Sunday, October 30, 2005

Misconceptions We Are Led To Believe

I was listening to Part 1 of an interesting three-part series on Focus on the Family a week ago entitled, Do You Have a Christian Worldview”? (If you go out to under the broadcast archives, scroll down until you see the title of the broadcast) It was concerning how youth are hungry for spiritual truth, and included Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. What really stood out in the program was the fact that young people, contrary to the popular misconception produced by postmodern culture, really are indeed interested in truth. Apparently Lee Strobel was told halfway though a discussion he was having with an unnamed “scholar” concerning his book, "The Case for Christ", that young people would not buy his book because youth are not interested in truth today. Yet the largest group he receives letters from stating that they came to faith in Christ as a result of the book, are from the 16-24 age group! So much for the folly of postmodernism!

So much of this foolishness could be avoided by simply believing the Bible. Scripture is clear that the chosen vehicle for delivering the message of saving faith is through the simple preaching of God’s Word. Unfortunately, man thinks that he is smarter than God and can improve upon God’s simple command. Paul claimed to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). This is what Paul preached.

It is interesting how we are led to believe many things that upon closer scrutiny are simply not true. Take for instance the notion that in order to reach the lost, we need to find out what the “seeker” wants, and then tailor our message and ministry to meet those wants in order to attract people to the Gospel. This is what led to the plethora of marketing methods that have been imposed upon the church, under the premise that unless we adopt those methods, the church will become irrelevant and wither and die. This has become the battle cry for the past couple of decades. A look at the results would indicate that the effect of these methods has had a negative effect on the health of the church.

Now we are told that unless the church jumps on the bandwagon and learns to ride the wave of postmodernism, the church will essentially be swept away into irrelevancy. We have been in this position before; the admonition to change or die is once again upon us. But we need to look at where we have been and closely examine the results. We must scrutinize everything with the text of Scripture. If we do not abide by God’s Truth, we will be led further away from God. If one were to judge success based purely on numbers, it would seem that we have experienced success. But numbers are deceiving. Even the statistics prove that we have failed miserably. Even though we have built bigger and bigger mega-churches, according to Barna Research, while the population has only increased a mere 15%, the number of unchurched has increased by a whopping 92% since 1991. Furthermore, Biblical illiteracy has run rampant and worldliness has taken root.

But God’s Truth is spiritually discerned and it is God who opens the eyes of man to His truth. This is not a result of man’s clever formulas and methodologies.

“18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19For it is written,

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to
save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21; NASB®)

“9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”
(1 Corinthians 2:9-14,

“3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3, NKJV™)

It is God who chooses and grants salvation. In John Chapter 6, many of the multitudes could not grasp the words of Jesus and ultimately turned away. Jesus does not come back with clever words or fleshly appeals in order to win them back. He does not try to find out what things interest them in an attempt to lure them in. He merely underscores the fact that it is God the Father who grants salvation to those who will be saved.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37, NKJV™)

“63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:63-66, NKJV™)

No amount of human persuasion alone can save anyone.

There is no record in Scripture that the apostles employed clever methodologies. Their tactic was simple; just boldly proclaim the truth and abide by God’s Word. Dr. James MacDonald points this out in an article describing his philosophy of ministry.

“The focus on human persuasion in evangelism has produced an array of church growth methods that could be accurately sub-titled "how to fill your church with tares." The early church appears to have placed no emphasis on evangelistic methodology. Their approach was simple and powerful, they were BOLD! Many times in the New Testament the Greek word translated boldness which literally means "openness" or "candor," to speak freely especially in the face of hostility. It does not imply using a loud voice or an obnoxious presentation of spiritual truth that disregards the willingness of the listener. Boldness is the Spirit-directed conviction that one must share the good news of Jesus Christ and not fear the response or reproach of the listener. Spirit-led boldness has been replaced in our day by "the fear of man which brings a snare" (Proverbs 29:25).”
(from Pillar Four in “The Four Pillars” by James MacDonald)

The Scriptural command is simple;

"2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV™)

This is to take place whether of not it is popular, for verses 3 and 4 tell us that the time will come when people will no longer tolerate sound doctrine. The term “preach”, means to proclaim something publicly and openly, with urgency, a message that needs to be heeded and obeyed. Unfortunately, much of what is passed off as “preaching” today is nothing more than casual, conversational dialogue. It is interesting that we seldom hear this passage proclaimed in many churches today. The Bible does not teach that since people do not want to hear truth, we therefore should water down or dress up the truth to make it palatable.

Greg Laurie, who pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, also did not follow the clever philosophy of the church growth movement. His book, "The Upside Down Church", tells of how they simply followed the Bible and actually did the opposite of what church growth experts recommend. Yet the church grew tremendously. I need to read that book again; unfortunately I will need to purchase another since the book was destroyed some time ago when our basement flooded. Tim Challies has done a good review of this book.

