Monday, July 19, 2010

Fundamental Errors of the Emergent Seeker Sensitive Church Movement

Malachi 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts...

Willow Creek, Saddle Back, North Point, and Crossroads churches are all emergent seeker sensitive churches, just to name a few. The formula for these churches is cleverly packaged and pushed at church conferences all over America. Any church can adhere to this formula and become one of these churches almost overnight, (with a descent loan of course).
The first step to starting one of these churches is to poll the unchurched. The poll asks questions to find out what makes the church comfortable for the unchurched unbeliever. Do all churches have to perform these polls? No, they have already been done, and the results are in. So what does your average unbelieving unchurched person want from church? They want self help groups, short relevant messages, contemporary music, better finances, obedient kids, and a manicured lawn. They do not want long sermons about how we should repent of our sins. They do not want sins to be called by name. They do not like confrontational evangelism. They want talented dynamic personalities to entertain them. They want a hip pastor, a kicking band, and lots of activities.
What kind of church do you get? Here is the average service, (for those of you who have never attended one of these churches). For those of you that do attend one of these churches, I want you to know that your church is not the only church using these methods. All of these churches have the same basic formula for their church services:

- Opening song with big lights, drums, and guitar
- Hip guy is on stage with a graphic t-shirt, stained and faded jeans (bought from the store that way), and hair purposely a little disheveled. He welcomes everyone, and then makes a quirky transition to the band.
- The band plays a couple songs that everyone knows from the local pop Christian radio station.
- A video comes on while the stage is being cleared. The lights dim.
- The video is usually one of three categories: a funny clip from a recent movie or church made movie, or someone driving along and the camera is pointed at depressed looking people, or a series of photos of people who look depressed or they are pondering something or maybe a hurt puppy or small child in a 3rd world country (all in black and white of course). As the video plays, questions pop up on the screen.
- There is one man with the answers to the questions. The lights come on and the message begins.
- For the most part, the message appeals to the emotions more than the will or the conscious. There is a heavy emphasis on whatever the pastor's vision is. Maybe being purpose driven, or having your best life now, or being a disciple that says "come and see." There is also a great emphasis on letting culture lead people to Christ.
- The pastor speaks softly to draw you in, then emphatically drives home the message, long pause, some repetition, painful expression, really long prayer so the music leader has enough time to come back out on stage.
- Emotional song that will make you cry
- Dismissed to the coffee shop for a three dollar latte and a two dollar muffin

These churches also rely heavily on pop-psychology type self help programs to help people with there disobedient kids and their finances etc. Most of these programs are not based on the Bible, but do have a couple of Bible verses thrown in to make it seem as if they are.

Ravi Zacharias -

When asked on a panel discussion produced by Ligonier Ministries what he thought about the new seeker sensitive church movement, Ravi said this, "When the tide is low, every shrimp has its own puddle. This is another one of those puddles. It makes me wonder, very seriously, were these men and women who were the progenitors of it, were they bored with God? What brought this about? The problem is that we have non-critical people listening to this stuff, and they absorb it... it is pitiful to see something like this actually gain currency."

Why is this methodology wrong?

2 Timothy 3:4 - Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Fundamental Errors
- They have a theory that unbelievers are desperately seeking God. This is not true. The Bible makes it clear that no one seeks after God in their fallen state. The only people who seek after God are those that have been born again. This is called regeneration. It is an act of God.
- They believe that the purpose of the Sunday morning worship service is to reach the lost. Sunday morning worship is to be for the gathering together of the people of God. Are there going to be some tares mixed in with the wheat? Yes, and at one point or another you should address the lost, but we should be concerned with what pleases God, not the unbelievers
-After the Protestant Reformation, people were still addicted to relics. Even though they had converted to being a Protestant they still clung to their relics. What were they seeking? Something tangible, something they could see, something with power. Now the problem is not relics, it is programs. The power is in the Word of God. It is not in relics, and it is not in programs.

Bait and Switch Gospel
- Use any thing that the world deems popular (gimmicks, counseling, pep talks, financial planning, etc. etc.) to attract people into the church because the gospel is not attractive anymore.
- It is difficult to get these church members to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God.
- What little truth is mentioned is so watered down that it does not result in any real conviction.
-They are only feeding them excitement with a little religion mixed in to feed man's inherent desire for religion.
- They preach very little about godly sorrow, conviction, or repentance which makes for a very popular Christianity.
- When we become so relevant that the Word of God becomes irrelevant, that is when we have a problem.
- God's Word is enough. We do not need to add culture to it.
- There is more emphasis on music and programs than on deep Bible teaching from the pulpit.
- They substitute confrontational evangelism for a "come and see" or "just say Jesus" or lifestyle evangelism, because these are more palatable to the world.

