Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why the "Seeker" and "Purpose Driven"
gospels appeal to me...

There's been a whole bunch of noise on the internet about PDL, PDC and Seeker-Sensitive stuff. You've read it, I've read it.

Let me tell you why it appeals to me. See if you don't agree.

Consider "the wisdom of building relationships over time. The wisdom of gaining credibility" so that when you say something they will listen. After all, unless they like you, they won't listen!

And doesn't this make sense? When you talk to a sales person, doesn't your willingness to buy what they offer stem from a confidence you have in them? Of course it does. You trust in the character of the sales person.

Yes, that has alot of appeal to me. Why? Because "it makes sense" and it gives me (no matter how subconciensly) an out. It gives me a way to be a "Christian" without saying anything that might offend. It gives me the ability to say "I'll share later" and ignore my conscience. For who says that the poor person I'm not sharing with will draw another breath. So, I presume on God's sovereignty and have an excuse. After all, "it's what the pastor told me to do".

I remember hearing recently a sermon in which the pastor referenced a story about the evangelistic philosophy of D.L. Moody. What he said was true. He quoted that Mr. Moody would preach a clear gospel message, then tell people to go home and consider their standing before God.

But the pastor who quoted that didn't tell the rest of the story. That was Mr. Moody's philosophy prior to the Chicago fire (which happened the evening after one of his public sermons). After the fire, he expressed remorse and began stressing the necessity for immediacy. Again, none of us are guaranteed another breath. You know? There are some times I wish I had the nerve to stand up and verbally address these things on the spot.

My late father moved our family to the town I still live in. This was in 1956. He came here to take over management of a cemetary. He had no salary. He was on pure commission. But he moved here and made a living selling cemetary lots.

One time years ago I asked him how in the world you can actually sell a cemetery lot. After all, you see no need! Dad's response was very simple. He gave them a message about what they were doing to the cemetary to beautify it, and that if they were interested in a space, he could take care of them. Their response? "I'm going to live for a long time". Dad's response was "Yeah, you're probably right." then he went on to explain how even he had years to live so why be concerned. "And why care about preparing for my family?" The propects' response? "You fool! You could die tomorrow!". Dad just sat there and smiled. The person had just sold the lot to himself. Dad told me that as soon as the prospect pointed out dad's mortality, he had to recognize his own. And the sale was made. Why? Because the man suddenly realized his own mortality. And it had nothing to do with my dad's character, as good as it was.

No one, and I mean no one, is guaranteed to be alive for five more minutes. No one. Not you, not me. And not the people we spend years "getting to be friends with" so "we can eventually share the gospel".

And you know something else? I mentioned earlier how we rationalize procrastination in the name of "building credibility". But you know? I don't want people trusting in my character. Why not? Because I will fail them. And salvation is not found in trusting my character, or believing the message because I'm likeable. It is found in trusting in God's character and Him alone. God will never fail.

When the Bible speaks of "calling on the Name of the Lord" as it does in Acts, it refers to trusting in God's character. It's the message, not the messenger. And when the Scriptures refer to "the name..." it's referring to all that God is. His character.

And didn't Paul, in Philippians 4, tell us "...whatever you have seen in me, do..."? Well then we have to ask "What did Paul do?".

That's simple enough. All you have to do is read your Bible.

Consider Corinth. It was totally paganized and debauched. In fact, Corinth was so well known for moral corruption that if you said someone had become "Corinthianized", they knew precisely what you meant. Look in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 and you will see what this city was known for. Is there anything there that you don't see in our society? Is it really that different that God's evangelism methods don't work any more?

When Paul came to Corinth, what did he do? invite them all to a no-strings-attached friendship? Did he come to them with secular marketing strategies? Let's see:

From 1Corinthians 2:1,2 --

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

"Christ and Him Crucified." It was the message of the cross. Not how "slick" he was or how "wise" he was. It was the message of Christ Crucified. You say "prove it". I say, you must not have read 1 Corinthians! So please turn to 1 Corinthians 15.

What was of first importance to Paul? Being sensitive to "seekers"? Finding their felt needs? Read on:

Starting at 1 Corinthians 15:3 --

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve. 6 Afterward He was seen by over five hundred brothers at once, of whom the greater part remain until this present day, but also some fell asleep. 7 Afterward He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 And last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and am not sufficient to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was toward me has not been without fruit, but I labored more abundantly than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Therefore whether it was I or they, so we preach, and so you believed."

The phrase I emphasized ("first of all") has been interpreted "of first importance". but that becomes clear in that Paul "delievered first of all" the message of Christ's death for our sin, resurrection, and appearance to many witnesses.

And that, my friends, is why people truly believe.

So, when we use modern Wall Street marketing techniques for "Church Growth", and we get more bodies in our church, let's not think we have obeyed God. It's not about the number of people you see in the building, people, it's the number of individuals that Jesus Christ sees in his Body for real. The True Converts.

Yup, the modern church growth strategies have their appeal. But is is an appeal to laziness and compromise. It doesn't call for "death to self". It allows us to have a foot in both worlds. And it allows us to recline comfortably and say "I'll share one day...."

There is a story about a meeting held by Satan and his minions. Satan wanted a strategy to thwart the growth of the Church. One demon said "Let's tell them there is no heaven". Satan said "they won't believe that. God has put that in their hearts". The second demon said "Ok, let's tell them there is no hell to shun". Satan didn't like that one either. "The human conscience warns of judgement". But the third demon said "Let's tell them there is no hurry". Satan smiled.

Next time you find yourself thinking that way, fill out one of these.

Now. Am I saying that credibility doesn't matter? Of course it does! Time and again the scriptures tell us that character matters and that we are to be pure before God and man. But if your life is a lesson in disobedience to God, shut your mouth and do what Paul said in 2 Corinthans 13. Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. If you are not living in obedience to God's Word, your responsibilty is repentance, not evangelism.

So, let us forget "...the wisdom of this world..." and grab hold of the true Wisdom that comes from God and His Word. It's not about us, beloved. It is about Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

As Paul said in Philippians 4:9 --

"Do those things which you have also learned and received and heard and seen in me. And the God of peace shall be with you."

The "What Would Jesus Do", "red letter bible" mentality is wrong. It isn't about what Jesus would do. It is about what Jesus did (including rebuking those of the 5000 who returned for more bread, according to John 6!), but also what we see the apostles doing and what the scriptures teach us.

Let us thoughtfully read and consider the things Paul did. And let us obey what the Scriptures tell us to do.

1 comment:

scj said...

Awesome Tim.. Thanks for that message. I know tons of folks that will not share their faith, and just work on building relationships. OK....knock yourself out, but TELL THEM THE TRUTH! The sooner the better.

Most of the time, it just seems like an excuse for not sharing the truth of the gospel.