February 22, 2005

Christian's Need to Stop Whining!

AFR radio news aired a story last Monday that really irked me. It had to do with some disgruntled members of a church (I’ll not name the church) in Texas who were supposedly kicked out for opposing the church’s vision.

What truly angers me is that the disgruntled members made this a national story; sort of an adult version of a big hissy fit. We didn’t get our way and we are mad; whaaaaaa! We’re going to blab it to anyone who will listen. Pathetically, USA Radio News thought it was news worthy. It wasn’t. And in my opinion, the news outfit participated in the sin of the parishioners who felt compelled to air their dirty laundry.

And what was the horrendous infraction committed by the church leadership? They were implementing Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven philosophy for church health and church growth. According to the news story, former member and whiner in chief, B.J. Moore said 2 Timothy 4:3-4 epitomized the church while they were there. Here’s what the verse says:

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”

Okay hold everything. There is a cataclysmic difference between teaching false doctrine which is what the Timothy passage refers to, and a pastor making his sermons more seeker friendly. I am not endorsing such a notion necessarily, but the point is that the issue here is a difference of opinion concerning the direction and philosophy of the church, not a matter of heresy which is what the complaining members are essentially charging.

I don’t know that they were literally kicked out as the story stated, but frankly, I have told a number of people over the years, “Look, this is our vision. If you’re on board, great; and if you’re not, find a church where you can support the vision. But you won’t cause a bunch of contention here over such a matter.” Case closed.

How unfortunate that Christians yet again, resort to such worldly tactics; if more Christians were as concerned about their neighbor going to hell as they were about their hurt feelings, or getting their way, we’d have a revival the like of which we’ve never seen. This is Pastor Bill Cripe Looking Up for heavenly perspective and healthy hope.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


John MacArthur

Entering a new decade started me thinking about all that has happened in the church over the past twenty years. The 1970s were an exciting time. We saw an unprecedented rise in conservative evangelicalism, the explosion of Christian broadcasting and publishing, a number of excellent new Bible translations and study aids, the proliferation of small-group Bible studies, and tremendous growth in Bible-believing congregations.

In the midst of it all, one sensed a sincere desire to exalt the Lord, a love for God's Word, a hunger to understand it, and--within the church, at least--a renewed interest in holiness, combatting the steady moral decay that had gained such a foothold in the '60s.

Those phenomena could have been harbingers of genuine spiritual revival.

But the '80s were a decade of decline. Not numerical decline in most of our churches (though I'm concerned that this may happen yet), but a spiritual decline. The church has actually turned away from true revival and pursued instead the popularization of Christianity.

The pop church is everywhere. It is perhaps most evident on religious television, where the diet of celebrity variety shows and other forms of entertainment has decreased the taste for worship. It is quickly gaining a foothold in Christian radio, where phone-in talk shows and live psychotherapy are replacing Bible teaching as the staple. It has ravaged local churches, turning them into little more than social clubs and community centers where the focus is on the individual's felt needs, not on the church's function as the Body of Christ in the world.

The trends of pop Christianity pose dangers more subtle than the liberalism that threatened the church in the first half of the century. Instead of attacking orthodoxy head on, the pop church gives lip service to the truth while quietly undermining the foundations of doctrine. Instead of exalting God it denigrates the things that are precious to Him.

The pop church is not a single movement or visible organization. Tendencies toward popular religion can be found even in some of the finest churches and Christian organizations in evangelicalism.

Tragically, the church appears to be actually moving the opposite direction from true revival. As we enter the '90s, the trends become more and more evident.

First, there is in vogue today a tendency to make the basis of faith something other than God's Word. Experience, emotion, fashion, and popular opinion are often in reality more authoritative than the Bible in determining what many Christians believe.

The charismatic movement, of course, has led the way in this failure by claiming private, individual revelation is a valid and normal way God manifests Himself. Why should we carefully study the Bible when we can get personal messages and fresh prophecy from some charismatic experience?

But non-charismatics have not been exempt from teachings that undermine biblical authority. Secular psychology, for instance, has virtually superseded God's Word at the core of curriculum in some of our conservative seminaries. Christian counseling reflects this drift, frequently offering no more than experimental and unscriptural self-help therapy instead of solid answers from the Bible.