Monetary Considerations

- Millions of dollars are spent on entertainment that is crowding out the weightier things of God
- The vast majority of God's money is going to buildings, technical equipment, big screens, worship leaders, and multiple pastors. How much is going to missions (not just a missionary that is going to "build relationships")? How much is going to the poor? $20,000 for benevolence out of a multimillion dollar budget?
- They promote programs on financial freedom (Dave Ramsey), and even allow these programs to replace what should be the Wednesday night services, and yet the church is still in debt and spending money that it does not have.

Lowering Christian Standards
- Most of these churches have an "attitude of acceptance" of any lifestyle. Many of them will say on there website that this does not mean that they approve, but that they do accept them. This is a pitiful effort to make Christianity acceptable to the world by lowering Christian standards.
- They remove anything offensive to sinners: abortion, homosexuality, fornication, and many other controversial topics. There are many people that go to these churches that do not even realize that homosexuality is not compatible with Christianity. In Romans 1 the Bible makes it clear that if a homosexual hears the gospel, and they do not accept the gospel, that they are turned over to their lusts. In other words, God gives them over to their sin. This sin is different from smoking cigarettes, or not eating right, or not doing enough good works, and people need to know it.
- I do not want to go to a church that welcomes unrepentant homosexuals, perverts, or anyone actively pursuing a life of sexual perversion. I do not want my children or any of my family around them. The Bible is not vague or obscure about these issues, and the church should not be either.
- This produces a Christianity that is tragically below the New Testament standard, and worldliness and perversion are accepted parts of the church's life.
- If you do not believe me, go to their website. Click on "our values" scroll down to the heading "attitude of acceptance." I attended one of these churches for 2 years. Not one time have I heard anything about abortion, homosexuality or any other controversial topic.
- The media, the public schools, and the universities are not going to say that sexual perversion is sin. Not only do they condone these behaviors, they celebrate them, and expect us to do the same. If the church is not going to call it sin, who in society will?

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee...

The majority of church members would agree that abortion is wrong, but some church members may have had an abortion in the past. Other members of the church may hold liberal beliefs in politics. In order to not offend anyone these churches rarely if ever mention abortion. In order for us to be forgiven of our sins we must confess our sins. This means to say the same thing about sin that God does.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

How are the women who have had these abortions going to get their sins forgiven if they do not even know that they have sinned? What about the countless girls who will have abortions because no one in the church had the courage to speak out against murdering the unborn?

Proverbs 24:11,12 If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

Ezekiel 3:16b,18

...the word of the LORD came unto me, saying... When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Another thing they never take a stand on is evolution. Evolution is incompatible with Christianity:

John 1:1-4a
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life...

1 John 5:10
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

What is the record that God gave of his Son? It is the Bible . Is the Bible compatible with evolution? No.

Animosity towards anyone who questions their methods-
- They promote a "feel good" version of Christianity where being a good Christian is defined as personal emotions and feelings. Anyone who criticizes this is told that they "...have it in there head but not in there heart." or, "You are theological. We are relational."
- If someone threatens their business with divisive sound doctrine, they are labeled as divisive, cold, and unloving.
- Which is more dangerous to the church? Those who use Biblical discernment, or those who blindly follow what is being taught?
- The crusaders of unity who claim we should only show unity are the first to criticize and demonize anyone practicing any kind of discernment. They do this quickly and loudly, but when it comes to openly criticizing false doctrines, false bible versions, or false teachers they are quiet as a church mouse.
- If the Christians do not call out errors, who will?
- So why are people so easily offended? You put your faith in God. As time goes on, that faith becomes transmitted to the pastor and the church as well. When you point out an error, human pride prevents them from considering that they have possibly been misled. If there child has grown up in the church, they think you are calling them a bad parent. I wonder what the Protestant Reformation must have been like.

What about discernment?

1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.

The definition of discernment according to Charles Spurgeon - "Discernment is telling the difference between right and almost right."

