Making Way for the New and Improved Church
We are watching a metamorphosis take place inside the church at large. Some call it a movement of positive alternatives to doing church, others see it as a trend. What we see is many moving from a biblical emphasis to anecdotal storytelling and experimenting with new methods invented by men which incorporates worldly ideas for church practices. Pragmatism is being practiced in the place of biblical teaching accompanied by faith- if it works it is accepted.
Some well known names have endorsed and become party of this new paradigm. Leaders have risen that have the intent of changing the way we do church.
This whole movement have become much bigger than Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven____ ; it now has a life of its own. It is further being developed by many who joined in the new paradigm. Warren in his Peace Plan has pronounced that, “we intend to reinvent mission strategy in the 21st century.” “As I stated, this will be a new Reformation. “It will be a reformation of purpose- what the church DOES in the world.” In changing the way the church does ministry has also changed the way we do church.
At best it is a mixture of both biblical principles and philosophies of men (with business practices), at worst it is a removal from the foundation the apostles built for the church to stand on. Isa. 30:1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin.” Everyone needs to make to their mind whether this is in agreement with God's word or not.
What we find is that the gospel itself is softened to appeal to the what they call spiritual consumers; to “enlarge the churches borders.” Lest we forget, Jesus is God and He knows how to build a church, His church has been continually built for almost 2,000 years. Our trying to implement successful business practices to help this growth seems pathetic to the one who is “ before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17) who holds all things together by the word of his power. “who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 2:1).
Many are not discerning what is now emerging, they are not using common sense to see-- much less biblical sense to understand what is taking place. They have no idea what the church is changing to. By the time we arrive at the destination they have for us it will be too late.
The Robert Schuller model (aka Rick Warren) is what is now being popularized, having the church takes instructions from unchurched people (unbelievers is more accurate) in their community so they may build a church to cater to them as unbelievers. They think this will make them believers. The new evangelicalsm is market-driven. They gather for a good time at a comfortable church building with hip music, with entertainment and listen to a pastor who is trying to relate to them by telling stories and jokes sprinkled with some exposure to the Bible. The crowd grows as this method of seeker-sensitivity is practiced. They then justify it is God blessing their numbers. Does anyone with Biblical knowledge not see something wrong with this? Filling up the church is not revival unless the heart of the people are changed. Anyone can be spiritual at a church gathering, but are they spiritual the other days of the week beside Sunday.
Because of his great success, Rick Warren’s books and methods have become the newest way to do church, many searching to expand their borders use these christianized business strategies to build themselves a mega-church.
Warrens mentor, Peter Drucker, says, “All institutions, including governments, churches, universities, and so on, will become more interdependent, more market- and customer-driven” (Peter F. Drucker Leader to Leader, No. 1 Summer 1996). This involves a compromise to achieve a harmonious working social relationships between two opposing belief systems. To do this both the secular and the sacred (the church) it must be cohesively integrated in various ways. We are watching that synthesis taking place now at various levels.
Bob Buford is one of Drucker's disciples, he founded Leadership Network in 1984. They believe a new paradigm is needed for the 21st century church with new tools and resources for the emerging young leaders of tomorrows church. Leadership Network is like the hub that supplies and connects all the new paradigm churches together. Bob Buford says, “the church of the 21st century is reforming itself to a multifaceted service operation.” Because of their worldly methods church leaders reach out to the “consumer” by thinking like him (post-moderns) and offering to him what he is searching for. Like a shopper looking for a product he has found himself at a certain store because it has just the right color, size and price. However, we should not forget that if we are pleasing men then we are no longer pleasing God. Do we give them what they need according to our Lord or what they want in their sinful state? We need to know whom we are serving and the correct way to evangelize otherwise it can no longer be called evangelism.
To understand what this is about we need to take a short look at the root and its influences.
Peter Wagner head apostle of all apostles writes, “About the same time, I began studying church growth under my mentor, Donald McGavran. He taught me to be relentless about discovering where churches were growing vigorously and why God was blessing them. No sooner did I develop “church growth eyes” than I began to be aware of the tremendous surge in the Pentecostal movement in Latin America, especially in Chile. So I traveled there from time to time and looked in on the Pentecostals” (p.22-23 Third Wave of the Holy Spirit).
