Wednesday, February 22, 2006


The Fad-Driven Church

Among the many services that are provided by today's Internet, one of the most useful is the means it provides for keeping track of the latest and greatest events in the American evangelical church. Not that many years ago, the big thing was something called Promise Keepers. Do you remember Promise Keepers? Sure you do! Why, there was a period of two or three years in which you hardly heard about anything else. To many evangelical leaders, Promise Keepers was the great move of God that the church needed. PK conventions filled entire football stadiums with professing Christian men, many of whom went on to form small groups for accountability purposes. If one were to judge by the testimonials from those heady days, God was using PK in a big way to transform men and their families. A little while after that, it was the Prayer of Jabez, a little book that made both the Christian and the general best-seller list. Church after church jumped on the bandwagon in order to provide their communities with the blessings that were promised by Bruce Wilkinson's teaching. Next up was The Passion of the Christ, a film which one minister called one of the greatest evangelistic tools of the last one hundred years. For several months, the members of evangelical churches filled theaters in which the movie was shown, helping to turn it into a surprise hit.

What with all the noise that was made by these alleged "moves of God" in their day, I think it's rather ironic that you hardly hear about any of them any more. In turn, each "move" rose to prominence to dominate the evangelical landscape for several months or a couple of years, only to shrink back to obscurity, making way for the Next Big Thing. As each of these "moves" came on the scene, so did the hype, but yet it seems that few noticed when they fizzled out and died. If God was indeed behind these "moves" as so many had claimed, it seems that He's either lacking in the ability to sustain His mighty work or else He has an extremely short attention span.

In any event, it's just as well that these past moves have gone by the wayside, because now American evangelicalism is reveling in Today's Big Thing: the Purpose-Driven Life movement and its seeker-sensitive and Emergent offshoots. Just like PK, Jabez, and the rest, everyone says it's great, and anyone who's anyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Surely the PDL is really, truly, absolutely just what evangelicalism needs! It's going to do everything that all of these other "moves" of the recent past did and more! Right? Right???


If you've read along thus far, I hope you see the point I'm trying to make: American evangelicalism is utterly hooked on following the tossing waves and shifting sands of the latest and greatest religious fad, so hooked that few seem to realize just how foolish this is. To say one year, "This is the thing God is doing", only to say the next year, "Now this is what He's doing for sure," betrays an incredibly short attention span and memory. As the mainstream evangelical church hops from one bandwagon to another, no one seems to realize that it is simply being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. No sooner does one fad fade out, another one rises up to take its place, with no one stopping to think, "Hmmm, haven't we been through this before?"

My friend, there's more wrong with the PDL, etc., than the flimsy proof-texting that's trotted out as alleged support. By claiming that these man-made fads are a "move of God" or a great evangelistic tool, we are dragging God's name through the mud and turning the church of Jesus Christ into a laughing stock. As we chase after every fad and fancy in its turn, we look exactly like a flock of blind men following a leader who's just as blind as they. Now, it might be understandable if the evangelical church would fall for a single fad once in a while and learn its lesson, but what we're seeing is a collective chase after an unbroken sequence of fads. This behavior is not only unscriptural: it's also flat out stupid.

By way of contrast, consider Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Consider the Scriptures, ever the sole, sufficient Word of God. Consider the true church militant and victorious, founded upon the Rock of Christ: even the gates of hell cannot prevail against its onslaught! While today's man-centered "evangelical" churches persist in going after the latest and greatest fancies, there remains a remnant who by God's grace remains faithful to the pure undiluted teaching of the whole counsel of God. It is through this remnant rather than through the crowds who are following the ever-shifting winds of man-made doctrine that Christ is continuing to build His church. Yes, the Church of Jesus Christ is alive and well and thriving wherever the Scriptures are preached and God remains the center.

I suspect it will not be long before the Purpose-Driven Life and its offshoots will pass from the scene unnoticed and unlamented. Many will be disappointed by their failure, but none of the shepherds who led these sheep astray will comfort them. At best, they will encourage these poor people to chase after yet another folly. In the meantime, the church will continue to grow and prosper wherever the Gospel is preached and Christ is lifted up. The church has no need of man-made fads and follies: it already has all that it needs in Christ.

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