Posts Tagged ‘Seeker Church’
The English dictionary defines pragmatism as follows:
1 : a practical approach to problems and affairs
2 : a doctrine that truth is to be tested by the practical effects of belief
These definitions fit perfectly for my article here. I want to write about why are many preachers also pragmatists? The simple answer is that they want to see their churches grow and they believe that programs and being attractive to potential members is important to building a church. In practical ways, the pragmatic preacher will use whatever tools he can find to build the church. Whether it is a program based church or music or feel-good series sermons that make people happy and encouraged, the pragmatist will use whatever he can to build the church. This would also include using people to get to his means.
Much is of course loss when the pragmatist begins to think about how to build the church apart from the means of grace that God has given us in His Word. Sadly, many clergy are focused on their “jobs” and so they think in terms of money instead of souls. The church is their business and people coming is their livelihood. The more people who come to a traditional church, the more you possible can get in money. Further, people draw more people. If it is popular to attend church A then people will leave church B for the better programs at A.
In our area, we have two pragmatic churches that are sucking the life out of other churches. One is a multi-site from a seeker church not even in our community. People show up at this church to watch a screen of the church that is nearly 100 miles away. The other church has been using gimmicks such as car giveaways to get people to show up along with “family friendly” church with no preaching on repentance or anything else “negative.” The results for both of these churches has been tremendous. Both are considered “cool” churches to attend and people gladly walk around admitting that they attend these churches.
Lost is the glory of God. Lost is the preaching of the Word. Lost are the intercessions for the lost. Lost are the true conversions because of faithful preaching of the gospel.
One could say, “You just are mad that these churches are growing.” I am not a clergyman so I don’t care per se about the “growth” of the church I attend. God is sovereign and He will add to His Church whom He wants (Acts 2:47). But I am upset that these churches are preaching such a watered down “gospel” that is no gospel at all. Both claim to be “evangelistic” churches with an emphasis on reaching people with the truth of Christ. Yet their gospel is the “sinner’s prayer” and “Jesus wants to give you a better life than the one you have now.” They admit that Jesus died for our sins but they gloss over sin and repentance along the way. They also ignore completely the wrath of God against sin. Evangelism, in these churches, would be simply inviting people to their church.
Pragmatism reigns among evangelicals because of the hunger to grow the church. Some men start out right and do desire to see the church grow because they want to see people love Jesus. But many look around at these two seeker churches above and are drawn to their success. These churches are exploding. Building buildings. Packed on Sunday. Police have to direct traffic to let people in and out of these churches. Yet the small faithful man of God struggles to get 30 people to attend. They have to often take second jobs to make ends meet. This faithful brother has been preaching through the Word verse by verse but people don’t care. They are leaving him for the seeker church down the street that has the awesome children’s ministry and they even offer a light show during their “worship” service. The money on the first row of the seeker church will be more than the small church gets that day. And so the faithful brother struggles. He wants to see God move. He wants to see people repent. Yet he also needs money because he has a family to provide for. So he begins to investigate the seeker church. He begins to contemplate how he can model his church after that church. Soon he is a pragmatist where the results are what matters.
I once e-mailed a large seeker church to debate the “lead pastor” over their church. I questioned him theologically and asked him to biblically justify his church. He wrote me back, “We run over 700 on Sunday. How many do you run?” That was it. That was what mattered. 700 people justifies the means.
Sadly, even faithful church conferences today often are pragmatic. When was the last time you went to a conference and the speaker was from a tiny church in the middle of nowhere? Most speakers at conferences come from large churches (and often very large). I remember only once hearing a small church Bible teacher speak at a prayer conference. He spoke to thousands of people (the most he had ever preached before he said) but his heart burned for prayer (it was a conference focused only on prayer). This humble man of God broke the hearts of his audience through his faithfulness in his preaching. He did not come with the numbers but he came with his faithfulness to God.
I urge you to be faithful to God. Avoid pragmatism. Seek to be biblical even if everyone else leaves for the seeker church. If you have to get a job, get a job but be faithful to God. Don’t compromise His Word for the sake of money. Don’t copy the seeker church that always ends in shallow theology and false converts. Be faithful to preach the Word and leave the results to God alone (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Preach repentance (Acts 2:38). Preach holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). Preach against sin (1 Corinthians 15:34). Preach on true salvation and what it means to be truly born again (John 3:1-7). Preach on the glory of God and the glory of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). Avoid telling people just what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4) but preach the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Preach the Law of God to the lost (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).
