Is The Bible Sufficient?
Many teachers find themselves in a pickle. Do I continue to teach God’s word as commanded in scripture, or do I use all of the wacky gimmicks that the more successful churches are pulling to gain more influence, and more congregants? That battle would be intense because of the pressure to mould into what the big guys are doing uptown. However, with every pragmatic (whatever works) ideology comes a price. A heavy price. With every massive church that treats the Bible as a launching pad for more exciting endeavours such as sex talks, purpose finding exercises and practical life lessons, a little piece of the puzzle that scripture clearly has put together regarding church structure, redemption, our sin problem, Jesus as the solution and even the real character of God Himself is thrown away, leaving an empty shell of a church that remains doctrine-less or even anti-doctrinal behind. The result?
Well, people in hell.
Ultimately an attack on the sufficiency of scripture for all life and practice is a sure fire way to send people into believing absolutely anything new, thus ending their faith in Christ – save some kind of miracle. How does this happen?
I want to lay out exactly how – and why.
Step 1 – Convince us the Bible’s outdated
Despite all of its glory and sufficiency (ability to suffice for everything), scripture has for around 45 years, been under an attack from within as to its efficacy to hold people’s attention. It may not have necessarily been an attack on content at first, but scripture has undergone a steady deconstruction since readers were told to have a “personal” experience type relationship with Jesus Christ, and to read the Bible the same way – as a privately interpreted book that is open to be pulled apart & reconstituted as a muddled mess of words. This meant that readers were to try and understand the text they were reading any way possible – paying no attention to context, the writers hearers, the location of the story, the covenant the Israelites were under at the time or distinguishing between law and gospel. Instead, private interpretation became the way to understand everything, and to dare attack that or question its truthfulness was a huge no-no. Thanks to teachers such as Rob Bell formerly of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids USA and the infamous Nooma productions, and earlier in the 1990’s with Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California we have a new perspective on scripture – and that is that the Bible is simply a map to give us things we want like more money, health, more successful marriages, better outcomes and a bigger purpose in life. Rick Warren has even gone on the record saying that Christians are designed to simply “make the world a better place.”
But first this had to be eroded slowly by telling us the Bible is outdated and insufficient to be preached solo on a Sunday. Church had to change, and with it inevitably came the destruction of the purpose of scripture – to display the very nature of God and Christ, our fall and redemption – through the verse by verse preaching of His word! The Bible has become a back seat to more important topics such as making money, serving the poor, being nice to others and dealing with different personalities in the workplace. Here are some strung together quotes that make up the current modern seeker friendly model from the very book, “The Purpose Driven Church” that sum up the errors of post modern thought about scripture:
“Figure out what mood you want your service to project, and then create it. (p. 264); We start positive and end positive. (p. 271); We use humor in our services … it is not a sin to help people feel good. (p. 272); Cultivate an informal, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere. (p. 272); We made a strategic decision to stop singing hymns in our seeker services. (p. 285); We have attracted thousands more because of our music. (p. 285); Saddleback now has a complete pop/rock orchestra. (p. 290); Use more performed music than congregational singing … (p. 291) (emphasis on entertainment); The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings. You cannot start with a text … (p. 295); Make your members feel special … they need to feel special.” (p. 320,323) posted on rapid.net
This strange, determined and calculated move has been a rapid change for the modern evangelical church, and I have seen in my time many churches change to this model and lose their Christian identity through and through. One of its glaring errors, though, has been to completely change the role of scripture in the pulpit, from being exegeted and preached faithfully to it being a
The summary of this change is dramatic and scary for many reasons.
#1 The mood is set by the visionary leader. They are the boss. They are the gears and brains behind the change. Their ideas, motives and doctrines are what’s taught – not the infallible word of God and anybody whatsoever who disagrees with the teaching taught, methods for evangelism, messages preached or focus of the sermons (i.e. the hearer only) is a dissenter, and banned from leadership, volunteering and church activity. The visionary is God’s appointed vision caster, given a holy direction for whatever works to bring unsaved people to church.
#2 The service is not at all for the believer. The music, lighting, smoke machines, PA system, sermons, style, clothing and even hyper positivity is all designed to attract and keep the sinner in church for as long as possible. The opposite of what the Bible says about church – that it is the, “gathering and equipping of saints.” Almost every purpose-driven vision casting leader will lambaste their congregations with phrases such as, “only babies cry and want doctrinal milk,” and, “you silly leeching sheep..always wanting to go deeper in the word…,” and, “you Christians wanting theology are just fat and lazy… get off your fat bottom and do something for Jesus instead.” This language ostracises the real Christians who want the truth preached from their crowd, and essentially their “individuality,” gets them kicked out of that church. Or at least barred from any leadership position.
16 from whom athe whole body, being fitted and held together 1by what every joint supplies, according to the 2proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself bin love.
Anybody who comes to church who is saved is actually a sheep under Jesus shepherding through the preaching and teaching of he apostles doctrine. This is neglected in seeker sensitive churches for a more corporation approach – where the individual is absolutely powerless to interpret and discern what the scriptures say on their own – they are completely at the peril and spell of the vision caster’s own doctrines, materials and Bible study methods for every small group meeting an leadership training course. These are craftily developed under strict supervision, and anybody who dares to teach a different book to what the pastor is into… he/she is out. Scripture is completely undermined in this regard because the individual can no longer approach the volunteers or pastor with concerns about the prosperity gospel, heresies such as modalism or even the over-emphasis on physical healing in the Charismatic church because they are not to dare question God’s “anointed one.”
