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Things About Seeker Churches

I drive a truck for a living so I spend hours on the road and so I listen to podcasts to pass the time.  Most of the time I listen to sound doctrinal preaching.  However, for the fun of it, I will often download sermons from churches I either know I won’t agree with or sermons from seeker churches just to hear what they are up to.

Over the past year or so I have listened to hundreds of seeker churches.  And I’m not lying when I type hundreds.  From the mega seeker churches to seeker churches in my geographical area, I have listened to hundreds of sermons.  I’m not expert on seeker churches but I have been able to gather my thoughts on them.  So here goes.

Let me begin with the positives.  While my negatives will be longer, I do find a few positives in here.

First, the desire to see sinners saved.  While nearly all seeker churches will never call people “sinners,” the concept is still the same.  They seem to want to see people come to faith in Christ.  Again, I would question whether the people are hearing the law and the gospel to save sinners but they seem to truly want to see people saved.  Now could it be they just want a crowd?  Sure.  I don’t know their hearts.  Only God does.  Their words and actions seem to imply they want people saved but it might just be a desire for more people to come to their seeker church.

Second, somewhat preaching of a Christian worldview.  By this I mean the seeker churches at least will point to the Bible as our foundation for our worldview.  Take sex for instance.  This is a favorite topic among seeker churches and most will point to a biblical worldview on sex.  I appreciate that.  As a sinner myself, I need to hear what the Bible teaches about topic X.  Without the Bible, I am prone to follow my flesh and that always leads to sin.

Third, the desire to be real.  While this can be overdone in my estimation by seeker churches, most want people to know that they are just like you and I.  These are not “holy” men and women but regular sinners who are in the fight for faith in their own lives.  I appreciate that.  While I’ll have a little to say that is critical about this below, for the most part I acknowledge that all of us are sinners (Romans 3:23) and we all need Jesus and His grace.  No one is perfect.  None.

Fourth, in many cases I appreciate the desire to look like the community around them including interracial churches.  God loves all people (John 3:16) and He sent His Son for all.  Doesn’t matter the color of the person’s skin.  Churches often are all white or all black or all brown or all yellow.  While this is not necessarily sinful, it can be.  I know of some churches that don’t want anyone but their “kind” with them.  How sinful.  The kingdom of God is made up of sinners who have been saved by Christ Jesus and this includes all races of people (Galatians 3:26-29; Revelation 1:5-6).  Racism has no place in the kingdom. Seeker churches often seek to tear down the walls of racial divisions.  I truly appreciate that.

Lastly, the love for children.  Seeker churches seem to do a good job of building ministries focused on families and especially young children.  I get it.  Their target groups are mainly 20-30 year olds who have families.  I’m out of that range now and my children are getting older but when I was in my 30’s, I remember thinking long and hard about churches that would help me pour into my children.  Now I truly believe my job as a parent is to teach and raise my children in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4 and notice the emphasis on “fathers”).  Seeker churches seem to know this and seek to build ministries designed to attract young families to their churches.  It can be overdone here too but traditional churches can learn the value of trying to pour into the whole family.

The Critical Items

Now let’s turn to the critical items.  There are many.

First, let’s talk about the preaching.  I would rather label them “talks” after “Ted Talks” more than preaching.  The preaching of seeker churches is just bad.  All of them seem to want to be stand up comedians more than theologians and shepherds.  The stories are usually focused on the speaker and all about them.  The text of Scripture is never exegeted.  I have listened to hundreds of sermons (yes hundreds) from seeker churches and not one has ever been expository nor has one ever dealt with their text in a contextual way.  Not one.  In fact, nearly every talk is topical and if they are teaching through a book, the chapter from the Bible is either never read nor is it dealt with.  Doctrine is never preached.  Now the seeker defense will be that A) they are not preaching to Christians but to the seekers.  And B) they have community groups for doctrinal teaching.  I find both answers lacking.  2 Timothy 4:2 says that the duty of elders is to preach the Word.  The words of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:17) are worth reading (Acts 20:28-35).  Seeker leaders seem to avoid doctrine as much as possible as I have yet to hear a sound doctrinal sermon yet.  The talks also seem to me to always be on a beginner level.  I think of Hebrews 5:11-14.  Where is the growth?  Where is the challenging of believers to go deeper in their knowledge of God and His Word (2 Peter 3:16-17)?  Do people walk away from these talks understanding more about God, His Son, His salvation, and His Word?  I think not.

