Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Seeker Friendly Church

I fear there are some who preach with the view of amusing men, and as long as people can be gathered in crowds, and their ears can be tickled, and they can retire pleased with what they have heard, the orator is content, and folds his hands, and goes back self-satisfied. But Paul did not lay himself out to please the public and collect the crowd. If he did not save them he felt that it was of no avail to interest them. Unless the truth had pierced their hearts, affected their lives, and made new men of them, Paul would have gone home crying, ‘Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?’ . . .Now observe, brethren, if I, or you, or any of us, or all of us, shall have spent our lives merely in amusing men, or educating men, or moralizing men, when we shall come to give our account at the last great day we shall be in a very sorry condition, and we shall have but a very sorry record to render; for what avail will it be to a man to be educated when he comes to be damned? Of what service will it be to him to have been amused when the trumpet sounds, and heaven and earth are shaking, and the pit opens wide her jaws of fire and swallow up the soul unsaved? Of what avail even to have moralized a man if still he is on the left hand of the judge, and if still, ‘Depart, ye cursed,’shall be his portion."
C. H. Spurgeon
SEEKER-FRIENDLY OR SEDUCTIVELY FATAL
INTRODUCTION

Our purpose in these pages is to examine the so-called seeker-friendly movement and offer what we believe are biblical antidotes necessary to deliver the church from this withering blight. You may find it strange that we describe this movement in such negative terms since, according to popular opinion, today’s Evangelical church is in a state of renewal largely because of the seeker-sensitive philosophy. The problem is that the current "renewal" does not bear the marks of past spiritual renewals. Such awakenings have been characterized by a profound sense of human sinfulness in the presence of our holy God and an accompanying sense of intense gratitude for his mercy and undeserved favor. Additionally, true revivals have resulted in vast, sweeping social change effected by genuine conversions to Christ. In the past, the result of spiritual awakenings has been that God’s people have bowed in holy reverence before the throne of a God whose character they knew. By contrast, today’s excitement is merely characterized by large numbers of people gathered to sing superficial songs and listen to teaching that is only marginally Christian. If revival should occur today, it would largely have to take place in a virtual theological vacuum.It is not our intent to impugn the motives of those involved in the seeker movement. It is altogether possible their desire for church growth springs from pure hearts. It is not their sincerity we are questioning; the problem is methodology. Throughout the history of the church there have been sincere people who have done untold damage to the cause of Christ. The Emperor, Constantine, surely had good intentions when he decreed Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, but it is difficult to imagine a more damaging blow to the vitality of true Christianity.We believe this movement, if allowed to go unchallenged, will be devastating to the spiritual health and well-being of the people of God. Perhaps this caution can be best expressed in the words of the Prophet, Isaiah, who wrote, "For the leaders of these people cause them to err, and those who are led by them are destroyed. . . ." (Isa. 9:16).In this short article we intend to define the seeker-friendly movement, describe its main emphases and practices, examine what appear to be the presuppositions on which it is based, and offer suggested remedies to those who belong to such churches.

THE SEEKER-FRIENDLY MOVEMENT DEFINED

What is the seeker-friendly movement? It is a philosophy of church growth that seeks to discover what characteristics the unconverted would like in a church to induce them to attend, then seeks to fashion the church to please their carnal desires. There are, of course, different degrees to which churches are willing to compromise the truth of Christianity to accomplish this end. Some seek to retain at least an external appearance of historic Christianity, while others seem to have totally abandoned it. The problem is, once a person has embraced the basic philosophy that drives this movement, there is really no stopping place on the road to adopting pagan religion.
RECOGNIZING A SEEKER-FRIENDLY CHURCH

