The Seeker Church: Is Anyone Making Disciples?
Bill Hybels,the unofficial father of the seeker movement in the United States,recently admitted that seeker churches have done a very poor job of making disciples. This is damning because making disciples is what Jesus commanded us to do! Why has the seeker movement failed in the church’s central purpose?
I attended a seeker church this past weekend. As I was sitting there watching the pastor perform his way through his presentation,props, film clips and all, the thought struck me that the seeker church is in many ways a Protestant form of Roman Catholicism (I grew up Roman Catholic and the Roman Catholic church is having the same problem). I know the connection is not immediately obvious because of the major differences in liturgy, hierarchy and theology. But there are several significant similarities:
Time: This won’t take long– 45 minutes to an hour, max. You can set your watch by these services. And if the pastor or priest goes just a wee bit longer, the congregation gets restless.
The Bible: Leave your Bible home– the folks on the stage or altar handle the Bible reading which is normally a mere sprinkling of verses yanked from their context. Moreover, there is no attempt to teach you how to study the scriptures yourself.
Worship: Just watch– there is a performance up front. You’re more of an observer than an active participant in worship.
Message: It’s groundhog day– you hear the same,short message repackaged every Sunday. The sermon (or Homily) is to preaching what cotton candy is to nutrition. Sweet but of little value.
Outcome: Low commitment and little life change. A significant portion of Roman Catholics disagree with official church teachings, and Hybels’ own research shows the seeker movement has failed to produce disciples.
Now before I get hate mail from my Roman Catholic and Seeker-oriented friends who can cite several exceptions, let me grant that there are exceptions, but they simply prove the rule. We’ve gotto stop defending our church practices if they are not doing what Jesus told us to do. If you’re not making disciples, you’re not doing church the way Jesus commanded it. As Jesus warned, we can’t let our traditions nullify the Word of God.
Unfortunately, most other denominations are not doing much better. We’re loosing 75% of our young people because– instead of making disciples who are in awe of God and devoted to His purposes– a majority of churches from most denominations are producing shallow narcissists obsessed with themselves and their own happiness.
We fail to realize that what we win them with we win them to. If we win them with entertainment and low commitment, we win them to entertainment and low commitment. Charles Spurgeon was way ahead of his time when he implored the church to start “feeding the sheep rather than amusing the goats.”
Why You OUGHT to Judge
This column is a one I wrote for TownHall.com.
At least one lesbian is not happy with me for the case I made last week against same-sex marriage on our TV program. She wrote me this ALL CAPS e-mail with “VERY JUDGEMENTAL” in the subject line:
ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME AND I AM A CHRISTIAN LESBIAN AND HAVE BEEN FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS. STOP JUDGING AND MOVE ON!!! I AM SO TIRED OF ALL YOU UPTIGHT, DO RIGHT, SINNERS JUDGING PEOPLE.
I wrote her back asking her why she was judging me for judging. It seemed like a fair question. After all, if I am not to “judge” her, why is it OK for her to judge me? And if she’s a Christian, doesn’t she know that God has already judged homosexual behavior as immoral? I mean, I didn’t make the judgment that homosexual behavior was wrong.God is the standard of morality, not me. But the main point is that my lesbian pen pal did what most liberals do when they are faced with arguments they don’t like—they misuse Jesus’ apparent command not to “judge” in order to shut you up. So if you oppose their behavior or their attempt to get the nation to endorse their immorality (i.e. same-sex marriage), you’re sure to hear “Thou shalt not judge!”As with most slogans shouted by the left, the truth is exactly opposite to what they claim. Liberals take the judgment statements of Jesus out of context because they want to avoid any moral condemnation for their own actions, and they don’t want you to notice that they are making judgments too. Let’s take a look at what Jesus actually said:
Do not judge lest you be judged. ? For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? ? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt. 7:1-5)
Notice Jesus isn’t telling us not to judge—Jesus is telling us how to judge. He actually commands us to take the speck out of our brother’s eye—that involves making a judgment. But he also commands us to stop committing the bigger sins ourselves so we can better help our brother. In other words, when you judge, do so rightly not hypocritically.
