Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Seeker Churches and Book of Acts

My friend Joe Carr (and I do consider him a friend and a brother in the Lord, though we strongly disagree) talks about the church in the book of Acts and compares his own church, Lifepoint, favorably with the church in Acts. I totally agree with him about the folks in Acts. But how is that related to most seeker churches today, including, I am sorry to say but I am believing this increasingly, Lifepoint? Taking some of his points about the church in Acts:
  • They were consumed with presenting Jesus: From what I've heard (two sermons now, more below), Lifepoint seems to me consumed with being cool, funny, and "relevant" with no real presentation of Jesus that I've heard so far; certainly no presentation that would convict somebody to repentance.
  • They would go to any lengths to reach people: Yes, and this primarily included preaching the whole Gospel to the people. In the two sermons I've listened to now, the better one of the two spent just over 10 minutes of the 40 discussing anything from the word of God; the rest was personal experiences and emotional exhortations to practice "what if thinking." The worse of the two was 2.5 minutes of anything even remotely Biblical with the rest of the time spent in sexual jokes and self-help advice.
  • They offended the Pharisees: Actually, a number of Pharisees came to faith in Christ, and it was purely by preaching the whole word of God to them. I know the Pharisees aren't in the demographic a lot of churches are trying to reach, but Pharisees need Jesus too. What's more, Jesus confirmed the Pharisees' understanding of several important issues against the more "liberal" Sadducees.
  • The number of believers grew unbelievably. Yes, they did; but in every case the believers were made by taking them to the Scriptures, even the philosophers at the Areopagus. Remember too that Jesus had a large number of "disciples" who fell away at the first hard saying - in fact, most of his "disciples" did so, if you count numerically. This kind of "disciple" we don't need; and, if my experience with seeker churches is any indication, their "disciples" will never hear the kind of hard sayings Jesus gave them.
Now, a lot of what I hear at churches like Lifepoint is very nice. It pumps people up; maybe even motivates them to get off their rear ends and do something good for somebody else. That's great: I myself spend a good deal of time and money ministering to people in my community. "Making disciples" is all the rage today, which is good as far as it goes.

But making disciples is absolutely worthless unless their hearts are converted first. Paul had lots of good deeds, but he considered them all rubbish compared to the glory of really knowing God. The two sermons I've listened to from Lifepoint are enjoyable and motivational, but it pains me to say that no way would they ever bring the unbeliever to know God. And isn't that what the unbelievers coming to Lifepoint (and all other churches, I'm honestly not trying to bust on Lifepoint) need first? To come to know God? There's plenty of time for good deeds after their hearts are converted, and then you should exhort people to do them as much as you can: but the conversion must come first. And I have heard nothing in the 80 minutes or so that I've invested in Lifepoint sermons that would make the unbeliever realize that he is a sinner and needs the living Christ as Lord of his life.

Again, don't think I'm dissing the Lifepoint pastor's intentions here. I can hear his heart - and Joe's - for the lost and hurting people, and I appreciate it. I think what they're doing on this trip to Brazil is wonderful, I thank them, and I have been praying for their efforts there. Rather, I think it's a philosophical problem that has eternal consequences for people. It appears that many believe people can be motivated into being Christians by relevant talk and emotional exhortations. This is generally called semi-Pelagianism, and if it were true, the seeker method would work well.

Sadly, the Bible tells a different story. Only if God converts our hearts - which only comes through the solid and consistent preaching of the Word - do we become Christians. Will those people going out there and exercising their "what if thinking" help the world? No doubt they will. Meanwhile, the poor souls themselves will be smug in their belief that they're getting an "in" with God, while moving along briskly to Hell. That breaks my heart as much as the plight of the orphans in Brazil.

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