Christian missionary work is often riddled with pragmatism and compromise, because too many in missions have evidently concluded that what gets results is more important than what God says.

That's true among local churches as well. It has become quite fashionable to forego the proclamation and teaching of God's Word in worship services. Instead, churches serve up a smorgasbord of drama, music, and other forms of entertainment.

All of this dethrones Scripture from its rightful place as the basis for our faith.

Second, pop Christianity has a tendency to move the focus of faith away from God's Son. You've seen that repeatedly if you watch much religious television. Center stage belongs to the celebrity evangelist, the fund-raising campaign, or the miracles and healings--anything but the Lord Jesus.

Furthermore, the faith those programs ordinarily exemplify is surrealistic. The people we see are nearly always bubbly, giggly, and giddy. Instead of biblical faith, which rejoices in the midst of trials, what we usually see is a thin, and fragile emotionalism that talks of deliverance but seems merely to be a form of escapism.

The health-wealth-and-prosperity gospel advocated by so many televangelists is the ultimate example of this kind of fantasy-faith. Appealing unabashedly to the flesh, this false gospel corrupts all the promises of Scripture and encourages greed. It makes material blessing, not Jesus Christ, the object of the Christian's desires.

Easy-believism handles the message differently, but the effect is the same. Here is the perfect message for pop Christianity. It is the promise of forgiveness minus the gospel's hard demands. It has done much to popularize "believing" but little to provoke sincere faith.

Christ is no longer the focus of the message. We may hear His name mentioned from time to time, but the real focus seems is inward, not upward. People are urged to look within; to try to understand themselves; to come to grips with their problems, their hurts, their disappointments; to have their needs met, their desires granted, their wants fulfilled. Nearly all the popular versions of the message encourage and legitimize a self-centered perspective.

Such an emphasis cannot help but shift the focus away from Christ.

Third, today's pop Christianity is infected with a tendency to view the result of faith as something less than God's standard of holy living. I thought of this recently as one of the fallen televangelists was again in the news. Several of his loyalists were demonstrating against his conviction and imprisonment by carrying signs with the word "FORGIVEN!" in large red letters.

We must be forgiving, but forgiveness is not the end and the aim of the Christian faith; holiness unto the Lord is (2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 1:4; 5:25-27).

By downplaying the importance of holy living--both by precept and by example--the pop church has undermined the biblical doctrine of conversion. A celebrity show-business personality professes faith in Christ but continues in an ungodly lifestyle. No one thinks anything of it--or worse, the pop church continues to herald that person as an example of a true believer.

That eats at the heart of the Christian faith. Think about it: What could Satan do to try to destroy the church that would be more effective than undermining God's Word, shifting the focus off Christ, and minimizing holy living? All those things are happening slowly, steadily within the church right now. Tragically, most Christians seem oblivious to the problems, satisfied with a Christianity that is fashionable and highly visible.

The true church must not ignore these threats. If we fight to keep the church pure, we can conquer external attacks easily. But if we let error into the church, we will not be able to regain the purity without waging civil war.

I fear that may be happening even now. The church of the past decade has become so broad and inclusive that many otherwise sound Christians avoid speaking the truth for fear of being divisive. Recently, for example, a major Christian radio network wrote to ask me not to teach again on a certain passage of Scripture. "We agree with what you say," the network executive told me, "but many of our constituents do not, and we're committed to peace."

We cannot have peace if it means we must avoid whole passages of Scripture! The unity Jesus prayed for is a unity based on common commitment to truth. It is a oneness made possible because we are sanctified in the truth (John 17:19-21), not a false unity borne of compromise.

May the church of the '90s reverse these trends and pray instead for a fresh infusion of the Holy Spirit's power.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a tidal wave that is sweeping over the American church in these last days prior to the new millenium. It is not an outbreak of persecution nor is it a flood of oppression directed against those who would live godly in Christ Jesus. Rather it is a novel approach to presenting the gospel that threatens to overwhelm the very foundations of the Christian faith inherited from our fathers.

It goes by several names but is commonly referred to as the "seeker-sensitive" or "user-friendly" method. Among these various approaches there are two that stand out in particular. The first of these is the Willow Creek approach known as the "seeker-sensitive" model. This is named for the Willow Creek church in the Chicago, Illinois area whose author is Bill Hybels, the pastor. The second approach is known as "the purpose-driven church" model whose developer is Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddle Back church in California. Both of these churches have experienced astounding growth over a relatively short period of time by employing their respective methodologies. As such, they have become recognized as quasi leaders in church growth among numerous pastors and leaders in the American church.