How can we recognize the seeker-friendly philosophy at work? The answer is relatively simple. In a seeker-friendly church, everything that might be offensive to the fleshly hearer has been removed. Worship is put on the back burner and replaced with an emphasis on "having fun in church." This experience occurs in a "non-threatening atmosphere." Everything with a semblance of theological truth is removed. The great hymns of the faith are replaced with theologically vacuous "praise hymns" that appeal more to the feet than to the heart. Sin becomes "a mistake" instead of a deep-seated nature that raises its rebellious fist against the Sovereign of the universe. Most of the teaching from the pulpit would not be out of place in a secular seminar on human relationships. There is seldom, if ever, an exposition of an extended passage from the Epistles of the New Testament Scripture. If any privilege of membership in the family of God is ever mentioned, it is applied, without distinction, to the entire audience, converted and unconverted. Hearers are seldom directed to look at their Bibles to see what God has revealed. Instead, paraphrased versions of the Scriptures are used to buttress a point the speaker wishes to make even if the word or phrase he wishes to emphasize has no support in the original text. It comes down to this; since sinners don’t want to feel guilty, we won’t tell them they are rebels against God. Since people don’t like to think, we won’t talk to them about doctrine. Since sinners don’t like to think through the theology of the great hymns of the faith, we will give them catchy tunes and rhythms accompanied by repetitive, mindless drivel. It seems those involved in this movement despise our Christian heritage in the way they discard the great hymns of the faith that God has used for centuries to instruct and bring blessing to his people. Since people don’t want to read the Bible, we will use power-point to show them a substitute, a paraphrase that masquerades as Scripture. The bottom line is, a seeker friendly church is one designed by unconverted sinners, not one designed by the Lord of the church.Although not describing the seeker movement by name, Dr. Timothy George has encapsulated its perils well. Describing the theological and practical maladies that currently plague Baptists he wrote,As Baptists have gained influence and status, we have also tended to approximate the values or our environing culture, including its secularity. We have lost touch with the great historic traditions which have given us our vitality and identity. Seduced by he lure of modernity ("whatever is latest is best"), we find ourselves awash on the sea of pragmatism ("whatever works is right"), indifference and theological vacuity. The results are all about us: Church rolls stuffed with so-called "inactive members" no one has seen or heard from in years, trendy sermons which lack both biblical depth and spiritual power, a generation of young people uninstructed in the rudiments of the faith, fractious controversies which sap our strength and strain our fellowship, shallow worship services geared more to the applause of man than the praise of God, a slacking interest in evangelism and missions, all amidst a hurried activism steeped in this-worldly proprieties.2Please understand I am not extolling the imagined virtues of cold, dead, judgmental, orthodoxy. We should seek to remove every humanly erected obstacle to the conversion of sinners. We must reject the idea that we believers are by nature in some way superior to the unconverted. We need to look beyond externals to the deep needs of sinners’ hearts. If they refuse to come into a "church" [building set aside for worship] because of the stupid and malicious antics of the religious people they have known, we should provide an environment, perhaps a home setting, in which they will be willing to listen to our message. We can rid ourselves of every humanly devised tradition that has encumbered the church in her mission, but we must not lay aside the faith once delivered to the saints.

WHAT SHOULD WE THINK OF THE SEEKER-FRIENDLY MOVEMENT?

What should we think of the seeker-friendly/seeker-sensitive movement? Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this matter is that God’s people should need an answer to this question. Had it not been for the decades of spiritual malnourishment among God’s people due to a famine of the Word of God in our nation’s pulpits, the answer to such a question would be obvious. A healthy, well-nourished, discerning Christian will readily detect the blatant problems inherent in this latest "church-growth" movement. I have placed church-growth in quotes because there is a difference between growing and swelling. Living organisms grow naturally when they are properly nourished, receive proper exercise and experience proper elimination. Dead things swell. Simply because something is becoming larger is no indication that growth is occurring. Pastor John MacArthur has rightly reminded us that if we will concern ourselves with the depth of our ministry, God will take care of the breadth of it.

All error, theological or practical, results from one of two mistakes: 1. We may err because, though we have begun with sound presuppositions, we have used faulty logic to arrive at our conclusions. 2. We may err because we have begun with erroneous presuppositions and reasoned to logical but flawed conclusions. Theological and practical errors almost always result from the second mistake. I believe this has been the case with the seeker-friendly/seeker-sensitive movement.

One cannot expect much from those who believe sinners are the efficient cause of their own conversions and that God has done all he can for their salvation. If that is the case, we must surely use every marketing technique and tawdry trick we can discover to bring them to make that all-important "free-will" decision. In reality, the seeker-friendly movement is simply "free-will" theology taken to its logical conclusion.

To me, one of the sadder aspects of this entire situation is that some who have professed to understand and believe the very truths I am suggesting as an antidote to this perversion of biblical Christianity, have themselves been duped into following its methods. My desire for them is that they will return to the biblical foundations on which they have, in former days, professed to stand and engage again in the type of ministry that will glorify God in the edification of his people.

I invite you to examine with me what seem to be some of the basic presuppositions of this movement and decide whether it is founded on sound biblical truth. I have said these "seem to be" the basic presuppositions of the movement since I have discovered them largely by inference from observing the practices and listening to the statements of its practitioners. If you discover its foundation stones to be biblically sound, by all means continue to build on them. Otherwise, I beg you to follow the Lord’s word through the prophet Jeremiah who wrote, "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. . . ." (Jer. 6:16).
Presupposition One:Church Growth is Our Responsibility

