Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Subliminal Dangers in Seeker Churches

This is kind of a rant, but I think it is more of a "controlled rant". While my points are triggered by my own recollections and experiences, I will recount my points through the Scriptures. It is my hope that some of this will make sense and maybe even prove to be a source of encouragement to those who are where I have been. 2nd Corinthians 1 comes to mind -- and my hope is that I can comfort someone with the comfort I have received.

I have seen the dark side of the "seeker" movement. See, a "seeker" is supposed to be someone who is searching. And by definition, we are to be "sensitive" to seekers, according to this approach within contemporary Christianity (and I'm not sure of the precision of my use of the word "contemporary" in this case).

Others far more knowledgeable than me have written on the theological bankruptcy of the seeker movement. It presupposes that those who are outside Christ are not dead in their sin, but merely "really sick" or some such similar silliness. It caters to the notion that to win them, all we need to do is find the "key" to unlock their heart to Christ. That is a flat out fallacy. Those outside Christ are dead to God. They are therefore totally unable to do anything unless God acts, for "death" by definition is an inability to respond to an outside stimulus.

But the seeker movement is full of other hidden dangers. Ironically, it has to do with how the movement deals with the seeker who struggles in his or her faith. And this is where I come in.

See, it goes back to the superficial view of salvation. To the seeker movement, salvation is had by a human choice, which is expressed by praying a prayer, walking an isle, signing a card or otherwise "deciding for Christ". Once that is done, the grand assumption is that you are now a Christian. It doesn't matter about what your life is like, you've outwardly done what you have to do to be "saved" (Starting to sound like works salvation, isn't it???).

So, we start out with a faulty assumption which is "pray the prayer, make the choice, claim the prize". Well, I'll not write the book I could write on why this isn't Biblically correct. Let me say simply that this is "syllogistic salvation". Kind of like "You doubt your saved? The bible says "If you confess Jesus as Lord" you shall be saved". You've done that, I saw you do that, so, you are saved. Stop doubting! You are dishonoring God!" (Note: "Confession" there has to do with a pattern of life, not just reciting some words. It shows a change of life over a period of time).

No. What dishonors God is putting salvation in the domain of a human decision, not God's sovereignty. See John 1:12, we are not born of human decision, but of God. God's not waiting with His hat in His hand waiting for you or me to "decide for Him".

Consider with me John 6:44. Let me paraphrase it as "No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him." Ok, you say "Yes, God 'woos' the unbeliever". Well, that word "draw" doesn't mean to "woo". It doesn't mean anything such as "God really, really wants you to choose Him and so He's doing the best He can". No. The word there in the Greek is "helkuo". It is a violent term, not some soft experience where God does the spiritual equivalent of sending you flowers and candy. It's not a reference to God "courting" you. It is a term that is more akin to what Saul experienced on the way to Damascus. Saul had no choice. It wasn't his decision and he had no say in the matter. He simply knew what he had to do and that was the end of it. If you have read my tesitmony, you know I can relate to Paul's experience.

You say "are you sure of this?" Well, let's try the concept of "wooing" in other places where "helkeuo" is used.

James 2 says that "Rich men oppress you and woo you into court"? No, they drag you into court, just as James said. Or how about Acts 16:18 where Paul and Silas were "wooed" into the marketplace to be made to suffer for ruining local commerce by delivering a woman who did divination from demonic spirits. Give me a break!

Silly, isn't it? Of course it is. And with this the absurdity of seeker soteriology becomes more obvious. You don't win them with carrot cake any more than God does.

But that still doesn't get to the core of my message. See, you don't see it or experience it unless you just won't sit back and take your "salvation" for granted, which seekerism really wants you to do. If you struggle, if you battle with doubt, if you otherwise won't "come along" in their time, you'll see the less "sensitive" side to seekerism. If you don't just toe the line and "rest in Jesus" (in other words, don't go along to get along and cement yourself into an assumption that self-examination is unecessary regardless of what Paul said in II Corinthians), you'll be stepping all over the protocol and you'll find yourself out of favor. See, you just gotta make your choice and wear your "happy mask".

I clearly remember, and do have documentation for, an incident where a pastor said (after a protracted battle with introspection and doubt), "What will it take to get you to trust Jesus".