Jesus expressed this same idea when he said “stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). Jesus would never tell us to stop judging– that would be suicide! Just think about how impossible life would be if you didn’t make judgments.You make hundreds, if not thousands, of judgments every day between good and evil, right and wrong, dangerous choices from safe ones.You’d be dead already if you didn’t make judgments.
What does this have to do with politics? Every law is a judgment about what’s best for society. Homosexual activists are making a judgment that same-sex marriage would be the best law for society. It’s a wrong judgment as I’ve argued in this column before (Gay Marriage:Even Liberals Know it’s Bad), but it’s a judgment nonetheless. So in addition to being self-defeating, the belief that we “ought not judge” is completely impractical and even dangerous.Making judgments is unavoidable both personally and politically.If you want to meet a sudden and premature demise, just stop making judgments.
Unfortunately, liberals are propelling our society toward a premature demise by making the disastrous judgment that we ought not make judgments about their behavior. They, of course, can judge our behavior as immoral when we oppose same-sex marriage or the killing of the unborn. But we are not to judge their behavior.This is exactly the kind of hypocrisy that Jesus warned against. The passage they quote actually convicts them!
For folks so concerned about the “separation of church and state,” it’s amazing how fast liberals quote the Bible when they think it helps their case. Don’t let them get away with that.If they believe the Bible when they think it condemns judging (which it doesn’t), then ask them why they don’t believe the Bible when it certainly condemns homosexuality.If they want to use the Bible as their standard, then they will be judged by that same standard.
The Passion Reconsidered
Nearly 45 years ago, medical doctor C. Truman Davis felt he had grown too callous to the agony Christ suffered at Calvary. His callousness disappeared after he researched the crucifixion and wrote an account of Christ’s Passion from a medical perspective. I’ve slightly adapted his account here for your consideration this Easter.
The whip the Roman soldiers use on Jesus has small iron balls and sharp pieces of sheep bones tied to it. Jesus is stripped of his clothing, and his hands are tied to an upright post. His back, buttocks, and legs are whipped by two soldiers who alternate blows. The soldiers taunt their victim. As they repeatedly strike Jesus’ back with full force, the iron balls cause deep contusions, and the sheep bones cut into the skin and tissues. As the whipping continues, the lacerations tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produced quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss set the stage for circulatory shock.
When he is near death, the half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They throw a robe across his shoulders and place a stick in his hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. A small bundle of flexible branches covered with long thorns are plaited into a shape of a crown and this is pressed into his scalp. Again there is copious bleeding (the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body). After mocking him and striking him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from his hand and strike him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into his scalp.
Finally, when they tire of their sadistic sport, the robe is torn from his back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal—just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage—causes excruciating pain, almost as though he were being whipped again. The wounds again begin to bleed. In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return his garments. The heavy horizontal beam of the cross is tied across his shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution party walk along the Via Dolorosa.
In spite of his efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock.
The 650-yard Journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed. Jesus is again stripped of his clothes except for a loincloth which is allowed the Jews. The crucifixion begins. Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild pain-killing mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the cross beam on the ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backward with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexibility and movement. The beam is then lifted in place at the top of the vertical beam and the title I reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.
The victim Jesus is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.
At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs but it cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It is undoubtedly during these periods that he utters the seven short sentences which are recorded.
Now begin hours of this limitless pain, cycles of cramping and twisting, partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep, crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over — the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally he can allow his body to die. With one last surge of strength, he once again presses his torn feet against the nail, straightens his legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters his seventh and last cry . . . “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Mom Plays God: Brings Good From Evil
It’s easy to spot militant atheists who attend my presentation called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. They usually sit with their arms folded and scowls on their faces. During a recent presentation at Michigan State, I knew I’d get push back from one such scowling student sitting to my right. He looked mad and was mad. (He wouldn’t even smile at a hilarious Homer Simpson clip!)
