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Posts Tagged ‘Mega-churches

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

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

The Rising of Superstar Christianity

When I was a boy my father collected all things Jimmy Swaggart.  He had albums by Swaggart and tapes by Swaggart and we even would drive to hear Swaggart preach if he came near our city.  And then came the fall of Swaggart.  After that, my father threw away all his Swaggart stuff.  He didn’t give up on God but something changed in my dad when Swaggart fell.

And no doubt Swaggart needed to fall.  From the accounts I have read of him, he had become consumed with pride (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Peter 5:5).  He refused to listen to anyone.  The late David Wilkerson told the story of even flying down to Baton Rouge to see Swaggart and told him to give it all up (this was before he fell).  Wilkerson said that this warning came from the Lord.  Swaggart looked at Wilkerson and said, “Do you realize how much we are giving to missions this year?  If I left this, this ministry would collapse.”  Swaggart had come to a place where he loved ministry more than God and he viewed his place in the kingdom as so vital to the plan of God that he couldn’t and wouldn’t forsake the ministry.  In just a few weeks after this, his sins caught up with him and he was exposed for all the world to see.

Looking back at the falls of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, I believe this was helpful.  For a season the Church in the West became focused on the Lord and not on people.  For a season, ethics and doctrine were important above pragmatism.  While I do believe that God has forgiven Swaggart and Bakker, they will never be in the same place they were before they fell and nor should they have been in the first place.

The fact is that God is all about Himself.  He does all things for His glory and He said that He would not share His glory with anyone (Isaiah 42:8).  His whole purpose is to exalt His name and to make His name great.  He does not exalt flesh.  He exalts only His own glory for His own glory is perfect.  Our glory is full of pride and sin and flesh.  Our passion should be that of the Lord’s and that is to exalt Him and make Him great (Philippians 1:20-21).  The gospel is not about you and I.  The  gospel is about God (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-29).  The message of the Church is not “Hey, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” but rather, “God is holy and just and He will judge all by His own righteousness.  Repent then and turn to Him and be saved by His grace.”  All that God does from His creating the world to the sending of His Son to die on the cross to Jesus’ resurrection to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the end of time is to glorify Himself.  He alone is the only one who is worthy to be worshiped and adored (Revelation 4:11).

Yet I see superstar Christianity on the rise again and I fear it.  I see superstar mega-pastors all over the place from the local bookstores to television to podcasts.  Their emphasis seems to shout, “Hey, look at me.  I am great.  I am an evangelical superstar.”  They have built mega-churches around their own personalities.  I do believe that some of them started out so pure in that they wanted to do great things for Jesus but somewhere along the way, the flesh took over and now they are finding their satisfaction not in Christ and His glory but in their own glory.  They enjoy the crowds who adore them.  They enjoy the attention they receive just by walking into the room.  They love that they are making millions of dollars simply by being themselves.  They have fallen trap, I am afraid, to Satan and his lies (see Luke 4:6).

And this superstar Christianity is doing so much harm.  For one, it creates more and more pragmatic churches who want to copy what the other churches are doing who are growing.  They care little about faithfulness in doctrine, making true disciples of Jesus who deny themselves, and care little about repentance or prayer.  Secondly, it continues to push the clergy-laity system that promotes one person above all others instead of all using their gifts to glorify Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26).  Third, it damages the gospel because people don’t see Jesus or even hear of Him really but instead they are bound by idol worship of pastors and superstars.  Fourth, it creates many false converts as they are not falling in love with Jesus but with the superstar pastor who is not showing them Jesus nor teaching them in truth about Him or His salvation.

How we need the Lord to help us.  When God saves Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9, He sent him away for three years according to Galatians 1:18.  The great Apostle was to be trained by Jesus in the desert.  Ironically, by the time we get to 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul is alone except for Luke.  This great Apostle of our Lord who would be so used by God is now alone.  This “superstar” of Christianity was abandoned. And that is how crowds are.  They love you one minute and are willing to crucify you the next.  Paul, however, found his comfort in Jesus and not the crowds.  He wanted only to glorify Christ even to the end (2 Timothy 4:6-8) and Christ was with him (2 Timothy 4:17) as He promised He would do for His saints (Psalm 23:1).

Just remember this, God doesn’t need superstars.  He does all things for His own glory and He said that He would not share His glory with another.  God will not share His glory with a superstar Christian.  He does all things for the glory of His own name and fame.  In the end, He will exalt His name and all other kingdoms will be crushed (Daniel 2:44-45; Hebrews 12:25-29) including these mega-pastors and their kingdoms.  In the end, only Jesus will remain (Philippians 2:9-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/16/2012 at 1:37 AM

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