How Pop-Evangelicals Undermine God in Evangelism

10 11 2006


As a fairly new believer I attended an evangelistically zealous Arminian Southern Baptist mega-church here in Omaha. I too was zealous for evangelism and for growth. I enjoyed the culture of evangelism that the Senior Pastor had developed and fueled. However, as my theological senses began to sharpen and I began growing in the word, something strange happened, I got frustrated.

The church rolled out a new evangelism strategy that was geared toward reaching and converting more people. There was a slick acronym that the evangelist was to follow and there were key verses that we must use. Additionally, we were all told that we had to go and attend the training provided by this new evangelism program’s guru.

As I read the outline and interacted with the strategy I was shocked to uncover the seed of my discomfort: the avoidance of mentioning sin/judgment/wrath/substitution. So there I sat in visible frustration with this new program. I was even told not to do evangelism at this church unless I adopted this methodology.

With zeal accruing like the national debt I attended an all church meeting launching this new program / strategy. When the Pastor was finished with his promotion and/or presentation he opened up the floor for questions. After a few others gushed with pragmatic testimonies of success in this program I raised my hand. The pastor came over and in front of the 4,000+ in attendance I asked him at what point in the “presentation” we might tell them about sin. He deferred to the leaders of the new program, who began to get a bit loud in refutation of my seemingly silly question. There was no answer because sin was not discussed. Sure it may have been referenced as some type of moral inadequacy but never in terms of direct rebellion and disobedience to the Sovereign of heaven and earth.

As you might imagine I soon left this church. However, the ‘evangelism’ strategy has not. Nor has it left the scores of other pop-evangelical churches across America, who, fail to explain sin in there proclamation of the gospel. This ridiculous practice sounds nice when we don’t believe in biblical sin, but it is ridiculous when we speak in terms of real and fatal disease. Imagine the uproar if medical professionals began skirting the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer or AIDS in favor of making their dying patients “feel better”? It is an unsettling testimony to observe the standards for medical fidelity are higher than gospel fidelity.

As God would have it he saves sinners through the gospel. It is the gospel alone that is called “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1.16). The gospel as Paul says here is that body of truth that explains God’s character, man’s sinfulness, and Christ’s substitutionary atonement, man’s repentance from sin and reception of the righteousness of Christ by faith (justification). How can anyone understand their need for or even desire a Savior apart from understanding their destitute position before a just and inflexible judge? It is ridiculous and biblically stupid to hold forth a loving Jesus who is tolerant of sin, plagued with a bad memory, willing to be bribed, and so nice that he became God’s spiritual piñata and took a beating that we might get all the candy because we are so good.

To hold forth a different gospel is to hold forth a different Jesus. How about this: it is to lie! You are lying when you don’t tell people that God is angry at sin, that he is intolerant of it and that he is going to judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts with rigid righteousness lest we repent and flee to the Lord our Righteousness for loving forgiveness.

This really is perverted. See in effort to accommodate “seekers” or the “unchurched” or the “dechurched”, (unbelievers) they undermine the only message that can truly save their souls. It is no different than the doctor telling the guy with a tumor that he just has allergies. It is gospel malpractice. It is worse than being silent, it is misleading sinners and undermining God. God saves through his gospel of his son and this gospel is not up for revision. Evangelicals who try to get cute and smart (regardless of motives, for I do not know them) undermine God.

So much like sanctification we have in evangelism the following conclusions:

If God saves sinners exclusively through the gospel (and he does) and people do not proclaim the biblical gospel (and they don’t) we must conclude:

1) Many pastors and church members do not know that the gospel is the exclusive power of God for salvation

2) Many pastors and church members do not believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation

3) Many pastors and church members do not chiefly value people getting saved

This is discouraging but true and it calls for Christians to take up Jesus’ gospel and study it, preach it to ourselves, defend it in the church and in the world, and then faithfully share it with all.

Election is not the problem…sin is

20 10 2006

I have been thinking a lot recently about free-will, the nature of sin, divine election and so forth. I have come accross this quote by Packer and was greatly encouraged. If you have not read this book, it is a must.

The Bible never says that sinners miss heaven because they are not elect, but because they ‘neglect the great salvation’, and because they will not repent and believe.