Peter Wagner served as a missionary in Bolivia and was appointed in 1971 to the Donald McGavran Chair of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary School of World Missions. He became the successor to McGavran and authored numerous books on Church Growth. And became known as a missions strategist at Fuller theological (which is now a liberal Bible college).
Church Growth pioneers are always was looking for a reason why one church is growing and another is not growing. If they can find a method, a reason why, they can duplicate it and make it happen elsewhere. Wagner who is into packaging methodologies (ie. spiritual warfare) noticed that certain Pentecostal groups were growing in Latin America and one of the things he deduced from this was that miracles and signs and wonders must be the key. Much more can be understood about Wagner through his book Church Growth State of the Art with Win Arn and Elmer Towns.
Peter Wagner in his Church Growth book defines what this is all about, “A group of pastors, denominational executives, missionary, professors and other Christian leaders who allow their ministries to be governed by Donald McGavran and fellow participants in the Church Growth Movement” (Church Growth: State Of The Art, 1986, p. 284, by Peter Wagner, Win Arn, Elmer Towns).
The fact that Wagner who heads up the new (false) apostle prophet network is one of the sources of this certainly cannot be coincidence (he states God is now putting the foundation of the church in place). Neither can we overlook that Rick Warren received his D. MIN. in 1993 under Peter Wagner at Fuller (New Churches for a new Generation: Church Planting to Reach Baby Boomers. A Case Study: The Saddleback Valley community Church). It is all coming out of Fuller Theological Seminary that has gone through the new paradigm years ago.
Rick Warren who is now looked to as the leader of this new way of doing church can hardly claim his main promotion is to give understanding to God’s word when he writes in his best-selling Purpose Driven Life book, “The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice” (p.231).
I have found that this simply not so. That we cannot get enough of studying God’s word, especially from good teachers that give us a hunger to hear more. When I go to Church or study and the teacher is really doing an expository teaching of the word I want to hear more not less. But this is the modus operandi of this movement-- less is more. In fact this is the opposite of what Jesus said, we are to live on the word of God. And when we neglect it, it will show in our lives. Just look at the overall church today and see the anemic influence we have on the world. We do need MORE Bible study; in fact some people need to go back to the basics to start all over again. In fact Warren has stated he does not teach on prophesy. Prophecy happens to take up one third of the Bible. Considering that much of what we are living in today would pertain to Jesus instructions on the end times this is intentionally being negligent on delivering the whole counsel of God to sheep.
Because of this new model we have a weakness in the church-- because of a synthesis with culture; instead of our influence on those in the secular world, we (the modern church) have adopted its current trends and fashions. This has become a sad chapter in the history of the church and certainly not a surprise, as we are told in Scripture what the last days church would be like—Laodicea- men ruling. Do we understand what the word of God is being replaced by? Instead of Bible studying and learning the word so we can know Him and have His power to do His work, we have various substitutes to choose from.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1John 2:15). How can we justify taking worldly ideas and concepts and Christianize them to be practiced in the church. There needs to be some separateness of the secular from the sacred. We are to be in the world but not of it. A Church is not to be run like business, it is to be different than anything found in the world. The world’s values are in opposition to the Bible’s, so why go there? A famous man once said, “In the eyes of the dialectical philosophy nothing is established for all times, nothing is absolute or sacred” that man was Karl Marx.
Let me give an example that is becoming popular. One church in Hawaii has once a month church service for everyone, from the young to old. A short message is accompanied by live music and prize giveaways. A hot meal is served, and money is given to the first 100, and a drawing for prizes. It’s fun-- its fresh and it is doing good in the community. But as a church what message does these types of action send? Is this how we want to attract people to set foot in the church? There is a saying, “What you win them by is what you win them to.” How does this offer a solution to the problems they live with?
Their Church Growth Principles: “World wide truths which, when properly applied along with other principles, contribute significantly to the growth of the church” (Church Growth: State Of The Art, 1986, p. 284, by Peter Wagner, Win Arn, Elmer Towns). In other words whatever works can be applied and we see this in action today.
When the church caters to a market driven culture by using the culture, its man-made philosophies, it forfeits the protection Christ has for it. This changes the church from being Christ centered to man centered. If we don’t know the difference in making quality Christians, mature servants instead of just church members we will buy into these new methodologies. “Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. Who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord.” To gather our methods and practices from the world and tag the name of Jesus on it to sanctify the secular is a lack of faith. Faith in God’s word is what we are to exercise to please God, not mans.
