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 method that has been both scripturally and historically employed in presenting the gospel to a lost and dying world. There we discovered the faithful servants of God throughout the various ages of the church exhorting guilty sinners to flee from the wrath to come and to lay hold of the Divinely appointed refuge, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have seen how they set before the sons of the earth their own complete lack of righteousness and the urgent necessity of repentance and faith toward God. We used a medical analogy and likened the sinner’s condition to that of a patient who has contracted a fatal disease who desperately needs to be made aware of the seriousness of his awful condition. We further likened the gospel minister as one who can clearly diagnose his patient’s problem and out of true concern for his well being, is faithful to declare the solemn truth to the poor, unfortunate soul.
It is at this very point where the problem arises. One would think that any man in so grave a peril as the sinner is by nature, or to use our analogy, who has unknowingly contracted a fatal disease, would welcome being informed of the danger that he is and would be grateful for a method whereby he could be delivered from it. Not so! Far from receiving such a message with open arms and embracing the messenger with joy and thanksgiving, he is more apt to instead open the arms of the messenger and nail them to a cross. This is exactly what these "terminally ill patients" did to our Lord Jesus almost two thousand years ago. And why was this? Quite simple, they did not like the Great Physician’s diagnosis of their "disease". Listen to the Scriptures:
"The world…hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil" (John 7:7 NKJV).
"And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3: 19-20 NASV).
Here lies the basic problem with the lost world of humanity, a love of evil. Add to this a self-righteous nature that cannot bear being reproved and you have all the ingredients necessary for a complete rejection of the gospel message. Prophesying long ago of a day that was to come, Isaiah spoke of a time when:
"The proud look of man will be abased, and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 4:11 NASV).
The true gospel of God, by its very nature, first works to expose the evil or darkness that is naturally in the heart of all men. It is in the proclamation of the gospel, that man’s foolish fancy that he can of himself somehow secure the favor and blessing of God is given the deathblow. It strips off the religious fig leaves of his own making and leaves him bare and naked, humbling him by showing him his utter sinfulness when measured against the inflexible standard of a holy God. It dashes into pieces his proud hopes of any inherent goodness within that could justify him before a thrice-holy God. Only then does it set forth the God-appointed remedy in Christ Jesus.
In other words, part of the presentation of the gospel, which means "good news", must first be to inform men of the "bad news". Only then can they truly see their need of Christ and His righteousness and rejoice in the "good news". The problem is that the world hasn’t a clue that there is this enmity between them and God on account of their sins. The false image being projected by the modern church that "God is love" and nothing else has so influenced them, that they fondly imagine all is well between them and their Maker. They are therefore quite glib when it comes to God because their minds are literally blinded to the awful reality of His overwhelming wrath against the ungodly. The idea that they need to make peace with Him, throw down the weapons of their warfare, and receive the forgiveness of sins is an unintelligibly foreign concept. Even if some of them might be inclined to consider asking for forgiveness, they think that to be forgiven is a slight thing because, quite frankly, they think that sin is a slight thing. They have never truly seen the evil of sin nor its abominable nature in the light of God’s holiness. The gospel comes to set the record straight before their eyes by revealing the terrible justice of God in not sparing His own Son and the wonderful mercy and pardon He now freely offers to guilty rebels. Only then, the guilty rebel, his refuge of lies (Isaiah 28:17) finally shattered beneath the searching conviction of the mighty Spirit of God, flees to the refuge from the storm of God’s wrath (Isaiah 4:6) and secures life and deliverance. That this has always been the way of the Lord is evident from a passage in 1 Samuel:
"The Lord killeth and maketh alive". (1Sam 2:6).
First He "kills" or slays men’s self-righteousness by convicting them of their depravity. Then He slays any hope they might have of obtaining peace with God through any endeavors of their own making. Only then does "He makes alive" by opening their eyes to the righteousness of Christ. And if it is one thing that men will not tolerate it is having their pride wounded and their own good opinion of themselves blasted. Woe be to the messenger who dares to faithfully proclaim this. He immediately makes himself an object of reviling and scorn and soon finds himself identifying with the statement of His master:
"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).