Second, let me say a word of the elders of the church.  The seeker leaders go out of their way to show how human they are.  They want to be “real” to the people and especially to seekers. Yet this has become an annoyance to me.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 is clear about elders in the church.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 is tough and few disciples meet the qualifications there.  I don’t.  But I am not an elder nor do I claim to be.  I am just a truck driver.  That said, leaders in the church should be holy men of God.  Not perfect. Not sinless.  But holy nonetheless.  The ESV uses the words “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2).  1 Timothy 3:7 does mention that the elder must be “well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”  Outsiders are those who are lost, outside of the kingdom.  Even sinners see that these elders are men of God.  These are not men walking around “trying to be a real guy” but these are real Christians who love Jesus and while not perfect, they do desire to please the Lord.  This act of “being a normal guy” has become old fast in the seeker leadership.  And sadly, many of these guys along the way have fallen into sin.  Just google fallen mega pastors and you’ll see the sad reality of that world.  Ironically, in the desire to “just be a normal guy,” these guys become superstars and draw the attention of the devil.

Third, the lack of biblical discernment especially in regard to music.  All of the seeker churches I have listened to try to have a kicking praise and worship band.  Many include the smoke and lights.  These praise bands are typically led by a 20 something who has skinny jeans on and they all wear cool clothes or just wear worn out jeans and a t-shirt.  Now the dress to me is not the issue.  God sees our hearts after all.  That said, the cool praise bands often sing songs that are just poor in their doctrine if they have doctrine at all.   Heck this song would qualify as a praise song today.  The utter lack of doctrine in the seeker churches produces shallow, sappy songs that have little to do with the gospel or the glory of God.  They sound good but that’s it.  I can see why people are drawn to liturgical churches after being immersed in seeker churches.  It is very sad.

Fourth, the lack of law and gospel.  Most seeker churches either are heavy on the law (you need to do these ten things to help your marriage) or nothing at all.  The gospel is always “pray Jesus into your heart” and nothing is typically said of repentance or even using the law to expose our sins (Romans 3:19-20).  God’s law has a purpose (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and yet seeker churches avoid preaching the law to convict sinners or sanctify saints (the third use of the law).  The Bible is balanced between law and gospel.  Yet seeker churches are not balanced at all.  In fact, I chance to say that they wouldn’t even know about law and gospel.  The gospel should be preached at all times.  I would argue every time the church meets because we are prone to wander.  Martin Luther said, “Christians should preach the gospel every day to ourselves because everyday we are prone to forget it.”  Without the hope of the gospel, all these “steps to a better you” are worthless.  Without the hope of the gospel, we fall into despair and back into the flesh.  “Ten steps” talks are not what we need all the time.  We need the gospel consistently (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Without the gospel, we turn people into moralists which still leads them to hell.

Conclusion

I am no fan of seeker churches.  I get what draws people to them (Isaiah 30:10-11).  I remember the age-old quote, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”  The gospel is not what is drawing these sinners.

My advice would be to flee these churches.  I would much rather attend a Calvinistic church that preaches the Word of God than any seeker church.  The pragmatism is simply too much for this old boy.  I desperately need the gospel.  I am lost without Christ.  He is my only hope.  He alone is my righteousness before a holy God (Philippians 3:9).  I am undone without the grace of the Lord Jesus for this sinner.  I need to hear more of Him less of me.  I need to hear the gospel over and over and over again.  My flesh hates the things of God but I must hear the gospel to remind my flesh to die (Romans 6:11-14).  Further, I need the gospel because I am a sinner who needs God’s grace (1 Timothy 1:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/21/2017 at 12:37 PM

A Rant on Seeker Churches

I listen to a few seeker churches on my iPhone while I drive my truck (I drive an eighteen wheeler for a living).  During long hauls I can listen to two or three sermons depending on the drive.  My wife says that I’m mad for listening to the seeker churches because they often make me cranky and I start ranting (as I’m doing here) about them.  My problems with the seeker churches are too many to post here in a blog post.  I could never willingly be a part of a seeker church for many reasons.  Doctrine is the first and foremost.  The utter lack of doctrine in seeker churches is disturbing to say the least.

