Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh, how I wish this was a parody!

This is just one example of how churches have moved away from faithfully preaching God's Word and keeping the Gospel central to its proclamation. What happens in this type of preaching is that "principles" are presented "from the Bible" that anyone can apply and benefit from. It is the mistaken notion that the Bible is a guidebook for living that will give success regardless of one's relationship to Christ. No wonder so many professing Christians cannot explain the Gospel. No wonder so many Christians cannot responsibly read and interpret the Bible. No wonder our churches are producing so many "happy pagans".

Do pastors truly have to "preach" on what men and women find sexy in order be relevant? What has happened to our reverence for God's Word? What has happened to our reverence for God's presence among His people?

11 comments:

Tadd Grandstaff said...

How truly wrong you are - how about waiting and listening to the actual message [should be posted later today] before you just jump to a conclusion because of a message title!

Rich said...

I left a comment on mr. grandstaff's blog earlier asking "what about the gospel? I guess it's just not sexy enough..." yeah....he didn't post it. I am looking forward to the message though.

Todd Pruitt said...

Todd,

I wish I was simply jumping to a conclusion. What is needed is not more clever marketing strategies but the faithful exposition of the Word of God and the careful shepherding of God's people. I know that doesn't sound very sexy but it is God's chosen means by which the lost and converted and His people sanctified.

Clearly, crowds can be drawn by the kinds of things offered by the church marketers. Joel Osteen proves this every Sunday. But what we win people with is what we win them to.

I wonder if you have considered for even a moment that I may be right. I was raised in a mega-church in Houston. I know the ethos. I have served as a youth pastor in a mega-church. I know the weekly pressure to produce greater and greater numbers. I bought in for a lot of years. I read all the books and went to all the conferences. It is an approach that is shaped more by market forces than by Scripture.

I bear you no ill will. I have no doubt that you are a great guy. But I grieve over what is being churned out by churches today. In many cases it produces quick and measurable "results" but in the end it will yield a pitiable harvest.

May the Lord guide us and guard us as we seek to be faithful shepherds to His people.

toothdoc said...

Tadd,
I'm a simple parishoner who loves this blog. I went to your website and, as suggested, listened to your sermon (and a couple of others). I am happy to say you do preach the Word of God (as opposed to the word of osteen). However, I agree with the criticism that to find the Word of God I had to look really hard because it was not easily found on the website itself. Lots of praise for the "new set" and how great the band sounds, etc. As a younger pastor you have a great challenge to draw people to the Word, not "a word". I truly believe if you will dialogue with those pastors that frequent this blog you will be a real lampstand for Christ in your area - it sounds like you have a great start already.

ps - congratulations on the baby coming soon.

Tadd Grandstaff said...

todd and toothdoc,

I want to say thanks first of all to both of you for your courteous responses - most of the time this isn't how this situation breaks down. I have been trashed on a ton of blogs over the past few years and most of all of them have turned pretty ugly.

I realize that we might not always see eye to eye in our approach on reaching people, but I do have a deep passion for teaching people the gospel.

Where we are as a church right now [34 weeks old on Sunday] is not where we always intend to be. Over 70% of the people in our church [stats come from a survey we took that over 180 adults took part in] have never been to church or haven't been in years prior to coming to our church.

I know we can - at times - be very topical. That is part of our strategy - we are dealing with the lost of the lost and I not trying to bury people with doctrine and theology - at this time.

I am trying to help people realize that they are in need of Christ - in the simplest of ways [their marriage, their finances, their parenting, etc.].

Because if they can find and see the actual need for Christ in their practical everyday lives, then I believe we have a chance for them to experience a true life-change.

We are dealing with skeptics, doubters, and true seekers - I believe it's a process. You guys may not agree with that - but that is what I feel God has called for us to do - again at this time!

If we are introducing these people to Christ and right now we are spoon feeding them - 2 yrs. from now we better be giving them more than that. I realize that!

Todd, I have read through your blog a little and you might be surprised just how much we have common. Some of the same roots and affiliations.

My only concern in commenting on your blog was that I believed you read something from another blog that is known for trashing anyone and everyone and just because you say a name of a teaching series - you immediately summed me up and lumped me in the same category of everyone else. That's pretty tough to do when you know nothing about me - yet you use your blog to discuss who you think I am. That is my only issue.

I would never use a public tool to speak out against anyone that I don't know - because I don't know you - your motives - or what God has called you to do. I would never question another man's calling - because I believe that is a very scary game to play.

Again - I do appreciate your response - but me and Osteen are nothing alike. I don't use my stage time for feel good messages - we attach the hard issues - ones that most people back down from and we teach the Biblical truth every single week. I am not after quick results - if that were the case we could gladly water down our approach a little more - start reaching a lot more Christians and watch our numbers explode, but that isn't the vision that God had given me.

About my blog - again we may see things differently. I use my blog as a communication tool for what is happening and going on at our church. It is not a place where I discuss my discuss deep issues - it's jut another extension for our people to know what is going on at our church and with is happening in my life.

Sorry for the long post - again thanks to both of you guys for your responses. I usually never engage in these types of discussion because it's always a lose situation on my end because to often the guy on the other end has to be 100% right - 100% of the time. I haven't commented on a blog in over year now. Thanks again!!

Todd Pruitt said...

