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 examined the attempts by those adhering to the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church model to eliminate the shame that comes from declaring the gospel message by removing the various elements that engender that shame. What we discovered was that those doctrinal truths included in "the word of the cross" that are offensive to unregenerate human nature are simply passed over in complete silence so as to make the message more acceptable to the largest number of people. Sadly for the cause of truth, the desirable effect has been achieved with large numbers of people flocking to these churches where they sit contentedly beneath a "practical, relevant" Bible message week after week. No longer being confronted with the terrible condition there are in by nature, they are strangers to any sense of conviction and completely ignorant of the great gulf that separates them from their Creator.
Of course the proponents of this method would argue that they are silent on these other matters because they are using the "practical" teachings of the Bible as "a hook" for the lost to get them into the church service. If they were to teach and preach these other matters, so the argument runs, the lost would have no incentive to come to the church in the first place if all that is going to happen is that they are to be told that they are sinners in need of repentance and faith in Christ. This is not "practical" or "relevant" enough to induce the "unchurched" to attend. So, if we can first get them there, then we can eventually get them to hear the gospel and they will be saved.
The first question we might ask in response to this notion is, "Saved from what?" From a bad marriage, financial distress, an unhappy life, worry, stress, poor goal setting? Is this what the Lord Jesus Christ spilt His precious blood for? Is this the message of the glorious gospel as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things"? Is this what Paul had in mind when he wrote:
"Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (Romans 5:1,9 NASV)?
Or perhaps was the great apostle thinking of this when he wrote:
"For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1Thes 1:9,10 NASV)?
We can declare with absolute and unequivocal certainty that Paul’s hearers knew exactly what they had been saved from when they responded by grace to the call of his gospel. Can the same be said of these "so-called" converts triumphantly claimed by the proponents of the "seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven" church model? How could they when they hear not one word of the danger they are in or of the concept of the fierce wrath of an offended Deity? In those rare instances when they might, it is added as almost an afterthought, a "by the way, in addition to learning how to handle stress, if you ask Jesus into your heart, you can avoid going to hell"; something no doubt contrived to engender great conviction upon its recipients! In other words, the majority of "conversions" that are taking place in these churches are spurious in nature and are only serving to lure the victims of this fraudulent scheme into a false sense of peace with a false hope. It is reminiscent with them as it was with the converts of the Pharisee’s of Jesus’ day:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." (Matt 23:15 NASV).
Even that great hymn of the church, "Amazing Grace", bears witness against this spurious system that has literally run amok in the household of God.
"’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved".
This classic hymn was penned by John Newton, an 18th century captain of a slave trading ship who was marvelously saved by the grace of God. It was through hearing the gospel that he became aware of the exceedingly great peril he was in by nature and by that same gospel that he discovered the only remedy that God had provided for guilty sinners such as he. Notice carefully the order of the words in that hymn and see once again the pattern followed by the Spirit of God in bringing his soul from darkness to light. His own words express the workings of the gospel upon his soul as the Spirit of God brought it forcefully to bear upon his heart and mind.
"I confess I was; and so would they be, if the Lord should shew them, as he was pleased to shew me at that time, the absolute necessity of some expedient to interpose between a righteous God and a sinful soul: upon the Gospel scheme, I saw at least a peradventure of hope; but, on every other side, I was surrounded with black, unfathomable despair."
There is no doubt that John Newton knew from what he had indeed been saved! Look at how he began to understand the need of a righteousness other than his own if he was to endure the Judge of the whole earth’s scrutiny. Yet, how many are there in these "user-friendly" churches that can sing the words to this classic hymn without even an inkling of understanding as to the words that are coming out of their mouths?
The other things that may be said in rebuttal to the claims of the adherents to this method that the "practical" messages will lure in the "unchurched" and then they will eventually hear the gospel and get saved is, "What gospel", and "Just when or where are these people supposed to hear this gospel"? We have already seen that without "the word of the cross" there simply is no gospel being preached no matter what the proponents of this system may claim. As far as when or where they are supposed to encounter the gospel it certainly will not take place on a Sunday morning as long as the focus is on the "practical" or "relevant". According to Romans 10, one has to hear the gospel before he or she can become saved. No "word of the cross" - no "gospel", so just when do they supposedly "get saved"?
But perhaps you might be hesitant and say, "But my church has adopted this model and we haven’t gone so far as to introduce secular music and play videos of secular movies in our Sunday services". My response, "Just wait and see. They will be there before too long." Once pragmatism becomes the chief concern of the church instead of faithfully proclaiming the truth entrusted to it by the Lord, it will completely evolve into an organization which will grow increasingly tolerant of any deviant or novel practice as long as it serves to produce the desired ends. Once the floodgates are opened it is too late to hold back the tidal surge of the overwhelming flood. The only way such a church can be spared from completely apostatizing is to thoroughly purge itself of this approach altogether and return to the ancient paths (Jer 6:16), something easier said than done.
In our next article we will see how this methodology is not only a cancer slowly eating away at the vitals of the American church, but is also "antichristian" as to its true nature and essence and has its origin in the minds of the Satan himself.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Dan Norcini
Copyright © 1999 Sovereign Grace Bible Church
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