“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
2 Timothy 4:1–2
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Does any part of the verses above seem difficult to understand? Vague in any way?
Preach the word. Preach the Word. A solemn charge to stick to the Word.
Be devoted to the apostles teaching, aka Scripture.
This isn’t rocket science, however, there are many leaders who, by their own practice, portray that there is something about “preach the Word” that is difficult, or hard to accomplish.
Many of us tend to think of the seeker-driven movement as something “new”, a different kind of phenomenon that just surfaced in the early 80’s due to Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. While that’s true in a sense, in another sense the seeker-driven philosophy has been around since the beginning of church history. Maybe longer in some sense. Even the Charismatic Movement didn’t just arise in the advent of IHOP. No, it’s been around in some degree or another before the modern day boom.
Charles Spurgeon’s protege’ and successor, Archibald Brown, once preached a sermon entitled, “The Devil’s Mission of Amusement”. Between 1908 and 1911, Brown was the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, which was previously pastored by Spurgeon himself. Even at the turn of the 20th century, Brown observed:
An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses. (Steve Camp, Feeding Sheep or Amusing)
And remember, this was over 100 years ago. This pastor even noticed it then – the “church entertainment” phenomenon that, even at that time, was “developing at an abnormal rate”. It was growing fast. And notice the next three words he chose – “even for evil”. meaning that it was spreading faster than the normal rate in which evil spreads.
Furthermore, Michael Horton recalls these thoughts from a Donald Grey Barnhouse sermon from the 1950’s, and then throws in some poignant thoughts of his own:
“Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached. It is easy to become distracted from Christ as the only hope for sinners. Where everything is measured by our happiness rather than by God’s holiness, the sense of our being sinners becomes secondary, if not offensive. If we are good people who have lost our way but with the proper instructions and motivation can become a better person, we need only a life coach, not a redeemer. We can still give our assent to a high view of Christ and the centrality of his person and work, but in actual practice we are being distracted from “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).”
We have shown you example after example – seemingly without end – of self-appointed pastors doing something besides preaching the Word. Instead of doing the hard work of opening the Bible and spending time explaining the meaning of each text backwards, forward, and sideways as best they can, they would rather use one verse, out of it’s proper context, to try to explain their own agenda (whatever that may be), or to create a sermon to make their audience feel good about themselves.
And that’s exactly what they are doing, and accomplishing.
Everyone in the evangelical arena gives lip-service to Scripture’s sufficiency. Everyone. But by their actions, many deny it.
Here’s a quick Q & A example:
Average Joe: “Do you and your staff believe that Scripture is sufficient to teach us everything we need to know about God?”
Seeker-Driven Leader: (without hesitation) “We absolutely believe Scripture is sufficient!”
Average Joe: “Then why all the time spent on personal stories? Or time spent trying to learn from the latest popular movie, or tv show, or superhero, or celebrity? Why all the extra stuff during a sermon? Why not just have everyone sing some good Biblical songs which are loaded with Scripture? Why can’t the pastor just dedicate several hours during the week to Scripture study of a particular portion of Scripture, write down as many notes as he can, and then get up on the platform and tell the rest of the church what God’s Word says?
If any given seeker-driven leader was stripped from all props, movies, tv shows, games, jokes, personal stories, fads, superheroes, etc – would they want to, or be able to, or actually believe in, the power and sufficiency of Scripture all by itself, with zero help from any outside influence?
Furthermore, would all their congregants, who are used to all those external shenanigans and entertainment, stick around for 30, 40, even 50 minutes of the simple and plain reading and teaching of the Biblical text itself?
In the seeker-driven world, it’s all about entertaining people. Draw them in with a circus act of some sort and some Starbucks coffee. Give them some tidbits about becoming a better person while throwing in a few verses to make it sound Biblical and churchy. At the end, briefly offer them a new and better life with Jesus (being very careful not to say anything to offend them), Then, offer up a simple prayer to be saved before welcoming them into the family of God, and sending them away assured of their salvation even though they still have heard nothing about the consequences of rejecting Christ or the cost (and true reward) of following Him. And if you really want to spice things up a bit on Easter, Christmas, or anytime you want, throw in some comedy routines about the easter bunny or a modern parody of how it went down for Joseph and Mary that starry night. Maybe bring in animals from the nearest zoo, or dress your pastor up like Spiderman and have him rappel down on a rope from the ceiling. Here’s another – get your youth pastor to entertain the younger generation by having them lick peanut butter from his armpits (it did happen).
Paul Washer explains it this way:
“…carnal people fill our church rosters – people who come for all sorts of reasons other than Christ and a hunger for righteousness. The more practical and present day promises that have been added to the gospel make it appealing to them, and they remain in church as long as they continue to get what they want. This feeds their flesh in a religious fashion, but their souls remain dead to God and the hope of true salvation.” (The Gospel’s Power and Message, p 61)
After all, everyone in America knows that in order to get Americans interested in anything is to make them feel good, or provide entertainment while telling them how much God loves them. We have to do something to make God look good (aside from telling them about His mercy and grace in spite of their utter sinfulness). Unbelievers don’t want to hear that God’s wrath abides on them (John 3:36) and unless they change their minds about who God says they are and turn from their wicked ways (repentance) and believe the gospel, they will die in their sins (John 8:24).