A Critique of the "Seeker-Sensitive, Purpose-Driven" Church Model
"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths." (2Tim 4:1-4 NASV)
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this you know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (1John 4:1-6 NKJV)
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:18-20 NKJV)
"The world……hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil" (John 7:7 NKJV).
In our last article we examined the basic contents of the message which the apostle Paul presented to the lost and the perishing world surrounding him. We will continue this theme in this article and elaborate on it in a bit more detail.
There is one inescapable fact present in all of Paul’s sermons to the lost which is obvious to all but those who willfully shut their eyes to the truth. He always deals with the subject of the judgment to come. We have already seen how the reality of this dreadful day loomed uppermost in his mind in 2Cor 5:11, where he states, "knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men". The coming conflagration was an ever-present reality to this faithful servant of Christ. He knew full well the dreadfulness of that day on which the righteous Judge of heaven and earth would pass sentence on all of His enemies. Just as His Lord had done in the days of His flesh when He warned His listeners:
"…except ye repent , ye shall likewise perish." (Luke 13: 3),
and, as did John the Baptist when he warned his hearers to "flee from the wrath to come", so too did this faithful servant of Christ warn his listeners of the consequences of rejecting this message.
Throughout history those men who were most mightily used of God, in presenting the gospel, have always warned the sons of men of the danger in which they were in and hence the need for them to fly to Christ for refuge. From the fiery Chrysostom of the late 4th century, to the prophetic Savonarola of the late 15th century, to the golden age of the Puritans, the ambassadors for Christ have not ceased to warn men of their grave danger and of a coming day of judgment. They have unceasingly lifted up their voices in one accord exposing the corruption in man due to his sin and the fearful consequences that await him unless he closes with the Divinely appointed means to escape it.
Here is an excerpt from Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon entitled, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". It was preached in 1741 in New England during what has been called the Great Awakening, a period of a mighty outpouring of God in which multitudes were swept into the kingdom of God in Christ. Notice the sense of urgency in his sermon and note well how as a faithful servant of Christ he warns his hearers of the grave danger they are in.
"The wrath of God is like great waters that are damned for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgement against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw His hand from the flood gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power, and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all of you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but His mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows."
Now compare this with the so-called "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church model. They have absolutely nothing in common. It is a comparing of wheat to chaff. If Jonathan Edwards had been of the same mind with those of today who employ this model he would have done better to have changed his sermon title to "Six Steps to Follow in Avoiding Life’s Pitfalls" and would have instructed his hearers in the danger of credit card abuse! It would be almost comical if it were not such a complete travesty. Yet this completely unbiblical method, without Scriptural support or historical precedent, is unashamedly promoted by its purveyors as God honoring and beneficial to the lost! How Christ is once again wounded in the house of His friends!
Another example should help to further drive home the point. This time it is excerpted from one of Asahel Nettleton’s sermons. He preached in the early part of the nineteenth century in what has been known as the Second Great Awakening, a time of a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit. His messages were greatly owned by the Lord in the turning of a great number of sinners to faith in Christ.
"The sinner who continues to harden his neck under reproof cannot be saved. He shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy, because it cannot be prevented. Here is a sinner who will not take reproof. The question arises, what shall be done to prevent the loss of his soul? The answer is, Nothing! He is marching forward to eternity and to the pit of destruction with a proud heart and with a stiff neck, and nothing can stop him in his mad career. Such a sinner must go to destruction, and no means can prevent it. This is the meaning of our text. There is no remedy. The only remedy which can be applied for the salvation of sinners is the Gospel, and this remedy never takes effect without alarming and arousing the guilty conscience. But when warned to break off his sins and to flee from the wrath to come, the hardened sinners says, ‘I will not be frightened to heaven’…The language of the Gospel is ‘Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish’ (Luke 13:3). But no sinner ever repented without conviction of sin. Even the Spirit of God never interposes to rescue the sinner from destruction in any other way than by arousing his guilty conscience to perform its office." (Asahel Nettleton- The Final Warning from "Salvation in Full Color": International Awakening Press).
Notice the remarkable similarity of this sermon with that of Edward’s. Notice even more fully, how the thrust of both sermons deal with the theme of repentance and eternal judgment as did the Lord Jesus, the apostle Paul, and John the Baptist, all quoted previously. In keeping with the foretold work of the Spirit of God, they preached a message that dealt with "sin, righteousness and judgment".
If we were to put all of this in terms of a medical situation, we might use the following analogy to provide some further clarity. A certain patient has contracted a fatal disease. There is however a prescribed drug that will most certainly cure him. But should he fail to utilize this medication he will certainly perish. Now consider for a moment the physician who would deliberately withhold his patient’s true condition from him and therefore never warn him of the seriousness of his condition. He may tell him to take a few aspirins, cut down on his fatty intake, exercise more and get plenty of sleep. These are all things that are beneficial in themselves; however, they are not the essential remedy that he truly needs. They might perhaps make him feel better, but they certainly will not cure him! He will only go to his grave feeling better about himself!
By the physician’s withholding of the patient’s true condition from him, the patient will assume he is just fine and is in excellent health. Should someone other than his physician urge him to take the particular medication designed to cure this disease, he will of course refuse, not seeing any necessity of doing so. The disease will then go on to take its inevitable course and he will certainly perish. Now, what would you think of a physician such as this?
Tragically, this is exactly what is taking place in those churches that are choosing to employ the principles set forth by this "user-friendly" philosophy. They are deliberately withholding the truth concerning the extreme danger their "patients" are in, the horrible, fatal disease of sin that they have contracted. Instead they are prescribing such "Band-Aids" as "Principles of Forgiveness, "aspirins" as "Communicating with your Children", and "fat-reduction" as "Finding and Maintaining Happiness". These things are all well in themselves, but they are the WRONG PRESCRIPTION! They do nothing to cure the dread disease of sin. Thus, unaware of the plague of sin that they have contracted by their descent from Adam and their own actual transgressions of the Divine law, they see no reason to "flee from the wrath to come" and throw themselves upon the mercy of the Great Physician who alone is able to cure the "leprosy" of their soul. Why should they? They see no spiritual sickness in themselves that needs curing. As the Lord Jesus said so many thousands of years ago:
"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick" (Mark 2:17 NASV).
In our next article we will examine in further detail the dangerous repercussions of the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church model and see how it is directly leading to a radical departure from the biblical and historic roots of the Christian faith.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Dan Norcini
Copyright © 1999 Sovereign Grace Bible Church
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