While there are notable differences between the two approaches, there are also remarkable similarities. Chief of which is their reliance on the so-called "practical, relevant" Bible message in an attempt to reach the unsaved in their local communities. The basic tenet of their philosophy is as follows:

"In order to attract our target audience (i.e. "the lost"), the church must change its approach to presenting the gospel to the world. We must take a more "needs-centered" approach to the lost. Since it is obvious that our society is overrun with problems in the family, marriages on the rocks, financial distress due to excessive credit and borrowing and spending, massive depression, stress, and other such ailments, the church must step forward and meet these needs as no doubt Jesus would do were He here today in the flesh. This can best be done by tailoring our message to the world in such a way that these "needy" unsaved people will see that the solution to their problems is already contained in the Bible. When they once see that the Bible has a great deal to say about managing your money, sets forth principles to adopt in order to have a better marriage, contains ways of managing conflict resolution and dealing with the everyday problems and stresses of life, they will marvel that they did not realize this sooner. Once this plateau is reached, their "needs" being met, they will then gain the desire to continue regularly attending the church services where these principles are taught. Once this is achieved, it is only a matter of time before they will be exposed to the gospel and then will make their way into the kingdom of God and of Christ and so become saved believers".

I believe that I have fairly stated their basic premise without any prejudice to it. In all fairness, this is a commendable attitude. I am quite certain that the majority of those who employ this approach are sincere and genuine in their desire to propagate the gospel and to reach the lost. Their sincerity is not being called into question by this article in any manner whatsoever. What is being called into question is not their sincerity but rather the methodology they are employing. One can challenge what he or she considers an unscriptural practice without calling into question the character of those who adopt or propagate this practice. Unfortunately, in today's American church, to do so automatically opens one to the charge of "no love", "intolerant", "critical", "fault-finder", "legalistic", "stone-thrower", or even worse. While this may bring a smug satisfaction from those who hurl such epithets, it does nothing to examine the validity of the arguments being set forth in opposition to their practices and doctrine.

Far too often, the American church is willing to introduce and to tolerate practices and methodologies which simply lack Scriptural support simply because they produce results. It seems as if the spirit of Machiavelli, the Italian Renaissance philosopher is alive and well in today's church. It was he who coined the expression; "the end justifies the means". According to this tenet, the Lord Jesus should have taken the devil up on his suggestion that He hurl Himself off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem in Luke 4. The argument could probably have been phrased as follows:

"Look at all those people down there Jesus. Now, You have a message that God the Father has entrusted to you. Surely, He would have you speak to as many of them as possible. Besides, didn't You say Yourself, that 'the Son of Man came to seek and to save those who are lost?' Well, there they are and all of them are no doubt lost. Let me tell You how to get them to become an audience. That is what You desire, isn't it? Well, simply throw Yourself off of this pinnacle way up here and let the angels of God catch You. Scripture evens says that 'they will bear You up on their hands, lest You dash your foot upon a stone'. Just think of the wonder and amazement that will seize upon the people when they look up and see a man floating slowly down to the ground without injuring himself. I promise You that you will get their attention. Once You have that, then it is a simple matter of relaying Your message to them. Think of how many You will be able to reach".

The Scriptures show us what the Lord thought of this suggestion of the devil. Even though He could have used this "means" and produced a good "end" our Lord rejected it outright because it was a rash presumption upon God. So we too in the church should not rashly presume that because our "end" or "goal" is a good one that we are therefore justified in employing the method that best seems to reach that "commendable end". What is paramount is whether or not the method or practice is Biblical and can stand the test of Scripture, not whether it "works". We are commanded to

"Test all things; hold fast what is good." (1Thes 5:21).

Once we jettison this safeguard, we have opened the floodgates to all manner of folly and error to wash into the church under the guise of utilitarianism. Carry this principle to an extreme and one can easily see what kind of foolishness and downright blasphemy can be brought into the house of God under the guise of "reaching the lost". For example:

"We need to reach the lost drunkards for Christ. Why not offer them drinks in the church service. This is sure to appeal to them. Once we have their attention, we can then try to "win them to Jesus". After all, we are to become all things to all men so that we might save some of them".