I have been listening to one of the seeker churches for the entire year.  Each week their sermons come to my iPhone.  You got to love technology!  I had a friend who started attending this church about 6 years ago.  He still goes there.  He once had a fire for the Lord, was a man of prayer and holiness, and loved to share the gospel with the lost.  Those days are gone.  He is a shell of his former self now that he attends this church.  I place the blame at the feet of my friend but also at this church as well.  They have convinced my friend that evangelism is easy as inviting “the unchurched” to his church.  The church does the rest.  The entire “weekend” is designed to attract the “unchurched” and they are specific that they want the “unchurched” to come and not feel like they are at church.  I have often said that seeker churches remind me of cults in that they get you in before springing the trap and letting you know what they are about.  In this case, get the “unchurched” coming to church and then wait for a few weeks before telling them they must “receive Christ into their hearts” if they want to go deeper.  It’s like an Amway seminar.  Only worst.

The rant here today is not about the seeker church I’ve been listening to this year but a new one I picked up just this week.  I use to be friends with a youth pastor (when I was a youth pastor) and he always seemed to lean this seeker way.  I remember once taking to him about how I wanted to build a youth ministry that revolved around prayer and the Word and he laughed and said that I would never have a large ministry if that was my formula.  I followed him via social media after he moved away and watched him head down this seeker trail.  He bought into the seeker pragmatism hook, line, and sinker.  He begin to tweet a lot of seeker posts and I noticed his preaching was more and more becoming like seeker pastors I knew of.  He ultimately started a church in the Charlotte, NC area and followed the likes of seeker gurus Perry Noble and Steven Furtick.  Despite obvious doctrinal disagreements, this seeker pastor ignored that because “they are growing” and that was the bottom line.

He started his church and now he rolls out “series” sermons like Noble and Furtick complete with the works.  The stage is focused on the series.  The series is pushed though social media and social media is used during the talk.  I sent a few of his talks to Fighting For The Faith and hope they will review them.

Here is my rant.  Theology.  The seeker churches ignore theology.  I have listened to all the sermons from the one church this year and a few from this newer podcast and theology is utterly lacking.  The twisting of Scripture is bad.  For example, one of the seeker pastors preached on “Shake It Off” based on the Taylor Swift song (yes you read that right) and preached from Acts 28 where Paul “shook of the snake” and he in turn turned the snake into problems and other things that we just need to shake off.  What a poor use of Scripture!

Numbers is the focus.  That is the bottom line.  I well remember emailing a seeker pastor back in the early 2000’s and he responded back with “I run 700 people on Sunday morning.  How many do you run?  E-mail me back when you get to that number and I might listen.”  I was emailing him over his poor doctrinal preaching.  His response: pragmatism.

I remember another preacher going to hear modalist T.D. Jakes.  When I questioned him about this he responded by saying that Jakes’ church was huge and he could just feel the anointing on Jakes when he preached.  Never mind that Jakes is a modalist (the Trinity doesn’t matter much).  Never mind that Jakes is a false prosperity preacher.  Never mind that doctrine seems to not matter at all to Jakes.  Jakes’ church is big and that is enough.  Pragmatism.

A crowd does not equal the blessing of God.

I pass the Kingdom Hall’s all the time while working and I can tell you that they are packed.  It seems they are growing and I have my suspicions as to why.  The Jehovah’s Witness are no doubt a cult.  They are doctrinally wrong.  Nothing more than modern day Arians.  Yet they are growing because of the seeker churches in my estimation.  Week after week the seeker churches are packed but doctrine is not to be found.  In fact, doctrine is avoided at all costs.  It amazes me that seeker preachers often will have to point out where a book in the Bible is.  For example, when the above seeker pastor preached from Acts 28, he felt he had to point out where Acts is.  Further, his “background” to Paul and Acts 28 was horrible.  He felt he had to use “cool” language and to be funny throughout his talk to get people focused.  But at the end of the day, he taught nothing.  Nothing.  He didn’t teach false doctrines.  He taught nothing.  And this is true of every seeker sermon I have heard.  Let me repeat that:  I have never heard a seeker sermon yet that has taught me anything.  They are masters at saying nothing.