The very first unbiblical notion on which this movement is founded is that church growth is our responsibility. This is clearly antithetical to the ministry and message of the Apostles. In his first epistle to the Corinthian church, Paul informed his readers that Christ had not sent him to baptize but to proclaim the good news of Christ (1 Cor. 1:17). He was not in any way suggesting that to baptize disciples was not part of his original commission. Had it been otherwise, he would have been out of line in baptizing anyone. Yet, in this very context he confesses he had baptized Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. What, then, can he mean when the writes that Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach? The answer lies in the nature and purpose of baptism. Baptism is the initiatory rite of the Christian faith. It is this act by which one publicly confesses his union with Christ by faith. What Paul would teach us is that procuring such a commitment from sinners is not only beyond his ability but also beyond the realm of his responsibility. Our work is to proclaim the gospel; God’s work is to make the gospel effective. We need to remember that in the early days of the Christian church, Luke tells us it was God who added to the church those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). Church growth is his work, not ours. Paul had to remind the fleshly Corinthians who had divided into factions over personalities that it was not the preacher and his manor or methods that caused the church to grow. He wrote,Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers [servants] through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase [caused it to grow] So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-7).I recently viewed a video tape of a message preached by one of the leading lights in the seeker-friendly movement urging people to become involved in the great work of evangelism. As he came to the close of his impassioned exhortation, he told of his dying father’s words to him concerning the task of evangelism. His father, in what seems to have been a state of delirium, had continued to repeat the words, "Get just one more for Jesus! Get just one more for Jesus!" As I sat there and listened in utter amazement, I thought, Sir, you are out of your element. You can’t even get one for Jesus, much less one more for Him.Without controversy, it is every believer’s task to spread the good news that there is a Savior who has died for poor, helpless, hell-deserving sinners. We must earnestly seek to persuade the unconverted to turn from the broad road that leads to destruction and enter the strait gate of conversion that alone leads to eternal life. We should diligently implore the great King to turn their hearts to Christ, but having discharged those duties, we must leave the results to Him.

Presupposition Two:God’s Purpose for the Salvation of Sinners Needs a Major Overhaul.If He Doesn’t Get Some Much Needed Marketing Help from Us, Sinners Who Would Have Been
Saved with These New Methods, Will Be Lost.

It would seem any person with even the most superficial understanding of biblical truth about God’s purpose in salvation would immediately reject such a God-dishonoring suggestion. It may be that even those most heavily engaged in this movement would be uncomfortable with such an unvarnished statement of their beliefs. Still, everything they practice indicates this is one of their foundational tenets.The questions for which we should seek biblical answers are whether God’s purpose for the salvation of sinners is in trouble and if He needs human assistance to accomplish His work. Please understand I am not asking whether God uses means to accomplish his purpose and whether he intends to accomplish that purpose apart the use of means. For example, if no one ever proclaims the gospel, will anyone ever be converted? The answer is a resounding, NO! But, there is another question we need to consider. Who is it that sends preachers and kindles a fire in their hearts that cannot be extinguished? Will God ever leave himself without a witness or will he not insure the execution of his purpose by raising up messengers to accomplish it? The question is whether God needs means and methods other than those he has prescribed in Scripture to execute his sovereign purpose? Is there any possibility God’s propose will fail to be accomplished? Apparently, those who adhere to this movement believe these questions should be answered affirmatively.Does the Scripture say anything about whether God’s purpose is settled and certain to come to pass? Is God in danger of failing to get the job done if we don’t find some new methods of evangelism and church growth? To answer these questions we need only appeal to one Old Testament passage. The LORD, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, said,Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,' Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it (Isa. 46:9-11).This Scripture, among a host of others, makes it clear that all God has purposed will certainly come to pass. He has not even left the execution of his plan to us but calls the man who executes His counsel from a far country. He who has ordained the end of all things has also ordained the means by which that end will be accomplished.It is clear many who have engaged in the work of ministry either have never been introduced to or have dismissed out of hand the biblical truth that God is governing all his creatures and all their actions in strict accordance with his eternal plan and purpose. For them, the whole idea that the success or even the survival of his work depends on him, not us, is a bizarre concept. On the other hand, those in this movement who have professed to embrace this truth of God’s sovereignty must have yielded to the idea that God is unable to accomplish His purpose by those God-ordained and time-honored means through which in former days He has shown himself so powerful. Such an outlook can only spring from a heart of unbelief. Stephen Charnock, describing Israel’s unwillingness to trust God’s provision for them in the desert and His promise to give them their inheritance, writes,
How did they contract the almightiness of God into the littleness of a little man, as if he must needs sink under the sword of a Cananite!This distrust must arise either from a flat atheism, a denial of the being of God or his government of the world, or unworthy conceits of a weakness in him, that he had made creatures to hard for himself, that he were not strong enough to grapple with those mighty Anakims, and give them the possession of Canaan against so great a force. Distrust of him implies, either that he was alway destitute of power, or that his power is exhausted by his former works, or that it is limited and near a period; it is to deny him to be the creator that moulded heaven and earth. Why should we by distrust put a slight upon that power which he hath so often expressed, and which in the minutest works of his hands surmounts the force of the sharpest of understanding?3

At this point, we simply need to remind ourselves of the prophet Isaiah’s words concerning God’s power to save. He wrote, "Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; nor is his ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you" (Isa. 59:1-2).

