Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thoughts on a piece by John MacArthur, etc.

I'm planning on writing about false unity in the church, but this article by John MacArthur entitled "Raising the Error Alert" caught my attention today. Here is a snippet (click on the link for the full article):

Bible teaching, even in the best of venues today, has been deliberately dumbed-down, made as broad and as shallow as possible, oversimplified, adapted to the lowest common denominator-- and then tailored to appeal to people with short attention spans.

Sermons are almost always brief, simplistic, overlaid with as many references to pop culture as possible, and laden with anecdotes and illustrations. (Jokes and funny stories drawn from personal experience are favored over cross-references and analogies borrowed from Scripture itself.) Typical sermon topics are heavily weighted in favor of man-centered issues (such as personal relationships, successful living, self-esteem, how-to lists, and so on)--to the exclusion of the many Christ-exalting doctrinal themes of Scripture. In other words, what most contemporary preachers do is virtually the opposite of what Paul was describing when he said he sought "to declare . . . the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).

Not only that, but here's how Paul explained his own approach to gospel ministry, even among unchurched pagans in the most debauched Roman culture:

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

Notice that Paul deliberately refused to customize his message or adjust his delivery to suit the Corinthians' philosophical bent or their cultural tastes. When he says later in the epistle, "To the Jews I became as a Jew . . . to those who are without law, as without law . . . to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:20-22), he was describing how he made himself a servant to all (v. 19) and the fellow of those whom he was trying to reach. In other words, he avoided making himself a stumbling block. He was not saying he adapted the gospel message (which he plainly said is a stumbling block--1:23). He did not adopt methods to suit the tastes of a worldly culture.

Paul had no thought of catering to a particular generation's preferences, and he used no gimmicks as attention-getters. Whatever antonym you can think of for the word showmanship would probably be a good description of Paul's style of public ministry. He wanted to make it clear to everyone (including the Corinthian converts themselves) that lives and hearts are renewed by means of the Word of God and nothing else. That way they would begin to understand and appreciate the power of the gospel message.

--I've heard some try to say in his Mars Hill discourse that Paul was appealing to the culture by adapting to it yet he was not. He used a piece of their culture to point the way to God. That false understanding is often used to justify "seeker friendly" churches where outsiders can feel comfortable about all this Jesus stuff. Guess what? It's not comfort that leads us to Christ - it's stumbling. It's falling headlong into Him and denying ourselves. He's a stumbling stone and a rock of offense according 1o 1 Peter 2:8.

Itching ears crave to be tickled, so easy listening from the pulpit is trendy and hearing the "whole counsel of God" is not. Here's what John MacArthur says about "seeker friendly" churches in this article taken from his book "Ashamed of the Gospel."


And on another note -

People are frail. People trip up, they fall, they sin. What happened to grace? What happened to mercy? And what happened to standing up for what is right and true? What happened to bearing with one another, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave us? It seems like Colossians 3:13 and Ephesians 4:32 are too often tossed out like yesterday's news.

A friend called the other day hoping for help finding a good church in the area. Recently their pastor was forced into resignation by a board that has done this before. From all accounts this man's service really turned around that church after a very low time - and yet a group of power members under the banner of "church leadership" did not consult the rest of the Body or ask them for prayer about this decision (feeling they did not have to) and made a decision that has emptied their church. The rest of the body was expected to accept that decision and show unity...or leave. Most chose to leave. I definitely understood what she was going through - I told her we must live in parallel universes.

It gets very disheartening to hear once again of a church stabbing its own. It's shameful really - and so often it is done in the name of "church unity" and "obeying the leadership." How often do we see something done to someone else, something that seems terribly unjust and no matter how the Scriptures are bent and twisted, it just doesn't seem quite right. And yet we stick around - for all the wrong reasons. For fellowship, out of obligation, etc. Chances are that the discernment which screamed "This is wrong" will still be inside, crying out until you find out in the hardest way possible that you should have listened. Or worse yet, you might become numb to that voice. That deafness, I believe is, far, far worse.

If you do stick around, yet make your feelings known that you are not in agreement and don't want to be party to that sort of bogus Christianity, then guess what? You can expect to be an entertaining source of gossip. You will be called "poison" and other things. Unless you're willing to sit back and see injustice and all its ill fruits, you can expect a target drawn neatly on your back. It shouldn't come as a shock, after all Christians have a reputation for shooting their own wounded.

The - for want of a better word - cool thing about that is that when you find yourself being persecuted, there can be an amazing peace. What an opportunity it is to identify even in the slightest way with the mockery and suffering that Christ was up against! When you find yourself betrayed by those you thought were friends, who led you to trust them...you can rejoice knowing that it was a friend that betrayed the Lord. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

1 comment:

Seen the Light said...

Wow - Gram, this should speak to everyone who reads it today! I will NOT water down my witness and I expect no less from my Shepherd when he's got the floor and my attention to further grow me spiritually and in turn equip me to help grow others. People who have already accepted Christ aren't interested in "entertainment" - we can get that any day of the week in our comfy living rooms in front of the fireplace with our family. (and there are some great christian entertainers out there) We need serious instruction from our "called to lead" leader - Do we realize that Jesus IS coming soon and this is SERIOUS?!?!?? Loved your "Blog" That's what it's called right? a Blog?