Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Lure Them In, pt. 3
Part One. Part Two.
Let's say you had a church that was doing everything that the Bible teaches a church to do, and even does all of them well with real affection toward God. Great expositional, biblical preaching. Widespread, regular, and bold evangelism. Giving. Obedient. Qualified leaders. Practices scriptural discipline. Discipleship. Unsaved people are still not interested in that church. They are even more disinterested than before, most of the time. Churches know that, hence the lures of different kinds to attract visitors.
God actually wants people interested in Him. That's the point. And He wants them interested in Who He actually is, not a version of Him that has been modified to be likable to someone who wouldn't like Him otherwise. To allow people to be interested in God actually, in God really, the God of the Bible, then a church needs to expose the actual and real Him. To be saved, they do have to receive the one and true God. Unbelievers can't receive the modified version of God and be saved. He does have to be the real Him.
Potential church visitors don't really like godly things. Some are interested, for sure, but if they had been, churches would go ahead and offer them the things that they are supposed to like. The truth is, the churches themselves don't like spiritual things in many cases, sort of like an animal that doesn't like his medicine. They get it to slip down like Mark Driscoll, with comedy. It's explained as giftedness, but it really is a comedic ability and dynamic that is entertaining. You can get your church, your medicine, like candy. You candy-coat it with worldly things, to cover for that which is offensive to the world.
Churches who don't offer God because the world doesn't like Him are in fact ashamed of God, of Jesus Christ. Even when a church offers friendship, a fun time, neat people, great music, a fantastic building, and things that are less than some promotion, they are not offering God, because God isn't good enough for those people. The church is like a teenager who walks several feet behind his/her parents so that others won't know he/she's associated with them. All of it is a form of bait and switch. The bait is whatever isn't God that the world might like and the switch is God. God as "bait" won't lure the world.
In fact, God, the Word of God, the Bible, Jesus, all of those, can attract the world, but only supernaturally, in a way that doesn't make sense, humanly speaking. What 1 Corinthians says is that all of those are foolishness to the lost. So how do they work? They work in an unexplainable way, the way that in the end gives glory to God. God expects it that way so He does get the glory. In many cases, the gospel message won't attract, but will repel. People don't like how it feels to be a repellent. They would rather not, so they go ahead and lure.
REGULAR EVANGELICAL LURES
As I grew up, Jack Hyles in the Chicago area was the poster boy for church lures. He seemed to have invented the revivalist, fundamentalist brand of lures. Perhaps, however, he was just in a line of this type of strategy going back to D. L. Moody. In the same trajectory of the Chicago church experience was Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Community Church) and his revolutionizing of the seeker-sensitive movement. At Wikipedia, it reads as "sociological awareness of the target population."
The point of being seeker sensitive is to be sensitive to the likes and dislikes of the unsaved people whom these churches are targeting for church attendance. For instance, the seekers don't like long prayers, so in a seeker service, you don't pray long, because they'll get bored or fall asleep. You find the mood of a meeting that is most desirous of a seeker and then go about creating that mood. Unsaved people want an informal and relaxed atmosphere, so the church cultivates that atmosphere through various means. Seekers are the unsaved people. Seekers don't like hymns or hymnbooks. The seeker wants answers to his questions, self-help in essence, not bible teaching or doctrine. A seeker prefers music performed not participation in congregational singing. A seeker wants to feel special, so make him feel special.
The regular evangelical churches, which almost all utilize some form of seeker philosophy and methodology, say to identify your target and define the event. The target determines the musical style, lyric content, presentation, length of service, and “stage look” of the event. Talking about God and doctrine and preaching are not the means of church growth. This is how I differentiate between promotion and marketing, which are technically the same, but I use them to categorize the two different means. However, regular evangelical churches have decided to market themselves to seekers, unsaved people, as a means of church growth.
These regular evangelical churches ruin people, because they replace the right understanding of a church with their faulty model. It also affects the gospel, because everything starts with the pampering of self when Jesus requires denial of self. Even after they decide to stay in the church and even accept Jesus, they have stopped asking what is unscriptural about the various practices. They like it. It works. Their kids like it. It's big. It's easier to get along with the world and worldly friends, and keep the worldly things that you like. The Jesus of the Bible is replaced with a different version of Jesus, for sure. God isn't glorified. Most of the people don't know Who He is.
In a very difficult area for the gospel, we have three large versions of these types of churches that are competing for the same audience with their lures. They would all admit that they are filled with unbelieving people. If they want people to be involved, they have to present it like left-winged agnostics promote their own community service opportunities. You give back. You pay it forward. You don't want to live selfish, because that will just make you feel bad. If you are going to fully thrive and be a happy, productive person, you should choose one of the causes the church offers and be a participant. Those kinds of things. All of this works, and these churches really congratulate themselves for how well they've done at figuring out church growth.
More to Come