We are not to mix business concepts in our evangelistic efforts; demographics is an advertising technique. If the church uses business methods instead of prayer how can the Holy Spirit who is to draw people to the savior be at work? You then become more dependent upon the method more than God. We have then rejected God’s way of doing things. But we have become unconcerned about the Biblical basis of our methods, only that it works. And if it works, well, why not use it? Despite it being a very non- biblical method of evangelism. In its place are people drawn to a building that has been lavishly changed to make them comfortable. The seeker sensitive churches are basing their church structure on human leaders and methodologies to build the church. Jesus said He would build the Church. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten this and opted to help him along. This is not unlike Sarah’s advice to Abraham taking his handmaiden Hagar to get the promise of God quicker.
Here is an example of the new way to reach those postmoderns: An ad in one magazine read, “Jesus with dirty feet” saying “most folks think of Jesus as a man who started Christianity. But it turns out he wasn’t just a man, and he didn’t just start out Christianity. He had dirty feet, partied, cooked breakfast and got himself killed” (Outreach magazine).
I have not read the book but if this is how it is being presented I don’t want to read it. Although I understand it may appeal to others especially with this catchy title and ad promo. Is this a good way to attract people, he cooked, partied and got himself killed? What does party mean to the youth generation of today? Jesus ate with the sinners and may have drunk some wine with his meal, but does this mean he partied. This is sending a wrong image and message, it sounds like a Jesus of the world. This is bending over backwards to sell them something for them to relate to. Did Jesus get himself killed or did he give His life willingly for the people he loved to save them. This sounds so crass and mundane.
We are making God so user friendly that it becomes so easy for everyone to say yes to church, but what about yes to Jesus. Do they teach to pick up our cross and die to self as Jesus required? How can you tell people to die to the attraction of worldly influences if you adapt the world’s mannerisms into the Church? There is something very fundamentally wrong with this concept-- it not only lacks grounding from the Scriptures but goes against it.
When the visible differences between the Church and the world are reduced to a minimum, we can no longer be distinguished from them. Paul’s emphasis contrasted the way the world works and the way God’s people should. Notice Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world.” Christ prayed for the church in Jn.17:14-19 of our being in the world but not of it by being sanctified by the truth as Jesus was set apart to live for the truth. The church is supposed to look and act different from the world not imitate it. Our pattern is not to imitate the world but Christ. Wherever the world’s ways are accepted in connection with the name and work of the Lord, there is compromise and leaven does not go away unless it is purged.
At the biggest church in the country, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week -- and sin is not on the menu. Osteen said his goal is to “give people a boost for the week.”
“I think for years there's been a lot of hellfire and damnation. You go to church to figure out what you're doing wrong and you leave feeling bad like you're not going to make it,” Osteen said. ”We believe in focusing on the goodness of God.”
Critics say magachurches' party-like atmosphere takes the spirituality out of Sunday services.
“It tends to be a guilt-free, sin-free environment,” said Woodward. “These places are a bit too bubbly. ... It's very chummy with God.”
Some Lakewood qualities that appeal to a younger set are “the best lighting and the best sound system,” a youth ministry program that attracts hundreds, and every service kicks off with 30 minutes of upbeat contemporary music -- not hymns -- played by a live band.
“It's not a churchy feel,” Osteen, 40, said. “We don't have crosses up there. We believe in all that, but I like to take the barriers down that have kept people from coming. A lot of people who come now are people that haven't been to church in 20 to 30 years.” (For more on what Osteen believes)
The seriousness of traditional churches scared many parishioners away, Osteen said, but the warm hug delivered by megachurches like his is bringing them back.
“I think it's a place of life and victory,” he said. “They want to be encouraged and uplifted.” But Woodward said this approach to religion isn't helping parishioners.
“If I'm already a pretty good guy, why do I have to go to church to hear that?” he asked. ”Sin really has disappeared from the pulpit. lt's too much of a downer, I'm afraid.”
Wise also doesn't agree with the idea of cloaking religion in church in order to boost numbers. “I guess I kind of thought that was what church was about,” he said.
