Arminian Today

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Why Are Many Preachers Pragmatists?

The English dictionary defines pragmatism as follows:

1 : a practical approach to problems and affairs
2 : a doctrine that truth is to be tested by the practical effects of belief

These definitions fit perfectly for my article here.  I want to write about why are many preachers also pragmatists?  The simple answer is that they want to see their churches grow and they believe that programs and being attractive to potential members is important to building a church.  In practical ways, the pragmatic preacher will use whatever tools he can find to build the church.  Whether it is a program based church or music or feel-good series sermons that make people happy and encouraged, the pragmatist will use whatever he can to build the church.  This would also include using people to get to his means.

Much is of course loss when the pragmatist begins to think about how to build the church apart from the means of grace that God has given us in His Word.  Sadly, many clergy are focused on their “jobs” and so they think in terms of money instead of souls.  The church is their business and people coming is their livelihood.  The more people who come to a traditional church, the more you possible can get in money.  Further, people draw more people.  If it is popular to attend church A then people will leave church B for the better programs at A.

In our area, we have two pragmatic churches that are sucking the life out of other churches.  One is a multi-site from a seeker church not even in our community.  People show up at this church to watch a screen of the church that is nearly 100 miles away.  The other church has been using gimmicks such as car giveaways to get people to show up along with “family friendly” church with no preaching on repentance or anything else “negative.”  The results for both of these churches has been tremendous.  Both are considered “cool” churches to attend and people gladly walk around admitting that they attend these churches.

Lost is the glory of God.  Lost is the preaching of the Word.  Lost are the intercessions for the lost.  Lost are the true conversions because of faithful preaching of the gospel.

One could say, “You just are mad that these churches are growing.”  I am not a clergyman so I don’t care per se about the “growth” of the church I attend.  God is sovereign and He will add to His Church whom He wants (Acts 2:47).  But I am upset that these churches are preaching such a watered down “gospel” that is no gospel at all.  Both claim to be “evangelistic” churches with an emphasis on reaching people with the truth of Christ.  Yet their gospel is the “sinner’s prayer” and “Jesus wants to give you a better life than the one you have now.”  They admit that Jesus died for our sins but they gloss over sin and repentance along the way.  They also ignore completely the wrath of God against sin.  Evangelism, in these churches, would be simply inviting people to their church.

Pragmatism reigns among evangelicals because of the hunger to grow the church.  Some men start out right and do desire to see the church grow because they want to see people love Jesus.  But many look around at these two seeker churches above and are drawn to their success.  These churches are exploding.  Building buildings.  Packed on Sunday. Police have to direct traffic to let people in and out of these churches.  Yet the small faithful man of God struggles to get 30 people to attend.  They have to often take second jobs to make ends meet.  This faithful brother has been preaching through the Word verse by verse but people don’t care.  They are leaving him for the seeker church down the street that has the awesome children’s ministry and they even offer a light show during their “worship” service.  The money on the first row of the seeker church will be more than the small church gets that day.  And so the faithful brother struggles.  He wants to see God move.  He wants to see people repent.  Yet he also needs money because he has a family to provide for.  So he begins to investigate the seeker church.  He begins to contemplate how he can model his church after that church.  Soon he is a pragmatist where the results are what matters.

I once e-mailed a large seeker church to debate the “lead pastor” over their church.  I questioned him theologically and asked him to biblically justify his church.  He wrote me back, “We run over 700 on Sunday.  How many do you run?”  That was it.  That was what mattered.  700 people justifies the means.

Sadly, even faithful church conferences today often are pragmatic.  When was the last time you went to a conference and the speaker was from a tiny church in the middle of nowhere?  Most speakers at conferences come from large churches (and often very large).  I remember only once hearing a small church Bible teacher speak at a prayer conference.  He spoke to thousands of people (the most he had ever preached before he said) but his heart burned for prayer (it was a conference focused only on prayer).  This humble man of God broke the hearts of his audience through his faithfulness in his preaching.  He did not come with the numbers but he came with his faithfulness to God.

I urge you to be faithful to God.  Avoid pragmatism.  Seek to be biblical even if everyone else leaves for the seeker church.  If you have to get a job, get a job but be faithful to God.  Don’t compromise His Word for the sake of money.  Don’t copy the seeker church that always ends in shallow theology and false converts.  Be faithful to preach the Word and leave the results to God alone (2 Timothy 4:1-5).  Preach repentance (Acts 2:38).   Preach holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Preach against sin (1 Corinthians 15:34).  Preach on true salvation and what it means to be truly born again (John 3:1-7).  Preach on the glory of God and the glory of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  Avoid telling people just what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4) but preach the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).  Preach the Law of God to the lost (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).

Be faithful!


Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/19/2013 at 10:00 AM

3 Responses

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  1. I preached on this yesterday going through 1 Corinthians 3. I am the small town pastor who struggles to get 30 people while the fancy church across town draws em in. Your point is good and I can attest, easier said than done. IT is woefully discouraging.


    08/19/2013 at 1:24 PM

    • I’ve been there brother. I pastored for several years and a hyper-prosperity church moved in town and sucked the people out the door. I remained faithful to God and His Word and continued to just preach on but it was very discouraging to be seeking to be faithful while watching pragmatic, poor theology churches growing and thriving.

  2. “God is sovereign” — Calvinist!

    james jordan

    08/19/2013 at 6:12 PM

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