We all know an exclusive diet of Big Macs isn’t just a bad idea—it’s more like suicide. But it’s even worse to gobble down the half-eaten burgers and cold rubbery fries you find under the back seat of your car. Repulsive, right? But Christians are doing the very same thing.
It wasn’t that long ago that Bill Hybels stood in front of his church—Willow Creek, one of the early pioneers of church growth theory—with his mea culpa. (I’d link to the video of Hybels saying, “We made a mistake,” but they’ve apparently pulled it from their website. But here’s a link to an early newsflash.) After decades of practicing church growth principles, Hybels said, “Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn't helping people that much.” Yeah, kinda like fast food.
Today’s church-growth gurus have repackaged the same church-growth theories in cool-sounding, ministry buzzwords like incarnational, missional, and attractional. After a few bites, it becomes apparent that it’s nothing more than half-eaten burgers and cold fries. And it’s not a meal that gets better with age.
One of the more distasteful aspects of the contemporary version of church growth is the franchising, the brand propagation. Cookie-cutter churches are popping up everywhere, powered by church-growth principles, launched with shrewd marketing strategies, legitimized by impressive stats, and stamped with the brand of the celebrity leader and his church franchise. In some cases, you’ll even find the evangelical version of a PlayPlace and a clown. It’s a pattern that works, established by corporate, coming to a church near you.
That’s why John’s last post was so helpful. Like an authoritative label from the FDA, he was able to peel off the wrapper, put the cold fries under the microscope, and tell us what’s lacking. Many of the meals served in the chain-churches lack a high view of Scripture, a high view of God, and a biblical view of the church. Buyer beware.
A generation raised on Happy Meals has a hard time understanding what’s wrong with Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. They need to learn a new diet, which is what we endeavor to teach in the coming months on the GTY blog. Ronald McDonald may not be happy—could cut into his bottom line—but we want Christians to eat well, grow strong, and become mature. We’ll map out the course in the next post.
Director of Internet Ministry
#2 Posted by
Sarah Hyde | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
This is so true of what is going on today. It is getting scary at how seeker-friendly new churches (and sometimes old) are becoming. I live in Vermont and it is the most anti-God state in the country, and the churches that dominate are non-verse by verse teaching (instead the sermons mostly refer to cultural trends and music, or they make jokes), and they bend more toward being "Missional". It is all about social justice, not talking about repenting of sins, and doing what "feels good".
I eat fast food to feel good, and then I feel like garbage a few hours later and am left asking, "why did I just do that to myself?" I wonder if the people attending these kind of churches will ever ask themselves the same question. I hope so. I am thankful for our tiny congregation here where we huddle in an office building and learn the Bible verse by verse.
Great article!! God bless.
#3 Posted by
Brandon Davison | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
I look forward to the excellent teaching Brother Allen....
Grace and Peace....
#4 Posted by
Lamar Carnes | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
Past history can give us much insight into our evaluation of a Church or a particular movement within the visible Church in terms of it being "led" of the Holy Spirit and fueled by His power! One essential "fall out" (if I can use that term with care), has to do with a "change" in the community where the Church and Christians actually minister and live. If it is "all" taking place just in the "four walls" of a building and doesn't change the community I question whether it can be classified as a great movement of God such as past awakenings. Large numbers coming to "hear" the gospel and messasges from the scriptures is certainly something we ALL should be thankful for as it is preached faithfully and truthfully. Praying for God to change our culture and our world around us by saving souls and making a impact for His glory in the community should be on all of our hearts daily! So, that evaluation has to be observed and reported on by those living in the various communities and not by outsiders or those who are not in the "know" of the particulars. It is easy for us to be judgmental and find fault with a ministry and a Pastor because "they" don't do it the way we do! Scriptures leave a lot of flexibility in terms of administration and functionality for a local Church and ministry as long as those issues "do not take away Glory from God or are actual methods which promote evil"! Jealousy many times springs up when "the people are not in our camp" so to speak. But thankfully God is not just "catering" to you or I in His work and blessings to mankind! For that we should be thankful!
I pray and want to encourage our new YRR men in their endeavors. They, like all of us, have to go through learning processes and they will make errors in judgment. But say, didn't all of us? Are we perfect now? Rather than being so critical and super-sensitive how about joining in and praying and helping and encouraging those who are seeking to do a work for the glory of Jesus! Wow, wouldn't that be a change!
