“Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:5)

Are you preaching Christ? It sounds like an unnecessary question.  Most preachers would respond, “Of course. What else is there to preach?” That would have surely been the response of Philip in Acts 8 and Stephen in Acts 7. The Apostle Paul would have echoed Philip’s sentiments. In fact, he did when he wrote to the church in Corinth, “We preach Christ…” (1 Cor. 1:23). Unfortunately, it seems many have progressed in our day beyond Stephen, Paul, and Philip. Today many so-called preachers have found the gospel insufficient and have added to its simplicity and are now pawning off weak but popular substitutes. To name a few:

Prosperity Preaching. No doubt Paul would have been appalled by the health and wealth, name-it and claim-it doctrines so popular today. Stephen wasn’t murdered because he told people God wanted them living the lives of the rich and famous (Acts 7:51-53).  Hebrews 11 commends to us those Christians who “experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated” (Heb. 11:36-37).  It was these of whom the world was not worthy. Preaching Christ calls people away from the love of things in this world and to genuine love for Christ (1 Jn. 2:15).

Self-esteem Preaching. It is more and more popular not to preach about sin, but to encourage people to see themselves better than they are. It is believed that most people’s problem is that they have a low view of themselves. If they would only get a better self-image, they would live victoriously in this world. Yet to read the Bible is to see that it is sin, not low self-esteem, which is working death in me (Rom. 7:13). It is not low self-esteem that has brought death to everyone because everyone has low self-esteem; it is sin (Rom. 5:12). Sin is not overcome by self-esteem. It is overcome by Christ-esteem. As the Bible says “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2Cor. 4:3).

Motivational Preaching. Motivational preaching is more prevalent than many people realize. Two of the most prominent and popular preachers in America are purveyors of this message. It encourages people to reach for their potential. It takes principles of the Bible, builds a brand around a personality and gets people to buy into the latest catch phrase and fad. The preacher is positioned as a high achiever, and tries to convince you that you can be one too. Yet, Christ-centered preaching is not encouraging people to reach their potential. It is not telling women, “thou art loosed”, or exhorting men to “maximize their manhood”, or encouraging people they can live their “best life now.” Biblical preaching is not telling people to latch on to their own bootstraps, but rather to let go of those straps and latch on to Christ.

The Bible warns us that as the days go on people will want less and less of Christ-centered preaching and more and more flesh-enticing and itch-scratching preaching (2 Tim. 4:3). Nevertheless, the call to faithfulness in preaching remains. We are to preach Christ.

Preaching Christ is to preach salvation in him and him alone. It is to call men and women to repent of sin; sin the world doesn’t want to call sin such as homosexuality, fornication, abortion, greed, anger, racism, injustice, selfishness, pride, et al. It is to remind men and women that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rm. 3:23).

Preaching Christ says that though you are a great sinner, Christ is a greater Savior. It declares that Christ is sufficient to forgive you of all your sin, and to fill you with his satisfaction even as you live in an unsatisfying world.

Preaching Christ understands the Bible is not about your or me, but about Christ (Lk. 24:27, Col. 1:28) and his life for our life and his death for our death.  It calls men and women to die so that they may live in Him (Gal. 2:20). In other words, preaching Christ builds esteem in Christ and not in self (Jn. 3:30).

Preaching Christ is universal. It translates and transforms with power in the slums of Calcutta just as it does on the streets of Manhattan. It causes men and women not to long for more of this world but to long for more of Jesus.

Preach Christ! While men and women every week flock to domes and stadiums to hear the latest and greatest of prosperity and motivational sermons, let them flock to our churches to hear Christ and him crucified. And may joy fill their hearts when they do.

The Front Porch
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Tony Carter

Tony Carter

Anthony Carter (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary) is lead pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia, an organizing member of the Council of Reforming Churches, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Black and Reformed: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience. Anthony and his wife, Adriane, have five children.

21 Comments

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    Amen and amen, brother! Let Christ be lifted high!
    T

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    “Him we proclaim”. Good stuff, my brother.

  • Avatar Larry Miles says:

    Wow! Ridiculously powerful! Bro. Tony, it’s very encouraging to see Christ focused essays and/or hear actual “Christ preaching.” I’ve listened to some of your sermons and “DEY BE” (lol) Christ centered. I mentioned to you in another post, (responded too late for you to catch it) I’m in the Baltimore area and recently planted a ministry and we are in a middle school cafeteria. At times, you feel “odd” because the preaching all around you “sounds” and “is” different and you wonder if you’ve “missed it.” Thank God for you guys. I love to have my proverbial collar grabbed and admonished to “preach Christ.” Blessings man!

  • Avatar Larry Miles says:

    Wow! Ridiculously powerful! Bro. Tony, it’s very encouraging to see, Christ centered essays an/or hear Christ centered preaching. I’ve listened to some of your sermons and “DEY BE,” (lol) Christ centered. I mentioned to you in another post, (responded too late for you to catch it) I’m in the Baltimore area and recently planted a ministry and we are gathering in a middle school cafeteria. At times, you feel odd, because the preaching around you, seemingly, “sounds” and “is” different and you feel as you’ve, “missed it.” I am committed to expositional preaching and a the Regulative Principle of Worship. Thank God for you guys. I love to have my proverbial collar grabbed and admonished, “Preach Christ.” Blessings man!

  • Avatar Larry Miles says:

    Bro. T, looking forward to meeting you, when you launch in the DC area.

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    Hey man, let’s definitely get it in. I may be in the Baltimore area in a couple weeks. Let’s stay in touch.

    T-

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Bro Larry, so good to hear of the labors God has given you in the Baltimore area. Excited to hear you plan to connect with Thabiti for mutual encouragement in the work. Feeling odd often comes with the territory of proclaiming Christ in the malaise of popular preaching today. Remember, preaching Christ may often sound strange to goats, but to the sheep it is food and drink. So keeping preaching brother! God has sheep he desires to call into the fold and those in the fold he desires to nurture though his word. May God grant you fruit in your faithfulness. Thanks for stopping by the porch this evening.

  • Avatar Larry Miles says:

    Bro T-, I’ll stay in touch. My email is miles8c@msn.com. Forward yours if you would. (via my email)

  • Avatar Pastor Bruce says:

    Beautifully put!

  • Avatar johannesarcher says:

    thank you for the wake up jolt.

  • Avatar MsGee Carvin says:

    Chiming in…a sister on the front porch: I love the section on Self-esteem Preaching. I’ve found it difficult to disciple some women who hold on to type of preaching, for it has been difficult to move them from this false belief that their poor self-image is why they have not accomplished what they so desire to accomplish. Many times I tell them that they would not have low-self esteem if they stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about Christ. I always get the blank stare.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Thanks for chiming in sister! I hear exactly what you’re saying. I have had those conversations a time or two myself. Isn’t funny (sad) how presenting Christ often gets blank stares?

  • Avatar Mitake111 says:

    Amen! May Christ be the focus of our message… Only and always.

  • Avatar Vincent M. Dial says:

    Thank you pastor Tony for your bold article on Christ centered preaching.
    When pastors and preachers truly begin to seek first the kingdom of God and preach Christ, then and only then will the “Truth” begin to make us free!
    Vincent M. Dial
    Pastor, Bethel Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    Jonesborough, Tennessee

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Thanks Pastor Dial. Good to see you on The Front Porch. I heard you had an encouraging conversation with Pastor Phil Duncanson yesterday. Praise God. Praying Christ will honor your labors for him at BCC. God bless.

  • Avatar Vincent M. Dial says:

    Thank you Pastor Carter for your response, and words of encouragement. Proverbs 27:17

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