Monday, July 30, 2012

Lure Them In, pt. 2

Part One

If you didn't figure it out already, the title is play on the lyrics to a well-known hymn, Bring Them In.  The song contains a nice allusion to what I believe is the parable of the lost sheep.  The concept of "lure them in" doesn't happen in the Bible.  "Bring Them In" isn't a picture of an invitation to church, but an invitation to salvation.

I recently had a private conversation with a pastor who uses promotion (offering of candy, small toys, soda pop, etc.) to lure a crowd.  I suggested to him (privately) that having a majority of unbelievers in your assembly could affect or influence your own young people.  I gave several possible bad results from this.  I oppose it for many other reasons.  Problems, however, occur when we in any way move from a scriptural path.  In at least three sermons after that, he told the story of the pastor he talked to who criticized their caring for the lost.  I said nothing of the kind to him.  I hope they care for the lost.  I think they are convinced that they do.  But I want you to consider with me who really cares for the unsaved sinners.

Option A.  A church goes out and preaches the gospel to everyone, attempting to preach the gospel to everyone.  Option B.  The people of a church go out to invite everyone to church, and just to be kind, let's say or imagine that 50% of those invited attend the church, and when they go, they hear the gospel at the church gathering.  Which of these two is most caring?  In other words, who really does care for unsaved sinners?

In option A everyone hears the gospel and has an opportunity to be saved.  In option B only half the people hear the gospel and have an opportunity to be saved.  The other half of the people, even with the very generous 50% attendees, do not have the opportunity to be saved.  With option A, the Bible is obeyed and the example of Christ and the Apostles is followed.  In option B, a methodology is invented and added to Scripture.   God is love.  They who abide in God, abide in love.  The Bible is God's Word.  Nothing could be more loving than what God's Word says to do.  God defines love.  God defines care.  If we do what the Bible says, then we are being the most caring and loving possible.  Option A alone follows God's Word.  Option A really cares for unsaved sinners.  Option A cares for sinners more than Option B.  We shouldn't want our people to believe option B.  It isn't caring for us to convince them they are more caring when they disobey Scripture.  In addition to not caring for unsaved sinners, it doesn't care for God.

The promotion in poor neighborhoods done by churches who follow the pattern of option B above is akin to the new society of United States history.  It is a kind of church welfare.  It is a program that goes to the people who are most vulnerable to these kinds of methods, and takes advantage of those people.  It uses them in essence for the sake of numbers.  It justifies the American welfare system, because it initiates a plan that mirrors that system.  American politicians grow their political power by buying votes.  Churches grow their numbers too by buying attendees.  The people that are most accustomed to taking a handout are vindicated by a church, a church which would most likely say that it is against this kind of strategy when it is utilized by the American government.  The people are not shown then the way out.  They are encouraged to remain the same type of people, who would be motivated in such a way.

The same types of arguments would be used in the government as would be used by the revivalist, fundamentalist churches who use promotion to lure in attendees.  Those who oppose the government handouts would be called uncompassionate, lacking in care.  Those who oppose the church promotional handouts would be called uncompassionate, lacking in care.  Both actually are causing harm.  By nature of its superior institutional position, the church is doing more harm than the government.  For what is at stake, the operation of the church, of which Jesus is the Head, a perverted methodology is worse when the church uses it.


Am I wrong to think that nothing seems more theologically wacky than professing Calvinists who think that they are more evangelistic by using humanly devised new measures to increase their unsaved crowd?  They might use fancy theological terms to describe what they're doing---contextualizing, missional, incarnational---but they are really just using forms of promotion and marketing as a part of a church growth technique.  They aren't trusting in God.  They aren't trusting that salvation is of the Lord.  They are behaving as though church growth is dependent on them, even though their professed theology says that it is irrelevant.

What puts the "restless" and the "new" into these Calvinists is how they expect church growth will happen.  The band---rock, rap, or grunge, the kegger party, the casual dress, the staging and lighting, the comedic style of communication, multisite technology---all of these and more are a basis for growth.  In a recent online video, well-known new Calvinist, Mark Driscoll, in a discussion with James MacDonald and Mark Dever, in his defense of being streamed into a particular multisite, talks about the necessity of his speaking versus someone there in New Mexico as a means of church growth.   Driscoll admits that no one had as much contribution to his preaching skills then the comedian Chris Rock. These are the lures of the new Calvinists, none of which match up with anything related to scriptural church growth.  It's easy to see and then they themselves would explain that these are keys to the expansion of their church and movement.

What is different between the revivalist, fundamentalist (RF) lures and the young, restless, and reformed (YRR) lures?   They are targeting a different audience.  The RF would argue that they are way different because they don't use sinful means as YRR for their attraction.  In essence, the RF would claim to use a less worldly means in degree than that of the YRR for their attraction.  They would preach against the casual dress and the alcohol.  However, they are strange bedfellows in depending on an invitation philosophy and the use of humanistic methods to attract unbelievers.

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