Try "an act of God", sir. That's the Biblical answer. It is an act of God that makes us exercise faith. It is all of God and "sweet talk" doesn't make converts. It is the message of repentance and faith. And even then, you never tell someone you know they are saved. You have no way of knowing the state of someone else's heart. You "know" Sally or George is saved? How? You saw the Spirit of God descend on them when they prayed a prayer? You saw a green light go off when they said "...in Jesus' Name, Amen?" I hope you don't answer that in the affirmative. But in a way I dare you to because when you trivialize the doubts of another who desires certainty of salvation you may as well say those kind of things. Yet it was the Puritans who had it right..."First tested, then trusted".

See, I had been in a time of deep conviction of sin. It was obvious that the Spirit of God was working deeply in me. However, contemporary Christianity makes the assumption that where this is happening, salvation is present. At least that is what I have seen, many times. Indeed, any time someone saw evidence of God's Spirit at work in my life, it was because I was "already saved"...and that isn't necessarily the case. It is possible to "taste" and not yet have "consumed" according to Hebrews 6. You can harden your heart against conviction before you are converted.

Don't think I'm right? Ok, just try voicing your doubts sometime. If you are strugging with doubts, just try to bring them out in the open. The happy faces around you won't be smiling long in a seeker church. See, "you've walked an isle, quit insulting God". That seems to be the only fruit necessary for proof of conversion. If you doubt your salvation, silly boy, just look at the floor for your nike prints leading down to the altar! "You did your bit, and God has to do His!" (Again, notice salvation by works).

The seeker church will not and cannot allow for biblical self-examination. That is, at least in part, because you have to show results. And we have to be sure our numbers our up. That can't happen if you are doubting. You're just being a burden to those who want to claim a higher tally and move on.

I would also ask professing Christianity to stop telling people "if you are saved, God will give you a passion for..." this or that. No, He may or may not. In any case, those words imply some sort of feeling. You say "what's the problem with this?". The problem becomes obvious when someone who has "prayed the prayer" then has doubts, which may be legitimate doubts. What happens is the person says "...but I don't have that feeling of passion you mention". The response? "Quit living by your feelings". Excuse me, but you said if I'm really saved, I'll have this feeling....

If you do that kind of thing to those who are doubting, kindly shut up. All it does is lead to increased frustration and exacerbated doubts. If it isn't about feelings, quit implying that salvation will produce a "feeling", no matter how you describe it...a passion, or whatever. If you say that salvation will produce a "passion" (a feeling which can ebb or become obscure) to see others saved, then you must deal with the fact that the person may be a false convert. But don't even dare say "stop living by your feelings" if someone says they don't have a passion that you say they should have. It is patently wrong, stupid and unloving in the extreme for it minimizes the peril that that soul may very well be in. Again, if you are guilty of doing this, please shut up until you can get it right and, no, I won't apologize for using the language I've used.

For someone who is doubting it is far better to look at their life and ask them to tell you if they are now pursuing godly things. Things that demonstrate repentance and obedience. Before I was converted (whenever that was), I led a life of filth. As a "seeker" (their term, not mine), I was a real "problem child" because I had difficulty leaving my past behind me. I was perceived as a curse, like an amputee at a Benny Hinn revival who refused to grow legs on command. I saw my past as a great ocean of mud and slime, with some certain sins standing as skyscrapers, hundreds of stories high. There were times when I was convinced I was hopeless. The only cure was time and growth. I see now where there were times when I'd started to veer off course only to realize that somehow, in some way, God was tapping me back to the center of the road. Isaiah said "Whether you turn to the left or the right, I will tell you 'this is the way, go in it" (my paraphrase).

It may be months. It may be years. But what God wants from those who would follow Him is obedience. And he will drag ("helkuo") you through whatever is necessary to get you to trust in Him and obey Him. He'll kick out props. Anything that holds you up other than Himself, He will remove. But eventually you will get to the point where you see what He is doing and you will have a choice of "Will I Really Trust Him or Will I Not". And that, my friend, may be your point of conversion, regardless of what anyone in your church says.

That is a personal history that helps one overcome the doubts. It's a faith builder that defies the laws of the seeker movement which demands a decision and a settled contentment with that decision, regardless of doubts which may even be legitimate.

