Preaching Christ in a Pluralistic Society
So, we are pastoring a small church in the Grand Canyon National Park. I guess it is not readily known that the religious environment of the GCNP is highly pluralistic.
There is a lot of New Age philosophy here along with some Wiccans, various Native spiritual traditions such as the Navajo, Hopi, Hualapai, Havasupai. There are the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.
Some might find it surprising but religious expression here is quite diverse. Part of it is the Canyon, part of it is Arizona. Sedona, which is about an hour from here, is the New Age capital of the world. Folks floc from all over to come to Sedona.
In the Canyon itself there are lots of "pyramid" shaped structures easily seen from the rim called "temples." Several have been named after various eastern deities. For example one is called the vishnu temple. Vishnu is a Hindu god that manifest's itself in multiple incarnations. So the religious environment here is quite eclectic.
I have been preaching through John 1 verse by verse and have already had one person walk out on my sermon talking about the necessity of believing Jesus is God and why. She was friendly to my wife but hasn't talked to her since and won't talk about what is going on.
Another person stopped coming when I was talking about Jesus as the true light and how, we, like John, must bear witness to the light since we are not the light but rather must give witness about the light. I noted there are false religions that claim humans are light and such like wiccans do as well as in New Age Philosophy (not really a religion more a philosophy as I understand it), Hinduism, etc. This person disagrees and thinks all people are a part of the light and didn't appreciate me pointing out the errors of wiccans and other religions - this person reads the bible but I guess doesn't believe all of it - just parts - this person also doesn't believe in hell. Something else is going on. We're still investigating.
But that is how things are here - a real anti-Christ type attitude that doesn't want to acknowledge Jesus as the only and true God. Obviously some of this is to be expected since we know not all will receive Jesus as the true and living God. It just seems that even some Christians are wrestling with this issue - are they then Christians?
My wife is struggling with feeling like we are pushing people away and wonders if I need to not to expositional preaching right now but try a different approach. Is expositional preaching best for more knowledgeable Christians - should it be used to develop more mature Christians or can it be used to cover the basics?
I started out here at the church talking about knowing God covering some of his attributes and explaining what it means to know God - then I we did Advent and now I was wanting to carry on and talk about knowing Jesus and then knowing the Spirit - it seemed like John would be a good choice for that especially since John 20:31 notes its evangelistic purpose. It is becoming more apparent to me, however, that John is not just for new Christians but also for more mature Christians since there is just so much going on in the text.
So far I have covered John 1:1-5; 1:6-8; and 1:9-13 and have hit some bumps along the way.
I am praying as to how to move forward. I am not being harsh it just might be people aren't ready to hear that yet? It's challenging.