Charles Spurgeon wrote the following about the lure of entertainment among the Christians of his day. Sadly we read his words and we think him too hard, too legalistic. The modern church is so engrossed with entertainment. We will come to church meetings if they are fun to us, if they benefit us. We avoid prayer meetings because oh the boredom. Too much on TV. Too much fun playing games on my iPod. I’ve got more important things to do than to seek God. I must be entertained. I pray that we read these words are remember that if your church is “winning” people through gimmicks and through the show you call church services, that is what you win them to. We are not winning the masses to Christ but to the god of fun. We are not taking people deep into the heart of God by studying His Word and teaching people how to pray. With this is gone the passion for Jesus, the loss of zeal for the kingdom of Christ, and no passion for the lost. Who cares about the sinner going to hell when our favorite program is coming on at 8 PM? We have time to waste on the Internet but we have no time to pray?
Let us weep with Spurgeon’s words:
If our church members fall into the habit of frequenting the theatre, we shall soon have them going much further in the direction of vice, and they will lose all relish for the ways of God. If theatre-going became general among professing Christians, it would be the death of piety. Yet one finds the taste for such things increasing on every hand.
We cannot even enter places once dedicated to science and art without finding ourselves in the presence of something like a theatrical performance. Such gimmickry, though in itself harmless enough, has helped foster the taste which leads ultimately to the theatre and its surroundings.
Who can suppose amusements surrounded with the seductions of vice to be fit recreation for a pure mind? Who could draw near to God after sitting to admire the performances of the debauched (and I am told that some who have dazzled London society are such)?
When behaviour is growing every day more lax and licentious, shall believers lower the standard of their lives? If they do so their spiritual power will depart, and their reason for existence will be over. If there ever could be a time when Christians might relax their rigidity, it surely is not now when the very air is tainted with pollution, and when our streets ring with the newsboys’ cries vending filthy papers.
It is profoundly saddening to hear how people talk about acts of sin nowadays; how young men and women without blushing talk of deeds which deprave and destroy, as though they were trifles, or themes for joking. It is a great pity that the ends of justice should require the publishing of unsavoury details. As for those who not only commit lewdness, but who take pleasure in those who do it—”O my soul, come not thou into their secret.” My heart often cries, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.”
It will certainly be disastrous for the church of God if her members should become impure. In these days we must be doubly strict, lest any looseness of conduct should come in among us. Actual sin must be repressed with a strong hand, but even the appearance of evil must be avoided.
My dear brethren and sisters, whatever your deficiencies, be pure in heart and lip and life. Never indulge an evil imagination, or speak about things which are unclean. Let them not once be named among you, as becometh saints. A lascivious glance, a doubtful word, a questionable act must be strenuously avoided. Anything and everything that verges upon the unchaste must be rejected.
Only the pure in heart shall see God. We are all subject to human passions, and this wretched flesh of ours is too easily fascinated by those who would pander to its indulgences. In seconds the soul may be led into captivity. Watch unto prayer, especially in these evil days. Cry, “Lead us not into temptation,” and if the prayer is sincere, you will also keep far from doubtful places. Make a covenant with your eyes that you will not look upon that which pollutes, and stop your ears from hearing about it. Watch your lips lest they spread corruption when speaking of sin. I am not afraid that you will step directly into gross sin, but that you may take a very small step on the road that leads to it. Then it will only be a matter of time.
Augustine tells a story of a young friend of his who had the greatest horror of everything connected with the Roman amphitheatre. A heathen friend tried to persuade him to enter the Colosseum, and as he was very hard pressed and was under some obligation to that friend, he agreed to go just once, but determined to keep his eyes and ears closed all the time. It would seem to be a very small risk to sit there as one who was blind and deaf, but in the middle of the sports the people so loudly applauded a certain gladiator who had pleased them that he opened his eyes and ears to discover what it was all about. From that moment he was spellbound; he looked on, and enjoyed the sight, and though before he could not bear the very mention of it, he came at last to be a regular frequenter of the cruel sports, and a defender of them, and after a short time he abandoned his profession of Christianity.
Beware of the leaven of worldly pleasure, for its working is silent but sure, and a little of it will leaven the whole lump. Keep up the distinction between a Christian and an unbeliever and make it clearer every day.
Oh come out from among them church! 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 (KJV) reads:
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
Not all “Community Church” churches are bad. I want to begin there. There have been many good churches that were community churches but I do want to rant a bit about cool church names and where did the phenomenon of community churches come from. When I was first saved in 1992, most churches were easy to identify. My friends went to Temple Baptist Church or Beulah Baptist Church whereas I went to Trinity Assembly of God. One of my good buddies went to First Church of God (Anderson, IN) while another friend of mine went to West Columbia Bible Fellowship (loosely following Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and Dr. Tony Evans). In college, my classmates attended churches such as Shandon Baptist Church or Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (PCA) or Christian Life Assembly (AG).