You say "wow, you really seem passionate about this!" You better believe I am. I've had a decade of this kind of thing and it is simply wrong headed.

Is it possible to be in a mental state where you lose track of a passion you'd otherwise be aware of? Sure! It's been a real problem for me. I tend to be very cerebral. My mind tends to be very busy. What makes it even worse is a tendency to be introspective and analytical. Sometimes I think I have an attention deficit. But when I can get myself to a point where my mind is calmed, I tend to be more aware of my concern for ministering to others, sharing the Gospel, or whatever else God wants me to do.

If you are struggling in your faith, don't let the appeals of the "Seeker Sensitive" people stop you from coming to a point of assurance when God wants you to have it. You may be looked down on as I was. You may be chastised for not becoming "stable" on command. But refuse to be another notch in the "seeker" tally. If you doubt, don't hesitate to do what I have done, which is to simply say "Lord, I am not sure of where I am. You know my feelings, I trust You. Only You can sort this mess out, I don't know the end from the beginning. You do even if I don't". Use the trial as a reason to trust in God. Use it as a stepping stone instead of letting it be a stumbling block.

Are you saved? I can't tell you. Only God knows who belongs to Him. I still remember the cold, hard statement of Rick Holland back in 1998 when I was in the depths of doubt. I had attended Logos Bible Institute (at John MacArthur's church) with Rick in 1982 and '83. He is now an elder at the church there. He told me, quite simply, that if my faith was real, "it'll last". And that is the ultimate test. "Those who endure to the end will be saved". Or, "the ones who are saved will endure". It's called "the perseverance of the saints". If your conversion is real, it will show itself in continuance, for "He Who began a good work in you will continue to perform it..." according to Paul in Philippians.

The seeker movement is a death trap for true conversion. It truncates true conversion. It discourages those who need to doubt from doubting. All it does is encourage everyone to wear a "happy mask" which allows Satan to convince the one who struggles that he or she is all alone when, truth be told, most everyone is probably struggling. . . needlessly or not.

Thus, seekerism kills true body life. It does it by discouraging the very thing that God may be doing in someone's life. It does it when it falsely assumes conversion when it shouldn't be assumed. It does it when it discourages those who doubt from investigating the reason for their doubts, as legitimate as they may be. It does it by keeping others from being truthful about their doubts, which allows Satan to 'divide and conquer'. And it displays itself as an overall lie when it claims concern for others when it simultaneously shows lack of regard and patience with those who struggle.

It is a damnable heresy.


Coram Deo said...

Amen, brother!

Joe said...

Is it possible at least SOME of the thousands from "seeker" chuches that have commited their lives to Christ, been baptized, discipled, got involved in ministry, and have gone on mission trips around the world ... might actually BE saved? At least a few? Maybe?

Tim Brown said...

God is sovereign and I'm sure that is the case.

Having said that, it in no way makes "seekerism" scriptural.

I'm sure that the Lord used Charles Finney to bring a few people into the kingdom but Finney was far from orthodox. At least some of his theology was out and out heretical.

...and even a clock that is stopped is right twice per day. But you'd probably reevaluate keeping the clock if you couldn't get it running right.

Joe said...

Proverbs says, "The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him." (Pro 18:17) Realize that there are two sides to every issue. Many intelligent and committed believers will be on both sides of the issues.

Also realize that Christians will disagree. When one side starts judging the motivations of the other side, that's when your alarm needs to go off.

When you suggest the other side is evil, and selfish, out for money, out for fame, that's when you lose credibility and you hinder the work of God. I doubt anyone here can fully account for their OWN motivations, much less anyone elses. Disagreement is fine. By all means, a robust debate on ministry methods is great. But you can disagree without being disagreeable. Don't judge motives.

As Paul said, "Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don't argue about doubtful issues. One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat; and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. Who are you to criticize another's household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And stand he will! For the Lord is able to make him stand." (Rom 14:1-4)

I know you think this issue is the difference between heaven and hell. That's what the jewish converts thought as well. And Paul told them not to judge and look down on each other.

By the fruit you will know the truth. If Satan can't get you to do the wrong thing, he'll get you to do the right thing in the wrong way. Can't we agree to debate the issues, but with respect, courtesy, and without assumption that the other person doesn't believe the Bible and is destined for hell?