Tadd,

I confess to being less than tolerant to what I believe are departures from the central call of pastors to be men of the Word. There is a long tradition among the shepherds of God's people to speak out against departures from biblical fidelity. Jeremiah cried out against those preachers who said, "Peace, peace..." God said to those same preachers, "You dress the wound of my people as if it were not serious."

In our day of instant and world-wide communication it is possible to broadcast our methods and messages widely and therefore possible to respond to those methods and messages widely. Periodlically, I feel a need to do so.

I believe the modern church growth movement (birthed in the 80's through the urgings of men like George Barna) has been terribly damaging to the church of Jesus Christ. It has been a capitulation to what is most shallow about our culture.

I have no doubt that your motives are commendable. I do not doubt for one moment your desire to see the lost come to Christ. I am certain this is what drives you, as it should. But I am troubled by the notion that we need to hook people with a certain kind of message then only later give them the good stuff. I don't think you have to bury people with doctrine. But I do believe that enthusiasm for the Bible and the doctrines that the Bible teaches is infectious. We have seen this at Metro East. We have a lot of "formers" in our church (former athiests, adulterers, addicts, etc.). I have found a lot of self-centered church hoppers that are not interested in doctrine. But most of the lost people I have met are very interested in doctrine. Recent studies by Tom Rainer have confirmed this.

I don't think we have to try very hard to appeal to people's felt needs. We already know the kinds of things people think they need. The problem is that their greatest need outside of Christ is that they are rebels against God and stand under this just wrath. People never intuit that need. It only comes to us by means of confrontation with the Word of God.

I think what is happening in a lot of seeker-driven messages is that the benefits of the Gospel are being confused with the Gospel itself. In other words, people are encouraged to "trust in Christ" because "He will make your kid's lives pop" (a quote I got from Ed Young Jr. I don't know what it means). There was no mention of the cross, sin, or repentance. This, I am sorry to say has become the norm in the seeker-driven churches that I am familiar with.

Lost people are told "Jesus will fix your marriage, your kids, your sense of purpose, etc. Just pray this prayer." The lost man hears this and thinks, "What the heck, I'll give it a try." Again, he has not been told about God's terrifying justice, Christ's breathtaking work of atonement on the cross, or the need for repentance. He adds Jesus to his pantheon and is quicly assured that he is a member of God's family. If this sounds like an exageration then simply read Rick Warren's "gospel presentation" in The Purpose Driven Life. The only thing missing from it is the Gospel.

We are warned in Scripture that few of us should be teachers because we will incur a stricter judgment. That is cause enough for both of us to tremble a bit as we prepare to proclaim God's Word to God's people. It is cause enough for us challenge each other to be faithful to the task.

Tadd, I am thankful for you because you are my brother in Christ. One day we will have nothing more about which to disagree. Until then I will earnestly contend for the truth as I am sure you will as well.

blessings

Rich said...

Well, the sermon was very good, but not as a Christian sermon. I don't say that to be mean but I say I "call 'em as I see 'em". Great advice on marriage (even better than Oprah or Dr. Phil) but even the name of Jesus was not mentioned even one time! And there was a reference that there were only 2 verses today because "we're keeping it simple". I think that is a very true statement.

I just cannot see how people attending a regular church service on the Lord's Day and never hear the name of Jesus, much less what He has done.

Thank you for responding to this post though, Tadd. In all seriousness it was a very brave thing to do, but I'm afraid that Todd has proven his point even further.

Todd Pruitt said...

Rich,

I was watching a local seeker-driven pastor on TV a few years ago. I watched him preach four weeks in a row and not once was the name of Jesus mentioned. This church is considered a conservative, Bible believing church. The pastor is said to be a great preacher. The problem is, he does not appear to preach. He speaks. He shares. He gives talks. What he does not do, so far as I can tell is preach. His tendency is to take Old Testament texts out of context and offer up moralisms and life lessons. There is a serious problem when a sermon can stand alone without Jesus.

How can a new covenant preacher, a steward of the Gospel treasure not even give mention of Jesus much less His atoning work on the cross? It is outrageous. It is not something with which we can agree to disagree. It is not merely a difference in methodology. It is pastoral malpractice. It is a grievous failure to do the one indispensible duty of the spherherd of God's people.

God derserves better from His under-shepherds. God's people need better.

Rich said...

Amen!

toothdoc said...

Found this "nugget" in the Kansas City Star today (page A3):

"The First Baptist Church of Snellville is fuleing its membership drive with a sign proclaiming 'Free Gasoline.' There's a catch, of course. Each time newcomers or members attend a church event during a Sunday-to-Wednesday revival, they get a raffle ticket for a chance to win one of two $500 gas cards.

'We don't know how far it will go with these soaring prices," senior pastor Rusty Newman said. 'But it may MAKE SOMEONE'S NIGHT.'

His congregation boasts about 9,000 members, but only about 2,500 regularly attend Sunday School."

All caps emphasis is mine. Are you kidding!!!!!!!!!!! Getting a gas card at a revival would "make your night". Also, nice retention numbers - 9,000 souls saved and 2,500 who feel the need to still show up on any given week. Sounds more like a schedule change than a life change.

Be careful about using gimmicks to "proclaim the gospel."

Todd Pruitt said...

Ric,

I find it interesting that it was only a few years ago when we joked that the church marketers were going to start paying people to come to church. Well, the joke has become a reality. But when pastors begin using Victoria's Secret add campaigns as titles for their sermons, as Tadd has done, what are we to expect?