#6 Posted by
Dean Johnson | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
I am thankful for the church we go to here in Pa. Our pastor is new and young but in the past year has spoken on repentance, hell, and sin and is now taking us through the Gospel of John. I've gone years in church never hearing those topics even hinted at.
As aggravated as I can get with the comtemporary church, I thank God for the ministries and faithfulness to the Word at Grace and First Baptist Church in Perkasie.
#7 Posted by
Michael Henry | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
You could as well add "multi-site", "Jesus follower" and "YRR".
@2 With all due respect, I think research and statistics would bear out that here, the NW, is perceived to be the most Godless, geographically.
@4 What about the old and not restless at all? Or the middle aged and content? I am only making a point and not really disagreeing with your main thrust. They wrongfully separate themselves from the rest of "us".
I wonder how many folks know that Hybels, almost in the same breath of announcing failure, immediately said they were going back to the same drawing board.
#8 Posted by
Lamar Carnes | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
I believe the YRR was a term coined by others and not the ministers or Churches within the group. I also agree about the others in the body of Christ as well. Hybels however is in another category, he is not in the Reformed model. I was speaking mainly about the Young and Old Restless Reformed folks or any other's with any nomenclature tagged on them. A balance between evangelism and teaching doctrine making disciples as "feeding the sheep" has to all go hand in glove or it is not healthy. But impacing a community even makes the unbeliever walk in fear. I remember when I was young in our community the "lost" respected the Church and also walked more carefully in terms of their control of desires and/or lusts being flaunted in everyone's faces! Now nothing is considered sacred for the most part. Glad you wrote of your thoughts on the issue
#9 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
I like your comment about being "Missional" (#2 Sarah Hyde).
The problem is when people are happily singing and running with 100 mph - in the wrong direction.
We do have a purpose, to glorify God, by believing Him and do what He say in love.
The truth hurts sometimes. Yesterday at work a colleague put a really hurting anti-God poster on the kitchen-wall in the company. So I put up a note beneath it saying: “Jesus rose from the grave, that is an undeniable historical fact, rendering all manmade philosophies useless. He is God.”
Today at work, nobody spoke to me. I’m a joke. That’s my life in a nutshell, but I'm striving by all means to get Gods meaning and purpose correct so I can give Him glory - not myself.
#10 Posted by
Mary Elizabeth Palshan | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
You're not a joke, Rudi. We all know that! Be encouraged, dear Christian!
And ask these people next time, who do the parents and families of our military men and women pray to when they seek the protection of their loved ones in uniform? This may give them something to think about. I am almost sure they will shy away from giving you an answer, too.
I am going through the same thing you are, a member of my family has turned so many against me because of my testimony for Jesus, and this very person depends on me for almost everything in her life. It is a very peculiar situation, to say the least. But, as always, God ordained it for my good.
Consider it an honor, Rudi, as I "know" you do. (BTW, you gave an excellent response!!!).
Love the article, Travis!
#11 Posted by
Leslie Allebach | Tuesday, November 08, 2011at
Thank you so much for stating in your blog what, to me, seems so obvious.
I just wish I could figure out a way to get people to read it that really need the message.
Thankfully, God is way bigger than us, so praying will have to be what we rely on for the opened eyes and hearts of so many church-goers across America who have been deceived.
#12 Posted by
Dan Wilson | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
Praying for you, Rudi. God bless. Thank you for sharing.
The movie 'The Time Changer' is a good thing to watch for it shows us that the churches need to wake up..
#13 Posted by
Elisabeth Robinson | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
Seeing what is going on in the Body is so distressing. I just don't understand why those who claim the name of Christ think that we have to become like the world to appeal to people.
In truth, the world is filled with the same lost, sick, hopeless, and despairing people that it was when Jesus walked the earth physically. He came along side them and showed them Who He was (and is). He didn't become like them in word or action. I think that it was partially the contrast between His holiness and purity and the depravity of the world that drew people to Him. If there isn't a clear contrast between followers of Christ and followers of the prince of this world, what exactly are we telling people to turn away from?