And thus cults grow.  People do want doctrine.  Contrary to what the seeker churches believe.  Doctrine does matter to folks.  In Acts 2:42 the first thing Luke records that the new disciples of Jesus did was to devote themselves to the apostles’ doctrine.  First thing listed was not “worship” or “small groups” but doctrine.  Cults come and fill the void.  The reason seeker people leave to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other cults is because doctrine.

After the seeker churches go off, I turn on John MacArthur and a breath of fresh air comes in.  MacArthur is the opposite of these seeker churches.  He preaches doctrine.  He preaches holiness.  He preaches the Bible and seeks to exegete the text faithfully.  Sometimes, for fun, I will listen to a seeker church and then pull up MacArthur preaching from the same text and its night and day difference.

Over the years I have been out witnessing only to run into a group of people from seeker churches.  Sometimes they will ridicule me for preaching on the streets.  Sometimes they talk to me and I try to reason with them about their “conversion” as 100% of them believe that “saying the sinner’s prayer” is how you get saved.  They are often completely ignorant of church history or theology.  They will say “I just love Jesus” but when I try to find out which Jesus they love, they don’t know.  I can often point out that the Jesus they say they love is the Jesus of their own imaginations and not the Bible.  Paul the Apostle warned about this in 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6-9.

Am I thankful for seeker churches?  No I am not.  I truly believe that persecution is soon coming to the Christians in the United States and this will probably end the seeker church as we know it.  Most of the seeker churches will either close up or they will complete their compromising by abandoning true faith altogether in favor of the praises (and most important, the money) of men.

Sadly, many godly churches I know of feel the need to imitate these seeker churches.  I remember when Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church led to the demise of denominational named churches.  Now we just have “Calvary Church” or “Christian Life Church” to avoid the obvious doctrinal distinctive that are there.  Now we have the cool fad among seeker churches to get the coolest name you can find for your church.  Either way, doctrine does not matter.  They would say only Jesus matters but they don’t even know if the Jesus they preach is the Jesus of the Bible.

I highly recommend you to read John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel for a truly biblical look at the seeker church.  I pray that many saints of God will love the gospel and love the truths of the Bible (Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1).

My Critical Thoughts on New Spring

This past week we saw the resignation of Perry Noble from New Spring Church.  New Spring is the largest church in South Carolina (where I live) with over 30,000 people on various “campuses” throughout the state.  There is a church near me as I write this.  I am reluctant to call it a church but I will.

It amazed me from the start that people enjoyed Perry Noble.  I was not a fan.  When I first heard of him I took a listen to one of his “sermons” and instantly thought it was shallow, seeker sensitive and lacked biblical truth.  It was clear that Noble was not a theologian and he just proof texted his sermons.  Every single talk I heard from Noble was topical.  Noble was often shown to be a gifted speaker but I found it lacking in many ways.  Noble was more about entertaining the crowd than actually teaching the Word of God which is the duty of the elders of the Lord’s church (1 Timothy 3:2).  Paul’s admonishment in Acts 20:28-32 is worth reading and noticing that most of the seeker guys don’t come close to abiding in this.

New Spring always boasted of reaching “thousands” with the gospel.  I never heard the gospel from them.  I have listened to many, many talks from New Spring but the gospel is missing unless you mean “bow your heads and close your eyes.”  The “sinner’s prayer” is not the gospel.  Getting people to raise a hand and say a prayer is not the gospel.  Just getting people to be baptized is not the gospel.  The gospel is clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. New Spring would proclaim “833 saved in all our campuses this weekend” but the “gospel” was noting more than “bow your head, close your eyes, repeat this prayer.”

Having talked to New Spring people on the streets, I learned early on that these people didn’t have a clue about the gospel.  I would share with them the law of God to convict them of their sins and their eyes would be opened to their need to repent and believe the gospel but in my presence, none did.  They always believed they were right with God because they “said the prayer.”  When I would talk to them about repentance, they didn’t have a clue.  Noble would mention sin but repentance was often lacking in his talks.

I found that New Spring had an idolatrous view of Perry Noble.  He was their superstar.  He was their everything.  People went to hear the “kicking praise band” and the great motivational talk from Noble.  Now that Noble is gone, the void of the superstar will be seen.  I suspect that Clayton King will fill that roll.  While King seemed to be more “biblical” he still has a long way to go to be a true biblical preacher of the gospel.  King shares Noble’s pragmatism, his love of shocking “Christians” and he shares in Noble’s “sinner prayer” salvation methodology.

