Thursday, October 06, 2011

Ashamed of the Gospel Chapter 2: "The User Friendly Church"--The Steve Jobs Method Doesn't transfer

Let's face it, what Steve Jobs did with computers in nothing short of amazing.  He didn't invent the technology, but he made it user friendly.  Why did I buy a Macbook Pro?  Because I wanted a laptop that would be user friendly and work the way I wanted it to.  Guess what, it has not disappointed!  Music player:  Ipod touch.  Next phone: hopefully Iphone (I currently have an android phone, but it just isn't, well, all that user friendly).  He made it work and he made it cool.  I am saddened by his death and I am praying for his family and friends.  

The Steve Jobs method fits very well in the corporate world, but not so much in the church.  

The church "gurus" of our day are trying to make the church work for the world and make the church cool to the world.  I have no doubt that there are some sincere desires in this:  to reach more to do more.  The problem is that Christ's idea of the church does not fit with the world and will never be cool to the world.  

MacArthur describes this attempt by church leaders to make the church more appealing to unbelievers:

The experts are now telling us that pastors and church leaders who want to be successful must concentrate their energies in this new direction. Provide non-Christians with an agreeable, inoffensive environment. Give them freedom, tolerance, and anonymity. Always be positive and benevolent. If you must have a sermon, keep it brief and amusing. Don’t be preachy or authoritative. Above all, keep everyone entertained. Churches following this pattern will see numerical growth, we’re assured; those that ignore it are doomed to decline.

Almost nothing is out of bounds for those who are absolutely committed to wooing the world:  from cage fighting to sex education.  One thing that is out of bounds for the "Steve Jobs" church is preaching on hell or sin.  These things are to be avoided if you want to draw a crowd.  

MacArthur talks about how many mega churches were born through surveying the community to find out what they want and then giving it to them.  The result, MacArthur says, is the at the customer becomes sovereign over the church rather than God. This is "turning the church growth theory upside down."  

Scripture says the early Christians “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6, kjv). In our generation the world is turning the church upside down. Biblically, God is sovereign, not “unchurched Harry.” The Bible, not a marketing 
plan, is supposed to be the sole blueprint and final authority for all church ministry. Ministry should meet people’s real needs, not salve their selfishness. And the Lord of the church is Christ, not some couch potato with the remote control in his hand.

MacArthur goes on to show that in the explosion of the early church in the book of Acts they were not preaching a user friendly message and God did not use user friendly means.  Acts 2:42 tells us that they were "devoting themselves to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer."  

What was the apostles teaching?  Well the center of it was that "Christ died for our sins according to the scripture, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15).  Peter told the Jews that they had killed their Messiah and that they needed to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.  

Once they responded to the gospel the people were wholly committed not to serving themselves but to serving their Savior and serving others.  They commemorated His death on their behalf regularly and spend great amounts of time in prayer.  They did not try to imitate the world around them, but instead they wanted to imitate Christ.  People even sold their land to meet the needs of others.  

MacArthur points out that some prideful hypocrisy arose in the church.  Ananias and Sapphira sold their land but kept back part of the proceeds, and they acted like they were giving all of the money (Acts 5).  They were not interested in the glory of Christ in this, but their own glory.  The Lord struck them down and they died as an example of how serious Christ is about sincere worship.  MacArthur points out that this is not "user friendly" to the world.  Great fear came over not only the church, but the community around them and yet their were people being added to the church daily.  How can we explain that:  God's word accomplishes His work!  

MacArthur points out that God wants us to deal with sin seriously:  

Matthew 18:15–20 (NASB95)
15  “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 
16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 
17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 
18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 
19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 
20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

He also points out the Christ had more to say about eternal hell for sinners than any other person in scripture (Mt. 25:46; Luke 16:23.24).  

In fact the certain reality of hell should motivate us to see sinners saved:  

“Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).

We are not so much concerned with what the world wants, but what the world needs!  What they need is to be forgiven of their sins through Christ so that they can be restored to their creator and their purpose to bring Him glory and rejoice in Him and His gifts.  

MacArthur concludes the chapter with these words:  

Too many who have embraced the user-friendly trend have not carefully pondered how user-friendliness is incompatible with true biblical theology. It is, at its heart, a pragmatic, not a biblical, outlook. It is based on precisely the kind of thinking that is eating away at the heart of orthodox doctrine. It is leading evangelicalism into neo-modernism and putting churches in the fast lane on the down-grade.
The answer, of course, is not an unfriendly church, but a vibrant, loving, honest, committed, worshiping fellowship of believers who minister to one another like the church in Acts chapter 4—but who eschew sin, keep one another accountable, and boldly proclaim the full truth of Scripture. People who have no love for the things of God may not find such a place very user-friendly. But God’s blessing will be on the fellowship of true believers,
  because that is what He ordained the church to be like. And He will add to the church, as He promised.

Steve Jobs was a technological and marketing genius, but let's not try to go "Steve Jobs" on the church.  Let us trust Christ do what he promised to do: build His church (Mt.16:18).  he does this as we stay faithful to his message (Romans 10:16).  

Posted via email from Caleb's posterous

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