Tragedy of Compromise
to, and Emphasis on, Diversity
Evangelicals historically have boasted of the great diversity
that exists within the general pale of what is called "evangelicalism."
They have erected a large umbrella under which persons and
churches with many varying convictions can find shelter.
This same outlook is found in the church marketing movement.
Its spokesmen advise their followers to downplay what they
call "denominational distinctives" by which they
mean such things as the mode of baptism, church organization,
the doctrine of eternal security, and views of the spiritual
gifts. There is a call for an emphasis upon more general
evangelical truth that is not "divisive."
the inception of ecumenical evangelism under the leadership
of Billy Graham, a pragmatic spirit developed among evangelicals.
"Whatever means result in salvation of souls are acceptable."
When critics challenged the ecumenical philosophy, defenders
often replied, "But souls are being saved! How can
you be against soulwinning?" Thus the disobedient practice
of uniting liberals and Bible-believers in the cause of
evangelism was fostered. That same general principle now
guides those who would tell us how to build our churches.
An example is the use of the blaring, raucous sounds of
rock music in the sanctuaries of the Lord. The defense of
this practice is "It fills our churches and reaches
people. Let's do it!"
the aisle leading to the salad-bar sanctuaries comes from
the camp of New Evangelicalism. Compromise, a hallmark of
New Evangelicalism, is a guiding principle of church marketing.
Time to Seek," an article in the secular magazine Newsweek,
explored the current religious climate and analyzed in particular
the factors that are motivating church seekers. The quotations
below summarize the general trend of the article.
of me fitting a religion, I found a religion to fit
their efforts to accommodate, many clergy have simply
airbrushed sin out of their language."
a spirit of putting people over doctrine and denominations."
marketplace is now the most widely-used system of evaluation
by younger church goers."1
analyst, not a fundamentalist, sounds a warning which should
not go unheeded: "We will be tempted to downplay the
importance of commitment and obedience. We will be tempted
to soften the truth so that a hardened generation will give
us a fair hearing. There is a fine line between clever marketing
and compromised spirituality."2
The same writer, in another volume, states, "Often
large and growing churches gain numbers by compromising
what they believe in order to maintain their growth."3
question is rightly asked, "Does the end justify the
means?" Many so-called church growth experts today
give the impression that a church should do whatever is
necessary in order to attract the throngs. That kind of
attitude was roundly condemned by the prophet Isaiah centuries
ago as he rebuked the nation Israel: "Woe to them that
go down to Egypt for help and stay [rely] on horses, and
trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen,
because they are very strong; but they look not unto the
Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!" (Isa. 31:1).
Israel was rebuked for leaning on the arm of the flesh instead
of on the arm of the Lord. The church today is in peril
of repeating that error.
and seminars on how to build a larger church abound these
days, and goodly numbers of pastors frequent them. There
are books galore on the subject of church growth. These
how-to-do-it presentations give the impression that if the
average pastor just applies the suggested methods to his
own situation, his church will experience fantastic growth.
Unfortunately, it does not prove to be true for the majority.
One writer who was himself a successful pastor is nevertheless
remarkably candid in his assessment of the current church
growth movement: "Evangelical luminaries have done
and can do incredible feats. They tell their stunning stories
and then deliver an exhortation to the conference, 'You
can do it too!' That is, of course, not true for most of
the people there. The fact is, the success of a particular
pastor is often due to personal charisma, rare leadership,
and creative genius that cannot be duplicated by others."4
constant parading of large, numerically successful churches
as examples to emulate can be more destructive than helpful.
The impression is given that success in the ministry is
marked by numerical increase. Pastors whose churches do
not evidence remarkable gains feel they have failed.
author has been preaching God's Word for over fifty years.
He has been in hundreds of churches in this country and
in others. The average fundamentalist church is not a huge
church. The average pastor is not a "super" pastor
and never will be. Few men have the abilities required to
lead large works with multifaceted ministries. This is no
disgrace. Listen carefully to Paul's advice: "For I
say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that
is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he
ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath
dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).
The point is that each of God's servants should carefully
and realistically evaluate his gifts and be satisfied to
minister within the range of those gifts. That one pastor
builds a large congregation does not indicate that he is
a more spiritual person than the man who has a smaller flock.
There are some very spiritual men who have never pastored
The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press.
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