Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Aren’t we supposed to adjust our preaching to the culture, to be a Jew to a Jew and a Greek to a Greek so that we might win some to Christ? This is the rationale of the seeker-sensitive church (SSC):

·       Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; NIV)

However, these verses argue that we are to accommodate ourselves to the unbeliever, not the preaching or teaching of the Gospel. Paul explained that he made himself like a slave, a Jew, and a Greek. He said nothing about twisting the Scriptures and their teachings to reach the unsaved.

Instead, we do not find a single verse which teaches us to adjust the Gospel to meet the tastes of the surrounding culture. I have absolutely no problem with adjusting our clothes, culture, cuisine, and even language to identify with the unbelieving culture. On Mars Hill, Paul even quoted the Greek poets to gain the ear of his listeners. However, he didn’t distort the Gospel.

Besides, in the very same epistle where Paul wrote favorably about being a Jew to a Jew, he also taught:

·       For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)

There is not a hint here about accommodating the preaching of the Gospel to the culture. Instead, he rejected the use of impressive “human wisdom” in favor of the undistorted simplicity of the Gospel. Paul, therefore, vowed:

·       When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Why would Paul resort to such a simplistic strategy when preaching the Gospel? He understood that this kind of preaching is validated in the heart of the unsaved by the power of the Holy Spirit:

·       I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)

However, it doesn’t seem that the SSCs believe that the Gospel is the power of God. Instead, they are very willing to set aside much of the Gospel presentation that might be considered offensive or simply distasteful to the seeker.

However, in order to preach the Good News, the listener must also be made aware of the bad news – that we are dead in our sins and deserve condemnation and eternal punishment. However, these teachings have to be toned down. Why? Because the seekers believe that they are basically good and worthy of salvation! Consequently, they also do not believe that they deserve condemnation and eternal punishment.
Any mention of “hell” is left out, because, in modern minds and tastes, it contradicts the notion of a God of love.

Along with the neglect of these doctrines is the radical distinction between the child of God and those who aren’t:

·       Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

However, Millennials will not tolerate such stark distinctions. Instead, they believe that “us vs. them” distinctions promotes chauvinism and disharmony. Therefore, SSCs soft-pedal this distinction, even though it is an essential component of the Gospel. Jesus also consistently maintained this distinction:

·       "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:45-46)

Jesus even criticized other religions (John 10:17) and warned against false teachers (Matthew 7:15; Mark 8:15). However, SSCs will not do so for fear of offending the seekers. Meanwhile, their congregations are left vulnerable to deception and unprepared for the persecution that true believers will encounter (2 Timothy 3:12).

Meanwhile, the SSCs readily preach that God is love and that Jesus died for our sins. They will highlight the many costs we incur for not believing this and the blessings we receive when we do believe it. However, many of the supporting doctrines are either minimized or simply ignored. Preaching on sin is downplayed; sexual sin is not even mentioned.

Paul had defended his ministry by pointing out his honesty in presenting the Gospel:

·       Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. (2 Corinthians 2:17)

Paul didn’t try to hide those aspects of the Gospel that others might find distasteful. Meanwhile, most of the SSCs have come from Evangelical churches and seminaries. They know the Scriptures. However, they do not preach the entire counsel of God. Therefore, they are not honestly and faithfully presenting the fullness of the Gospel. Instead, they are obscuring large segments of it in order to present a marketable gospel, one that will attract upwardly mobile Millennials.

In contrast, Paul declared his innocence by not withholding any of the Gospel:

·       Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:26-27)

Had Paul not proclaimed “the whole will of God,” he would have stood guilty before the God he served. This doesn’t mean that Paul had to preach the most distasteful aspects of the Gospel at each sermon. However, he did have to equip his people with the full armor of God, something that SSC pastors are not doing. Therefore, they are accountable before the God they claim to serve.

They must not distort the Word of God, even if it means drawing greater numbers into their churches:

·       Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

When we systematically leave out certain key elements in the presentation of the Gospel, we deceive about the true meaning of the Gospel. We also “distort the word of God.”

But isn’t it prudent to leave out those distasteful aspects of the Gospel in order to draw into church those who would not ordinarily come? However, we also have to ask whether or not this is still the Gospel or have we transformed it into a marketable commodity.

Even more importantly, are we being faithful to God if we distort His Gospel? Does this honor Him? I don’t think so. Throughout Scripture, we consistently read that to honor God is to honor His Word.

Every SSC pastor will be confronted with this haunting question. For some, it is a “slippery slope.” Some, therefore, have opted to deny parts of the Scriptures reasoning:

·       God is love. Therefore, when the Scriptures disagree with love, I must disagree with the Scriptures.

By doing this, they have made their own tastes and inclinations more authoritative than Scripture. Instead of allowing Scripture to judge them, they have become its judge. This will eventually lead to their rejection of the entire Word of God. This had been the case of former Evangelical pastor Rob Bell:

·       “The church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.”

For Bell, the culture has become his primary authority rather than the Scriptures. This is the trajectory of many SSCs – to distort the Word is just a few steps away from rejecting it entirely. Let us pray that these churches will be convicted of their unfaithfulness and repent.

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