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 previous article we demonstrated how the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church model produces self-absorbed religionists who follow the Lord for the "loaves and fishes", the material and self-centered benefits He can give them. We also noted how the victims of this scheme are ill prepared to face the trials and difficulties that will come their way in order to prove the genuineness of their faith. Not understanding from what they have been saved nor the race which they have been called to run, they are extremely liable to the same spiritual ruin of the stony ground hearers in our Lord’s parable concerning the sower and the seed.
In this article we will focus further on the failure of this system to produce true saints of God who fervently love the Lord Jesus from the heart. Our launching point will be a story that is recorded for us in the gospel of Luke.
"Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him. And He entered the Pharisee’s house, and reclined at the table. And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he replied, ‘Say it, Teacher.’ ‘A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Which of them will therefore love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have judged correctly.’ And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And He said to her, ‘Your sins have been forgiven.’ And those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man who even forgives sins?’ And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’" (Luke 7:36-50 NASV).
What a moving story this is! Imagine having been there in that room the night on which this event took place and witnessing the brokenness and the marvelous act of extravagant love demonstrated by this lowly woman! Now the reader may be tempted to say, "Yes, I agree that it is indeed moving, but what does this story have to do with the failure of the "user-friendly" church model to produce true saints of God who genuinely love Jesus with all of their heart?" The answer – plenty!
The Holy Spirit recorded the entire event for us as it contains one of the most powerful witnesses in the Scriptures as to the manner in which genuine love for the person of Jesus Christ is produced. It is obvious that this woman was deeply mournful over her sins. It is also obvious that her love for the person of Jesus was extraordinary! Why is this? What could produce such an earnest and flaming love for Him? Pay close attention to the statement of the Lord Jesus found in verse 47:
"For this reason, I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:47 NASV).
Do not miss the force of what the Lord is saying here. He is clearly telling us that we will love Him in direct proportion to the degree of sin that we feel we have been forgiven of. The greater we sense the evil that is in sin and the immensity of the debt of which we have been forgiven, the more our hearts will love, esteem, cling and treasure Him who took the punishment that that sin deserved. If we entertain shallow thoughts of sin, we will possess shallow love for Christ. If we entertain deep and affecting thoughts of sin, we will possess deep and affecting love for Christ. It is as simple as that and yet as profound as that at the same time! This is the reason behind this woman’s great love for Christ and her deep sorrow and brokenness. She KNEW that she was sinful, and she KNEW that this Jesus was going to die for her and bear the guilt of these very sins which so grievously pained her broken and contrite heart. The knowledge of the one necessarily led to the understanding of the other and this led to her extraordinary devotion to Jesus.
Often the author is asked the question, ‘What can I do to obtain a greater love for Jesus and keep from becoming lukewarm and complacent?’ The answer is – get alone and reflect upon the hideousness of sin and the great and infinite punishment it deserves from the hand of God. Then think upon Him who took the guilt of it upon Himself and bore the punishment which you deserved. There is no better way to soften and thus melt the heart and draw it out to Him than this. He is indeed a hard-hearted wretch who can hear and reflect upon these things without being deeply moved!
Now it is this author’s conviction that the failure of so many to do this is the main reason behind the widespread lukewarmness and apathy that has settled over modern day American Christendom. The vast majority of professing Christians simply have no idea whatsoever of the great evil that is in sin. They have never truly seen it through the eyes of God as it is revealed in the pages of Scripture. What’s more, they have never seen themselves in the light of God’s inexorable law. To them therefore, to be forgiven is a slight matter entailing no more than a few, "I’m sorry God"s. With an attitude like this they cannot ever hope to possess any fervent love for the person of Jesus Christ. It is simply not possible for them to do so according to the above saying of our Lord.
Where the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church model fits into all this should be obvious to those who have thoughtfully considered the previous articles. By its very design, this scheme deliberately steers clear of dwelling on the heinousness of sin and the punishment it truly deserves at the hands of a God of perfect righteousness. Instead it focuses on the "relevant, practical" message thereby seeking to gain the approval of the masses so as to attract as many of them as possible. The result is that the unfortunate victims of this system haven’t the foggiest notion from what they are supposedly saved from or have been forgiven of. In addition, they haven’t the slightest idea of the great evil that is in sin nor the immensity of the great debt that they owe to their Maker. How could they when all they are likely to hear on any given Sunday is, "How to Build Better Relationships" or "Six Steps to Financial Freedom the Bible Way"?
Yet, our Lord plainly and unequivocally instructs us that only those who realize that they have been forgiven much can love Him much. Without this understanding any professed love for Christ will be quickly wither and dry up when the scorching winds of adversity and trial blow upon it. Furthermore, any such "love" will find quickly find itself in competition with other "loves" as we saw from our previous article. "Love of self", "love of money", and "love of pleasure" (2Tim 3:2,4) will soon drive out this shallow and transient thing as they quickly reassert themselves. The heart will then grow divided (Hosea 10:1) and their loyalty will vanish (Hosea 6:4) as the flesh wearies of the narrowness of the way and all that will remain will be a form without the power. All this as a result of the complete lack of a thorough work of conviction by the Holy Spirit revealing the hideousness of sin to their souls due to the utter silence from the pulpits of those who employ this devilish system. This is precisely what the apostle Peter was speaking of in his second epistle.