Having interacted with a few New Spring folks, I found the church to be shallow, prayerless, and lacking the gospel.  Sadly, I knew a few Arminian brothers who thought that New Spring was a great model for churches.  I disagreed with them publicly and was clear that I would never follow Noble nor the New Spring model.  Why not just follow the Bible instead?  Why be pragmatic and always looking for the newest, best model for drawing in money people.

For those who truly did repent because of God’s grace and mercy at New Spring, I often have prayed that they would leave and find a biblical church that is preaching the Word of God faithfully.  Noble often attacked those who loved theology and he ridiculed those who wanted to “go deeper” in their study of the Bible.  New Spring claimed to be “all about souls” and their passion, claimed Noble, was for people to be saved.  Yet week after week, Noble would rise up, give a TED talk, ask people to say a prayer and proclaim by the end of the day via Twitter how many people had “prayed to receive Christ.”

Here is my prayer for New Spring: that the elders would repent and denounce the pragmatism brought to them by their founder Perry Noble.  That Clayton King (if he is the man who takes over) would repent and preach the gospel (and not the sinner’s prayer model).  I pray that holiness would be preached and practiced.  I pray that prayer, revival, passion for the gospel, truth, and sound doctrine would reign over New Spring.  I pray the focus would not be on numbers but on pleasing the Lord.  Faithfulness to God is what matters the most in serving the King (2 Timothy 2:2).

I know these are my own thoughts and I don’t claim to speak for anyone.  I know that I am critical of New Spring and have been since I first heard of them.  When I first heard of them, I heard that people were coming to faith in Christ by the hundreds at a Baptist church in Anderson, SC.  I thought, “Wow, maybe this is a biblical church preaching the gospel.”  How sad I was when I first heard Noble give a talk.  I thought back to 2 Timothy 4:2-3 and realized that Noble was just that.  The “thousands” coming to faith in Christ were nothing more than people saying a magical prayer not found in the Bible.

May the Lord give us all a heart for His truth, to call people to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).  Jesus alone saves by His grace alone through faith alone for His glory alone.  The crucified Christ is the one we need to preach (2 Corinthians 4:5) and not ourselves.  The Word of God must be preached for sinner’s to hear and be saved (Romans 10:17).  May the Church preach the gospel to all sinners (Luke 24:47).

Theological Matters & Unity

When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God.  My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church.  We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening.  Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.

In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG.  Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name.  Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church.  I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least.  I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.

Fast forward to today.  In my city there are about 10 AG churches.  Only two have the AG name.  COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name.  This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors.  Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”

Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular.  Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names.  Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in.  I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.

First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with.  There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL.  Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.”  The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over.  This was the Rick Warren stream.  Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God.  Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches.  I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles.  Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did.  They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.

Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology.  When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches.  Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching.  I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost.  Pentecostal theology was vital.  I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.”  At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized.  When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost.  The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.

Fast forward to today.  Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all.  In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs.  I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter.  He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church.  Where does this come from?  Rick Warren!

I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church.  What did he do?  In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings.  This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost.  Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant.  The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives).  Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church.  They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth.  Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray).  In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks.  At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s?  He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.”  The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to.  Theology is not the issue.  Prayer and preaching is not the issue.  Pragmatism is.

Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God.  I have no dog in the fight.  I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers.  I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time.  I was there.  I am thankful I am not now.  The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense.  Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door.  My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car.  All gimmicks designed to get people in the door.  Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.”  Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized.  Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church.  And my friend has one goal: numbers.  It’s all about the growth.  His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.

Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley.  Why?  Because they were not Pentecostals!  Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days.  The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.

Some see all of this “unity” as good.  I don’t.  Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology.  In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal.   I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal.  What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel.  I see unity around methods.  John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology.  I agree.  The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches.  Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place.  It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.

There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology.  The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21).  Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20).  Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19).  Unity in the local church must be around theology.  We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs.  Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction.  This is why we need the church.  The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).  The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).

The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences.  I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time.  We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living.  Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles.  He would teach theology and how to put it into practice.  For example, Ephesians is six chapters.  The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature.  The last three are application in nature.  Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst.  This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel.  Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost.  Salvation is gone.  The Lordship of Jesus is robbed.  Life is hopeless.