#14 Posted by
Christine Rastguelenian | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
Rudi - You are Salt and Light!
#15 Posted by
Rebecca Schwem | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
#13 Elisabeth, good point. Do you think the problem is they are trying to not only be like the world but only want to attract the worldly? If they attract too many seriously seeking God, then they might have to raise the bar? I don't know. Could be they are attracting exactly whom they want to attract. I don't see it's any different than what is going on in church youth groups. More games and pizza than Jesus. So these churches seem like just over grown youth groups to me. You know the saying, "The differences between men and boys are the size and cost of the toys!"? Such a flattering statement. Some of these churches are such you can go and act like a 16 year old again! You don't have to grow up! Groovy.
#10 Hi Mary Elizabeth!
#16 Posted by
Mary Elizabeth Palshan | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
Great observations, Elisabeth Robinson!!! Just great! Also, we often hear the same old rhetoric that says, “Well, Christ lived and ate AMONG sinners.” As if this gives credibility to their belief that it is O.K. to mingle with the world. This word “among” so intrigued me that I looked up the “exact” meaning. Sometimes we all know what a word means, but, as for me and many others alike, I am ever curious about words and their “specific meanings.”
Dictionary.com gives this definition for the word among: “in the midst of, so as to influence.”
This is exactly what Christ did. He went in the midst of sinners (among them), so as to “influence them.” Jesus’ intent was never to adopt the world’s philosophies, false religions, way of life, or to partake in worldly entertainments. His influence, and visible presence, was to be noted as a stark contrast to the world in which people found themselves entangled, and to convict the world of sin. Remember, too, that Jesus could not be tempted to commit evil, but we can, and our entanglement with the demonic forces of the world can so often become a snare. God’s warnings are for our benefit. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2 Cor 6:17).”
We, as Christians, live in the world, but are not to be OF the world. We can let our light so shine before men, but without letting the world besmirch and sully that light. Also, a coming out from among the world, does not always signify an absence of our actual physical presence, because the world and its ways can clearly take up residence, and be rooted in our minds, alone. But it does mean we do not adopt the world’s ways, as noted above (philosophies, false religions, way of life, speech, and worldly entertainments). The word world, in the Scriptures, is so often used metaphorically for the word sin. So separation from the world is also to be understood to mean to be separated from sin itself.
#18 Posted by
Lamar Carnes | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
Jesus our Lord was a friend of sinners. Of course, he didn't sin or partake of sinning activities. But he did mingle with sinners and talked to them. We can't "go out of the world as Paul said" but remember he did say, "not to mingle or fellowship with a person who calls themselves Christians and are actively engaged in certain blatant public sins, such as immorality." We would never be able to reach a lost person if we did not develop a friendship with them and also show them we loved them. You can't love someone unless you "know" them. Care of course has to be maintained. I knew a popular evangelist in New Orleans years ago who went into strip clubs and witnessed with great results through the Holy Spirit I would hope, but eventually "seeing" the evil day in and day out, got to him and he divorced his wife and married a stripper! Lost his ministry totally. Some things you just can't do or you will fall. We are to 'Put' no thing that is evil like that before our eyes and expect not to be tempted and then possibly fall. But still, we have to "go into the whole world and preach the gospel to all making disciples....." and that means getting to know them and witnessing to them. Do good deeds toward them when we can. Show them real Christ like actions and attitudes. Getting in a "holy huddle" and thinking you are spiritual when you never witness and mingle with the "sinners" in order to do so is not Biblical. You may think you are holy but you are not! You are disobeying the word of God by seperating to that extent from human beings.
#19 Posted by
Bill Renno | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
Just thinking out loud.....you know how clothing styles come and then go and then come around AGAIN!! Is it possible that the singing of hymns and hearing a fiery preacher will come around again?
#20 Posted by
Mary Elizabeth Palshan | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
I am sorry if I gave the impression that we should have absolutely no contact with the world. This would be utterly impossible, for sure. The gist of it all is that we are not to mingle in the sense that we partake of their philosophies, false religions, unchristian way of life and so forth. But certainly we must reach out to people for Christ. If we love people, we will naturally want to reach them for Jesus.
To be separate from the world means to turn from our sin, in that sense we are to be different from the world. To be holy is to be set apart.
