Monday, May 08, 2006

Highly Questionable Methods 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 Preaching is being viewed increasingly as outdated and ineffective.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



Blogger naniecheng said...

"On the other hand, we are seeing a waning confidence in preaching as the means by which the gospel is to be spread"

I personally don't think there is anything wrong with using multimedia, plays, drama etc with spreading the Word of God. Is the means really that important as compared to the message?

Such methods become repulsive ONLY and ONLY when the Word of God is not being highly valued as the only valid way to church growth.

Thus in such cases, all means by which the "gospel" is spread becomes offensive because it will not be the true gospel of Christ that is promulgated anyway.

But is it really that wrong to use talks like "Effective Parenting" as a means of introducing the Christian worldview to nonbelievers?

10/5/06 4:24 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

I agree with you there is nothing wrong with “multimedia, plays, drama etc” so long as these methods are used to supplement and draw attention to certain portions of the preaching of the gospel rather than take over the preaching itself. This is what Reymond is trying to stress, when he said, “preaching is giving way in evangelical churches to multimedia presentations, drama, dance, "sharing times," sermonettes, and "how to" devotionals.”

I am highly skeptical of using talks like “Effective Parenting” as evangelistic methods. For one, there is no such biblical precedent in the New Testament. How can a non-believer understand the "Christian worldview" when he "does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them" (1 Corinthians 2:14)? Talks and seminars might do well as starting points and opportunities to preach the gospel, but it would be silly to imagine that someone will be converted through listening to “Effective Parenting” where the essential doctrines are not preached. Doctrines such as the doctrine of the Trinity, salvation is by the grace of God alone through repentance and faith in Christ alone, the substitutionary atonement of Christ etc.

11/5/06 11:44 AM  
Blogger Ignatius said...

I agree with Beowulf in his view, but I don't think it is really a matter of right or wrong to use talks like "Effective Parenting". Rather, if the nonbelievers don't even believe in the Trinity, the source of our biblical revelation,
introducing them to a Christian worldview is just meaningless. It is also an error in the sequence of our priority! A Christian worldview is only valid if they believe Christ exist & is God, otherwise it is just a ????tian worldview!

15/5/06 3:06 PM  

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