My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ.  Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine.  Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).  Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  I want all this for myself and the church of God.

May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!

Seeing “Us” in Scripture

I enjoy Chris Rosebrough and his podcast “Fighting for the Faith.”  Chris often uses satire and comedy to point out false teachers and teachings.  His podcast often has sermon reviews of both good and bad sermons and Chris will point out why they are that.  I am often amazed at what passes for sermons these days.  Much of what seems to be coming out of the seeker church is not even close to true biblical teaching.  It is more or less about “us.”  It is man-centered to its core.

I have written often on the need for expository teaching and more sound doctrine being preached.  Just this week while working I was pondering why people enjoy attending seeker churches where doctrine is minimized and those who desire to go “deeper” with their faith are criticized.  I want to ask them, “How can you sit under this guy and learn anything?  What has he taught you that brought you closer to Christ, deeper in your theological understanding of the gospel?”  Heck, most of the teachers Chris plays on his podcast have no gospel understanding.  The seeker churches are just “say this prayer and become a Christian” as their gospel.

I subscribe to a local church here in my city that has been sucking people from the more traditional churches (mainly Baptist churches) for some time.  They started at about 50 people or so and today have over 1000.  Because of their growth, church leaders often avoid criticizing them because of their growth.  They are instead esteemed.  I point out that growth is no indicator of truth.  Look at the cults.  Look at Islam.  Truth is not pragmatic.  Truth is truth and God’s Word declares the truth of God (John 17:17).  Jesus said that He is the truth (John 14:6).  God has given us His truth through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We need no other “truth.”  Yet many are unwilling to take the truth of the Bible and examine the teachings of large seeker churches because of their numbers.

Each week I get their Sunday services on my podcasts.  I listen to their sermons.  Why?  Because I want to know if they are preaching truth.  Often they are not.  In fact, they often are preaching nothing at all.  They are currently preaching through John but they are not expository nor are they dealing with their text.  They often just read the text and fill in stories about themselves or others to pass the time.  They are not false teachers.  They are “un-teachers.”  They are teaching neither bad doctrine nor good.  They are teaching nothing.  They just focus on “us.”

This is true nearly of all seeker churches that I know.  The focus is on “us” and not Jesus.  The gospel is not about the glory of God, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for our sins, along with His death, burial, and bodily resurrection from the dead where He now sits at the right hand of God to pray for us.  No!  The “gospel” of seeker churches is on “us.”  It is about “us” and our glory.  The gospel of seeker churches is about Jesus coming to give us an “abundant life” or to give us a “hope and a future” (both John 10:10 and Jeremiah 29:11 are seriously abused and destroyed there).

Just this past week I listened to two seeker churches Resurrection Day services.  Both were focused on “us.”  The gospel was not taught.  The focus was not on the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The focus was on God resurrecting your dreams.  Neither church preached repentance for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 24:47).  Neither church even mentioned repentance at all.  Both did mention sin but only in passing.  Sin is what keeps us down, what keeps us from reading our potential.  Gone is the truth of the gospel of repentance.

The gospel is not lost.  It is easily found in the Bible.  One can skip it.  One can downplay it.  But one cannot ignore it altogether.  Just reading the New Testament brings us face to face with our sins, with our inability to save ourselves by our good works, with the fact that we are enemies of God because of our rebellion against His law (Romans 3:19-20).  We find that our world is not getting better by works of the flesh but we realize that we must repent of our sins if we are to have peace with God (Acts 2:37-39; 3:19-20).  We find that repentance brings salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).  We find that Christ alone saves us from the wrath of God by His grace and mercy (Romans 5:1).  The gospel is focused on the person and work of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14 and notice how many times “He” is mentioned and we are not).  Salvation is not accomplished by making amends or trying harder or your good deeds (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is the gracious work of God wrought in us by His Spirit through the saving work of the Lord Jesus.

Until next time, keep loving and living in the gospel.

A Contrast In Pastors

I recently did my own little project.  I spoke to two very different pastors of traditional churches (traditional in the sense that they are not house churches).  I asked them the same basic questions.  I wanted to highlight their answers (which I have summarized here) and show the contrasts in their thinking.  The first pastor I will call John and the second I will call Rob.  John pastors a traditional Reformed church.  Rob pastors a seeker sensitive church.

John, age is late 50’s, Reformed in his theology.