Presupposition Three:The Unconverted are to be Evangelized in the Church
The third presupposition on which this movement seems to base its practice is that the church is the place to evangelize sinners. In reality, God has given no commandment for sinners to come to church. Instead, he commands the church to go to sinners. The church is an assembly of God’s called out people. There is only one instance in the New Testament Scriptures of an unconverted person being in the assembly of God’s people, and in that case it is spoken of as a happenstance, ". . .and what if one should come in who is unlearned or an unbeliever. . ." ( 1 Cor. 14:23)? Evangelism is to occur in the world outside after the people of God have been instructed and built up through the solid exposition of the Scripture.I am not suggesting it is wrong for the unconverted to attend the meetings of the church. What I am asserting is that if an unconverted person should attend a meeting of God’s people, he or she should do so to observe how Christians worship their God, not to be entertained and made to feel comfortable in their rebellion against God.

Our message to the unconverted is not that it is O. K. to have fun in church. For those who are devoted to Christ, God’s worship and the edification of the saints will be a joyous experience, but God does not intend sinners to feel comfortable in the assembly of his people. In the passage cited above concerning the unbeliever who stumbles into the assembly, Paul suggests what would happen if every believer in attendance should proclaim God’s truth. He writes,But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so; falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you (1 Cor. 14:24-25).The proponents of this movement seem to believe conversion occurs because sinners feel so comfortable with the people of God they will eventually join us. Never in history have the unconverted felt comfortable with true Christians. Jesus himself prophesied that the attitude of the world toward believers would be one of antipathy and loathing. Jesus said,If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love his own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also (John 15: 18-20).Additionally, James informs us that friendship with the world is hostility toward God. Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world, makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4). Yet, the design of the seeker-friendly movement is to make the church so much like the world that the world will make friends with it.

Presupposition Four:If We Give People What They Are Looking for in a Church, We Are More Likely to Get Them Converted Than If We Continued To "Do Church" in the Traditional Way.

This is another point that may be lost on those who are committed to a man-centered, "free-will" theology, but it is, nevertheless, biblical truth. The reality is, at the end of the day not one of those whom God had marked out for himself will be found outside the fold. Pay close attention to Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:28-30. He wrote,And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.He informs his readers that those who love God are those who have been called effectually by his grace. We know this call is not universal but effectual because those who are called are also declared righteous (v.30). This is not true of those who are merely invited by the proclamation of the gospel. He then informs us that this call is according to God’s electing purpose. Even if we should assume the word "foreknew" refers to no more than God’s foresight of what decision sinners would make in response to the gospel, the number of those who would believe would be equally as fixed as if we understood God’s choice to be without condition in its objects. Whatever "foreknew" means, only those who are thus foreknown will be called, justified, or glorified. It matters not what means we use or fail to use, God will ultimately save all those he has chosen and foreknown.Of course, those who defend the seeker-friendly movement might argue that God also foresaw their use of non-biblical means to accomplish this end, but if God is certain to glorify all his chosen ones, why not accomplish his work using the means he has prescribed?Jesus said, "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16). He doesn’t say he will bring them only if someone will be clever enough to devise new methods of "doing church" so that the goats will feel comfortable with the sheep. No, he is certain to bring them to the fold as we, his people, are faithful in employing the biblical means he has prescribed.

Presupposition Five:Paraphrases of the Scripture that Omit or Mangle the Original Meaning of the Text are as Authoritative as the Scripture Itself as Long as the SpeakerCan Use Them to Support the Point He Wants to Make.

This is one of the presuppositions we must detect from observation, since there is likely no statement of this belief from any leader of this movement or practitioner of this philosophy. Still, this must be one of their beliefs since their writings and lectures are most often composed of a collection of witty sayings and pop-psychology buttressed by an occasional reference to a paraphrase of the Scripture that is often ripped from its context and robbed of its original meaning. We need to understand that a paraphrase is merely someone’s idea of what a text means and should not be trusted as if it were the Word of God. Often the proof the speaker is seeking rests on words or phrases not even occurring in the Hebrew or Greek Texts. In this way, they seek cunningly to camouflage the Scriptures to make them more palatable to their carnal hearers. This practice is very similar to glazing bitter pills with a sugar coating to make them easier to swallow. Additionally, hearers can go away with the illusion that they have done something religious since the preacher has told them this is what the Bible says.

Presupposition Six: Declaring the Whole Counsel of God is Unimportant as Long asThose Who Attend Feel Good When They Leave the Church.

