A problem recognized and remedied by “the Plan”
The concept of the Christian Churches Pension Plan (the Plan) began prior to 1969 as leaders among the independent Christian Churches & Churches of Christ recognized a problem. There were already a large number of ministers, missionaries, and staff from our Bible colleges who had retired without sufficient assets and cash flow to allow them to retire in dignity. It was also apparent the numbers in such circumstances were going to swell. To provide a solution, or at least a better retirement, for those who had devoted their lives to serving others in ministry occupations, the Plan was designed to provide a predictable, reliable monthly income for life after retirement in a way that would be affordable while serving. Since then, the Plan has served thousands. It has served all who completed the transaction required to become a Plan Participant.
A problem requiring recognition and remedy in preaching
Dr. Barry McCarty, a graduate of and former professor at Mid-Atlantic Christian University, recently conducted a Rhetoric seminar at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. One topic for the seminar was the analysis of sermons of various contemporary preachers. On Friday morning Dr. McCarty wrote, “Yesterday, we watched a video of a celebrated pastor who has cultivated a reputation as a creative ‘futurist.’ He was all of that and more: brilliant, creative, and rhetorically colorful. His sermon would have made a great TED Talk. But his preaching lacked any clear proclamation of sin, repentance, or atonement–the hard but essential elements of the Gospel.”
It seems there is a movement among current leading preachers and theologians to downplay the “transaction” of the gospel that so many had proclaimed so actively for many centuries in favor of focusing upon the redemptive life that Jesus calls His followers to adopt. Contemporary preachers follow a call to avoid framing messages around, what the popular theologian N. T. Wright calls, a works-contract gospel in favor of a covenant of vocation.1 Perhaps contemporary preachers, like the aforementioned, sense the proclamation of sin, repentance, and atonement forces believers into a gospel that forces them into a salvation from this world rather than a gospel that redeems believers with this world.
Following the lead of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse
What does the nature of the Christian Churches Pension Plan have to do with preaching? Dr. Barnhouse was famous for saying, “All of life illustrates Biblical doctrine,”2 and he may well have used something like the Plan to illustrate the necessity of maintaining the proclamation of a transactional element in gospel preaching.
As people have served over the years, the Plan has provided a peace of mind that a monthly income would continue. The Plan became more than a transaction as Participants and spouses received decades of regularly issued monthly checks. For some, the Plan became so much a part of their lives they subscribed to multiple units. However, it all began with the transaction of completing the application and making the initial subscription remittance. Without the transaction, nothing more could have occurred.
It may well be true that many preachers overemphasized the transaction of the gospel of Christ. Perhaps some have dwelled almost exclusively upon Christ providing atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17) and a goal of going to heaven when we die. Perhaps the life to which believers have been called to redeem the time though surrounded by evil in this world (Ephesians 5:16) has been insufficiently considered. However, we cannot ignore the transactional question people asked when confronted with the need of their sin and Peter’s response addressed immediate action (Acts 2:37-39).
The transactional nature of preaching is a necessity. Without the proclamation of sin, repentance, and atonement, the redemption of believers with this world never occurs.
1 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-reviews-the-day-the-revolution-began. Horton, Michael. October, 10, 2016.
2 How to Talk So People Will Listen. Brown, Steve. 2014 Baker Books.