“I don't see how you could put God first in your life if all you're going to do is go to church and feel good about being there. I enjoy good music and a good sermon, but what did you really get out of the message?”(Fox News, February 03, 2004 By Amy C. Sims)
A Mustard Tree Church
On the growing mega church phenomenon Amy Sims reports “These massive holy houses attract churchgoers by the thousands with celebratory services that tout contemporary music, television screens and sermons that aren't “churchy,” according to the pastor of the nation's largest church. But critics say the sin-free pep rallies don't encourage personal transformation and reflection, keystones of religion” (Fox News, February 03, 2004 By Amy C. Sims)
The message becomes short in its place are more anecdotal stories and jokes. It has become very popular to preach Christ without the discomfort of the cross. They want to diminish the offense of the cross to increase attendance. This is hardly an instruction that would come from the apostles—consider Paul who stated “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Paul’s message was not any different than all the apostles “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23). The apostles preached Christ crucified. They did not attract people by their ability to tell stories, or share their adventures and the miracles they did. In an age of putting people on a pedestal and making them stars, we had better not forget that the messenger saves no one, it is the message that saves; and that message is the ancient gospel. Paul told the Roman believers “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation.” The Gospel is God’s ministry to fallen mankind. But if you are ministering to felt needs of sinners then you cannot be explaining the gospel. Because the focus is then on them, what they feel, their views of life not God’s view of them. Jesus did not minister in this way and certainly the apostles He trained did not either.
The model church today is Rick Warrens (Bill Hybels etc.). Do people even know how he has arrived at his conclusions? Rick Warren describes his church like this: “Saddleback is kind of the Research and Development department of the church at large. We're not afraid to fail. We've always tried more things that didn't work than did. Every once in a while we find - usually by accident-something that works. Then we teach the seminars and pretend like we planned it all along, when really it was just the result of trial and error” (Rick Warren, http://www.christianity.net/leadership/7L3/7L3022.html )
By accident they find what works! If they went by the Book (the Bible) there would not be any accidents or use of trial and error. Warren being interviewed on the a well known radio program that now promotes his methods explained, “we try something and it doesn’t work, we try something else, 99 out of 100 don’t work, we find one that works then we go out and teach a seminar and pretend like we know what we are doing in the first place.” This is not funny. Who would want to learn from someone like this? Where’s the Holy Spirit in all this? Has not God given us the instructions, the guidelines to follow? Why not do it God’s way?
In his book the Purpose Driven Church Warren says, “Never criticize any method that God is blessing” (p. 156). The question that needs to be asked is, if it’s not biblically based, how can it be God’s way or have his blessing? Rick Warren also stated, “I contend that when a church continues to use methods that no longer work it is being unfaithful to Christ.” Are we using methods that are passé, archaic or are we to be using God’s instructions from his book that are there for all time. Let me refer back to his own concept of trial and error, using experiments to find one that what works. And what if HE CHANGES what he once used? Not thinking this concept through, he has put himself in this same category.
Consider Paul, he was just the right Jew to be sent back to the Jews, he knew the laws and was more zealous than them all before his conversion. But whom did God send Paul to? The Gentiles; that’s a bad application to Middle East demographics. But human wisdom is not God’s wisdom. God’s power is perfected in our weaknesses.
Church members do not equal believers and we should never get this confused. Those who believed were “added to the Church” “Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:13-14). Fear kept people from joining the church. That's not seeker sensitive at all. They were holy- separate form the world and the world had respect. They did not compromise to have more join their group, they did not make themselves look like they were major influence, they actually were. “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:3).
Paul says in contrast of those who do not believe “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18). A God fearing group will want to do things God's way, as it is written, not mans way as it is invented. They will have faith and depend on God for the results not make it happen in the flesh.
Was Jesus Seeker Sensitive?
This is an important question because it goes straight to the heart of the new ways of doing church. Scripture says, “he came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). What does lost mean? Unchurched (according to Hybels and Warren)? Or Unsaved according to the Bible. You can still be lost going to church.
But was Jesus seeker sensitive? No, Jesus was not seeker sensitive. Mt.13:11-12 explains He purposely spoke in parables to hide the truth from those who rejected him and His message, and revealed the truth to those who were seeking truth. His Preaching and teaching the truth attracted the few but repelled the many. He had a purpose in His ways.
Jesus was not after great numbers but great sincerity, and an earnestness to know truth. Our goal should be the same. If you preach the truth uncompromisingly you can expect not to gain as many as you will lose. That’s the way it's been, that’s the way it will always be.