Closely related to presupposition five, is the idea that it is no longer important to declare the whole counsel of God to his people. This, too, is a presupposition detected by observation. People tend to talk about those matters that are important to them, but seeker-friendly pastors tend to be extremely limited in the scope of their teaching. They seem to believe human relationships are more important than a right relationship with God. It seems the idea of declaring the whole counsel of God never enters the mind of the average modern pastor. They seem satisfied as long as they can convince their hearers they are doing something religious and can collect their salaries. Do they believe sinners will be converted more readily if they conceal from them the whole truth about God’s character and his plan for the redemption of his people? In truth, one wonders if they even care about teaching biblical truth. How will saints or sinners ever come to know and understand God and his character if such Pastors continue to present only a caricature of the biblical God?The antidote for both these presuppositions is a return to systematic, expository preaching based on a sound and careful exegesis4 of the biblical text coupled with appropriate practical application to the hearers’ lives. If the current trend in the modern pulpit should continue, our churches will produce an entire generation that is clueless about the meaning of the biblical text and about the major doctrines the Bible. We would do well to remember the L’s words through Hosea, the prophet, who wrote, "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children’" (Hosea 4:6). For decades now, in their infinite wisdom pastors have decided it was preferable to give their hearers the skim milk diet they were crying for instead of serving up the meat of the word. In so doing, they have produced a generation of pigmy Christians who are unable to hear the solid truth of Scripture.You are no doubt familiar with the recent controversy about removing a feeding tube from a young woman named Terri Schivo, allowing her to starve to death. Mrs. Schivo had been in a vegetative state for fifteen years. There was testimony to the effect that during that period she could have been taught through physical therapy to eat and drink on her own. Had that course of action been followed, there would have been no need for the insertion of a feeding tube. Once the feeding had been inserted, she passively received nourishment but had no ability to obtain nourishment for herself. She was totally dependent on her caregivers for any sustenance they chose to give her. I suggest this is analogous to the current spiritual circumstance of God’s people. Instead of training them to masticate the spiritual food of the Word of God for themselves, Pastors seem to have chosen to insert a spiritual feeding tube for their hearers, thus rendering them incapable of obtaining their own spiritual sustenance.

Presupposition Seven:If It Is Working, It Must be Good

The problem with this faulty presupposition is it fails to define what "working" means. If "working" means it is attracting a large number of people, Roman Catholicism is "good," Islam is "good," porn sites on the internet are, "good," and we could go on and on. The Bible does not measure success this way. Instead, the biblical writers describe success in terms to faithfulness to the revealed will of God. If we are disobedient to God, we have failed, even if thousands applaud our disobedience.Presupposition EightConversion, in the Biblical Sense, Is Unimportant
It is altogether likely the leaders of this movement would be strident in their denial of this presupposition. They would insist they believe that at some point the unconverted need to become Christians. Yet, the emphasis of their ministry seems to be radically different from that of biblical Christianity. It seems the plan of operation is to teach the unconverted how to handle relationship issues and other matters in a Christian fashion in the hope that they will gradually embrace the Christian faith. Anyone who has read, The Purpose Driven Life, by Pastor Rick Warren, will surely recognize that he consistently addresses his readers as though they are believers. There is one brief passage in which he superficially alludes to a person’s need to become a Christian, but it is a far cry from the kind of conversion demanded by the Scriptures.I recently heard a sermon series entitled "Extreme Makeover" preached by a pastor who calls himself "seeker-sensitive." He spoke about the need for an alteration of a number of our body parts due to the practice of Christian duties. For example, he spoke about having rough knees because we have been involved in prayer. What one would have expected but was missing from this series was a message on the sinner’s need of a heart transplant. Nothing less than that kind of radical change is demanded by the gospel. The gospel doesn’t demand that we repeat a prayer, walk an aisle, or sign a card; it demands a radical change of heart that is above our feeble power to perform.It has now been almost half a century since James Packer penned his Introduction to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. In that brief introductory essay, he warned that Evangelicalism was loosing its grip on the biblical gospel. We should have listened. The following is an excerpt from that introduction.

There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character andcontent. It fails to make man God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be "helpful" to man to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was "helpful" too more so, indeed, than is the new but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down ad worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its centre of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the centre of reference is man. This is to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the
chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.5
One reason the seeker-sensitive is so easily accepted by the average church member is that it is not really wholly new. It is simply another step on the slippery slope away from the biblical gospel that has been occurring for decades.

WHAT MUST WE DO TO CORRECT THIS ERROR?
Evaluation

The first step we must take is to evaluate the circumstance in which we find ourselves. Before Nehemiah began his great task of wheeling away the rubbish and rebuilding the Jerusalem wall, he spent time evaluating the situation. The following is his account of that reconnaissance mission, Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work. Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach" (Neh 2:12-17).You may have noticed that Nehemiah did not take pride in being without walls as some do in our day. He saw it as a reproach. A church without walls is a church without defense and without definition. There may be rubbish we need to cart away and foundations we need to rediscover before we can begin to build again. Building on a rubbish heap is a futile task. Paul wrote, "Put all things to the test, hold fast to what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).
Encourage Faithful Leaders
If, using the criteria listed above, we discover the church to which we belong has not yet started down this slippery slope, we should be extremely grateful. If God has led us to a church home where the pastor regularly preaches the Scriptures in an expository and practical manner, we should thank God for such a manifest blessing. In our day, such a blessing has become exceedingly rare. Not only should we express our gratitude to God; we should also encourage the leaders of our assembly as they continue to pursue this kind of emphasis.