What books are you reading?

I’m reading several books by a few Puritans.  Right now, I am reading Thomas Watson.  I just finished a book on the humor of Charles Spurgeon which I found delightful.

What style is your preaching?

Expository.

What are you preaching right now?

Through the Gospel of Mark.

How often do you preach on doctrine?

I try to deal with my text and include sound exegesis and doctrine in every sermon.  Sometimes, depending on the text, doctrine comes up more.  Sometimes not.  I want the text to lead me.

Lastly, how much time you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say 10 to 15 hours.

Rob, age is early 40’s, Baptist in his theology.  Non-Calvinist.

What books are you reading?

Right now I am reading Mark Batterson.  My favorite author is John Ortberg.

What style is your preaching?

Topical and series.

What are you preaching right now?

Actually we are working through the Gospel of John.  (Side question I asked: Is this expository preaching through John?  He said not in the technical sense but more focused on long sections).

How often do you preach on doctrine?

Um….I know doctrine is vital.  Not downplaying it at all.  We have a lot of seekers coming to church so I try to avoid anything that would lose them.  We talk about doctrine a lot in our home groups.

Lastly, how much time to you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say about 5 hours.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Just depends on how busy I am.

Conclusions

First, let me state that I am not trying to attack Rob though it will appear that way.  I disagree with him and his church.  I am not a Calvinist so I didn’t agree with John either but it shows me why Calvinists are seeing a resurgence and we Arminians are not at this point.  I know of few Arminians preachers who actually preach Arminianism from the pulpit.

In this case, Rob is not an Arminian.  He is a seeker sensitive church plant from the SBC.  He would say that he is a non-Calvinist though he stated that he enjoys John Piper and David Platt.  Rob, however, often reflects non-Calvinist churches.  That are often shallow, lacking theological depth, and focused on getting results (in this case pragmatically) for the purpose of numbers.

John was very gracious.  He is a scholar.  He deeply loves the Lord (though I think Rob does too).  Both men want to see Jesus glorified though I believe John is more God-centered in his approach.  John, unlike Rob, seems to not care what the numbers say.  John’s church is only about 35.  Rob is running near 500.  That said, the theological depth of the average person in John’s church is deep while Rob’s is seriously lacking.  Even the music was noticeably different.  John’s church sang deep theological hymns while Rob’s sang the latest praise songs from the popular praise singers.

One final point.  What I found interesting in this short study was even the Bibles these men used.  John preaches from the King James Version.  Rob preaches from the New Living Translation.  Yet John dealt with his text.  Rob only skims it.  John developed his points from the text and allowed the text to dictate him.  Rob read the text and then only touched on points here and there from it.  John preached with Christ and His gospel as the focus.  Rob preached, it seemed to me, with the hearers as this focus.

My call to my fellow Arminians is learn from this.  Preach doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).  Let us not shy away from the Word of God.  Furthermore, I pray for a revival of expository preaching among my fellow Arminians.  This goes for house churches as well.  God’s Word is the final authority and we must preach the Word with unction and to the glory of God.  Care not for the attention of men but rather long for the glory of God to be exalted.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/12/2016 at 11:47 AM

The Shallowness of Seeker Churches

Over the past ten years or more we have been witnessing a revival in Calvinism and Reformed theology.  I can remember in college back in the 1990’s when neither Arminianism nor Calvinism was a big issue.  The issue in those days was the Lordship controversy with John MacArthur and the Dallas Theological Seminary teachers such as Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges.  There were debates over spiritual gifts (charismatic vs. non-charismatic) and debates here and there over the security of the believer but by in large the issues related to Arminianism and Calvinism were not much of an issue.

Fast forward to now.  The debate couldn’t be much hotter.  I do appreciate that more and more brothers and sisters are learning to debate with grace toward each other as Scripture commands (2 Timothy 2:24-25).  Philippians 2:3 is becoming a passage we all need to heed.  Philippians 4:2 needs to be preached more.

On the one hand, I as an Arminian do not rejoice in the revival of Calvinism I see around me.  After all, I oppose the “doctrines of grace.”  But I do rejoice that disciples of Jesus are longing for more, wanting to go deeper in their theological knowledge, wanting to explore the deeper things of God.  And while I confess that I believe Arminianism to be deeper than Calvinism on many issues, I do believe that Calvinism is a move past the basics that are often not even being preached in the Western churches.

