Yes, another big scary word used through church history to best describe church practices. It is the meaning of the how to bits of church that we see operating every service on a Sunday from the order of device to the way preachers conduct themselves to leadership structure and style with regard to elders etc. Throughout church history, denominations have used creeds or strategic and biblically sound summaries of their belief system that highlights their distinctives, core theology and Church structure. They did this to ensure that people attending knew exactly what they were in for when attending, regarding Jesus, the Bible, views on sin, preaching, family, salvation, heaven, creation and even Christ’s role as head of the church. Theopedia gives the following definition of Ecclesiology:
“The study of the Church is also known as ecclesiology. In general, ecclesiology addresses various issues, the most basic being a biblical definition of the “church” and its functions. Other issues involved in ecclesiology include forms of church government, leadership offices, ordinances, worship, and the relationship between the New Testament church and Israel, the Old Testament people of God. Therefore, a clear and biblical understanding is important to both Christian belief and practice.”
The modern church has had a history of axing important elements of church structure, creedal positions of doctrine and order of services for years, and it has had a lasting, viral impact on preaching, pragmatic church practices, incorrect exegesis in preaching as well as a total misunderstanding of the role of the church altogether. Various “paradigm shifts” have occurred since Rick Warren wrote his insidious book entitled “The Purpose Driven Church,” which essentially outlined personal opinions about what the church should be doing instead of what God has commissioned it to do. The book pushes for the visible church to be an attractive, successful, numerically large, healthy looking church that attracts all kinds of unbelieving customers to Christ through nonsensical means. Some of which are blasphemous, such as removing crosses from buildings (the wondrous cross… an emblem of suffering and shame that has a wondrous attraction for the believer), removing light from the building, removing long doctrinal sermons (the basis of all preaching and teaching) and even making so many programs for so many people that there’s “something for everyone.” This clearly sounds attractive for the desperate, searching, frustrated pastor who has nowhere to go because he has put down the Bible as sufficient for all life and doctrine, who is willing to give anything a go.
It’s easy to see the effects of the seeker-driven model of church now, because every bit of it is flipping the true church on its head and catering every aspect of the worship service to meet the felt needs of the participant. Not their spiritual need for a crucified then risen Saviour, no, their physical, emotional, health, self esteem and nourishment needs. Like coffee, self-help, timely sermons so that they can leave to get to their more important activities, fully supervised ball-pits for kids, really good food and a bookstore. Whilst all of this looks and sounds good for a shopping centre – where this kind of thing is essential – it has never, and will never be a strategy that can be implemented into a church, because the church simply isn’t a shopping centre.
The church, largely due to seeker-sensitive structures and practices, has eliminated church order, proper guidelines and character for preachers and pastors, leading the way for an “anything goes, as long as it’s positive” approach to church services. As long as people are happy, laughing, smiling, having conversation and having a “good time,” then every service will be gold. Absolute gold. The problem with this is that church is absolutely not supposed to exist for the comfort, enjoyment and fulfillment of sinner’s needs – it has historically and biblically been designed for the equipping and edification of the saints. In Acts, right after the Day of Pentecost, there is an explosion of gospel preaching done in Jerusalem. Tongues are given to the apostles, and they spill out of the upper room preaching the gospel of Jesus dying, rising again and defeating death for the forgiveness of sins, and it causes the church to form. These believers started gathering together to hear a preacher preach what the apostles said, which equates to what God said through the scriptures.
Acts 2:41-42 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. And the same day there were added about three thousand souls. And they were continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and in fellowship and in the breaking of the loaves, and in prayers.
The 3000 plus converts from paganism and self righteousness to Christianity began holding meetings where they would: Sing, take communion, teach what the apostles taught, and would fellowship with one another learning great Biblical doctrine. This very early church was a gathering of already converted people, who loved Christ and wanted to worship Him by observing “all that He commanded.” This wasn’t done with light shows, trickery, smoke, short messages on finances, book stores, cafes and childcare. These things have slowly been added to the church purely to accommodate the comfort of the unsaved who attend, not to edify Jesus or further the gospel. Now, I’m not against comfort in church, or coffee (I’m a huge coffee lover) or even modern worship music (I play, record, write songs and even follow many modern worship bands). However, seeker-sensitive ethics have created a church that neglects entirely the role of preaching doctrinally sound sermons, having reverent worship services that honour Christ with their content and focus, and the absolute necessity of equipping the saints to reach the lost and dying world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is simply something illogical about neglecting the church guidelines laid out in 1 Timothy and Titus and Acts, at the expense of the saved people attending the church. The gathering of the saints together in church is precisely that: a gathering of saved people worshipping their great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. If unbelievers walk into a service, they should feel welcomed, comfortable and even like they belong… but the gospel of Jesus Christ – repentance from sin and forgiveness in Jesus – is offensive. They will either arc up and get adrenaline pumping through their veins and have their conscience pierced, or will be so angry that they never return because of the offense of the cross. There’s no “comfortable” way of delivering the news that a sinner is under the judgment of God and desperately sinful in His eyes for transgressing His law, and that his only hope of being saved is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ & His mercy. That’s never a comfortable message because of it’s piercing reality. It’s the best news ever and at the same time the most devastating.
