Gospel deficiency is the major crisis of the evangelical church. The good news has been replaced by many things, most often a therapeutic, self-help approach to biblical application. The result is a Church that, ironically enough, preaches works, not grace, and a growing number of Christians who neither understand the gospel nor revel in its scandal. So says Jared C. Wilson on the First Things blog...
WOW... this evangelical has gotten it... The Protestant churches (and not just evangelicals) have for a long time moved from proclaiming the Gospel to using the pulpit to meet the felt needs of the hearers. The subject matter has moved from the forgiveness of sins and the One whose death and resurrection makes this forgiveness possible to making us feel better about our selves, our lives, and our world. The themes of the proclamation has moved from the great gulf between God and man to a man centered world in which we face impediments to our desire to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and successful. The focus of the of the church's life, ministry, and proclamation has moved from God to me -- without a seeming ripple of guilt or hesitance to define everything through the lens of my feelings, thoughts, and desires.
BUT not only the Protestants are afflicted with this deficiency; some Lutherans also are deficient of the essential Gospel proclamation that guarantees we receive what God intends for the redemption of our lost lives, for the rebirth of our lives by grace, for the renewal of our lives in faith, and for the restoration of our relationship to the God who invites us to call Him Father.
Now this might only be a matter for the pulpit if the Gospel were present in the Sacrament of the Altar every week and the liturgy retained its historic flow and pattern, words and song. When the Sacrament of the Altar is there, when the liturgy is there in its historic fullness, when the church's song sings out the Gospel, it is possible for the folks in the pews to walk away without much of a sermon and still to have been embraced with the grace of God that forgives, instills new life, strengthens in hope, and sustains the weary to everlasting life. BUT, when the liturgy is missing, the Sacrament of the Altar is not there, the hymns do not sing the Gospel in song, then the sermon is the only place left for God to meet the hearer with His grace and favor.
This is why for Lutherans it is not and cannot be merely a matter for the pulpit. It is an issue for the altar and what takes place there, for the liturgy (the Divine Service), and for the Church's hymnody and song. For this reason renewal is not a renewal from the pulpit but from both the pulpit and altar so that the people of God who meet every Lord's Day in His name will receive what God intends -- the richest of His treasure of grace through the divinely intended means of pulpit and table and the historic pattern of the Divine Service that enfolds these and the music of hymn and song that sing the Gospel so that we may hear it there as well.