Matthew R. Perry

Highly Questionable Methods

In Church Life, Leadership, Missions, Rick Warren/PDL on May 27, 2006 at 8:33 pm

by Robert Reymond

“The problem in our day, which gives rise to highly questionable church growth methods, is twofold:

On the one hand, we are seeing a waning confidence in the message of the gospel. Even the evangelical church shows signs of losing confidence in the convincing and converting power of the gospel message. That is why increasing numbers of churches prefer sermons on family life and psychological health. We are being overtaken by what Os Guinness calls the managerial and therapeutic revolutions. The winning message, it seems, is the one that helps people to solve their temporal problems, improves their self-esteem and makes them feel good about themselves. In such a cultural climate, preaching on the law, sin and repentance, and the cross has all but disappeared, even in evangelical churches. The church has become “user friendly,” “consumer oriented,” and as a result evangelical churches are being inundated with “cheap grace” (Bonhoeffer). Today’s “gospel” is all too often a gospel without cost, without repentance, without commitment, without discipleship, and thus “another gospel” and accordingly no gospel at all, all traceable to the fact that this is how too many people today have come to believe that the church must be grown.

On the other hand, we are seeing a waning confidence in preaching as the means by which the gospel is to be spread. As a result, preaching is giving way in evangelical churches to multimedia presentations, drama, dance, “sharing times,” sermonettes, and “how to” devotionals. Preaching is being viewed increasingly as outdated and ineffective. Business techniques like telemarketing are now popular with the church growth movement. Churches so infected also look to the multiplication of programs to effect their growth. They sponsor conferences and seminars on every conceivable topic under the sun; they subdivide their congregations down into marrieds and singles, single parents and divorced, “thirty-something” and “twenty-something,” teens, unemployed, the child-abused and the chemically dependent, attempting to arrange programs for them all. And once a person joins such a church, conventional wisdom has it, the church and the minister must meet his every felt need. Accordingly, ministers have become managers, facilitators, and motivators—everything but heralds of the whole counsel of God—and this all because they have lost confidence in the preaching of God’s Word as the primary means for the growth of the church and the individual Christian.

What is the answer? A restored confidence in the Reformed doctrine of the sovereignty of God in salvation!”

— Robert L. Reymond, in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith

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