John Fischer, Christian author, singer, songwriter, and speaker, was born in Pasadena, California, in 1947 and graduated from Wheaton College in 1969. He studied for the Christian ministry at the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California, under Ray Stedman. In 1969, he released his initial Christian album The Cold Cathedral, which is considered the first American contemporary Christian album.
Fischer, who is exactly my age, has lived through the radical changes that took place in evangelical worship in America over the last few decades, changes that drove another friend our age to leave evangelicalism completely and become a priest in the Orthodox Church in America.
Loss of the Cross
The author sees what happened back in the ’70s and ’80s as an attempt to make the church more relevant to our rapidly changing society, but he is concerned that it recreated a Christianity without the cross and with little mention of sin. “The ‘me’ decade of the eighties has rolled over the church. Instead of coming before God in humility and fear, grateful for the breath to honor and serve him, we are more likely to come before him to be blessed – to have our current desires bestowed upon us and to praise him on the basis of what we will receive in return.”
Other authors and speakers have warned us in various ways of the dangers of devoting too much attention in the church to the “felt needs” of people and the marketing of the contemporary church. Fisher’s way is to focus on putting the cross back into the church and into the center of our lives. I agree with evangelical statesman Robert A. Seiple who wrote, “If you are ready for a new honesty with yourself and a deeper wrestling with living and dying with Christ, read this book.”
The author is a creative story teller. He begins the first chapter by taking us to a small church in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. It has a sturdy wooden cross, ten feet tall bolted down into the concrete floor in front of the platform, not more than three feet from where the preacher stands. “The preacher’s words have to pass through it; the congregation’s eyes always have it somewhere in view, so that even when they look away, it is still there, impressed on the back wall of the retina.”
The rest of the book treats in creative ways the basic teachings of Christianity when we bring the cross back to its rightful place. It is full of familiar Bible stories with interesting insights and revealing personal stories from the author’s own life – all with the goal of bringing us back to the core of Christianity – our Lord’s atonement, sin, grace, etc.
In 2001, Publisher’s Weekly reviewed this 181-page work as follows:
“What has happened to the cross? For someone firmly entrenched in evangelical culture, Fischer has some pretty harsh things to say about evangelicalism–things that he believes many Christians need to hear. Fischer often caustically reminds readers that sin is more than ‘dysfunction,’ that the promises of Easter are empty without the horrifying reality of Christ’s bloody, bloody death. Fischer, like a 19th-century Methodist hymn, likes to speak of ‘nothing but the blood.’ This is an eye-opening if craggy read, challenging evangelical Christians to place the cross at the center of spiritual life.”