Tragedy of Compromise
Go Easy on the
teaching of sound doctrine has fallen on evil times. Doctrine
is considered too heavy and not sufficiently practical to
be featured in the preaching of today. Besides, doctrine
is divisive and militates against the cry for greater evangelical
prominent megachurch pastor tells us that we should concentrate
on people's needs rather than on what he calls "theocentric"
the church to address the unchurched with a theocentric
attitude is to write failure in mission . . . The unconverted
will, I submit, take notice when I demonstrate genuine
concern about their needs and honestly care about their
decades now we have watched the church in Western Europe
and in America decline in power, membership, and influence.
I believe that this decline is the result of our placing
theocentric communications above the meeting of deeper
emotional and spiritual needs of humanity.5
startling statement demands the restructuring of Christian
theology, a move from a God-centered (theocentric) approach
to a man-centered (anthropocentric) approach. This is a
very serious error that strikes at the very heart of orthodox
and biblical theology. Was God's primary purpose in revealing
Himself to man to bring honor to Himself or to bring comfort
to man? Is the Bible a theocentric book, or is it an anthropocentric
book? Although God's revelation in His Son and in His Word
brings blessing and comfort to members of the human race,
the primary purpose of revelation is not human blessing
but divine glory.
The Bottom Line
must stop reducing the God of the universe to something
we can sell to people."6
To this statement many pastors will say a hearty "Amen."
Nevertheless, apparent success has a subtle way of convincing
people that the methods employed are perfectly acceptable.
But, as one has pointed out, "The nagging question
arises: Is our reliance on church growth techniques or on
the surprising work of the Holy Spirit?"7
The whole concept of "church marketing" emphasizes
slick sales techniques rather than dependence upon God's
power. Forgotten is the principle set forth by the Apostle
Paul: "And my speech and my preaching was not with
enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of
the Spirit and of power" (I Cor. 2:4). One man, who
himself was a very successful pastor, calls attention to
the seriousness of the problem that we face today.
Guiness warns that the two most powerful cultural forces
that have been accepted uncritically by the church are
the managerial and therapeutic movements. The danger
is to address church renewal through managerial technique . . . . A
"user-friendly" church, if by that we mean
catering to the cultural and selfish goals of contemporary
fashion, is an unfaithful church. There may be a lot
of people in the seats, but have they been confronted
with the serious issues raised by the gospel (sin and
grace) and the calls to discipleship?8
question every pastor must honestly face is this: Am I building
a church that is honoring God and is according to the pattern
set forth in His Word? Pastors must be careful how they
build. This is the main point of I Corinthians 3:5-17. While
this passage is often applied to the lives of individual
believers, its main thrust is aimed toward pastors and church
planters. Paul is telling us how to build a church, not
how to build a life. As a "wise masterbuilder,"
Paul laid the foundation for the church at Corinth. Others
built upon that foundation, and all who labored as leaders
of that church (and any other) must eventually give account
to God for what they built. "The fire shall try every
man's work of what sort it is" (I Cor. 3:13). That
is, the quality of the local church will be tested on that
great day when all workers and their work are reviewed.
It is possible to build a large church that in men's eyes
may be eminently successful but that may not pass the final
examination of the Lord of the church. The phrase "of
what sort it is" emphasizes quality and not quantity.
We cannot make the gospel acceptable to a lost world, nor
is that task our responsibility." An analysis of what
people like and are accustomed to as a model for what the
church should give them tends to minimize the head-on conflict
that the gospel always has with the world."9
fails to find the "marketing concept" approved
in Scripture. The apostles and early Christians simply preached
the gospel in the power of the Spirit and God did the rest.
"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should
be saved" (Acts 2:47).
we live in an entertainment-mad age is self-evident. People
want a "thrill a minute." "The early Christians
met to worship, pray, fellowship, and be edified—and scattered
to evangelize unbelievers. Many today believe that church
meetings should entertain unbelievers for the purpose of
creating a good experience that will make Christ more palatable
to them . . . . They say the church must adopt new methods and
innovative programs to grab people on the level where they
of the New Testament will reveal an absence of attention
to the entertainment factor in the worship and evangelization
ministries of the church. Emphasis is focused upon what
people need, not what they want. Michael Horton put his
finger on our problem when he wrote,
the end of the twentieth century we have become God's
demanding little brats. In church, we must be entertained.
Our emotions must be charged . . . . We must have the best
the world has to offer . . . . We must be offered amusing programs . . . . The
preaching must be filled with clever anecdotes and colorful
illustrations, with nothing more than passing references
to doctrine: "I want to know what this means for
me and my daily experience."11
in the Wall Street Journal featured the Second Baptist
Church of Houston, Texas, a leading example of a megachurch.
Persons attending that church will "catch a Broadway-style
show with a religious message . . . . They offer as much in the
way of activities and entertainment as they do religion."12
The church is successful, claims the article, because it
has stripped away "old hymns and . . . denominational dogma."13
In place of these items "teenagers sway and clap at
The church, we are told, "is primarily designed for
a generation unversed in theology, essentially nonsectarian
and unsentimental about the old neighborhood church. As
churchgoers, they are pragmatic and pressed for time, and
they care passionately about . . . dazzling entertainment."15
The church offers exercise bikes, jacuzzis, and in-house
cinema. They once featured a wrestling match with church
employees in order to draw a Sunday night crowd.
The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press.
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