And then the seeker churches came. First there was the mother of all seeker churches, Willow Creek Community Church and the craze was on. When Rick Warren released his book, The Purpose Driven Church, churches begin to follow his pattern and name their churches like his, Saddleback Community Church. The “community church” phase was on. It didn’t matter if you were Baptist or Lutheran or Assemblies of God, you dropped the name of the denomination in favor of a hidden church, a welcoming church without all the denominational ties. The church I was saved at, Trinity Assembly of God, became simply, Trinity Church. In fact, in 1992 the following were the names of the Assembly of God churches in my area:
- Christian Life Assembly
- Trinity Assembly
- Central Assembly of God
- South Congaree Assembly of God
- Airport Assembly of God
- Capital City Assembly of God
- Northeast Christian Assembly of God
- New Life Assembly of God
Now let me give you the names of those same churches today:
- Christian Life Church
- Trinity Church (East Campus)
- Central Assembly of God
- South Congaree Assembly of God
- Trinity Church (West Campus)
- Capital City Church
- Vive Church
- New Life Community Church
Do you see a trend?
Now the explanation would be that denominations often hinder people from visiting a church. For instance, a Baptist is likely not to visit an Assembly of God church but they would visit simply a church. In fact, it might take a bit to actually realize that you are in a Pentecostal church in some of these cases. When I was first saved, we had a charismatic Southern Baptist church named Forest Drive Baptist Church. People would visit Forest Drive BC and would often get confused as the heard people speaking in tongues, laying hands on the sick, etc. Today that same church is named: NorthStar Christian Center. I believe they left the SBC a number of years ago now. Either way, the days of denominational tags is gone it seems.
This is not all bad. After all, Charles Spurgeon’s church was Metropolitan Tabernacle in London and it was, at the time of Spurgeon, the largest evangelical church in the world. It was a Baptist church but without the Baptist title in the name. Other famous churches that are without denominational tags but preaching the gospel would be Dr. John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church or Carter Conlon’s Times Square Church. Neither have Baptist or Pentecostal in their names but both are sound churches.
Yet the phase seems to have really caught on. The move today is to be a cool name such as Hydro Church, Elevation Church, New Spring Church, Solomon’s Porch, The Potter’s House, Electric Church, Friend Church, etc (all these are real names by the way). Today’s churches are either just name with church such as Trinity Church or a cool name such as The Plank or a community church such as Wellspring Community Church. I would like to see a church named “The Only True Church” or “NIV Only Church” or “Seeker Church” or “Confused Church.”
I know I can hear you saying, “What is the big deal? Who cares what the name of the church is so long as the gospel is being preached?” I would agree. And yet I fear that much of the move toward these names has to do more with chasing a method above the gospel. Sadly, most churches today seem to be driven by money and not the glory of God. Money makes the church go round and round. Money means more clergy. Money means more programs and better equipment. Money means bigger and better programs than the church down the street. In my city, we have thousands of churches. They are all sadly competing with one another for the same several thousand people (despite the fact that thousands upon thousands are unmoved by the titles of the churches or by their programs). This church down the street is trying to out do that church down the street and so forth and so on. Money is the goal.
Now this is not true of all. Again, I am being general here. Yet I fear that the emphasis is not on the gospel. If the gospel were the focus, who cares about the name? Why drop your denomination tag if in fact you are boldly preaching the gospel? Why go from Northeast Christian Assembly of God to Vive Church?
Thankfully Jesus only has one church. He is building it and no clergy or denomination can stop that (Matthew 16:18). Jesus is adding to His Church (Acts 2:47). Our passion must never be for a church but for the Lord who is Lord of His Church (Colossians 1:15-20). The true Church is hated by the world (John 15:18-25). The true Church is not seeking popularity but the prize of Christ (Philippians 3:14-15). Leonard Ravenhill said, ”The early Church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”
A.W. Tozer wrote,
It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf. So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. Any objection to the carryings on of our present gold-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.
May we get back to loving Jesus and preaching His truth no matter what it cost us. There are some out there doing this but of far too many are so shallow, so full of hype, and so little with the power and presence of God. Perhaps we should just name the next church: Ichabod Church (1 Samuel 4:21-22).
Much has been written already on the 2012 US elections. Many godly men such as Dr. Al Mohler has pointed out that we are facing a dramatic culture shift in the United States. President Obama won both the popular vote and the electoral vote despite claims by political conservative pundits that he would lose. Some guaranteed Obama’s defeat (see Dick Morris for example). I felt that Obama would win but thought he would lose the popular vote. I was wrong on that as well.