Remember, Jesus said they're know we are Christians by our comptletely correct, bullet-proof doctrine -- uh, wait ... that's not right. They will know we are Christians by ... the way we treat other Christians. By our LOVE.

Tim Brown said...

You said one thing that I can agree with:

"If Satan can't get you to do the wrong thing, he'll get you to do the right thing in the wrong way."

The seeker movement fits that description.

It fails in many ways. Here are two: 1). It misses the sinner's real need for a less important "felt need". What would you think of a doctor who ignored a bleeding jugular vein because a person is complaining of the pain of a broken limb? This is no trivial question.

2). Seekerism trivializes the dire need of getting the message to the unsaved person. Every lost person is walking toward a cliff. You know that. I know that. But neither of us know when that person will go over the edge via death. So, how long are you going to take to get them the message? Again, not trivial.

Your initial comment seems to be saying "If it works, it must be ok". That is not true. Pragmatism is not the measure of truth. The scriptures are. That implies knowing some theology...by definition, the study of God and how He works.

When Paul wrote Galatians, he didn't say "Oh. Ok, you define the gospel one way and maybe I'm wrong". He put a curse on any gospel other than the one he delivered. ANY other gospel. The contemporary gospel leaves out repentance. Seeker churches won't mention this for two reasons that I've repeatedly seen 1) "They won't understand what that means" and 2)It might offend them. Well, with regard to "they won't understand" I suppose Jesus was wrong in using the term "born again" because Nicodemus didn't understand what He meant. With regard to 2) the message of the cross is going to be offensive...unless you get rid of words like "repentance" or "Sin" which I've seen time and again. This is a different gospel.

Motive? I'm guessing at motive? No, I don't think so. It's been spelled out to me time and again. I stand by what I said by sheer exposure to it.

Yup, we're called to love. We are called to love God and love our neighbor. That sums up the whole of the law. But love can be, and often is, confrontive... especially when it comes to something as important as the Gospel, the definition of which is not a "Romans 14 weaker brother" issue.

I'd argue that in this case it is an utter necessity.

Joe said...

Our experiences are definitely different. I don't doubt that you've been hurt by seeker churches. I'm am truly sorry for the hurt that you've experienced. We can't assume our experiences have been the same. I won't debate what you've seen.

We both agree that "weaker brothers" need tolerance and not judging. And we both agree that heresies need confronting. I agree that love can mean that we need to confront.

I agree that we need to be about spiritual change above all else. No disagreement there. I agree that it would be criminal to not help someone's deepest need. And I don't believe in procrastinating with important matters.

We agree on 95% of the issues.

Where we seem to disagree is what makes for a foundational doctrinal issue (that needs correcting, church discipline, and separation from the offending party) and a we-don't-agree-but-that's-ok-we're-both-still-Christian-brothers type issue. Would you agree with that?

So the million dollar question is: How do you tell which is which? What's the minimum amount of agreement we need before we're not labelling each other as apostates? Are we talking about the Apostle's creed? Nicene Creed?

And don't say, "You just need to believe the Bible" because that is grossly over-simplifying the issue. For example, in Revelation, some people are pre-tribulation and some people are post-tribulation. The Bible isn't clear, and both can be Christians and yet disagree.

For example, I'll choose an issue we probably both agree on. Some denominations believe salvation comes after being baptized. (I disagree with them, by the way, and hold to my Baptist roots on that particular issue). However, if they believe this, does that make them: 1) Bad at Biblical interpretation 2) A Christian, but activiely sinning by clinging to a false belief 3) A non-Christian destined for hell. I know people who believe, in my example, that a person who believes that baptism is a requirement for salvation is actually trusting in the ceremony instead of Christ, and is therefore not saved. What do you think? And how do you handle them?

Tim Brown said...

While I appreciate your questions, let me be concise.

First, my experience in no way validates or invalidates the seeker movement. Everything is to be measured according to the scriptures. On that basis, seekerism fails the test. Jesus fed the 5000, but He also rebuked many of them who approached Him later (same chapter) who simply wanted more bread. So much for being seeker sensitive. He also didn't take a lifetime to address the needs of the woman at the well. Within a very short time, He was helping her understand her sinfulness. Again, not seeker sensitive or "relational" as contemporary Christianity defines it.