Many look to expand the membership of their church quickly? Jesus didn’t look for an increase of crowds. In fact when the crowds were at their peak Jesus gave them hard statements to understand to diminish them. He said, You must eat my flesh and drink my blood, He explained “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” In John 6:66-69 because they were unable to understand “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” They left him. They did not stumble over what He did but what He said. This is important as we compare it to the seeker friendly model of church today. Jesus did not go after them to help their misunderstanding, He turned to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away? He didn’t make it more comfortable for them to stay. Peter had enough sense to answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. “We have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (referring back to his revelation in Mt.16). It is just as important to know who He is to follow His words or you can't be faithful. Something that is also neglected in seeker sensitive meetings.
Lets look at Jesus' evangelism to understand how he reached individuals. A rich religious youth came to Jesus and asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Look at Jesus’ exchange with the rich young ruler, he did not make it easy, in fact he used the law to make him guilty and then told him to give away all that he had to the poor, not to Jesus. And he needed to follow him. Jesus didn’t make it easy and say, well come back when you can and don’t forget to bring your money too. The Lord allowed the ruler to depart, he did not negotiate the truth or make it easier.
Matthew 19:16-26: “Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said,” ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The rich young man was seeking an answer, he had no idea what he lacked to receive eternal life. He was familiar with his religion but he was ignorant of carrying out what was required. As Jesus went through the commandments that had to do with his horizontal relationship to men the young man acquitted himself of any guilt; done that. “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus continued to press the law into his heart so that the sin that blocked him would be made known to him, coveting, compassion for others. It is the light of the law that puts an x-ray on our sinful heart. The rich man may have thought he kept the law but when it was applied personally he knew he was deficient. The law; an explanation of what sin is has to be part of our Gospel presentation. To a Jew of the first century they were familiar with Moses and they were practicing Judaism (though it was corrupted by Pharisaism), they could understand. Today, Gentile’s (and even most Jews) do not have a clue what any of this means. Unfortunately, many of the ones delivering the message do not also. They are not prepared to discuss the matters of the soul and God’s view of man. Today’s “new gospel offer” is not concerned with the detrimental harm of sin.
Jesus did not lower his standard or soften any requirements for entrance into His kingdom. The covetous man still want to hold to their riches and give up nothing to the Lord calls “follow me.” God cannot save any man who continues to serve Mammon. It's one or the other. One must chose having treasures on earth or treasures in Heaven. No man can serve God and Mammon at the same time (Mammon was not just money, Matthew 6:24). The requirement is repentance, admitting I have sinned in loving my riches more than God and those in need around me. For salvation the young ruler had to forsake it by an action--giving it to the poor and then follow Jesus.
The Lord allowed the ruler to depart, he did not negotiate the truth and make it easier. Notice right afterwards the disciples reaction. “When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The worst of sinners to the sinner with the highest morals each have their own obstacle.
So this rich man could not let go of the sin that he needed to deal with. Jesus does not call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). Only those who have become aware of this and are willing to repent can follow Jesus. He does not allow things to stay the same. He does not take what is good in us to make us better persons. Not giving up anything to have a relationship with God is not the message of the Bible. We are to give up whatever is necessary, and everyone has something necessary.
The Lord did not hold anything back or make it easier for the rich ruler. He stated that following Him would involve rejection, suffering, pain, and humiliation, all part of carrying the cross. The young man was clued in that obedience to Jesus would call for discomfort and sacrifice in his life. Discipleship is costly; it often means the loss of the things of the world, not gain. Count the cost’ (Luke 14:28). Jesus did not recruit anyone by false pretences. The road of following Him is through difficulty not ease. There is not a hint in the Scripture of following Jesus does not include not sacrifice and pain.
Jesus then turned to His disciples saying, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Christ required “whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). Nor did He offer them an abundant life as a reward for following him so that they get everything back. He required turning from what is necessary to follow Him as our condition of discipleship. Everything is to be made of second importance to Him. What people want today is a savior without having him be Lord over their life. They want to choose where to get their instruction from, and how to follow. A little bit here (the Bible) a little bit there (the world). They want the promise of heaven for later but not the road on earth to walk on to get there.
All this shows is that sin is STILL the main problem to be dealt with. Nothing has changed inwardly, only outwardly-- how we live. We still have the same human condition from Adam and Eve in their post tree eating. Jesus' answer to us is no different than to those of his day.
For a video on the seeker friendly church movement and its influences.