The church desperately needs to get back to the simple truth of Scripture, rather than following the latest clever formulas and philosophies produced by men. Our duty is simply to proclaim the message of the Cross to as many as possible. It is the sovereign God who brings about saving faith, not the clever techniques of man.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Reality Show for “Preachers”?

Well it looks as if American religion has stooped to a new low. A new reality TV show, “Pulpit Masters” is set to air late this fall on TLC (The Learning Channel). They are currently looking for people to audition for a slot in the 10-part, inspirational series. The new series sets out to reveal the next great “preacher”. However, this is not necessarily just for preachers with a Christian message, but for anyone with a “unique and positive message” that they want to share. You merely need to be inspirational, not biblical. The website advertising the show claims that “We’re offering all comers of all denominations a chance to share their own spiritual message and reach out to an audience of millions.” Those that are welcome include “anyone with the desire to stand before an audience and share their own spiritual insights and message.” Those that are not welcome are those sharing a message “of hate, violence, superiority or any other negative ideologies and beliefs.” Of course, that can be interpreted many different ways. I would imagine that those who desire to proclaim the true biblical message of the straight and narrow way to salvation through the finished work of the cross of Christ are probably not going to be very welcome. Perhaps a message with a vaguely veiled message of the gospel would be tolerated, but not the straight-forward message of the need to die to oneself and repent of sin.

Of course, with the current climate of American Christianity, nothing should shock us. Regardless, the notion of competing with all the glitz of an American Idol style of contest is sickening to say the least. If you can imagine the contestants polishing up their routine and dressed in their slick, glitzy attire. This is nothing more than man’s effort and wisdom, not the power of God. What is sad is that there are probably going to be plenty of Evangelicals involved in this.

What a far cry this is from what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5,

“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corithians 2:1-5, NKJV™)

It was Paul’s reliance on God’s power, not his own effort and ability that contributed to the effectiveness of his ministry.

“7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;”(2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB®)

Paul viewed himself as lowly and common encumbered with frailty. But this weakness does not hinder the messenger, but rather it is the power of God that allows His work to be accomplished through frail man. But this weakness is what is essential for God’s power and glory to be seen.

The type of humbleness that Paul displayed is something that is scarce in the evangelical landscape today. Much of what takes place today reeks with man’s arrogance and pride. This robs people from experiencing the true, transforming power of God. It is also a significant hindrance to experiencing true revival. We must strive for humility if we truly want to be used of God.

“6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,”(1 Peter 5:6, NASB®)

Scott Hill over at Fide-O wrote a good post on the lack of humility in the church, especially in the arena of Christian music.

The message that “Pulpit Masters” sends is contradictory to the Word of God; that fame, fortune and worldly wisdom based on man’s effort is what is needed to influence and change the world. What is really needed is the life changing message of Christ and Him crucified and the solid proclamation of God’s Word.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

So Much to Post, So Little Time.

There are several things that I want to write about, but I have been quite busy lately and have not had much time to do so. Things should be settling down now, so hopefully I will have a little more time to write some posts. When I first started blogging, I wondered what I would write about and if I would consistently be able to come up with enough subjects to post about. Now I have a whole list of things that I want to write about and the list keeps growing! Now I just need to find the time to sit down and focus so that I can research and write some intelligent posts.

I want to write some posts concerning Leonard Sweet. He is another postmodern author who has become influential with many in the Christian community. While Brian McLaren is one of the foremost spokesmen for the emerging church, Leonard Sweet is also having a profound influence on many churches that are not necessarily identified as “emerging”. But in my estimation, Sweet’s philosophy and teaching is just as dangerous. I hope to post this information soon.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Emerging Christian “Hippies”

Well, it seams that what the emerging crowd is actually doing is taking a nostalgic stroll back in time to the ‘60s. Scott Hill over at Fide-O, in his post, “Things That Make You Go HUH?”, mentioned in his closing statement “The emergent “conversation” is nothing but a bunch of “christian” hippies trying to be cool”. This is quite fitting and a good analogy to the emergent menagerie. He is not alone in being at a loss to clearly define the Emergent church. None of the rest of us can come up with a clear definition either. Neither can the “emergents”. And, just like rebellious adolescents, the emerging crowd is still trying to “find” themselves and have no clue about what they want to be when they grow up. Of course, it seems that the emerging folks take pride in that fact, as if the inability to define them means that they are beyond scrutiny. After all, according to them, they are still just a “conversation”. Not so! Let’s put it this way. If you were walking down the street and observed an unknown hideous substance oozing from around a sewer drain, you certainly would not need to clearly define what the substance was in order to come to the conclusion that you probably should not touch it. Anyone with a minimal amount of common sense would determine that it is probably not good for their well-being to even touch it, let alone ingest the stuff! After all, consider the source – it would be coming from a sewer. The same goes with most of the teaching of the emerging crowd. What is “oozing” from the movement is definitely not good for anyone’s well-being.

We can only hope that these emerging “hippies” will someday awaken from their drunken stupor induced from the copious amounts of their intoxicating postmodern brew, and exlaim (to borrow the line from Pecadillo’s blog), “I drank what?!”