Secondly, you said that "Where we seem to disagree is what makes for a foundational doctrinal issue...."
Most of what I have been addressing has to do with the definition of the Gospel -- are you saying that this isn't foundational?

Joe said...

Please, dear brother, do not try and interpret my words to suggest in any way that I'm not a Christian ("Most of what I have been addressing has to do with the definition of the Gospel -- are you saying that this isn't foundational?"). It's a form of attack. I'm not sure if you realize it, but I perceive it that way. It tends to make me defensive (I'm sure other people would agree). You could phrase it this way:

"See, the trouble I am having is that for me, this matter seems to relate to the very heart of the Gospel, and it not a peripherial issue, as you seem to suggest. It seems like a compromise to the message. I might be wrong, but when I see people leave out sin, that's a major part of the message, isn't it?"

Something like that. It's nice, and it doesn't imply that I'm not a Christian by asking my question. The "I might be wrongs" tend to inject a little humility, which is the best antidote to pride.

I noticed you didn't answer the question, though. I'm honesty curious.

You seem to suggest (I might be wrong) that the standard by which we judge foundational issues, if whether or not one of the two parties interprets it to be about a foundational issue.

Joe said...

(And also, by the way, I agree that the Gospel message includes sin)

If you haven't noticed, I'm trying to stay away from rehashing solid arguments on both sides and stick to the topic of increasing polarization and vilification between groups on different sides of issues. We make the other party out to be the Devil, when in reality, he agrees with us 95-99%. And non-Christians think we're hateful, unloving, bitter people (and honestly, they have a point).

My major points:

1) I disagree with your philosophy of ministry (and I'm still a Christian, and I firmly believe you are, too)

2) Judging motives of other people is counterproductive and unloving.

3) Neither of us have a monopoly on truth or Biblical interpretation.

That's all.

Honestly, I wish you the best.

Tim Brown said...

Actually, I'm simply asking for clarification.

I have asked a fair question. Do you view the doctrine of salvation as foundational?

Joe said...

I was trying not to do this. Here we go:

Your implied and explicit propositions:

1) You notice that some "seeker" churches "leave out" the concept of sin when they share the Gospel.
2) All "seeker" churches can be characterized by removing the concept of sin from the Gospel.
3) The Gospel of sin is foundational to the Bible and God's redeptive message for humanity.
4) Therefore, we should rebuke people who leave out the Gospel message of sin.

You're asking if I agree with Proposition 3. I do!

I just don't believe your implied Propositions 1 & 2. Especially 2. You might convince me the seeker church you know of removes sin, but the one I'm involved in does not.


Tim Brown said...

You said:

"You're asking if I agree with Proposition 3. I do!"

(Actually, it's an issue of sin and repentance, which are major elements of the true gospel. We see both from Jesus and the apostles.)

Then explain this statement:

"Where we seem to disagree is what makes for a foundational doctrinal issue...."

If you are not speaking of the gospel, what specific doctrinal issue are you talking about?

You agree with me? Disagree?

Joe said...

Yes. I agree sin AND repentance. To answer your question, I don't think it's a doctinal issue.

Let me add my propositions (which are completely difference from yours), and then you can comment:

1) The Gospel message is unchanging for all times and all cultures: admit sin, repent, make Jesus Lord.
2) Some churches, use different evengalism styles to communicate the Gospel message to nonbelievers.
3) As long as the Gospel message is fundamentally unchanged, evangelism styles can vary, and many examples of styles exist in the Bible. Jesus himself used many different styles depending on who he was talking to.
4) So long as an evangelism style is consistent with Biblical principles, it's ok to use it.
5) A choice of evangelism styles is not doctrinal issues, and falls under the "acceptance" area.

So, you say it's a Gospel issue. I say it's an evangelism style issue, because we actually agree on the basic Gospel message.


Tim Brown said...

...glad to hear you say some of those things, although a mis-defined gospel is a serious doctrinal issue.

If you know of any real "seeker" churches that readily preach the message of man's sinfulness, and the need for repentance and faith in Christ as Lord (master), then everything I've seen would rule them out as true "seeker sensitive" churches, by definition.

Leaving out the message of personal sin, repentance and Lordship would not be a mere difference of "style" but would be an assault the gospel itself.