Obviously this is a bit stretched but it serves to illustrate the point. Any truth can be wiredrawn to such an extreme that it no longer bears any resemblance to its former appearance. Where does one draw the line in the church as to what is lawful and what is not? Who defines what the line is and what it is to look like? Is it a subjective line that each is left to their own to determine or is there a standard against which the line is to be gauged that is constant and fixed? One's answers to these questions will determine their respective views on the many practices and programs of today's American church.

In closing this section of our analysis it is important to note that my contention against this approach to "winning the lost" has nothing to do with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ attempting to help alleviate the distresses of our fellow men. All Christians should agree that acts of kindness and benevolence such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing shelter for the homeless, creation of orphanages, raising up of medical clinics, providing assistance to unwed pregnant teenage girls, etc., are all legitimate acts of those who belong to God. This is not in dispute. Many have indeed been won into the kingdom through the kindness of God's children in these regards. It has been once well said that it is extremely difficult to preach the gospel to a man who has no food in his stomach. Feed him with material bread first and then with the "bread of life" is a wise and expeditious counsel that is good to follow.

In our next article, we will weigh this "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" approach in the balance of God's Word and see where it comes up wanting.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In our last article we gave a brief introduction to the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" approach that is proliferating among American churches in our day. We have examined its general philosophy in attempting to reach the masses with the gospel. In our current article we will attempt to weigh this approach in the balance of God's Word and test it against the touchstone of Scripture.

You will recall that the basic tenet of this approach is to meet the "point of need" of various members of the local community in which the church is located in an attempt to draw them to the church services often enough so that eventually they encounter the gospel and are brought into the kingdom of God. This is to be done by the focused preaching of "relevant, practical Bible messages". In particular, the "practical" books of the Bible such as Proverbs are heavily emphasized as well as the "practical" sections of the epistles in which instruction in Christian conduct is set forth. Doctrinal exposition of the Scriptures is hereby purposely avoided as it has very little "relevant" value to the "lost" or as they are oftentimes referred, "pre-Christian" or "unchurched". This is the first of many points in which this method betrays its inherent flaws. It violates the apostles' method in presenting truth to their hearers. Regardless of whether one is dealing with believers or unbelievers, the pattern laid out by the apostles is remarkably similar in every situation.

Lest some should think that this is "straining at a gnat only to swallow a camel" they should consider what God said to Moses so long ago:

" who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, 'See', He says, 'That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.'" (Hebrews 8:5).

The Infinite Majesty on High did not leave it up to mere men to come up with their own pattern for erecting His tabernacle on earth under the old economy of things. Neither did He do so when it came to building His temple under Solomon. The pattern which was to be followed in its construction was also clearly laid out by God to His servant David (1Chron 28:19). Under the new economy, His tabernacle no longer consists of dead stones but rather now consists of "living stones" (1Peter 2:5). Are we now to believe that He who declared that "I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" has left it to our own ingenuity and human cleverness to devise whatever pattern we see fit to build the spiritual temple of God? Who could be so foolish or arrogant as to think so?

It is from the epistles then that we learn the divine pattern which the apostles followed in presenting their revelation to the church. That pattern as is clearly set forth in the epistles is first doctrine, then practice. The "practical" is never mentioned or urged upon Christians without first referencing the doctrine from which this conduct is to be inferred. One looks in vain through the writings of Paul for any mention of practice without him first laying down solid doctrinal truth. Only when this is done does the apostle then proceed to deal with how the Christian should conduct him or herself. A good example of this is the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters are devoted exclusively to the establishing of Christian doctrine. There is absolutely no mention of "practice" of any kind. Some of the most sublime truths of our faith are contained in these first three chapters of this heavenly epistle: election, predestination, adoption, redemption, forgiveness of sin through the shed blood of Christ, God's eternal purpose, our heavenly inheritance, etc. It is only when we reach chapter 4 that Paul begins to address the issue of how the child of God is to conduct himself and even then it is only briefly as he soon takes up some more doctrinal instruction. Then in the latter part of that chapter and on through to the end he deals almost exclusively with the "practical". The letter of Romans also follows the same basic pattern. The first eleven chapters are primarily focused on doctrine. It is not until the twelfth chapter that Paul begins to draw the applicable practice that follows as a consequent of understanding this doctrine. Peter follows the same approach in his first epistle. He never urges practice without first laying down the doctrine from which the practice can be drawn.

