The bag of corn chips on the grocery store shelves trumpeted in bold print, "No GMOs! We use only 100% organic corn."
To many consumers, the rush to add the genetic material of jellyfish, mice, and whatever is the hot DNA of the day to our crops cruised in right under their radar. Here in the United States, most people took for granted that when they reached for a tomato at the grocery store they weren't buying a mutant loaded with the genes of something that had four legs and a complete lack of chlorophyll. But Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are now the talk the world over as scientists play God with the very seeds that sprout into what we eat. Those who claim we are going down a slippery path with our tinkerings have labeled foods that no longer contain the DNA the Creator intended "Frankenfood" in honor of Mary Shelley's manmade monstrosity. But those folks in the white lab coats do not like having their ox gored. They will just as quickly note the innocent truth that they are merely striving for better disease resistance, hardiness, and yields.
There is another kind of food that we are turning into a similar crime against the Creator. We in the Church are taking the seed of the Lord's Good News and transmogrifying it into something utterly devoid of life.
Jesus told a parable:
Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
—Mark 4:3-8 ESV
We in the American Church need to come to grips with one startling fact: The sower's success rate was only 25%. Three-quarters of all the seed that was sown was ultimately lost or proven unfruitful.
But as Americans, we figure we can always improve a process. As Christians, we like to only think positively, too. So in our effort to do better than Jesus' example in His parable, we've formed a few committees and come up with the perfect solution to that atrocious 75% lack of productivity on the part of the seed; we'll modify the kernel altogether. A little genetic tweaking here or there can only help the cause, right?
The reasoning seems innocent at first. If we can add something to the seed so that it overcomes being eaten by birds, scorched by the sun, and choked by weeds, we will solve the problem of that awful 75% loss. And if that doesn't work, we can always subtract something else if we believe it will accomplish our ultimate purpose.
The problem is that we have tried modifying the truth of Jesus Christ in order to boost its perceived retention rate, succeeding only in creating a "Frankengospel."
We've all seen and heard the Frankengospel. It is characterized by its lack of Jesus, His missing cross, no mention of repentance, and the absence of the Holy Spirit. By these omissions, churches have successfully excised the troublesome parts from the sower's seed. Other churches have tried to overcome the perceived lacks in the seed by adding miraculous marketing techniques, appropriated business seminar know-how, heaps and heaps of weepy-eyed love, and laser lightshows that leave the lost slackjawed at the sheer entertainment value of it all.
If only those slick modifications to the simple seed produced the desired fruit. But it doesn't take a ThD for us to see that the Church in this country has lost its way. The results of our tinkering? Barrenness. Our land is empty, but we refuse to stop sowing our monstrosity.
The simple truth is that we lost faith in the seed itself. We foolishly thought there was something wrong with the whole Gospel. The reality is that Jesus Himself two thousand years ago sowed His seed straight from His own lips and yet it was largely scorned; the birds, sun, and thorns did their evil work. Who are we to think we can improve on our Master? (And let us not forget to give thanks to the Lord for the remaining seed that fell on good soil!)
The only way to counteract the empty, fruitless land that confronts us in America is to sow only the good seed, every part of it, and to sow it with renewed abandon and commitment. We cannot hope to raise the percentage yield beyond what the Lord Himself did, but if each of us shared the whole Gospel of Jesus with enough people, we would each probably need just three of those people coming to salvation in our lifetimes in order to miraculously change the entire world for Christ.
We don't need a Frankengospel. All we need is the true Gospel, the life-giving whole of it, told with joy and enthusiasm, and empowered by the Spirit, to meet the Great Commission.