Evangelism is done by presenting the gospel. The Spirit of God brings "the knowledge of sin, righteousness and judgment". We "Do evangelism God's way" by using the Law (10 commandments) to bring the knowledge of sin via the sinner's sub conscient knowlege of the law that God put in the human heart.

The Law is the true "key" which unlocks and awakens the conscience of the sinner.

This was what Jesus did and what we are to do. 1 Timothy 1:8ff says that the law is good if it is used properly. This is how to use it properly. Through it comes the knowledge of sin. I know of no other scriptural way to do that.

I'm familiar with other methods..."friendship evangelism" (which is presumptuous of how long the lost person has to live) and similar methods such as "This is what Jesus can do for you", which is essentially humanistic in nature.

Now, am I against "becoming the friend of a lost person"? Of course not! But it takes maybe 5 minutes to get to a point where you can share the gospel. It doesn't take days, months or years.

Neither am I against meeting legitimate needs. James said, for example, if I refuse to meet someone's daily needs when I am able to do so, that shows my faith isn't real. So, I certainly believe in that. But in no way do you delay giving them the message of sin, repentance and faith in Christ as Lord.

Do you do that? I'll ask you what I ask anyone else...do you go out of your way to share the gospel with others you know aren't saved?

If not, isn't the verse I mentioned in James applicable to presenting the Gospel to those who need it as well? If meeting physical needs is a priority, how much more important is the spiritual need...???

Joe said...

Before we discuss evangelism styles ... you said:

"If you know of any real "seeker" churches ... then everything I've seen would rule them out as true "seeker sensitive" churches, by definition"

The church I am in is widely seen as a "seeker" church, but actually agrees with all the tenets we discussed as the basis for the Gospel message. However, people assume/judge from their methods that they don't believe in the Gospel.

So can we say we agree on the Gospel message, and we're both Christians? We will both respect each other's opinions, though we may disagree on evangelism styles?

I think a discussion of different styles would be GREAT, but I want to make sure we're on the same page first.

Tim Brown said...

Again, what do you *do*? Do you go out of your way to present the gospel of repentance and faith to those you know or suspect are lost? I'm not asking you what you *believe*, I'm asking what you *do*. What you *Do* will show me what you believe. So, when was the last time you helped someone realize their lost state before God and their need to repent and trust Christ?

That's what all this comes down to...

There is no need to discuss "styles". Jesus had two, as did the apostles. We can read what they did in the Scriptures. The two styles were 1). Law to the proud and 2). Grace to those who have been humbled by the law.

I'll leave you with that. I'd also recommend you view the following:

First One

Second One

Third One

This is Biblical evangelism. Should you wish to discuss this further, you may email me. My email address is available in my profile here.

As I've said, and what James teaches, what you *do* tells me what you *believe*.

Joe said...

Let's see. I *did* that yesterday. I constantly share with my classmates, most of whom are lost. And my church *did* that for thousands of people and continute to do that. (And keep getting criticized by people like you)

I'm talking about styles because you are cricitizing/juding other Christians for their evangelism styles. THAT'S why it's important.

So as a fellow brother in Christ, who believes the same foundation truths you do, I'm asking you to please stop criticizing other churches and ministries. Please stop judging thier motives. Please stop implying they are not Christians.

Do share Christ. Do continue in your own ministry and share Christ with people. That's great. Keep it up.

Just stop with the "friendly fire". I won't criticize you and suggest that you're evil and bad. Please don't do the same to me or my church.

pastorbrianculver said...

Wow! Looks like I missed out on the fun here! How is everyone doing? I just wanted to add my 2cents worth to these comments. I respect what you both have to say and appreciate the friendly crossfire that you both displayed.

I have copied part of one of the posts here and will respond in kind.

Yes. I agree sin AND repentance. To answer your question, I don't think it's a doctinal issue.
(sin and repentance are essential. Just look at the churches listed in Revelation 2&3. If repentance does not occur, God will remove His lampstand from them. That is pretty clear. Pretty essential.)

1) The Gospel message is unchanging for all times and all cultures: admit sin, repent, make Jesus Lord.
(repentance is turning away from sin and doing it no more. We don't "make" Jesus Lord. HE IS LORD.)