So, the church simply needs to reclaim biblical preaching, sound doctrine, good male pastors who have a love of God’s infallible word & its power, theology in worship and holding the gathering of believers closely as a sacred time where they meet to worship, eat, fellowship, hear the apostles doctrine and being equipped to reach the lost.
Without these elements in church, it simply becomes a lifeless meeting of non attentive people who crave excitement through carnal means – like concerts or skits – instead of the pure written word of God. To put it simply – the church becomes a club of people who simply meet to enjoy company with absolutely nothing in common. The believers in the early church met specifically to sing spiritual songs, hymns, pray, have communion, hear preaching that was meaty and doctrinal in content to exalt Christ, become equipped and empowered to reach the lost by being edified in their faith and pray for one another’s needs. This is all to be thrown out according to our new church model concocted by a select few powerful people. No doctrine, no creeds, no uncomfortable preaching, no communion, no sacred reading of scripture at length, certainly no crosses on the building, and no prayer for the needs of people by the elders.
In fact, the very model of church that increases the number of people coming in the door has in fact shut the door to Jesus, taking Him away from the place altogether. Truly. He knocks at the door of the wayward church in Revelation that has sought pleasure and comfort over spiritual growth and outreach, and He begs to come in. The church has to open the door again by laying aside its need to constantly be keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of worldy music, PA systems, lighting, comedy, circus acts, interpretation of literature and post modern thinking about modern social issues such as homosexuality and women in the home.
Randy White, who writes extensively on this movement, and is a Pastor himself, says this of modern church leadership models:
“Have you noticed that I’ve not mentioned anything about the proclamation of the Word, and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? That’s because there is not much to mention from the church today. The church today does good works, has good music (in the ears of many), has a really good sound-system, and a pastor who could lead circles around Moses. What it doesn’t have is the backbone to proclaim that our world must reject humanism, social justice, poverty eradication efforts, and other white-washed measures of “expanding the Kingdom of God”—and, must find its only hope in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
White, R Jan 2 2014 “Why I am Leaving the Church Growth Movement,” Viewed Feb 21 2016 <https://randywhiteministries.org/articles/leaving-church-growth-movement/>
He says this because he sees the need to deal with the real issue the sinner has – sin – and not only that, but the very wrath of God abiding on him until he repents, lest he perish! There is no other way to literally “reach a dying world” than to proclaim to them repentance from sin and forgiveness in Christ Jesus alone! That is the mission of the church. Yes, do missional events, but if the gospel is unable to be found, please discontinue! They aren’t the churches’ mission. We are to go into all of the world and preach the gospel to every creature, making disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them everything Jesus has commanded. That’s our actual commission! On Biblical literacy being key to having a Christ-centred church Randy White continues:
“I will lose church-growth potential because I won’t allow a good-feeling production to trump reality. Do my church members know their Bible? Can they give a defense of the attacks against it? Can they rightly divide the Word of Truth? Do they have a Biblical worldview that understands creation (young-earth), eschatology (pre-trib), salvation (Jesus as propitiatory sacrifice), grace (free from the Law), and so much more? Have I developed a congregation that could, and would, stick with it through a months-long study of the book of Numbers? Or Leviticus? If I have not developed this kind of Biblical hunger, then I’ve just allowed them to be deceived by thinking they’ve had Bible study, experienced worship, and come away a better (and more Christ-like) person. Since I will stand before God someday to be judged for reality (not feelings), I will be satisfied to spend my time and energy developing a Biblically-literate congregation.”
This cuts to the heart of the issue – Pastors are supposed to be aptly trained by reputable seminaries on or offline to be able to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.” This is one thing that receives extra special judgment from God because they are responsible for speaking His very words from a pulpit/lectern/see-through-stand-thingy and say what God actually wants them to say about His infallible word! There is no greater responsibility, really… it’s one that carries great weight and great privilege. The seeker-driven Ecclesiology says to go to every effort to make the sinner happy, comfortable, well fed and like he belongs. The Biblical Ecclesiology has been to have theologically robust, God honouring, Bible believing, reverent, Jesus centred church services that simply honour Christ and His work on the cross, proclaiming the repentance from sin and forgiveness offered in Jesus. They have doctrinal statements that discuss, at length, their position on key areas like the atonement, creation, the fall of man, heaven and hell, God’s love, God’s judgment, end-times, the accuracy of scripture, and so on. They do this to solidify their faith so that it can be articulated better to others. They do this to connect with historical, orthodox Christianity. And they do this to ensure that they are, indeed, in the “faith once delivered to the saints.”