This entire process for pastors is wrong because it breeds celebrity pastors who have their very own kingdom they’ve built that’s their own “brand” of church, and their charismatic leadership is what is followed instead of the “whole counsel of God” and all of Jesus teachings. Discernment Research Group posted this quote on their blog Herescope regarding “vision casting” as a modern church practice:
“Christians are being deceived into thinking that “visioning” processes such as these are necessary to bring about the Kingdom of God. Nothing could be further than the truth!
“I know of no scriptural requirement that our visualization is necessary to fulfill Jesus’ prayer ‘Thy Kingdom Come.’ His Kingdom will come with or without our visualization. But it could well be that our visualization — deliberate disobedience of God’s prohibition against sorcery — could prevent us from entering that Kingdom!” (Constance Cumbey, A Planned Deception, 1985, pp. 179-180)
#3 The believer is to only focus on what he has in common with unbelievers in church, instead of reaching unbelievers outside the church with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the seeker sensitive person is to reach out to the sinner by what he has in common in his own life and the church’s programs & style itself. This completely obliterates the actual need of the sinner – that he is depraved, dead in trespasses and sins, completely incapable of pleasing God and under His wrath and needs saving! Instead, he is turned into a searching individual, unlucky enough to have looked in all the wrong places for Jesus and can happily sin, swear, raise his fist at God and refuse to believe any of His Word and be welcomed into church with open arms – declared saved after being forcefully pushed into saying a magic prayer. With enough love bombing and hugs, the seeker is lulled into thinking that God is completely fine with his life as is… and current unsaved condition, and that Jesus died for him and demands nothing in response. In fact, the seeker is already a Christian – he just doesn’t know it yet! All he has to do is be convinced about how much God loves him and he’s all set! This is fundamentally wrong. And scripture is nowhere to be seen in these styles of services. It may be open on a pulpit… but the Bible is usually a prop. A fixture either held or left alone and completely unused week in and week out, starving those in the congregation who actually treasure Christ and want to hear His Word rightly proclaimed. Jesus Himself told us that, “thy Word is truth.” So if we neglect God’s inspired word, we reject Him.
#4 The goal of the service is to make the sinner belong.
All seriousness I must give to this section because I have experienced first hand this takeover attitude of leaving scripture at the door and performing all kinds of worldly stunts and gimmicks for the sinner to enjoy instead on a Sunday morning. I once went to an emerging leaders camp for my denomination, the Australian Christian Churches. A Pentecostal movement loosely connected together with autonomous churches in Australia. At this camp, several things were emphasised that we must do to remain relevant, in touch, moving, on top and growing. These were: darkly lit rooms for worship, ample seating, ushers at the door no matter the size of the church, great food, great day care for the children, great smelling rooms, a café, the most excellent worship we can muster, many community outreaches, use our own building for the unsaved to have functions in, and finally… do a tour of big churches to copy their tactics in reaching lost people.
Was doctrine mentioned? No. Neither was asking God for power to preach repentance and faith faithfully, or a firm study of the Bible to show ourselves approved to preach well. Training leaders to be smiling, robotic copycats of every city church leader they see. This breeds a business model of church, where success is based on customer satisfaction. We even ran through examples of how great chain restaurants have the best customer service, and that we are the same! Hmm… I beg to differ. The function of pastor has completely been overturned to become a business leader who does motivational pep talks to the congregation, seeking to flatter them until their head bursts with pride and self-confidence. This is no way to preach or teach scripture. In fact, the very things we learned to do at this camp were the very things that false teachers are revealed to be doing in Romans 16:17-19
17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Gotquestions.org offers a wonderful article on the whole idea of flattery, and it’s certainly eye-opening:
“Some teachers use flattery as a means to increase personal followings. Leaders desiring to attract a crowd sometimes water down their message until the gospel is reduced to little more than a God-tainted self-improvement program. They pepper their talks with cheerful verses and illustrations designed to make their hearers feel better about themselves (and about the teachers). There is much talk about discovering one’s potential and developing personal greatness. This is nothing more than flattery intended to create popularity for the speaker and his or her message. It sells books and media time, but it often bears little resemblance to the message Jesus proclaimed.” (Gotquestions.org 2016, “What does the Bible say about flattery” viewed June 15 2016 <http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-flattery.html>.
This notion of grooming the sinner to like church and become attracted to Jesus is kind of scary, because it means that the whole congregation must beat around every bush, walk on every theological eggshell and essentially shrink away from talking about anything to do with God’s nature, Jesus life, Genesis and creation, hell, heaven rightly understood, God’s wrath, even God’s love because ultimately it’s best displayed by being crushed by God in our place… everything is off limits if it offends the sensitive, seeking, fragile and unclear-in-the-mind sinner who walks in. So, church is void of all power, all truth, all knowledge and all footing to even exist as a faithful witness to the world.
When the Bible is undermined and pushed to the very, very back storage room of the church as the beacon of truth and light and conviction and exhortation and equipping… the church becomes a sugary, tasteless, bland, wobbly, plate full of mush that the world can step on and it scatters & is ruined. In an instant.
Here is a link to one of the best satire pieces on the issue of building your own megachurch that leaves scripture at the door.