In my last post, I briefly summarized the naturalistic worldview and its effects on modern society. This belief system is prevalent, not only in secular institutions, homes, and lives, it has begun to taint the thinking of many believers as well. Evidence also seems to reveal that it has begun to affect the philosophy by which many churches conduct their ministry, and it is affecting every area of church life and work.
When a church begins to depend on human means and reasoning to guide the church, it is buying into a subtle naturalism. Whenever we use manipulation (overt or not) or replace the Bible with “religious alternatives” in order to attract people, we proclaim that the real thing is inadequate. Only “natural” means will accomplish success. We have bought the lie that people will not come unless we provide exciting and entertaining substitutes for the “boring” Bible.
This is a most pragmatic approach to our mission as a church. If it works, we’ll try it. Everything is “result” oriented. While there’s nothing wrong with a “bottom line”, the problem today is that we have made a peripheral consequence the bottom line. To use a different metaphor, we have turned the dessert into the main course.
We rely on worldly philosophy and techniques to do spiritual work. Despite our lip service, we deny the spiritual element to our task. We make our plans, build our programs, and motivate our people. Then, when all our work is through, we say “God bless what we are doing” so we can assure ourselves that we are giving God the credit. Yet we have essentially functioned in such a way that the “God factor” of ministry has been denied. “It takes carnal things to reach a carnal person” is the credo of the day.
The result of this type of philosophy is naturalism at its worst, and it has done great damage to the church. It has sent many from our doors with a false sense of satisfaction that they are fulfilling their religious responsibility for the week and are thus good people. It has filled our pews with shallow, worldly, Biblically illiterate believers who starve through an entertainment-filled “worship” service waiting for the next thrill, each one bigger than the last. It has produced a generation of pastors who feel such pressure for numbers that they focus on church growth to the exclusion of church health.
Is this really how the church was intended to function? Are we to lure unsuspecting “customers” with a watered down message only to pull a “bait and switch” on them as soon as their mouths are filled with the cake and punch? Do we get them here by appealing to their fleshly desire for convenience only to hit them with the sacrificial demand “take up the cross daily?”
It is not our mandate to make the church, salvation, or even Jesus as attractive as possible. We are not out to attract people to the church. The fundamental reason to the church’s existence is to exalt the person and finished work of the crucified and risen Christ. Our work is twofold: proclaim the gospel and disciple those who believe. It is His work to do the “attracting”.
In a future post, we will look at basic principles that determine our methods.