"For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins." (2Peter 1:8-9 NASV).
In other words, once a man loses sight of the greatness of the debt of which he has been forgiven, he no longer is active or diligent in growing in grace. He soon grows careless and negligent and then it is only a matter of time before he becomes lukewarm with a "name that he is alive, but is dead" (Rev 3:1). Why is this? Because the engine or the fire that energizes all that a true child of God does and gives him the endurance and perseverance that he needs to live out the Christian life is love for Christ Jesus. This is what Paul tells us plainly in his letter to the Galatians.
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Gal 5:6 NASV).
You see, it is love which provides impetus to faith. Without it, any "so-called" faith is spurious, a counterfeit at best, devilish at worst. It is love for the person of Jesus Christ which makes the difficulties of the Christian life seem small and insignificant. It is with it as it was with Jacob of old who served seven long years in order to obtain his beloved Rachel for his wife. He served through heat, through frost, through long and sleepless nights (Gen 31:40) and yet look at how his great love for Rachel affected him:
"So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her". (Gen 29:20 NASV).
It was his love for her that spurred him on and enabled him to bear up under the grueling hardships of the servitude that he was required in order to obtain so great a prize in his eyes. Child of God, if you grow easily discouraged at the hardships you face as a Christian, if the length of the journey seems a long one, if your flesh seems to be an almost overwhelming burden to you, get this love of Christ down in your soul. It will enable you to "mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be wearied, walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31). Remember, it comes as you realize how much you have been forgiven of!
That producing this genuine love is the goal of all Christian teaching and instruction is evident from Paul’s first letter to Timothy in which he states:
"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion," (1Tim 1:5-6 NASV).
In other words, all of the church’s teaching and preaching has a goal, a definite point toward which it is supposed to be heading. That goal is to produce a fervent and genuine love for God that springs out of a pure heart. This is nothing else but fulfilling the first and greatest commandment recorded in the Scriptures:
"And one of them a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.’ (Matt 22:35-38).
Without this, any "so-called" Christianity is nothing but an antichristian forgery, a lifeless and powerless counterfeit, and any "converts" it produces will be merely nominal professors incapable of possessing any deep, yearning love for the person of Christ. Why? Because they have never fallen out of love with themselves! Unable to see their own exceeding sinfulness, they are still full of self-righteousness and high thoughts concerning themselves. Consequently it is impossible for them to truly understand the grace of God as displayed in Jesus Christ. Their minds simply have no grasp of how undeserving of any mercy they really are. For if they truly did, they would be ashamed to lift up their eyes to heaven and would take their place with the publican who cried out, "Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner." (Luke 18:13).
That this sort of thing can be expected to take place under the "user-friendly" environment is a mere figment of someone’s fertile imagination. Not until the man despairs of any help for himself outside of the mercy of God in Christ will he ever be brought to the place of genuine love and devotion for the Lord Jesus. And it bears repeating - this will not happen under this format. It is impossible by the very nature of the thing. Rather than being trained to ask the Lord:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24);
he will instead be taught to look for more ways he can improve the quality of his life by "applying Biblical principles". He will not hear a searching message that smites his conscience with conviction of his own innate sinfulness. He will never be cut to the heart as the hearers of the apostle Peter were on the day of Pentecost who cried aloud, "What must we do?" (Acts 2:37). His heart will in no way be gripped with fear and consternation so that his voice will join with that of the Phillipian jailer who cried out, "what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). In short, he will hear everything and anything except that which he really needs in order to understand the true grace of God. As Paul said to the Colossians when he described their conversion:
"which has come to you (the gospel – note mine), just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." (Col 1:6 NASV).
It needs be repeated again, no man can understand the grace and love of God in Christ until he first understands the depths of iniquity that lie in his own heart. Only then will he see himself an absolute debtor to the mercy of God and only then will his heart be truly capable of being melted by this mercy and goodness which is in Christ. Now, in what manner was this normally to happen? Consider what Paul the apostle expected to occur during the assembling of the brethren in the early church:
"But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you." (1Cor 14:24-25 NASV).
"The secrets of his heart are disclosed!" That is simply another way of saying that the unbeliever would experience conviction of sin as he participated in the meetings of the early church. The Spirit of God would strike the prophetic utterances of these early believers deep into the heart of the "unchurched" and he would be smitten with conviction and an overwhelming sense of the omniscience and holiness of this God. In other words, he would be filled with a sense of his own sinfulness. Only then would he begin to understand the grace of God and be truly enabled to love this God with all of his heart, soul, and mind. Then he would be able to comprehend the "joy unspeakable and full of glory" that these early Christian saints possessed. Again, this author would ask the simple question, "How can this ever be expected to occur in the "user-friendly" atmosphere of the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church model which is utterly devoid of any mention of the exceeding sinfulness of sin by deliberate design? The question no doubt should answer itself to those with understanding.