2) Some churches, use different evengalism styles to communicate the Gospel message to nonbelievers.
(just because they "use" different methods doesn't make it right. Mormons have an evangelism style and we don't agree with them. It has to do with "what is actually being said to the unbeliever.")

3) As long as the Gospel message is fundamentally unchanged, evangelism styles can vary, and many examples of styles exist in the Bible. Jesus himself used many different styles depending on who he was talking to.
(the gospel message should not be "fundamentally" unchanged. We do not change perfection! Ever! The styles that Jesus used was this: Law to the proud, Grace to the humble. He did it like this "every" time without fail.)

4) So long as an evangelism style is consistent with Biblical principles, it's ok to use it.
(the end result should be that someone see's themselves as a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. Once they see that, they will cling to Jesus, they will call on Him and believe everything He taught. They will then "do" everything He taught us to do. He said that if you do not keep His commands, then you do not love him and will not be loved by the Father. What is His will for us? It is revealed in Ephesians 1:9-10. We are to be involved in the Great Commission so that we can help to bring the redeemed of the Lord together on earth as it will be in heaven.)

5) A choice of evangelism styles is not doctrinal issues, and falls under the "acceptance" area.
(sorry, I don't think I understand what this one means. sorry about that!)

So, you say it's a Gospel issue. I say it's an evangelism style issue, because we actually agree on the basic Gospel message.
(here is all I really want to say. I was a pastor that used to tell jokes behind the pulpit. I was a story teller and I would read Scripture. My style of evangelism was to have the people "invite" others to come to church with the idea that they would hear the gospel and be saved. But unfortunately, some people die while driving to church. Some people decide to sleep in and never hear the message. When church becomes a place of entertainment, it has completely lost the ability to transform lives. When I heard a pastor confess that he had to apologize for telling a particular joke in church the previous week because it had offended some people, it bothered me. Because I did it too. Why did he tells jokes. He said this: "I tell jokes because sometime's God's Word can be heavy and convicting and I don't want anyone to leave here with a downcast look on their face." I have to tell you, if God's Word is heavy and convicting, then why would we want to lighten the message? Let God's Word do its thing! Let it convict the sinner of his sins. That is the only way to bring them to the bloodied cross of Jesus.) I don't want to see any church fail to properly teach God's Word. We preach heaven. Let's start preaching hell. Because wide is the path of destruction and narrow is the way to heaven. Many false converts sitting in church will be disappointed when the day comes and they come face to face with Jesus and say, Lord, Lord, and He will say to them, depart from me you worker of iniquity. I never knew you. [iniquity is lawlessness] Which church will your church be in Revelation? something to think about!)

Joe said...

"When church becomes a place of entertainment.."

If you mean entertainment as a "diversion", then no, church should not be entertaining. If you mean entertainment as "engaging" (both are valid definitions--see m-w.com), then yes, as a speaker, you SHOULD be engaging. Jesus was the greatest teacher the world had ever seen (he is Lord, too) and was very engaging. He told stories ALL THE TIME. They always had a point, but Jesus is known for his story-telling (parables).

"We don't "make" Jesus Lord. HE IS LORD"

I think everybody understands that my meaning was "make Jesus Lord" *of your life*. You DO make Jesus Lord of your life. I was not suggesting Jesus is not Lord of everything else (i.e., everything but sinners and the Satanic). This is exactly what people find irritating about "religious" people. Correcting every jot-and-tiddle. (See pharisees)

"the gospel message should not be "fundamentally" unchanged. We do not change perfection!"

Unless you've always taught sermons/lessons, word-for-word, verse-by-verse with NO CHANGES in the sequence of verses, start-to-finish with no extra words on your part ... then, you have changed the "message" in a "nonfundamental" way. So you do it already. Aren't you changing perfection?

(I'm suggesting that you're over-simplifying by proclaiming "perfection". You're saying nothing can be changed, and we both know we make sequence changes, pick verses over others, add our own stories, etc. What we're talking about is changing the "fundamental" Biblical principles. I said, don't change anything fundamental.)

Tim Brown said...

*This is exactly what people find irritating about "religious" people. Correcting every jot-and-tiddle. (See pharisees)*

Ok, Joe. I think you need to reconsider statements like this.

On the one hand, you don't like what you read on my blog about problems in the seeker movement, but here you are beginning to sound more like a part of it.