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, **let it not be once named among you**, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them (Eph 5:3-7).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Eph 5:11).”
Hope that helps clarify. :)
#21 Posted by
Lamar Carnes | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
I read a letter sometime back which was a negative response given concerning the way worldly music had come into the Church and was corrupting the Lord's house! As I was reading it, I was thinking this is all we are hearing today (this was back in 1990's)! After reading it, I was shocked that it was written in the late 1800's and it was about allowing a Organ to be played in the Churches. They considered that worldly music!
Well, today, our younger ministers and Churches are dressing like the culture, playing instruments that are popular today, and singing words to the music written in this generation. We sitll have the letters coming! Even though "no" Biblical teaching ever tells us the hymns written in the 1600's down through 1950's or so, are inspired or considered as the "only" one's to use in the Church, we have folks who almost "worship" at the altar of the Hymnal. Don't get me wrong, there are fine words written in many hymns (some are terrible theology) and fine musical beats written. But to say nothing else can be used or is blessed by our Lord today is absolute folly and is not Biblical at all. In fact, God through the Psalmist (throughout the whole Psalms) speaks of utilizing ALL types of musical instruments and we are instructed to play them loudly and passionately express our voices unto Him in praise and adoration. We are also instructed to clap our hands, raise our hands etc.! Yet, many will not do this, in fact, many will speak against the Lord's words on this issue. Some will go so far as to only sing Psalms without any instruments thinking they are doing God a service! Certainly proper doctrine must be in all of the wording we sing. I surely appreciate many of the newer praise songs because many of them lift up the Lord greatly and many are like or are actual prayers to the Lord! Sometimes the hymns are mostly instructional in content which is fine, but to "limit" the usage of the old hymns only is wrong. Also, we can rewrite the music to fit the culture better using the words of the Old Hymns. Of course, those who worship and use these old methods and words and music will consider this evil and not to be done since "they" only allow the old way! It is rather sad to hear and see this. Especially since the word of God gives us much liberty in these areas. You and I may have certain preferencess about style, sound, beat, etc., and that is fine, but really we all need to mature in the Lord and appreciate all musical styles which God has ordained and given man the ability to use and praise him with!
#22 Posted by
Dominic Bonasio | Wednesday, November 09, 2011at
#23 Posted by
William Metzler | Thursday, November 10, 2011at
Good blog Travis! I'm looking forward to the next post.
Some good comments and discussion here too. The point being missed though is the fact that the physical church is not meant to be a mission house or a community outreach in and of itself. Churches are to be established for the worship of God first and foremost, and then too for the nourishment, edification, and continuing sanctification of the saints through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and for the fellowship of the members of the body of Christ. Through this, the believers are to be prepared as disciples so as to go out into the world and witness to the lost by example and testimony.
Ever since the days of Finney and his altar-call focus (which is NOT Biblical), many, if not most, churches today think that their first purpose is to bring non-believers to God and thus attempt to cater to and bring into the congregation as many of those non-believers as possible. Once these 'churches' have those non-believers within their congregation, their biggest challenge suddenly becomes keeping them there, so they focus on entertaining them. The worship, actual preaching and teaching of the Word, and the preparation of disciples, becomes secondary or is lost altogether. Look at the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 & 3. Which do you think these new 'churches' would be classified with? Certainly not Smyrna nor Philadelphia.
Some food for thought...
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." Ephesians 4:11-16
#24 Posted by
Keith Farmer | Thursday, November 10, 2011at
"We would never be able to reach a lost person if we did not develop a friendship with them and also show them we loved them. You can't love someone unless you "know" them."
Did Paul "know" and love (in the sense described) the Greek philosophers at Mars Hill...the ones that called him a "babbler"...when he was "provoked" by all of their pagan idolatry and spoke directly to their sin? I say he did not know any of them yet that did not stop the message.
"You and I may have certain preferencess about style, sound, beat, etc., and that is fine, but really we all need to mature in the Lord and appreciate all musical styles which God has ordained and given man the ability to use and praise him with!"
AC/DC's Highway To Hell (sung and played just as the original) and "Firework" by Katy Perry (among a host of others) are not Christ honoring songs. They may be worship songs for some pagan idol but not for our Sovereign. To charge someone, as has been done, of being immature in the Lord for not accepting such nonsense is simply error.