What do we learn from the 2012 elections?
1. True Christianity Is Losing the Culture War.
Some “Christian” such as Rachel Evans hold that we should realize that younger “evangelicals” just don’t care about abortion or about same-sex marriage and thus why they voted for Obama. Christians have made the culture war their mandate for many years now but if we learn anything from the 2012 elections it would be that Christians are losing that battle. Same-sex marriage was passed in the states of Maine and Maryland and likely Washington. Minnesota rejected the idea (good for them). The map is clear that in the North and the Northwest, Christianity has little to no bearing on the voters. The South continues to support traditional marriage but it is a matter of time before that changes as well.
Our mandate as disciples of Jesus is not to transform our culture through politics. Our fight is not abortion or same-sex marriage though I think we should vote righteously on these issues. Our fight is for the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). The gospel will transform our society. You want people to have a biblical worldview? Then preach the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God and that Jesus alone saves. This will transform our society from the inside out (Titus 3:1-7). People are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) so why should we not be surprised when they vote for their flesh and not for God? We need to disciple our people to think biblically and to proclaim Jesus to the lost (Matthew 28:19-20). This will transform our nation.
2. Prayer Must Be A Focus!
The one positive that I see coming out of the 2012 elections would be the call to prayer. I feared that if Romney won the election then disciples of Jesus would view that as a reason to sit back and relax but with Obama winning, I saw many people calling for prayer. Good! This should not take the election of one wicked man to force us to pray. We should have been praying already. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-7 what to pray for and it is clear that we should be praying for the lost to be saved. The true Church should pray for President Obama to repent of his sins and be saved (Acts 2:38). We should pray for Obama to repent of his views on abortion and on same-sex marriage. God can change Obama’s heart.
Jesus said in Luke 18:1 that we should always pray and not lose heart. How many lost heart over the elections last nigh? I did. I was discouraged when I went to bed and woke up with a heavy heart. But Jesus said that that should drive us to prayer. Our faith in a sovereign God should lead us to pray for the United States to repent and for God to be glorified in His Church (Ephesians 3:20-21).
3. Be Ready For a Fight Even Among “Christians”.
We will see a shift over the next four years. The younger “evangelicals” who have been soaked in postmodernism, in the seeker church, will push for evangelicals to come “mainline” with the political views of our culture. We will be asked to allow for same-sex marriage, to accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and we will be asked to curb our focus on abortion. We will be asked to move more toward the left on most issues. The Republicans (and other “conservatives”) will move away from cultural issues toward more liberal views. Obama, at the 2012 DNC, was cheered for defending abortion and for coming out in favor of same-sex marriage. That view, an anti-God view, won last night. It is clear that our nation agrees with Mr. Obama, that abortion should be allowed and that homosexuality is legitimate. The Church should not.
We need to stand for what the Bible teaches. Many younger evangelicals will ask us to reinterpret texts that are against abortion or against homosexuality. When it comes to abortion, we will be asked to realize that we can never get rid of it but should seek to curb it. This is the stance of many evangelicals who supported Obama. They believe this is Obama’s view as well. We will be asked to embrace same-sex marriages and this will happen because the media will ridicule the traditional view, popular media will give us movies, television programs, and books that support same-sex marriage as a positive and good thing, and many evangelicals will grow weary trying to fight the push to accept the sinful practice of homosexuality. Many will simply give in and accept cultural norms without a fight.
4. A Clear Division In the Church.
We will see a rise coming of more and more seeker sensitive, shallow churches. Why? Because as the cultural moves more and more to the left, so will the Church. The Church will do this because they want to be popular, to draw crowds, and of course, make money. To preach against abortion, against socialism, against homosexuality, against adultery, etc. will not draw crowds. The words of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 will soon come to pass. The Church will either embrace postmodernism or will suffer. I pray that we will heed the words of 2 Timothy 3:12 and suffer for Christ.
On a positive note, the house church movement will grow! Many churches, to keep their budgets and to keep their buildings, will embrace postmodern Christianity but the true disciples of Jesus, the true Church will stand firm for the Lord (Matthew 24:13). House churches will grow because they do not require buildings or monies. Like the underground Church in China, the house churches in the United States will see growth over the years to come. We can rejoice in that.
May God separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
5. We Must Preach Salvation Through Christ Alone!
Postmodernism will ask the Church to reject the inclusive nature of the gospel but we must stand firm (Romans 10:14-17). Faith comes by hearing the gospel. We must preach the truth to people who will hate us for preaching the gospel. Have no fear. Even if they kill us, let us stand firm (Matthew 5:11-16). Jesus didn’t say the world would love us but rather they would hate us (John 15:18-25). Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 4:12-19 that we will suffer for being disciples of Christ. There is no escaping the coming persecution. The truth has never been popular. We will be ridiculed for our stand for biblical marriage (Matthew 19:4-6), for our stand that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27), for preaching that salvation is in Christ alone. We will be told to accept what culture defines as norm. May we resist! May we stand for the Word of God even when we are laughed at for doing so.