He shot his hand up during the Q&A and yelled out, “You mentioned the problem of evil during your presentation but you didn’t answer it! If there is a good God, then why does evil exist? Why doesn’t God stop it?”
I said, “Sir, that is an excellent question. Sometimes I bluntly answer this way. ‘If God stopped all evil, he might start with you. . . and me because we both do evil every day.’ To end evil on earth God would have to take away our free will. But if he takes away our free will, he takes away our ability to love as well. Allow me to show you a video that beautifully illustrates this in less than two minutes.” I then played this outstanding video (developed by my friend and fellow seminary graduate, Jim Zangmeister), which traces evil back to free will.
Most in the audience appreciated the clip and applauded. But the atheist was unmoved. “Why do babies die, why do tsunamis occur? These aren’t the result of free will!” he protested.
“True, they are not the result of someone’s free will today,” I explained. “But Christianity traces all of our trouble back to a free will choice by Adam. As a result, we live in a fallen world where bad things happen, but God takes the initiative to bring good from evil. In fact, you can sum up the entire Bible in one word—redemption. Paradise lost in Genesis is paradise regained in Revelation. God initiated and achieved this redemption by sending Jesus Christ who suffered and died on our behalf. So we can question God about suffering as the biblical writers did, but God didn’t exempt Himself from it. Jesus was the only completely innocent person in the history of the world, yet he suffered horribly for our redemption. He brought good from evil.”
The atheist didn’t like that either. He interrupted me several times, so I finally asked him, “Are you an atheist?”
He refused to answer but then blurted out, “It doesn’t matter!”
I said, “It does matter because if you are an atheist (I later learned from his blog he is), then you have no grounds by which to judge anything evil. Objective evil doesn’t exist unless objective good exists and objective good doesn’t exist unless God exists. You can have good without evil, but you can’t have evil without good. In other words, the shadows prove the sunshine. You can have sunshine without shadows, but you can’t have shadows without sunshine. So evil doesn’t disprove God—it actually shows there must be a God because it presupposes Good. Evil may prove there’s a devil out there, but it doesn’t disprove God.”
The atheist persisted, “But if God exists, why do some babies die such horrible deaths?”
Well, if the atheist is granting that God exists, then he has a valid question. While he can’t explain evil and suffering from his atheistic worldview, I need to explain it from mine.
My explanation went this way. Although I know why evil in general occurs (see the video), I don’t know why every specific evil occurs. But I know why I don’t know why—because I’m finite and can’t see into the future. Since God is infinite and can see all the way into eternity, he may allow evil events that ultimately work together for good. In other words, he can still bring good from evil even if we can’t see how.
To illustrate, I referred back to the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That’s where George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, falls on hard times, becomes despondent and tries to commit suicide. He’s saved by an angel and is permitted to see how life in his town would have turned out if he had never existed. George sees that everything would have turned out far worse without him, and thus realizes that even though evil infects life, good can prevail in the end. George could only see this with God’s timeless perspective. Only God can see how trillions of free choices and events can interact ultimately for good even if some of them seem hopelessly negative at the time. (In fact, that’s one reason why God told Job to trust him.)
At that point, a man sitting ten feet from the atheist raised his hand.
“Go ahead, sir.”
He first looked over at the atheist, then back at me and said, “I know of a young woman who was raped and became pregnant. The rape nearly destroyed her.” His voice began to crack . . . “But she decided that she would not punish the baby for the sin of the father. She later gave birth to a baby boy.” (By this point he was weeping openly.) “And that boy grew up to be a pastor whom God has used to help bring many people to Christ. He ministers to people to this day. That boy grew up to be me.”
He then looked back at the atheist and said, “My mother turned evil into good, and God can too.”
The atheist left immediately after the event ended, but I did get to meet that brave pastor who spoke up. His name is Gary Bingham, and he’s the pastor of Hillside Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. Gary told me that his mom had self-confidence issues for many years but is doing much better since becoming a Christian a few years ago. I thanked him and asked him to let his mom know that she touched many for good that night. I hope through this column she has touched many more today.