In other words, God's pattern for building His church is to first impart doctrinal truth to His children and then to grant them an understanding of this truth that will in turn regulate their conduct. When Paul exhorts the believers to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called", the apostle is assuming that they have first grasped exactly what that calling consists of. Only then are they instructed in the "practical" aspects of the Christian life.

In other words the Christian is the man who asks the question: "why do I put off the old man and put on the new man"? Because, I have been chosen from the foundation of the world and that choice of God is unto holiness comes the answer from doctrine. "Why am I able to do this?" Because the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in all of God's children enabling them to do so. Without a proper understanding of doctrine therefore, the Christian is like a rudderless ship. He or she has no true guide with which to steer through the currents of this life's sea. However, once aware of the heavenly nature of his calling, of his lofty and honored position in Christ, of the spiritual nature of the kingdom to which he has been chosen, of the holiness and purity of his God, the Christian will begin to so order his life as to conduct himself in a manner worthy of the doctrine he professes to believe. In other words, he is a man who knows why he walks the way he does. He is therefore, not a man who has simply adopted a set of moral principles that are found in the Bible and applied them to his life. This pattern may produce moralists but it will never produce saints, and, saints my dear friend are what comprise the building that God is creating.

For instance, the "practical, relevant" Bible message approach quite frequently deals with the topic of handling anger. One can scan the frequent advertisements from the various churches promoting their programs and easily verify this. The typical sermon using this approach will usually cite numerous passages out of the book of Proverbs in particular showing the biblical way to handle anger. In itself, this is fine as "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for…instruction in righteousness". We have no quarrel with the Word of God; we welcome it preached and are glad that it is. However, take a look at Paul's method in presenting the sin of anger in the New Testament and one will readily discern what is glaringly lacking in the "practical, relevant" model.

"Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity….And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph 4: 26,27, 30- Eph 5:1)

Simply consider the following questions. How does the devil gain a foothold in the life of a believer? What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit of God? What are some examples of those who did grieve the Spirit? What does it mean to be sealed? What is the day of redemption all about? What is the nature of the forgiveness that God has granted those in Christ? How does one imitate God? If I am to imitate God, what does the character of God consist of? Note well, these are all matters of doctrinal instruction without which the believer has absolutely no idea what Paul is even saying in his letter to the Ephesians. Yet unbelievably, those who would propound this approach to the church can unashamedly tell us that doctrinal matters are not "practical or relevant" to most people and are therefore to be avoided or at least minimized when teaching the Word of God!

In focusing exclusively on the "practical", the seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven model is therefore diametrically opposed to the divine pattern as laid out by the apostles. Any pastor or teacher who would assert that they have been instructed by the Lord to focus their teaching exclusively on the "practical, relevant" portions of Scripture to the neglect of doctrinal instruction is grossly deceived. They are setting themselves in direct opposition to the apostles and will ultimately end up doing incredible disservice to those who sit beneath their ministry.

We have done with the presentation of truth to the believer. Some may argue that when it comes to the unbeliever this "practical, relevant" approach may be usefully employed. In our next article we will turn our attention to the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" model as it relates to the presentation of the gospel to the world. There, we will discover the manifold errors it contains and the serious consequences it is having on the American church.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the biggest problems of Christianity today, is, the Church has become a "sleeping" one I call it. Why?

Documentations of late reveal only about 30% of the "Body of Christ" is active in spreading the Gospel in some way.

The problem we find more all the time are those Christians whining over things that are not of such importance, because they have become too comfortable and lazy in those comfort zones.

They do not want to leave them. As such, we find they complain more if things don't go thier way, more than paying attention to the plans God has for them and thier Church for growth in God thru Christ and the Commission we are all called into.

We all have a place and position in this great Commission, but people need to be reminded of that again. God's children, because of this intensly fast growing technological age have grown soft and lazy to dealing with laborous work or other trials we must take care of.

Christianity needs to go back to it's root beginnings and find out where we eventually lost so much of our love for God in so many ways and get it back to show ourselves approved once more.

God bless!!

8:31 PM  
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