Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's the Gospel...It Really Is That Simple

Last night I listened to the White Horse Inn broadcast discussing Willow Creek's conclusion of their own massive study. Willow Creek has determined after many years of ministry that programs do not necessarily work in producing spiritual growth. Their solution is that Christians be trained to become "self feeders"

In this video Greg Hawkins discusses his concerns about where the church is and where it needs to go. After years of ministry his "dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church".

Now I must admit that this is pretty radical. Here are people who I believe are genuinely concerned for the spiritual growth of Christians and admitting that they have missed the boat. However, I believe that not only is their solution wrong, it is based on the wrong premise to begin with.

1) Their view of sanctification is just plain wrong. Why do they have a faulty view of sanctification? I believe the answer is simple. It is based on a faulty view of not only the Gospel, but the biblical means of grace in general. Consistency in theology is a must. As Pastor Fry says, "What you win them with is what you win them to." If you win people to Christ through programs, then you must keep them with such. In the end though, they will fail. It is the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation, not programs or anything else.

2) Throughout the entire video, I only heard the Bible being able to address this once. All of the video depended upon marketing techniques. Think of what a study is and what it is based upon. In the video the church did what it has always done. It asks people for what their needs are. Why not go to the Bible and see what God has to say about man's true need and how it is to be addressed? Why keep assumptions when you are supposedly trying to fundamentally change what you do? Once a marketer, always a marketer?

3) The Bible explains what man's need truly is. It explains to us the methods of meeting that need. We do not need programs or worship services with fantastic music or circuses with trapeze artists or small groups mini-confessionals for us to receive penance. Man is a sinner. As the White Horse Inn program points out, men need to stop looking inwardly for transformation and start looking outwardly to Christ. Only preaching is the God given means to bring that about. There are also other means of grace such as the Lord's Table and Baptism and prayer.

4) The answer is obvious. Sheep need to eat! What pastors need to do is go back to preaching the Gospel. One minister likened preaching as to being inundated with information. So part of the problem is knowing what preaching actually is. Greg Hawkins desperately needs to learn and trust God's means of grace.

Years ago I was asked about the practical needs of people. How does someone who struggles with sexual immorality or drugs overcome their addictions? My response was simple. The Gospel. Justification is what I live by. Yet this was not enough for this person. This person wanted transformation stuff. If the Gospel is not enough...what is?

Greg mentions in the video that he wants to transform the world. Most pastors do. Yet it is not trying to transform people that people will become transformed. It is not losing weight for Jesus or financial classes or AA that will transform the world. It is the Gospel.

If you are a pastor and you are into marketing strategies to transform the world, you, like this pastor, will struggle the rest of your life looking for new ways to transform lives. Every generation seems to have to learn this over and over again. Stop marketing! Start feeding your sheep.

Here is a series of articles by Albert Mohler explaining the role of the preacher (1, 2, 3). He is to be first and foremost a theologian. He is to prepare a meal for God's people to feast upon. God's people should gather together and recline at Christ's table.

Elders/Pastors! Feed your sheep!


Cory said...

II Corinthians 4. Seriously, Rick, just read II Corinthians 4.

Howard Fisher said...

Right on! Perhaps Acts 2 would help?

42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Could we not add baptism to that?

God provides the means of grace to grow in our sanctification, yet we want to ask people for the programs they want. That was the real problem I had with hiring a young guy to do fun youth programs a couple of years ago. It just doesn't last.

New sacraments get invented (altar calls, confessionals at the altar). Yet does this produce what God defines as "transformation"? Or is it man's understanding or transformation?