Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Formula to Success?

In the era of “formula to success” ministries, I do not find it odd that I recently heard the statement: “If a church loved like Jesus they would have to bar the doors shut, because people would be flooding in.” I find this statement biblically unsatisfying. And within this essay I will submit 5 reasons why I do not believe this argument is biblical, nor truthful. And lest one accuse me of being anti-megachurch, anti-movement, iconoclastic, or unevangelistic, let me state here, in the beginning of this essay, that I have no issues against big churches, big movements, nor traditions that many hold as dear. As to evangelism I shall simply quote and affirm the great Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon: “Any Christian has a right to disseminate the gospel...he not only has the right, but it is his duty so to do as long as he lives.” My concern is simply with the truthfulness of this statement, and the subsequent effect it could have on churches and ministers. Now to the task at hand…

First, it seems to me that the very people Christ healed, ministered to, preached to, and beckoned to come were the ones who were yelling “Crucify Him!” on the day of crucifixion. As a matter of fact, that is exactly how Mark presents the crucifixion scene. Not only were they not lifting Christ on their shoulders, as the Savior and King He was, but the crowd was the instigating force which pressured Pilate to order His crucifixion.

Second, lest one object that these were the religious people and not the common folks Jesus normally ministered to, note John 6:66. Jesus just finished telling His disciples that they must “eat His flesh, and drink His blood” when John records that most of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him. The disciples—the very men whom Jesus ministered to and worked miracles among—abandoned Him. Plus, note Jesus’ rebuke to the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:21). He does not rebuke the Pharisees or the Sadducees by name; no, He rebukes the people of the town. What was the reason for the rebuke? Jesus had worked miracles among the people, and yet they rejected Him.

Third, Peter denied Christ three times during Jesus’ interrogation. Peter was certainly a benefactor of Christ love—his mother-in-law was healed by Jesus (Matthew 8:14 & 15). If there was anyone that had seen the magnificent works of Jesus, it would have been Peter. If there was anyone that had seen and received the love of Christ, it would have been Peter. Yet, Peter certainly did not reciprocate that love during the crucifix experience.

Four, the above noted statement ignores the depth of man’s depravity. Scripture portrays mankind as deceitful (Jer. 17:9), sinful (Romans 3:23), selfish and self-centered (Isaiah 53:6 & Romans 3:9-12), untrustworthy (John 2:24), incapable of turning from sin apart from the grace of God (Eph. 2:1-10), and unthankful toward the graciousness of God (Matthew 11:21). When I consider the state of mankind, I find it hard to believe that a lost individual would naturally run to a church just because the love of Christ was displayed. Granted, every believer should live an incarnate lifestyle, but to state that the love of Christ will bring in the lost doesn’t seem to be biblical. For example, note the way Paul was beaten for proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Surely Paul loved as Christ did, yet he writes in 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” So, Paul certainly did not espouse a belief that the masses will flood the church if only the love of Christ be shown.

Fifth, and last, the world has a distorted view of what true love is. More directly, giving the extent of mankind’s depravity one can easily infer that a lost world would never realize the true love of Christ apart from the grace of God. Furthermore, I would submit to you that the greatest act of love Christ displayed was His substitutionary death for the sins of those who believe. Yet, there have been countless millions, unfortunately, that have rejected that love even when it was communicated effectively and clearly. I submit that the world’s idea of love is self-seeking and me-centered, not Christ-honoring and biblically accurate.

Let me conclude this short essay by noting that the danger in a statement like the one above is that it propagates a false understanding of what successful ministry is and a false accusation of ineptitude toward thousands of ministers. Ministers who show the true love of Christ daily, yet see little in way of positive response. Plus, for any sheep who might hear such an unfortunate statement, they may accuse their pastor of laziness or unChrist-like love simply because they are not seeing the “guaranteed” results.

So, to the brothers who would make such a statement, I plead—preach the Word, and remember Christ grows His church!