ARTICULATE THE BENEFITS AND
It is said that each of us is shaped in profound ways by the life experiences we’ve lived through. That was certainly the case for me with regards to the Christianity that I was exposed to in the churches I attended growing up as a child and teenager. I grew up in the Christian Baptist tradition. I learned the old hymns of the faith, I went to Sunday school, and I heard the gospel many times. I heard many, many sermons over the early years of my life. I even used to sing solos in church until the pastor told me my hair touching my ears was too long, and I couldn’t sing unless I cut it. I kept my hair. It was way shorter than Jesus’s hair! But there was something seriously missing from my church experience and the Christianity I was exposed to. I do not remember ever hearing anyone talk about the profound meaning, the incredible here-and-now benefits and blessings of following Jesus Christ, obeying his word the Bible, or explain how much better that life is than the life the world offers.
I heard doctrine. I heard Bible stuff, but no one connected it to experiential reality. I never heard anyone explain the incredible emotional, mental, and psychological benefits of prayer. No one explained to me how I could be honest with God and dump all my troubles on him. No one explained the incredible emotional and psychological meaning and impact of the Gospel of Grace on my everyday life, and how I felt about myself. No one explained that I didn’t have to feel guilty anymore, or walk around feeling overwhelming shame for my failings and shortcomings. No one explained to me how the Gospel of Grace could unleash great confidence and power in my life. No one explained to me the incredible, experiential joy and blessing of walking with God like David expresses and experienced in Psalm 63.
No one ever explained to me how empty, how meaningless someone like John Lennon’s life really was because of his rejection of God, or how messed up and empty David Crosby’s life was in all his drug addiction. No one ever explained or could effectively articulate how painful, and foolish it was to have a life so addicted, carnal, and unrestrained as Chris Farley of Tommy Boy fame or John Belushi of SNL fame.
What I learned was primarily religion. I learned Bible facts. And to me it was bland, stale, and felt most often like a dry crust of bread. Having no genuine appeal to me, I eventually abandoned it and embraced the world for a brief time.
This is in my opinion the great failure of most churches and Pastor/teachers.
We must make Christianity come alive for others. We must make Christianity with all its marvelous blessings and benefits known to our people and to our children. They must truly understand why walking with God, walking in God’s ways, and living a righteous life is genuinely better than anything the world has to offer or promise them.
Many have asked me over the last 36 years, “Pastor Mark, why do you preach and teach the way you do? Why don’t you just teach the Bible verse by verse over the course of a year?” My answer is that I believe there is a better way to help people understand the tremendous blessings and benefits of Christianity. I wanted to ignite people’s souls with the incredible truths of Christianity and what it means in all aspects of our lives. This is why I most often taught topically. I found people were much more interested. They grasped these great truths of the Bible in a much deeper and more meaningful way. They embraced them, as they came to understand what it really meant in their everyday lives, here and now. Please don’t misunderstand. I spoke boldly and powerfully on sin, on heaven and hell, on living in light of eternity, of taking up your cross and following Jesus Christ, and the suffering that comes to all genuine followers of Jesus Christ. I spoke passionately on a life of radial devotion to Jesus Christ and his divine purposes for our lives. People listened because I genuinely loved them.
I’ve spoken to thousands and thousands of people. I’ve taught at hundreds of Conferences. So often I heard, “Pastor Mark, you make the Bible come alive! Pastor Mark, you are so real, so authentic. Pastor Mark, I want to know Christ the way you know and speak about him. Pastor Mark, you helped me understand the Bible’s truths and meaning in ways I’ve never known before. I’ve gone to church all my life but never understood what the minister was saying before. Pastor Mark, your passion and excitement for God makes me want to follow and know Jesus Christ that way also.”
We must stop just trying to teach to our children’s head and teach and reach deep into their heart and soul!
As an example of what I mean and just how powerful it is, listen to this message entitled, Don’t Get Punked!
Or hear this message, Feeling Good About You, which explains and articulates the Gospel of Grace’s huge impact and meaning on your life here and now!
Take a moment to simply scroll through the Alphabetical Listing of my messages and you will see what I mean.
In closing let me share this. God greatly used the gospel seeds and scriptures my mother planted in me, along with her fervent prayers. I praise God for her steadfast faith and love for me. She was and is a shining example of genuine Christianity. In fact, the very first song I wrote after giving my life to Christ was to the Psalm she taught me as a child, Psalm 23. The night I dedicated my whole life to follow Jesus Christ in Dec. of 1975, I came home so elated I couldn’t sleep. I found a book on my mother’s basement bookshelf, called, Come! Live! Die! by George Verwer and stayed up the rest of the night reading it. He articulated in a powerful way, authentic, passionate, revolutionary Christianity and the life of divine meaning and purpose my soul longed for. It has been my passionate pursuit all these years. I still have that book 47 years later!
Here is the song I wrote, at 19 years of age, to Psalm 23 my mother taught me as a child. I have been singing it for 47 years!
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Mark Darling