Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

The Evolution of the Traditional Pastor

As I have been pondering the seeker church the last two days, I have once again gone back to the infallible Word of God for answers.  What is the Church?  Why does it exist?  Why did God create this thing called Church?  How does the Church take the gospel into the world or should the world come to the Church?  Do we need to create an environment where the world comes to us?

Nearly every seeker church will answer yes to the last question.  We need to create an environment where seekers feel comfortable when they attend our gatherings.  A seeker should not feel uncomfortable around a group of Christians.  They should feel welcomed and invited to come and check out these Christians and their risen Savior.  The church meetings should not full of facts (expository preaching) but with truth they can apply to their lives (topical preaching).  The number one sin of the modern church is that we bore people to death and away from Jesus.  Church should be entertaining and fun.  This is the bottom line for seeker driven, seeker sensitive churches.

And they have the results to prove they are right. Each week they have 10,000 or more people gathering in their seeker churches to prove they are doing church right.  From Willow Creek (25,000) to Saddleback (30,000), to North Point (30,000) – they have the numbers so they are right?

This, of course, is sure pragmatism.  Sadly, there are few elders in the Church today who are taking time to question the theology of these churches nor asking the number one question, “Is this biblical?”  The seeker church is not concerned with that question.  Their bottom line is the large crowds and the thousand of dollars they are taking in every week.  Further, seeker church leaders such as Bill Hybels or Andy Stanley are speaking weekly to thousands of traditional pastors trying to get them to move toward this pragmatic church style where numbers are the issue.  I have sat in pastors meetings and listened to them boast about seeker churches and large they are and when I questioned their theology, the answer was the same: they are running thousands.  We are running under a hundred.  We need help and they can help us.

So rather than being faithful to Jesus and just preaching His Word with an eye on pleasing and honoring Him, traditional pastors begin to labor toward the pragmatism of the seeker church.  They ignore all sound biblically advice.  They ignore expository preaching because it is deemed boring and out of touch with modern hearers.  They begin to read books by Stanley or Warren and other seeker church leaders and are drawn by the power and the numbers.  They begin to preach from a dynamic equivalent translation and ignore serious study of the Word.  They begin to even order sermons from the above seeker teachers and use their series’ to hopefully “attract the crowds.”

The traditional church will soon begin to model their church after the larger seeker church they wish to be.  Here in the southern United States the three main churches people want to be seems to be: North Point Community Church (Atlanta, GA), Elevation Church (Charlotte, NC) and New Spring Community Church (Anderson, SC).  All three are seeker driven, seeker sensitive churches.  All three are topical sermons (series), and all three are led by “cool, hip, and relevant” pastors.  They are sucking the life out of the traditional church.  Expository preaching is being cast aside.  True worship of God is being cast aside for music that just sounds good.  The focus of the Church being on God and His glory and the command of Ephesians 4:11-16 are ignored.  The whole focus seems to be on one issue: the seeker.  The church exists to attract the seekers.

On a side note, the book of Acts is clear that the Church went to the world with the gospel (Acts 1:8).  They were obeying the command of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:47; John 20:21).  The disciple of Jesus is to make disciples.  Each disciple is to be an ambassador for Christ to the lost world (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  The disciple gathers with other disciples not to primarily worship God since we are to do this at all times (Romans 12:1-2) but we gather to break bread (Acts 2:46) and in the midst of that, to learn the apostle’s doctrines (Acts 2:42).  We learn the apostle’s doctrine from faithful Bible teachers who teach us what the Bible says and what it means (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV) are some of my favorite passages as it reads:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Notice the purpose for disciples meeting.  It was not to offer a “safe” place for unbelievers.  It was instead to offer a safe place for disciples.  Remember that the writer of Hebrews is writing to people who are considering going back to Judaism from Christianity.  They had seen and heard the suffering of the saints (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).  They would have heard the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans 8:18.  They knew that suffering would come from the gospel (2 Timothy 3:12).  They needed a safe place for disciples to come together to eat (1 Corinthians 11:20) and to hear the apostle’s doctrine.  Their meetings were places to stir them up to love and good works.

In turn, the disciple of Jesus went into the world with the gospel.  Acts records the apostles taking God’s Word to the nations.  Paul could write in Colossians 1:6 that the gospel was bearing fruit in all the world.  It was doing so because disciples of Jesus were going forth into all the nations.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and the gospel was what they were preaching in the nations.

For more information on the biblical teaching on the Church, I recommend the following Kindle books.

Reimagining Church by Frank Viola

House Church – Simple, Strategic, Scriptural  edited by Steve Atkerson

Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur

The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur

2 Responses

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  1. I can’t speak to everything you raise here but I do want to say three things.

    First, notwithstanding whatever currently drives the agenda at Willow, I remain convinced that Bill Hybels founded the church out of a sincere conviction that lost people matter to God. Also, bear in bind that Willow refocused their entire philosophy a few years back, based on new data as to what the spiritually hungry were seeking. Some really solid expository preaching is also to be found on their media page at “midweek experience.” The problem is not that Willow was originally seeker sensitive, but that other churches were seeker hostile.

    Second, while I attend a church which regularly has less than 100 adults present on Sunday morning, I also regularly tune in to North Point at 2:00 PM on Sundays; and while it may not be the format each and every week, I have definitely heard Andy Stanley on several occasions take a passage and work through it verse by verse. The “lite’ messages are usually the first in a series of five or six related sermons, and when you look at the demographics of who is attending his church, it seems a reasonable approach.

    Third, while megachurches are growing, statistics show that overall the capital C Church in the United States is losing members. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people and other forms of church need not feel endangered. Last month, a prominent North Point staff member started a new church in Atlanta which follows an Anglican worship style. His North Point experience apparently didn’t “suck the life out of” a desire on the part of himself and his launch team for something more traditional.

    There’s nothing wrong with raising issues unless the discussion is going to be based on stereotypes or caricatures. Nonetheless, I’m sure Andy Stanley (or Bill Hybels) would be flattered that you consider him (them) both “cool” and “hip.”

    • I can’t judge the heart of Hybels or Warren or Stanley but only the fruit of their ministries. I remember when Hybels released the fact find and found that they were struggling with doctrinal confusion, lack of doctrinal emphasis, etc. It was an eye opening study and I wish that Hybels would preach against the very movement that he helped start with the seeker church model that has now been entrenched in the evangelical church through their fellowship of churches.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that while the megachurch is claiming growth, the church as a whole in the West is suffering. It is not growing. It is struggling. I blame that on the seeker movement in a large way. They have created churches that are more like the world than like the people of God as seen in Scripture. The seeker model has produced a pragmatic generation that is not focused on building a church that is modeled after God’s Word but after their own desires.

      Having spent much time evangelizing many people who attend seeker churches, I know first hand that many of them are not saved and don’t know anything about the Bible. I have had many, many conversations with lost people who attend this seeker church or that one and they don’t know the first principles of salvation or even how to be saved other than to say a prayer (“the sinner’s prayer). It grieves my heart as I talk to people who actually believe that evangelism is “inviting people to church” and waiting for the lead pastor to give an altar call. They know nothing of repentance, holiness, perseverance, or even baptism.

      Thanks for your comments even if you don’t agree with me.

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