Summary: The dangers of evangelistic outreach and church growth that are driven by purpose rather than His presence are explored.
"Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy." (Lev 20:7-8 NIV)
Multiplied numbers of books on church growth have been written that try to explain the characteristics of so called "healthy" churches yet they don’t really define the characteristics of a holy church.
What are God’s standards for becoming a holy church? His standards have never changed and remain absolute. The holy God reaches down to fallen mankind through the shed blood of Jesus but demands that the redeemed reach up to Him and become holy as He is Holy (1 Peter 1:16) There is no meeting in the middle, no "synthesis" of thought or behavior. God requires nothing less than the redeemed taking on the behavior and thoughts of Christ. (1 Cor 2:16)
Historically, the Church Growth Movement has failed to address this question. In any diagnosis of church health, a basic question must be answered: Who sets the vertical? Terms such as "radiant . . . holy and blameless" aren’t easily quantified (Ephesians 5:27).
There is a conscious, organized effort to change the message and the music of the Christian church – to make it more acceptable to the world. The higher standards of Christianity are supposed to transform the world. God hates divorce (Mal 2:6) yet it takes place in over one out of every two families and is more rampant in the Church. We have sacrificed tens of millions of unborn children on the alters of our hedonistic self indulgence under the guise of our right to “free choice”. There is not much difference between the church and society as a whole. We justify this because we want to get people into the church. This isn’t what God intended. Christianity is supposed to transform individuals and not make them more like the world.
The danger we face is making Christianity more palatable and not intimidating to ‘seekers’ – unchurched people – so that both churched and unchurched people can try to bring in more unchurched and make them ‘comfortable’ using an entertaining type of service. We avoid telling people they are sinners because that’s going to make them feel bad about themselves and hurt their self-esteem.
The Church is being subtlety seduced. We have become driven more by purpose than His presence. Seeker/seeker-friendly/aware/sensitive-felt need messages rarely speak of sin directly. Instead it is called ‘wrong doing’ or ‘bad/poor choices’ or ‘mistakes’. The reality of a literal burning hell is conveniently overlooked. Jesus is not presented as Lord, but as "Leader". This softened message sears the conscience and lulls the church into semi-conscious state, no longer able to discern the very subtle watering down of the Word. The Bible says "that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Tim 4:1-2 KJV)
A lot of religious organizations and churches are involved. Modern evangelism, church growth and counseling training manuals are all based on the feelings mode, the effective domain, not the cognitive, not the fact. They use Scripture, but they’re using a humanistic dialectic process as well. God is absolute. He doesn’t analyze or question Himself. He doesn’t use rationalistic arguments to persuade people to believe. He doesn’t see Himself as part of the solution because He is the solution. He doesn’t come to consensus with man. Man must come to consensus with God.
Today many churches are fully involved in creating partnerships (relationship/community building) using ice breaker exercises that get you to share (dialogue) with somebody else who’s different than you. You move into the "I think and I feel" mode of conversation for the sake of changing the person.
The truth is that you do NOT dialogue the Word of God, you preach and teach it. You dialogue what you’re not sure about. Decisions must be based upon what the Word of God says.
Separation and divorce are the result of the breakdown of our society, and the moral character that it used to have, because it was built on the integrity and the authority of God’s Word. God hates divorce and yet we have gone to the vagueness, the ambiguity, the tolerance of fallen human nature within the church.
The preaching of the Word is being changed so that we can have a "relationship" with another person. We are learning to pick and choose what Scripture to use out of Bible versions that meet our message, not necessarily what is the original meaning and then extrapolate so that we can continue this relationship under the banner of "unity". Scripture is left out and redefined so that it’s whatever feels good.