Confront False Shepherds

If, on the other hand, we should discover we are involved in a church whose leadership has embraced a philosophy such as we have described above, it is time to take action. You not only have the right to question such leaders, it is your duty to do so. Any leader who minimizes the importance of theologically sound, expository preaching, theologically solid hymns of worship, and biblical principles of evangelistic outreach, must be called to account. If the leaders of your assembly refuse to hear your concerns, you have no other recourse but to seek a ministry with these biblical emphases. If you cannot find such a ministry, perhaps it is time to start one. If you can do nothing but meet with a group of like-minded believers in a home for a time, such action is preferable to continuing under a God-dishonoring ministry.

A Word to Pastors

There is no room in the Christian ministry for cowards. If we are controlled by our fear of the world’s frown, we have no right to be called Christ’s servants. In his Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote, "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Gal 1:10). We should subscribe to the words of the old saint who wrote,

Careless, myself a dying man,
Of dying men’s esteem;
Happy, Oh God, if Thou approve,
Though all beside condemn.
Writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul described a time when hearers would refuse to tolerate the solid truth of the Word of God. There can be little doubt we are living in one such time. It is important for us to remember the Apostle’s instructions for times such as these. He wrote,I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim 4:1-5).It is altogether likely if you should obey these words during such times, you will not lead the largest and fastest growing church in your area. Most likely, fleshly hearers will find your preaching boring and will search for teachers who are more entertaining. You may find yourself financially strapped since unconverted sinners don’t tend to support financially preachers who refuse to prophesy smooth things to them. Most often they will seek out preachers who will make them feel happy as they continue to live in open rebellion to God.If the only people unhappy with your ministry are those seeking a deeper understanding of God’s will as revealed in his Word, don’t you think it is time for you to begin to question the validity of your direction? If those happy with your direction are the ones who wish to have their ears tickled, don’t you think it is time for a major ministry overhaul?Take the time and expend the energy necessary to prepare and deliver theologically and biblically sound expository messages. Teach God’s people what the Scriptures mean in the context in which they were written. Draw your applications from the text. Don’t develop a message consisting of your ideas then try to support those ideas by searching about for some paraphrase that contains a related word or phrase. Even if you should teach some good and helpful truths, you will never teach your hearers what the Scriptures truly teach.If you should follow the Apostle’s admonition, it is likely you will never be the most popular preacher in town. You may not drive the car of your dreams or live in the nicest house in your neighborhood. You may experience the intense disfavor of the ungodly. There are many reasons for refusing the charge God has given. Please ignore them.Why must you be faithful in preaching God’s Word? There is but one compelling reason; you will one day hear the Lord of the church say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Soli Deo Gloria!

15 Comments:

At 10:16 AM, Blogger the blog times said...

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At 10:17 AM, Blogger TS said...

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At 1:10 PM, Blogger dwainhuron49272437 said...

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At 10:56 AM, Blogger GospelFriendly said...

Which "seeker-friendly" churches and how many times have you personally attended Randy?

 
At 11:51 AM, Blogger Bob said...

This article must have taken a boat load of time to write. I'm just curious. Do spend as much time trying to reach people for Jesus as you do putting down people that are?

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger TheGoodWord said...

Sorry about the stupid ads that get blogged on here.

And sorry that other bloggers have criticized you but not your argument.

I, for one, agree wholeheartedly! Praise God that you are heradling the truth of this heresy to the world. Please don;t be dissuaded by nay-sayers--you will be rewardewd for your faithfulness in Heaven!

I am also trying to get the word out about this problem. Why have we left the Word of God behind in our attempts to gain numbers? Why have we lost faith in the Word of God to draw men to Christ.

I was never so relieved in my personal ministry as when I gave up on all of MY attempts to manipulate, grow, and build my own ministry. I heard the Lord tell me to teach HIS Word, not my own. And thank God I obeyed. I have nevre seen true growth, fruit, and change as now--ONLY to His praise! The Word of God is powerful to change hearts--NOT the machinations of man.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the laborers labor in vain!

I am passing this on to everyone I can!

D Brown
Fresno, CA

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger TheGoodWord said...

GOSPELFRIENDLY said:
Which "seeker-friendly" churches and how many times have you personally attended Randy?

One does not need to climb into the gutter to know that it is dirty. He's attacking the methods/theory, not the churches. After all, we would say that ALL LDS churches are cults without entering them, right?

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger TheGoodWord said...

BOB said:
This article must have taken a boat load of time to write. I'm just curious. Do spend as much time trying to reach people for Jesus as you do putting down people that are?