Salvation will never come through politicians. Transformation of our culture will not come through politics or by corrupting the gospel. True salvation will only come through making disciples (Mark 16:15-16). We must preach Christ alone. We must stand for Christ alone. We must preach His Word alone. We must not give in to the culture for to do so will mean the loss of eternal salvation through Christ. We must preach Jesus. We must declare to all people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31). We must lay out the biblical demands of Jesus to follow Him (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-35) and not water down the gospel for easy decisions. We must allow the Holy Spirit to do His sovereign work of regeneration (Titus 3:5-7). Salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and He will save sinners as the disciples of Jesus preach His truth but we must open up our mouths and preach Him in order for souls to be saved.
I am not a big fan of modern books on prayer. I prefer to read E.M. Bounds on prayer or Andrew Murray or A.W. Tozer or Leonard Ravenhill or Samuel Chadwick than to read many modern books on prayer. It seems you get two types of modern books when it comes to prayer. The first is the “exegetical” approach to prayer. I appreciate this more than the latter but I think many of us know many verses of Scripture on prayer but we just don’t pray. We can quote the Lord’s teaching on prayer in Matthew 9:9-13 but we don’t follow His example nor His outline for prayer.
The second group bothers me the most. Many of the modern books on prayer from The Prayer of Jabez to Sun Stand Still offer nothing new on prayer. If anything they try to make prayer all about us and not much about God. Oh God is here and there but He is there for a reason: you! God wants to answer your prayers so that you can be blessed in this life. Few take the first approach and go very deep into the Scriptures on prayer (though they will proof-text their books) and most make you remember more about the author or the author’s scheme then about God or His kingdom. The countless stories that fill modern books on prayer are given, they say, to show us the author’s faith but all we remember are the authors. The books are focused on the authors more so than on the Lord in my opinion. Typical of the modern clergy-laity church where the pastor is the prophet, priest, and king of the house.
That’s why I never recommend modern books on prayer. A few are good such as Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire though this book has a good many personal illustrations in it with some Scriptural teachings. Cymbala’s theology is much sounder than the books listed above. At least Cymbala is not so much focused on prayer pleasing yourself.
Prayer is not about you. Prayer is to be focused on pleasing God. When Jesus said in John 14:13 that we could ask anything in His name, He wasn’t meaning that we could pray for what our covetous desires. John 14:14 makes it clear that the reason for John 14:13 is because of the glory of God. God answers prayer because of His glory and for His honor. Every answered prayer is in accordance with God being exalted. Even healings are done for the glory of God (John 9). The Apostles were clear in the book of Acts that they focused the attention on the Lord and not upon themselves. Modern preachers would not do well in the book of Acts. Modern preachers would never be able to utter the words of Acts 3:12 or Acts 14:14-15. Nor would they be able to utter the words of Acts 26:20-21. Of course, nor would they be able to declare James 5:16-18 when it comes to prayer other than stories that they tell about themselves.
Prayer is all about the glory of God. Prayer is not about “your audacious faith” but the honor of God. Prayer is not about pleasing your pleasures. It is about Jesus and His kingdom (James 4:2-4). Why would God want you to pray a prayer that would violate 1 John 2:15-17? He does not. He is holy and righteous and He will answer prayers that exalt Him as God. God does still answer prayers but He answers them so that His name is praised (1 John 5:14-15). By the way, prayer is not powerful. Only God is. Prayer is powerful because God answers prayer that glorifies His name.
Let me end with this, do you pray as Jesus prayed in John 17? In John 17 Jesus prayed to the glory of God. Jesus begins His prayer with a focus on glorifying God (John 17:1-5). Jesus’ entire focus in His prayer in John 17 is upon the glory of God. Go through John 17 and notice how many times Jesus says “you” and “Father.” Even when praying for the Church in John 17:20-26 His focus is completely upon the glory of God. He wants God the Father to give them unity so that God may be glorified. You will not find the narcissism in Jesus’ praying that you’ll find in many modern books on prayer.
So if you want to study prayer then I encourage you to read the older works on prayer such as The Valley of Vision or the works of E.M. Bounds on prayer. The best book I have ever read on prayer are the works of Leonard Ravenhill and especially his book, Why Revival Tarries? Dead faithful men are faithful men still.