#25 Posted by
Tommy Clayton | Thursday, November 10, 2011at
Great comment, William # 23
You're spot on with your assessment of the church. We're planning an upcoming post in this series that deals with the subject you brought up--the true purpose of the church assembly. Stand by, brother.
#26 Posted by
Lamar Carnes | Thursday, November 10, 2011at
You mistake my thoughts. I know we are to present the Gospel to all people if we have opportunity, even those whom we do not "know" at all. However, explain to me how you obey the Lord's dictate on "loving your enemies" and "do good to them who persecute you" and also, it is a very simple understanding in scriptures we are to "be friends" to those whom we have the opportunities to be friends to and that is clear. I was suggesting making "friends" "showing love to them by providing various "good deeds" to even the worse of sinnersw is a clear Biblical precept.
In relation to the music, I do not and have not entertained using "words" of any music background which is full of evil lyrics or promotes such. You could use them to "show" the error of their way, but not in worship of the Lord. By the way, music played doesn't really have "words" but is music if it is not cacaphony. So, you could use any music which is real music to put God's word forth in praise and worship. Consider Martin Luther's hymn which was both - used by a worldly evil nation and words later put to the same sound which honored Christ. Sorry if I did not make myself clearer on that issue.
I still contend on my basic precepts as being correct Biblically.
#27 Posted by
Lamar Carnes | Thursday, November 10, 2011at
William M., you are correct on your assessment as to the nature of the Body of Christ as it gathers together. We are all there to worship our Lord, and it is not a venue with an emphasis toward the unbelievers. However, the Gospel of grace is the basis for not only our salvation but our sanctification also. So, when that Gospel is preached correctly God uses it to "sanctify and build up the body" and if a lost person is in the congregation meeting place, God may bring them to repentance and faith! And, again, it is certainly not forbidden in the scriptures to bring a "lost" person to the assembly in order to hear the word of God preached. Certainly not making them members or giving them any idea they are "part" of the kingdom of God is to be remembered at all times. The minister/elders are to be helping the saints grow up to maturity enabling them to minister to one another, but also, to take the good news out to the lost world; on the job, in the home, relatives, neighbors, and other venues where they can present Christ. One tension that always exists is the expository teaching of the word to believers building them up in the faith and also at the same time have the heart of evangelism going on
but not "ruling" the ministry objectives in such a manner the saints are neglected, and also, vice versa, not a venue whereby the saints are being fed and trained in the things of the Lord so much so they Never get involved in evangelism, missions and witnessing endeavors for the lost! I have lived long enough to see abberations in both venues. And both bring about terrible spiritual loss and in fact, a outright disobedience to the word of God! We must always pray to keep the balance in these matters! Christ told Peter to "feed His sheep" and Jesus told all of the disciples to carry the gospel message to the world and make disciples of all. So there you have it and there should be no arguments at all on this issue. We just need to do both! And do both passionately and purposefully. God saves and God sanctifies by His grace! That is not our job, but ours is to take the message out and teach the message within for the glory of God!
#28 Posted by
Keith Farmer | Thursday, November 10, 2011at
"You mistake my thoughts."
Really Lamar, do I?
Let me quote exactly what you wrote for clarity:
"We would never be able to reach a lost person if we did not develop a friendship with them and also show them we loved them."
Lamar, if we are to have intelligible conversation then the words and statements made must carry with them the meaning that is inherent to them. There is no mistaking what was written in your statement. You stated that we, I assume that means Christians, would NEVER be able to reach a lost person if...
Now, you seem to be equivocating as to the actual meaning of such a simple and clear propositional statement. That, Lamar, is irrational and not Christ honoring. You cannot slam some folks here for taking a hard line against paganism in the church by calling them immature in their faith then back pedal when challenged on your statement...you should apologize to the folks you labeled immature.
#29 Posted by
Mark A Smith | Thursday, November 10, 2011at
Lay off Lamar, please. I don't know Lamar or you, but you are in full "gotcha" mode. Lamar made a general statement about evangelism and you are trying to pin him down claiming that he was being universally precise in his words...Be graceful please.
People can agree to disagree and still be Christ-honoring and holy.