Typical SF response. Numbers again... Did you read the comments about "growing" vs. "swelling"? If growth were an indicator, then Islam would be true.

This is not an issue of opinions--this is a dangerous situation. Bloggers like Arrows Astray and others are trying to point out that the church is swallowing a glas of water laced with poison. Forget whether he personally saved men--listen to him! This is dangerous!

 
At 2:17 PM, Blogger Grace Writer said...

Let me respond to two posts in one. As GOODWORD has pointed out, these questions are aside from the issue. Still, I want to respond to them. Regretably, I have not spent nearly enough time proclaiming God's good news to sinners. I suspect not one of us has. I have spent the past thirty odd years of my life conducting evangelistic Bible studies in homes, writing and distributing tracts, distributing Christian books in Spanish in the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica. D.V. my wife and I intend to spend the final years of our lives in Costa Rica proclaiming God's good news.

However, my primary ministry has not been in the area of evangelism. As a pastor/teacher, I have understood my role as one of equiping believers to do the work of ministry. It is as God's people leave the church that evangelism occurs.

In regard to the number of times I have attended a SFC, I was recently a member of such a church, that became SF while I was there. I can tell you from first-hand observation, there was not enough gospel preached there to fill a thimble.

Thanks for visiting the blog site.

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Grace Writer said...

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At 11:34 AM, Blogger Aaron Kumlin said...

I think we can wrongly lump all SFC in one bag. Some who are "catagorized" as SFC are following the model or programming of another church that they have learned from. At times I will go to a church and hear a sermon I heard from another more popular pastor. They merely took the sermon and called it their own. I think it hinders the spiritual growth of the pastor which will inevitably affect the congregation.
The originators of SFC not only develop a language that communicates Christ to their immediate culture, but also avenues for disciple building. For all who listen to these innovators need to ask a different question. What is God seeking to innovate in me? So I can reach my immediate culture for God's glory and grace.

It may mean we allow God to press us out on the threshing floor so we can reap a great harvest.

 
At 6:32 AM, Blogger George said...

Thank you so much for writing this article. As a younger person called to ministry (early 30's), I've struggled with the very points you identified, but haven't always been able to articulate them. Thanks for giving words to some of my thoughts.

For the last 8 years my wife and I attended a solid biblically-based church in Phoenix. When we moved to another part of the country last year we began attending a small church (not really knowing what seeker-friendly was all about). At first, it is shrouded in good intentions and what sounds like biblical objectives, but over time you realize there is absolutely no depth there. No maturity through obedience. No teaching whatsoever on the attributes or character of God and that it is a wholly man-centered message. We respectfully approached the pastor about our concerns and the need for discipleship. He first shocked us by stating that he wasn't sure how to define discipleship and challenged us to define it. Later in the conversation he recommended that we find fellowship elsewhere.

It was a difficult time, but one that we are both grateful for. I believe that we live in a church-age that closely resembles the church of Laodicea and a time that Jesus talks about in Matt 24-25.

More than ever we need to stand firm in the faith delivered to the saints once and for all and pray for leaders as Paul prayed in Eph 1:15-21.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger SadinHeart said...

Thank you for writing the article. There's not many Christians who will take the time to express what's really going on in today's "Christian" churches. My family and I moved from up north to Central Florida about 9 months ago. We searched the churches (as there are one in every corner), visited some and started attending a small one. It's sad to see how in the name of Jesus people are teaching. They don't offent the church goers. Example: Adultery is allowed and not reprimanded - "you gotta love 'em" is the mindsent. You can't go to a brother or sister in the Lord who's living in sin with the truth, because then we are "judging" them and "no one's perfect".

Where's the Christianity from the Bible?

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger SadinHeart said...

Thank you for writing the article. I came across this article as I did a search for good solid christian churces in my area. There's not many Christians who will take the time to express what's really going on in today's "Christian" churches. My family and I moved from up north to Central Florida about 9 months ago. We searched and researched the churches (as there are one in every corner), visited some.
It's sad to see how in the name of Jesus people are teaching. In some cases, Adultery is allowed, reprimanded, but no action taken by the pastor - "you gotta love 'em" is the mindsent. You can't go to a brother or sister in the Lord who's living in sin with the Truth, because then we are "judging" them and "no one's perfect".

Where's the Christianity from the Bible? Aren't we supposed be set apart. Yes we do sin as Christians, but we're not to live in sin - make a habit.

 
At 9:18 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Seeker Friendly “churches” are full of poison. The entire foundation that they are built upon is flawed. Once a “pastor” decides that he is going to transition “his” church after this model…look out, the changes are coming. As someone who has been in a Bible believing church that “transitioned” to attract the lost I can say first hand that the confusion this movement breeds and bringsclearly makes it a false gospel. Scripture is completely ignored by “leadership” and those who oppose or express concerns about their church being hijacked by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils are labeled as religous troublemakers who are stuck in the mud and hate change. The first thing you will notice is the changes in “how your church has church”. The music is ALWAYS the first change. Now isn’t that amazing? The very thing that Satan was trying to get from our Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness was God’s worship and that’s the first thing this movement goes after. Puzzling isn’t it?