In summation then, it should be obvious to those who are honest inquirers into matters such as these that as long as those who employ this model continue their misguided focus on the "relevant, practical" message, there will not be any thorough, heart searching work performed in lost sinners by the Holy Spirit, or for that matter in professing Christians as well. Without this work, there can therefore be no sense of the great debt of sin each man has contracted by nature among those who are enmeshed in this scheme. And without an understanding of the immensity of the sin that needs to be forgiven them, they can never truly love Christ in a Scriptural manner if the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke’s gospel are to have any meaning at all. Any so-called "converts" that result from such a system as this will quickly fall away when the winds and the rains of adversity and trial descend upon them as they lack that alone which can carry them through. What is such a travesty is the fact that the spirituality in the American church has so degenerated that converts such as these could be called true Christians and promised eternal life by those who are themselves deceived. Truly the blind are leading the blind all over again!
Consider if you will the following and perhaps you will see what this author is attempting to convey in all this.
Tell me what would make a man take joyfully the seizing of his goods (Hebrews 10:34)? Would it be "faith" in some sort of Jesus who is preached as One who has "Six Steps in Managing your Finances"? What is it that so gripped Ephraphroditus that Paul the apostle would write of him:
"Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service." (Phil 2:29-30 NASV).
Perhaps it was hearing of a Jesus who could teach him "The Family that Plays Together, Stays Together"! What was it that the early martyrs possessed that could enable them to face the flames of Nero’s crosses? Maybe it was their confidence in the Jesus that taught them "Dealing with Being Fired"! What did the Anabaptists possess that gave them the perseverance to endure having their tongues cut out of their mouth in order to keep them from preaching to the crowds as their flesh was being roasted for their testimony to Christ? Perhaps it was their trust in the Jesus who showed them "How to Manage Your Relationships"! What rational thinking Christian could say that this is what it was?
What it was that they did possess was a love for Christ and His truth that caused all other loves to pale in comparison. He was the "Pearl of Great Price" for which they were willing to gladly part with all they possessed if only they might obtain Him, even if it meant laying down their lives in the fierce conflict through which they had to pass on their way to their heavenly Zion. These are those of whom the Book of Revelation testifies when it says:
"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death." (Rev 12: 11 NASV).
Dear reader, only the true gospel of Christ could produce such saints as these found here. The "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church with its counterfeit gospel of antichrist cannot even come close to this. Would to God that Jesus would sweep this vile leprosy out of the House of God and rid our land of it for good! How any right thinking Christian who has any knowledge of the blood and tear soaked history of the Church of the Lord Jesus could stomach this invention of Satan for more than a moment is beyond this author’s ability to grasp. It is an insult to our fathers in the faith and a disgrace to those who laid down their lives for their love of Christ and of His truth.
The entire system reeks of American innovation and would never even be considered seriously for a moment if God were to lift His restraining hand and send persecution against the church of this land. This would quickly expose the spurious nature of this antichristian scheme of things and show to all its utter folly and uselessness. Imagine hearing "relevant, practical" sermons on "What the Bible says about Your Love Life" when the authorities have your wife and children at gunpoint and will kill them unless you renounce Christ. Where are all your "practical, relevant" Bible messages going to get you then? Nowhere is where!
The sad truth is that the brand of American Christianity being produced by this "user-friendly" system bears so little resemblance to Biblical Christianity as to seem more like a religion from a strange and foreign land than Christianity at all. Let these men then who boast so proudly of their new found method for winning the lost and extol its virtues for bringing in the unchurched take their method to the Middle East and proclaim it among the followers of Islam. Surely these people need to know that God has "Ways to Deal with Anger" or that He has "Seven Steps to Dealing with Bitterness". They will laugh them to scorn. The Koran too has all this! So what’s the difference between Islam and this brand of Christianity then? Or perhaps the proponents of this system would care to take it into China and proclaim among the persecuted Christians there how God’s Word can teach them to "Bring Out the Best in Others"! After all, maybe they are suffering persecution because they do not rightly understand these principles and are therefore not able to apply them properly! These thoughts alone should expose the folly of this entire system.
The early Christians knew nothing of this utilitarian Jesus who exists in the churches who have adopted this system. They were not promised a Jesus who could help improve their "quality of life". Instead they were plainly taught that there was a cost to count in serving Christ:
"And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’. (Acts 14:21-22 NASV).
"And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2Tim 3:12 NASV).
These early Christians knew what to expect for confessing Jesus Christ before men. They knew the price they paid would be dear but they possessed something which made all of their tribulations seem light and momentary (2Cor 4:17) – genuine faith working through genuinely fervent love for the person of Jesus, who had loved them and given Himself for them. Can the same be said of any of the converts of this system? Time and the providence of God will tell.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan Norcini
Copyright © 1999 Sovereign Grace Bible Church
Return to Homepage