The last judgment will abundantly prove that it is not the want of God’s election, so much as laziness, the love of sin, unbelief, and unwillingness to come to Christ, which ruins the souls that are lost. God gives men what they choose, not the opposite of what they choose. Those who choose death, therefore have only themselves to thank that God does not give them life” J.I. Packer, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God

CT article on John Stott & Evangelism

18 10 2006

john-stott.jpgChristianity Today has an interview online with John Stott. Stott has some great comments and then some interesting and rather peculiar statements as well. See if you pick up on them.

The Gospel is Powerful

22 09 2006

I have been thinking much here recently about the gospel and its power. There are so many facets of the gospel’s power, however, I have been focusing specifically on its power in regeneration, particularly in the realm of evangelism. This is partly because I am teaching a class on evangelism and have become increasingly impressed with the glorious power of God in the gospel.

It is helpful to remember the sinner’s state outside of Christ as being totally depraved, helplessly dead, spiritually toe-tagged, if you will. Ephesians 2 is a great place to see this picture:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Mankind is not afflicted with a case of the spiritual sniffles, but rather is completely and utterly spiritually dead, you may rightly say unresponsive to the things of God.

So what are you, the evangelist, to do? According to God, humanity is completely and helplessly dead (spiritually) and if this was not bad enough we do not want any help!! If your goal is the glory of God and the rebirth of sinners, then will spiritual chew tablets flavored to the tastes of our hearers be sufficient to make alive the dead? What is the remedy for such a miserable and hopeless plight?

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What is the aim of evangelism?

20 09 2006

In our bottom-line, results-driven culture it is often quite easy to get caught up and dare I say even frustrated if the sum of our efforts does not consistently equal or exceed our expectations. One area of ministry where any amount of this cultural influence is especially dangerous is evangelism.

Countless churches are tracking “decisions” for Jesus with the statistical fervor that rivals a baseball game box score. If the decisions and baptisms exceed the previous season high, there is celebration, and if there is a drop, there is frustration. This dangerous bleeding of the secular mindset into practical ministry stems from foundational misconceptions about evangelism.

With this said, what is the supreme goal of evangelism? What is the objective of the evangelist?

Many would answer the question with, “that someone would get saved” or “pray the prayer”, or “get baptized”. While these are not to be dismissed or minimized, when we are speaking in terms of the supreme goal of evangelism, make no mistake about it, it is the glory of God.

We know as Christians that everything we do, even the most routine things are to be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10.31). We must be consciously aware and guided by this objective even as we proclaim the only message of salvation, as delivered by the only Savior, Jesus Christ.

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The Weak-Knees of Billy Graham

24 08 2006

Pop quiz:

What major evangelical leader recently said this: “I’m not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord. This is a little difference in my thinking through the years.”

A) Father Guido Sarducci

B) Bullwinkle the Moose

C) Billy Graham

billy_graham.jpgGive up? The answer is “C.” Billy Graham, indeed, and no small difference it is. For those of you who have been paying attention over the years, this statement, sadly, comes as no surprise.

In the aftermath of 9/11 as his own son, Franklin Graham, condemned Islam as a false religion, Billy said precious, deliberately little.

Recently I saw Mr. Graham on Larry King Live.  Sometimes I think Larry likes to get these limp-wristed evangelicals on and ask them direct questions so he can watch them sputter and sell out their convictions in front of him. Larry asked Billy if Muslims could go to heaven. Billy said that that wasn’t for him to decide and that God would sort it out.

How does a man who has devoted so much time and energy to evangelism come to a point at which he undermines the exclusivity of the message he has preached? It’s a long, sad, story paved with you-know-what: good intentions.

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The conversation of Jesus

24 08 2006

What did Jesus talk about following his resurrection?

I find it compelling and convicting that the prevailing topic of his conversation was his coming kingdom. We read in the first chapter of Acts that during the 40 days following his resurrection Jesus was “speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God”.

Jesus, having just been raised from the dead gave “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1.3) and continually spoke of the kingdom. Now we of course do not know everything that he spoke of but we do know this, the Holy Spirit wants you and I to know that kingdom talk was characteristic of Jesus’ conversation.

How about you? Think about the last 40 days. How much have you talked about the kingdom? How much do you think about the kingdom? Do you anticipate it? Do you long for it? Can you really pray like Jesus instructs his followers to: “Your kingdom come..” (Matt. 6.10).

This is convicting to me because I find myself not as Christ-centered as Jesus.

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