Bear this important point in mind. The Lord Jesus is Truth incarnate. He is "the way, the truth and the life". In other words, He is clearly telling us that men by nature hate truth. Truth and light are synonymous in Scripture. Truth, therefore, by its very nature exposes darkness. Think of an old, dark attic full of cobwebs and dirt. Peer into this room with the naked eye and nothing much is seen. Take a flashlight, or better, a Q-beam into the same room and every single piece of dirt, trash and uncleanness will seem to almost leap out at you. This is what the truth of the gospel does. It exposes the cobwebs of iniquity and the dust clouds of evil that lurk in every man’s heart by nature and then shows them that as a result they are exposed to the wrath of God on account of it. That is why men cannot bear it and why they rebel against it.
Observe what Paul the apostle gained for himself by faithfully declaring the truth with which he was entrusted to a sin-loving world:
"To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil. Working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now" (1Cor 4:11-13 NASV).
Obviously, he followed in the footsteps of His master and received the same treatment as did his Lord. He received no rousing reception from his hearers nor was he congratulated for his quips of speech and clever euphemisms, rather, he was "despised and rejected of men" exactly like the Lord Jesus was in the days of His flesh. So too will all those who are faithful in declaring the whole counsel of God to a God-rejecting society.
Paul himself states the reason behind the vast majority of men rejecting His message:
"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God" (1Cor 1:17-18 NASV).
Do not miss what Paul is saying here. The gospel is counted as foolishness by an unbelieving world. It makes absolutely no sense to them for the very reason that it does not seem reasonable! First, it tells him that he is sinful and faces a judgment which he cannot escape. This makes him uncomfortable and so must be put out of his mind as quickly as possible. Second, it goes on to tell him that he possesses absolutely no righteousness of his own nor could he ever secure any by his own deeds. This is completely unacceptable to the unregenerate man who always views himself as morally better than the "next" man. Sure he has some flaws, but nothing all that serious or what cannot be atoned for by a few "good" deeds of his own making. So he thinks within himself. Thirdly, it tells him that only in Christ is there a righteousness that will shield him from this judgment. Maybe, maybe not, he reasons. Either way he fancies himself ready to meet it if push comes to shove as he isn’t really as bad as this message makes him out to be. Fourthly this righteousness was obtained by the shedding of Christ’s blood as He hung upon a cross on the hill called Calvary. That seems awfully gory. God couldn’t be all that severe. Fifthly, this righteousness will be credited to all those who have faith in this Blessed Person who is none less than the Son of God. This is utter nonsense as how could someone’s righteousness be credited to another individual. And thus you have the gospel scorned by the mass of humanity.
But there is also something else very important in what Paul states in the above quoted Scripture. He is saying that "the gospel" and "the word of the cross" are the same thing! In other words, one cannot preach "the gospel" without preaching "the cross" and according to Paul’s theology, "the word of the cross" "is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). If men are to be saved from the wrath of God therefore, it must be by the preaching of the word of the cross. Now, I ask the reader in all sincerity, what does "Five Steps to Managing your Finances" have in common with "the word of the cross"? How about "Communicating with Your Children"? Or perhaps "Dealing with Stress"? The answer, Nothing! Yet unbelievably, countless church leaders can unashamedly promote this novel approach to converting sinners as innovative and effective and foist it upon a gullible congregation as such. Effective in doing what, should be the question. There is not even the mention of the cross of Christ much less the person of Christ in all of this! If this is "the gospel" and "the word of the cross" as presented by the modern American church, then God have mercy on this nation for He may have already given it over to a powerful delusion (2 Thes 2:11).
In our next article we will look further into the rationale behind the dilution of the gospel message as is occurring in those churches who are adopting this methodology.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Dan Norcini
Copyright © 1999 Sovereign Grace Bible Church