John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL, IVP, 1986), pp. 347-348:
To preach salvation by good works is to flatter people and so avoid opposition.
This may seem to some to pose the alternative too starkly. But I do not think so. All Christian preachers have to face this issue.
Either we preach that human beings are rebels against God, under his just judgment and (if left to themselves) lost, and that Christ crucified who bore their sin and curse is the only available Saviour.
Or we emphasize human potential and human ability, with Christ brought in only to boost them, and with no necessity for the cross except to exhibit God’s love and so inspire us to greater endeavour.
The former is the way to be faithful, the latter the way to be popular.
It is not possible to be faithful and popular simultaneously. We need to hear again the warning of Jesus: ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you’ (Lk. 6:26). By contrast, if we preach the cross, we may find that we are ourselves hounded to the cross.
I don’t think this should be interpreted to mean that big churches equal unfaithful churches.
But at the very least it means that big churches do not necessarily equal faithful churches.
(And of course the opposite is also true—a small church by itself does not indicate whether a not a church is being faithful.)
No matter what, let’s be careful to distinguish being faithful and being popular. We follow a Savior who had the crowds clamoring on occasion—but it ultimately led to Calvary. And a disciple is not above his Master.
HT: Matt Perman