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

- We should study the Word, and question what we are being taught. If we disagree on doctrine, or what sin is, or on what a church should be, or any other truth, we should not just brush it under the rug and not discuss it for the sake of unity. For example, as mentioned before, the church never says anything about homosexuality. Why? Because half the people are going to be offended if you say it is wrong, and half the people are going to be offended if you say there is nothing wrong with it. Truth is more important than unity! This is the abdication of Christian responsibility, conviction, and a total lack of courage.

abdication- the abandoning of an office or trust without a formal surrender (Webster 1828)

- Peaceful coexistence does not trump sound doctrine.
- Christians should have discernment and vigilance.

1 Peter 5:8 vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

What is vigilance?
Watchfullness, attention of the mind in discovering and guarding against danger, or providing for safety (Webster 1828)

What should a church be?

- Preach the same gospel that has been preached for the last 2,000 years.
- Have sermons that help to build the body of Christ.
- Preach hard on how we should be separate from the world. This would include warning people about Hollywood, not endorsing it.
Psalm 101:3 I will set no evil thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
- 100% of growth in the church should depend on the preaching of the gospel of Christ and the Holy Spirit to draw people to Himself. We should stick with the Bible's outline for a church, and not a get big quick business model. These get big quick models result in a church with just as many people going out the back door as the front.
- The Biblical way to build a church is actually very very simple: pray, witness and make disciples.
- There are plenty of pastors on staff at most of these churches, yet there is only one pastor speaking each week on Sunday morning. Why not have a Sunday and Wednesday night service?
- Preach from a literal translation of the Bible, and make it clear to any one preaching, teaching, or representing the church that only these Bible versions may be used.
The pastors at these churches use no discretion when choosing a Bible. It seems they change Bible versions from month to month.
- Everything we believe comes from the Bible. We have to get this right.
- There are over 120 versions of the Bible in America today. When you count the revisions of those Bibles there are over 400 Bible versions, and there are new versions coming out every year. We cannot just indiscriminately grab a Bible off the bookstore shelf anymore. Some of these Bible versions are extremely perverse. Following is just one example of the many false Bible versions:
The Message Bible is the fifth best selling Bible in America today because of the seeker sensitive church movement.
- Instead of trying to bring the Bible down to where the people are, we need to let the people come up to where the Bible is.
- The King James Bible is an excellent version of the Bible. You should try it.
- Promote confrontational evangelism. No where in the Bible is there an example of lifestyle evangelism. So why would the church endorse it? Is that what John the Baptist practiced? Did the people see him in his camel hair loin cloth with honey and grasshoppers dripping from his beard, and say "I want what he's got, I am going to go ask him about God." No, he preached the Word of God with boldness.
- Although we should preach against sexual perversion, it is not the churches job to teach sex education to the kids. I know people that will not even let there kids go to the services held for kids, because they speak so explicitly about sex.

A Note About the House of Merchandise
John 2:13-16 ...Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and over threw the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence: make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

Churches should not sell stuff. This includes coffee, smoothies, pastries, donuts, sandwiches, wraps, t-shirts, sweat shirts, books, dvd's, cd's, figurines or anything else. Do not turn the house of God into a house of merchandise. And yes Jesus was talking about selling stuff, not that they were thieves. Jesus cleansed the temple on two different occasions. One at the beginning of his ministry which is described in the book of John (den of thieves was never even mentioned). The other cleansing is recorded in Mark, Luke, and Mathew (in this account, the people were not even allowed to carry a vessel across the temple). This is the only occasion in all the gospels when Jesus became physically violent, so it must be important to him.

A Note on the Music at These Churches

There is nothing wrong with singing a new song, Psalm 33:3. There is nothing wrong with some of the music that is played at the emergent churches. It is wrong to play secular music. There have been many services where the bands play secular songs that have nothing to do with Christianity. In some of the services, out of the 4 or 5 songs played there is only one Christian song played during the whole service. If Christians are not going to sing praises to God, who will?
I do not want anyone to say, "He doesn't like our church because they do not sing hymns." I do not mind Christian music as long as it brings glory to God.

Back to the Basics
The following is an excerpt from an article from Out of Ur, "Bill Hybels - Willow Creek Repents?" Bill Hybels is the one who started this business model of a church. He is heavily involved in church research, and has researched the results of his business model over the last 30 years. By the way, this is the same model that CR follows.

Bill Hybels - "Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn't helping people that much... We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and became Christians, we should have started telling people that they have to take responsibility... we should have taught people to read their Bibles between services."

The author of the article states the following, "In other words, spiritual growth doesn't happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, Bible reading and relationships. And, ironically these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage."

I will leave you with one of my favorite verses:

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.