Ferry, is because God led Dick and I to realize that we're all interim pastors. And it's our responsibility to hand things off to the new generation if there is going to be continual health in the church, and if there is going to be that new wine produced that symbolizes those new people who come to Christ because the church was willing to engage in new approaches and new methodologies in order for people to hear the greatest news they will ever hear in their life. The good news of the gospel. So boomers, older Gen X folks, are you willing to love the Lord and love your church enough to do what it takes to see that the younger generation has the joy of experiencing, and living, and understanding, and receiving, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you willing?

Dr. Wright: 31:52 Back at the turn of the 20th century the major mode of transportation in the United States was the horse and buggy, that was it, that was the major mode of transportation. And some of the wealthiest industrialists in the United States where the makers of buggies and carriages, they were the big dogs. And then early in the 20th century came along this newfangled invention called the automobile, but because those carriage makers were making so much money, they just continued to do what they had been doing all along that it made them so wealthy. In very short period of time, one by one, they went out of business except for one. Now listen, are you listening? There was one carriage company and carriage maker in Flint, Michigan, where the owner of that company, a man by the name of William Durant, came to the understanding that he wasn't mainly in the carriage making business, he was in the transportation business. And so, seeing the trends that were occurring, he started a new company that you may have heard of, he called it General Motors, and the rest is history. Now, General Motors will have to continually make a decision if they're going to do what it takes to have their product received by the new generations to come.

Dr. Wright: 33:30 But it is a modern day parable, if you will, of what can also happen in any church that makes the mistake of either trying to change the message to accommodate a new world and slowly die, or the hold fast with an idolatrous enslavement to old methodologies that a younger generation can never relate to. What Jesus wants us to know today, and what his parables clearly illustrate, is that healthy churches in any community, are churches with an unchanging message of the gospel in the Word of God, but are open and engaging in ever changing methodologies in carrying out Christ' Great Commission. So more and more people in the days to come can taste that new wine of life transformation, and the joy of being forgiven by God, and made right by God because of what Jesus has done on the cross and the resurrection.

Dr. Wright: 34:59 Shandon, Johnson Ferry, especially to the seasoned believers here. What will you choose? Will you have the attitude that the old wine was good enough for me? It ought to be good enough of them. Or will you hold to the unchanging message of the gospel, the ultimate good news, but be wide open to whatever it takes in new methodologies for reaching Millennials and Generation Z and generations to come. What will you choose?

Dr. Wright: 35:53 Let's pray. Father God, we thank you for the good news of the gospel. And Lord, I know that they're bound to be people here today, and so many people in this room, that know they've never received the gospel of Christ in faith. Or so many delusional, cultural, Christians that believe what their mind, what the gospel is, but they've never received the gospel in their heart, they're no different from the demons of hell who clearly believe Jesus is the son of God. But somehow today, father, through the preaching of the word, through the conviction of your Holy Spirit, that person is seated there saying, you know, this all makes sense. Today I'm going to both believe and receive the gospel in faith. Oh Lord, may that happen by your supernatural power, Father, may individuals today choose to receive the gospel and become a child of God in your kingdom forever and ever. And Lord, I pray, especially today for the older Fen X folks, the Baby boomers, the Greatest Generation folks, that have helped to make this such a great and healthy church. I pray that you'll be working powerfully in their lives, as we all have a big decision to make. Do we love your church enough, do we want to see it be healthy for years and generations to come, to embrace that new wine and those new methodologies that it takes to share the greatest news that anyone will ever hear? The good news of Jesus. Oh Lord, you've blessed this church so much. May you bless this church today, and tomorrow, and next year, and for years to come with an unchanging message but ever-changing methodologies. Lord we pray this prayer, father, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206