This kind of comment is not uncommon. It can be heard in the "Purpose Driven" movement from Rick Warren himself when his movement is criticized.

Brian's point is a good one and is very common. You don't "make" God anything. He is complete in and of Himself. Likewise, He IS Lord. He is everyone's Lord, even if they are in complete lost disobedience. The only question is, are you obeying Him?

But you don't *make Him anything*. To say that puts the stress on our choice, not God's character.

When you misrepresent me by saying I'm guessing at motives (even after I have told you that is false), that is one thing. Perhaps I shouldn't have tolerated that; I wanted to see if we could communicate. But you repeated that falsehood again in your last post to me. This is wrong but I have kept silent.

However, I will not tolerate you treating other visitors to my blog in this manner. You are implying there is something wrong with theological precision. That isn't what was wrong with the pharisees. They sought their own righteousness apart from God in their traditions. That is NOT what Brian is doing.

You are a guest here. You don't have an inalienable right to post comments on this blog. I'd ask you to refrain from further such comparisons and misrepresentations.

Joe said...

I'm sorry. I used the word pharisee as a label. I got a little upset. Please accept my sincere apology.

I've had my theology "corrected" on salvation, at least 3 times. Tim has implied I don't believe basic Christian doctrines. He calls it 'theological precision'. I just call it irritating. If Jesus acted that way, I doubt he'd be the "friend of sinners" that he was. He hung around with theologically impresise people, and they were comfortable around him.

As far as judging ministries: Tim calls my pastor an "apostate" (that was the first one I found while searching your blog). If that isn't judging, I have no idea what is.

I called your friend a pharisee and I apologized. You called my pastor an apostate.

I would like:

1) Please apologize (to him, not to me) for that.

2) Explain why it's ok for you to judge my pastor, but not for me to judge your friend. (at least your friend and I have chatted)

Tim Brown said...

Please allow me to answer you point by point:

"I'm sorry. I used the word pharisee as a label. I got a little upset. Please accept my sincere apology."

*apology accepted. I would assume that Brian will respond the same*

"I've had my theology "corrected" on salvation, at least 3 times. Tim has implied I don't believe basic Christian doctrines. He calls it 'theological precision'."

*No, I had to almost beg you to clarify your position. I had to repeat questions because you wouldn't answer them. Re-read my posts. I'm tired of repeating myself*

"I just call it irritating..."

*What you call it doesn't matter. Precision counts here.*

"As far as judging ministries: Tim calls my pastor an "apostate" (that was the first one I found while searching your blog). If that isn't judging, I have no idea what is."

*When did I mention your pastor? I spoke of a movement, not your pastor. This is called 'bearing false witness'*

"...You called my pastor an apostate.*

*Again, I was speaking of the seeker movement. Show me your pastor's name and you won't be bearing false witness. You said your group doesn't fit the mold. Ok, it doesn't apply to your group. But the points are true for the movement regardless."

I accept the blame for this thread. When I read your first comment, I debated posting it. I could see the sarcasm in it. But I allowed it because I don't like filtering comments unless they are completely abusive. I was hoping we could discuss things with clarity. I was apparently very wrong.

You apparently cannot separate comment on a movement from a personal statement. Your group doesn't fit the profile I described? Then by definition I haven't mentioned your group or pastor. That is called an exception...

As far as the thread is concerned, I see no redeeming value in it. It amounts to attempting to nail jello to a wall. Therefore, I think what I'll do is let it sit as is so others can see what you have been doing regarding false witness. After a few days, I'll purge the comments.

As it is, it serves as a prime example of some one entering my "home" as it were, putting his feet up on my coffee table and dictating to me what I will and will not say.

No, I don't think so.

Joe said...

"Rick Warren at his apostate best"


You called Rick Warren an apostate.

Joe said...

And now it would be great if you'd "un-accuse" me of "bearing false witness"


Tim Brown said...

Yup. You're right. I did say that.

And I stand by what I said.

Thanks for clarifying things.


Tim Brown said...

Comments closed for this thread on November 27th.

Final note:

Joe later reached me by email. Someone researched this for me and found a person by the same name working at Purpose Driven. Same person? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, I'd suggest reading Joe's comments about "his church" in a new light.

End of thread.