Monday, July 18, 2005

Consumer Christianity?

Rick Warren puts a positive spin on new paradigm philosophy in his very popular book The Purpose Driven Church ... Many of Warren's suggestions are excellent. Churches should pay attention to cleanliness and attractiveness, where people are going to park ... We should strive for excellence and do the best to communicate God's truth. And we should want to grow - in the right ways. Warren states, "Every church needs to grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry, and larger through evangelism." (The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, p. 48)
By repackaging ministry ... Barna has made it attractive. If we can convince people that Christ died to meet their need, they will line up at our doors to buy our product. But is this the Gospel message? Has Barna merely repackaged ... the Gospel product, or has he gutted it of its purpose and value? An important question upon which so much hinges...

The Gospel is not bringing people to Christ in order to meet their felt-needs. According to Scripture the gospel is the good news that lost sinners can be forgiven of their sins and receive the righteousness of Christ in exchange. This is the real need of humanity, the need for which Christ died...

"The Church's problem today is simply that it does not believe that without tinkering, the Gospel will be all that interesting to modern people" (Losing Our Virtue, by David Wells, p. 207). And tinker it must... The new paradigm church is offering a purely Americanized, yuppie brand of Christianity found nowhere in the NT...

"Is Willow Creek correct in their teaching that a relationship with Christ will provide a life of fulfillment? In a word, no. ... Personal fulfillment is the dominant goal of the vast majority of Americans. In this context it is a great temptation for American evangelicals to argue that Christianity is a means of a more fulfilling life... the Church becomes another place that promises to satisfy emotional desires...To argue for Christianity primarily by pointing to its usefulness in satisfying felt needs is to ultimately undercut it...If someone is able to satisfy their felt needs without Christ, the message of Christianity can be discarded. ... The bottom line why individuals should repent and worship God is because God deserves it. Fulfillment theology does not reflect the teaching of the Bible. We find in Scripture vast evidence that Christianity is often not 'fulfilling, " Jesus promises his disciples that "in this world you will have trouble....... The Lord did not promise fulfillment, or even relief, in this world but only in the next... (Pritchart, p. 254-256)...

They have redefined salvation. Salvation is not simply, under the new gospel, the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness. It is not a deliverance from the wrath of God upon a deserving and rebellious people. The new gospel is liberation from low self-esteem, a freedom from emptiness and loneliness, a means of fulfillment and excitement, a way to receive your heart's desire, a means to meeting your needs. The old gospel was about God; the new gospel is about us...We are forced to ask, with Peter Jennings in the thought-provoking video, In the Name of God, "As these churches try to attract sell-out crowds, are they in danger of selling out the gospel?"

“The product or service must be tailored to the wants and perceived needs of the customer, or there is no sustainable profit. The consumer rules, because where there is no customer, there is no profit and, therefore, no business.”

It seems to me that a lot of churches today will do anything, have anything to get people in the building. Coffee shops, video arcades, skate parks, post cards promoting everything but Christ. Come have [enter desire] with us at [name of church]. Whatever you want, we have and if we don't you can help us set up the program/small group we are missing!

We all have different interests, we all have something to share, we can all bennifit from each other if only we would reach out and get to know each other. It doesn't matter what your beliefs may be, if we can find some common ground we can get along peaceably so long as we don't judge each other or proclaim any kind of truth.

Lonely? Come meet people at our coffee shop. Like to swim? Help us organize a trip to the beach. Like books? We can do a new book a month, anything you want. Like movies? We can and will show movies for your entertainment, and even our services have movie clips! Want to play the latest video games? Come see our arcade. Need a place to skateboard? We’ve got it, just bring your board and stop by. Get to know us, we want to know you. We want you to know we are here for you, get connected.

“Innovative programs are then formulated to sustain the interest of would-be converts and motivate the rarely active church members, with particular emphasis on entertaining activities to attract the youth and keep them coming.”

“Consumer Christianity’s most deadly effect is what it does to the presentation of the gospel of salvation, the only hope a person has to be reconciled to God. It is nearly always a subtle sales pitch featuring all the wonderful things God has for mankind: He loves them so much and desires to have them spend eternity with Him, and they are significant and of infinite worth. This then becomes the reason for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That mixture of truths and self-indulging distortions is followed by a brief “sinner’s prayer” being repeated by those who were persuaded by the enticing offer. This method has become so commonplace that it’s difficult for some Christians to recognize any problem, let alone realize how misleading it is with regard to a person truly being saved.”

The churches seem to say, "Anything but the truth, we will give you everything you need to keep busy. We will give you plans for what to do in all of life’s situations, just so long as you don’t mind occasionally hearing about God. That’s a problem? Don’t worry, we don’t judge anyone here. We won’t try and tell you about sin or the reason Jesus was on the cross (if we bother to mention the cross at all that is), but you’ll walk away knowing that you and Jesus are friends. He’s your best friend and wants you to feel good.

There’s no need for anything that makes you feel badly. So, you never have to worry about hearing about sin, or hell, and the only mention of evil you'll hear is that Satan temps you. But that is it, you don't have to take responsibility for following the temptation."

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