Thursday, November 8, 2007

Directed by faithfulness

There is always a danger that we will confuse growth in numbers and a successful program with God's blessing, or their absence with His disapproval. Heaven knows that I would interpret growth in my tiny local church that way. But numerical growth and an exciting program can be deceiving. Current research indicates that far fewer than forty percent of the American population attend church every week, and that the growth of the mega-churches comes largely from other churches.

The Baptist Press quotes from Mark Dever speaking at a forum at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"I would like to suggest that the most fundamental problem in the church is not that we are not relevant enough in relation to the world, but that the church is not distinct enough from the world. Our churches must reflect the character of God," said Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C, and a trustee at the Louisville, KY., seminary. ....

The idea that the Gospel must be made relevant is a liberal assumption which, if taken to its end, can result in the theological liberalism of Friedreich Schleiermacher, the father of Protestant liberalism, Dever said, adding that numerous church models seek to be relevant and do not reach the unorthodox conclusions of liberalism but remain unhealthy because they are based on an unbiblical definition of success.

"The problem with the seeker-sensitive model, emerging church model and even the traditional model that say, 'Get as many people into a room as possible and share the Gospel with them,' is that they view success in light of visible fruit," he said. "All three of these approaches say, 'Change your techniques and let's get some numbers.'

"Instead of being directed by [visible] success, we should be directed by faithfulness. We should say, 'If the Lord doesn't like our product, we will change the product.' We shouldn't take the idea that if we don't have X number of conversions in our church, then we must be doing something wrong. ....

"You must have preaching that makes the point of the text the point of the message and where the Gospel is always present," Dever said, noting the first of the nine marks of a healthy church is expositional preaching.

"In the Bible, the people never create God's Word. Instead, God's Word always creates the people. That is how God has always worked. And that is how we should preach. That is how people are saved and how people are sanctified. God's Spirit works with His Word.

"Expositional preaching must first characterize a church that will be able to withstand the pressures of an increasingly secular culture," Dever added.

Second, sound theology will go hand-in-hand with expositional preaching, further helping people view the world through God's eyes. Biblical understandings of the Gospel, conversion and evangelism also will promote church health, he said. .... [read more]
Thanks to Church Matters for the reference.

Baptist Press - Dever cautions about 'relevant' mindset - News with a Christian Perspective

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