In my neck of the woods, we have a very large seeker sensitive church.  They would likely argue that they are not seeker sensitive but “Spirit sensitive” but their sermons, their music, etc. are all focused on attracting people to church.  They don’t care if you love Jesus or not (though they say they want to introduce you to Him).  Their point is to make church cool again, to get you in the doors, to get you “plugged in” with small groups, prayer, etc.  Some of what they do is good.  Jesus is mentioned a lot.  I appreciate that.

Recently I have subscribed to their podcast to listen to their preaching.  I have been listening to two different seeker sensitive churches in my area both of which are large.  After hearing a few of their sermons, I see why so many young people move toward Calvinism.  Calvinism is readily out there with podcasts, apps, study Bibles, Bible conferences, etc.  The works of John Piper are even quoted a few times by one of the speakers.  Tim Keller is mentioned much.  Matt Chandler seems to be a favorite.  All three men are Calvinists.

The preaching is typically focused on the people.  The text does not drive their preaching.  While they will occasionally quote from the Bible, the focus is the hearer.  The audience is their focus.  These are not dying men preaching to dying people about the living Savior.  These are showmen offering products to consumers.  That is the bottom line.  The sermons can be heard at any Amway presentation.  “You can make it.”  “You can do it!”  “You will survive this!”  “You got this.”  “Jesus will help you!”

So I can see a young person sitting in these churches just coming to faith in Christ.  They were drawn to the church by the women, the men, the cool music, the awesome logo, the lights, the sounds, the largeness of it all.  They came broken by a world that offers nothing and takes all.  They heard about Jesus, thought they would give Him a try and so they take the preacher up on his offer and they raise their hand, say a prayer, get baptized in a mass baptism, and start going to a small group.  While I would not say these people are saved at this point, they are are just what John Wesley described as “awakened sinners.”  They know they are lost, know that they are sinners, know that they need a Savior.  They have been brought to Christ by the traditions of men and not the Bible.

That said, they start to listen to the sermons, download the podcasts and they take a chance on hearing John Piper.  Piper blows them away!  He is actually preaching the Bible!  Piper begins to teach them and they become his students (or his cubs as Roger Olson puts it).  Soon they are reading Piper, listening to other Calvinists, and the door is opened to a new life in Calvinism.  Like Austin Fischer, they plunge into the world of Calvinism out of the shallowness of the seeker church.

The young person moves up!  Some of them actually repent at this point and get truly saved.  They leave their shallow seeker church to go to a Reformed church.  Some of them remain here.  Some move on higher out of Calvinism.

The seeker church has been a source for the revival of Calvinism.  I listened to just three sermons from a large seeker church and I was done.  It was not good.  The guy is a pretty good public speaker but he is no elder (1 Timothy 3:2 with an emphasis on teaching here).  The duty of biblical elders is to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-2) which includes teaching the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5; Titus 1:5-9; 2:15).  I heard talks but didn’t hear exegesis of the texts.  I heard much talk about people but little emphasis on the sinfulness of mankind in light of the perfection of God’s holiness.  I heard much about Jesus coming and what He has done for us but I heard little in way of repentance and faith in His saving work.  I heard much about praying the sinner’s prayer but no emphasis on the Lordship of Christ and our submission to Him when we repent (Luke 6:46-49; Acts 2:36-41; 3:19-20).

The Arminian church must preach sound doctrine.  Now is not the time to become pragmatic and want to copy the seeker churches to gain the crowds.  Our duty is to preach Christ to the lost (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Our duty is not to gain crowds.  Our duty is to be faithful to our King and not to this world (John 14:15).  What you win them with is what you win them to.  If you preach Jesus and His Lordship, this often doesn’t draw crowds.  In fact, it often draws hate.  People love Jesus so long as He is their “god” that they worship and they created.  People often despise the true Jesus when He is preached in the power of the Spirit (John 15:18-16:4).  There are many counterfeit Jesus’ being preached by many (Matthew 24:23-24).  Our duty is to preach the true Jesus by preaching His inerrant and infallible Word.

May the Lord help us all, whether Arminian or not, to preach the Word of God faithfully and to exalt the one true and living God.  Jesus alone can save sinners and we must proclaim Him and His glory!

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