Seeker Friendly churches/pastors are told that you have to use the kind of music that the target is used to hearing everyday. I thought God was the target of our Worship and not men. This confuses the beliver who is being bombarded by what he/she used to listen too. Even if this methology was true it still exposes another problem. By using music that targets a certain group,you are saying that they are exclusively who you are trying to “reach”. The overwhelmingly majority of the music in this movement targets white affluent Americans. You thought they were trying to reach everybody right? Not so!

Other changes you will begin to notice over a period of time is a change in terminology. The unsaved, ungodly and unredemmed are redefined as “Unchurched”. Conformity to the image of Christ is thrown out and cultural relevance is brought in. Multiple service times on the weekends because yuppies like having options to chose from. Your Sunday night and mid week service may become a thing of the past. You pastor will say it’s so that you can have more family time but it’s really not to interfere with the yuppie’s busy schedule. A starbucks type coffee bar will be brought in and the foyers will begin to look less like a church. Anything that represents a visual distinction from the world and wll be removed to provide a non offensive atmosphere. At some point your pastor might use a laptop at the pulpit instead of a Bible because that’s how he’s been taught to connect with the corporate business minded target he is after. It’s just a propt or visual aid like in a movie or show. The services will become very very short because the unchurched yuppie cannot endure long services. Funny, they have no problem watching a 3 hour NFL game, a long golf round, hours of television or movie theaters or hours of the home shopping network. How can God require them to sit in a long service, they have lives to live! The true Holy Spirit would NEVER stoop to such spiritual non sense. This movement is full of error!

This movement is also full of manipulation, intimidation, control and subtility. When a member of the congregation begins to express concerns about the changes in their church,they don’t even know that their pastor has been trained by the church growth gurus in how to counter them.

They will sound so spiritual when they say things like…” the vision” or “God’s vision for the house”, and they will try and change the minds and convictions of the flock to get them on board. My post is not an attack on Pastors but it is an attack on this movement that is false doctrine and a false gospel. I have mentioned no names and no names of churches. Usually a combination of 3 things will happen when a congregation member expresses concern about this ungodly spirit of change in their church.
1.The pastor or leadership will attempt to get the member to embrace the changes. The pastor has made his mind up, sat in meetings and considered the cost and has determined he is transitioning “his” church with you or without you.
2. You are either going to embrace the changes or begin to pray and seek God about leaving. If the Lord directs you to leave you will be confronted by that church with…this is your covering you cannot leave or you need to submit to delegated authority. If you are at a place where you notice changes in your church play time is over and this is serious. You must pray and stay in the word because you know the truth now. Don’t let anything or anyone pull you away from the Lord, the Word and prayer. The startling thing about “covering” is this. If you initially came there from another church why didn’t they tell you to go back to your “covering”? But now it’s time to move on somewhere else and……that’s a problem for them. It affects the numbers which is the chief motivator of those who let thismovement into their churches.
3. Something is going to happen. Either the pastor is going to be awaken by the Lord and get the movement out, you are going to change and become part of it or you are going to leave. The people that trained the pastors in this movement also trained them how to deal with opposition. If he is determined to go the way he is going and you are determined to stand with God and the truth, there will be a confrontation. Once they see you will not change and give up your beliefs(that were engraved in you by the Holy Spirit) they are going to kick you out. The same people who told you in previous steps that you could not leave because they were your covering will now tell you you have to leave. When you pray and research this movement and test it with scripture you must conclude that it is the working of deceiving spirits. It is our Heavely Father who convicts and draws men to Jesus Christs for repentance and conversion not our marketing gimmicks or latest trends. Shame on the American Church!

Prior to entering the ministry men must spend time in God’s school of hard knocks. It’s called the wilderness. It’s in this place that we die to self, ungodly ambition, and the unquenchable thirst to be one of the “Big Don’s” of modern day ministry. The wilderness is a place of stripping and filling and a place of preparation. Jesus had a wilderness, Paul had a wilderness, Moses had a wilderness and even Elijah had to learn dependence upon God when his brookdried up. The American Gospel of Accomodation is the only place where it seems more energy is spent trying to avoid God’s place of preparation than just surrenduring and letting Him have His way in us and through us.

My heart grieves at what I see happening to God’s people. The Apostasy is here! We must pray that God will raise up men and provide his people with true shepards who will love them and protect them from error regardless of personal cost. When the remnant begins to leave these modern day so called “churches” they must have somewhere to go and not become spiritually homeless or worse go back to the house of compromise and carnality.

 

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