(Continued from page 196)A NEW TESTAMENT 'MODEL' OF EVANGELISM?
FOOLED BY THE NUMBERS GAME!
Is this consistent with any New Testament model of evangelism? While the 'church growth' advocates recommend reaching 'un-churched Harry and Mary' by starting with their 'felt needs', we find the apostle Paul started with righteousness, self-control and judgment to come when speaking to Felix (Acts 24v24: After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess; and he sent for Paul and heard him speak upon faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he argued about justice and self-control and future judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, "Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity I will summon you."). By contrast, we read: 'If you discover that unchurched Harry suffers from a sagging self-esteem ... you can tell him how your own self-esteem has soared ever since you learned how much you matter to God.' (Lee Strobel, Inside The Mind of Unchurched Harry & Mary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), p. 92). The advice for reaching the thrill seeker is to tell him there's 'nothing more exciting, more challenging and more adventure packed than living as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.' (ibid. p. 124). In other words, discover what a sinner wants out of life and give it to him 'in Jesus'. In a chapter in The Purpose Driven Church entitled 'How Jesus Attracted Crowds', Rick Warren states: 'The most likely place to start is with the person's felt needs...this was the approach Jesus used...A good salesman knows you always start with the customer's needs, not the product' (p. 219 & 225). In the previous chapter Warren claims: 'Whenever Jesus encountered a person he'd begin with their hurts, needs, and interests' (ibid. p. 197). By simply noting how the Lord dealt with Nicodemus, the rich young ruler, the Syrophenician woman and Levi, to name but a few, reveals Warren's selective and deceptive exegesis.
It is not a new 'strategy' for Christians witnessing to different types of individuals from diverse backgrounds to understand the presuppositions they may hold and adjust their petition accordingly. Clearly the Lord dealt with Nicodemus differently from that employed with the woman at the well and Paul addressed the Jews in Acts 13 differently to his approach to the Greeks on Mars Hill in Acts 17. Warren is not simply recommending that Christians should bear their audience's background in mind, but is advocating a total change in the technique, style and form of historical evangelical preaching - and will readily twist Scripture to bolster his point. Typically, he favours a rendering of Colossians 4v5-6 which reads: 'Be tactful to those who are not Christians...Talk to them agreeably and with a flavour of wit, and try to fit your answers to the needs of each one' (ibid. p. 293) when the context of the passage is not about public preaching and the translation Warren uses is not the slightest bit true to the original Greek text.
How the gospel and, more significantly, the person of Jesus Christ can fit into a marketing strategy is difficult to see. How can the gospel that Paul declared was to be preached without 'eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power' (1 Corinthians 1v17) be refashioned or image-adjusted to appeal to the felt needs of our consumer-happy culture? A basic marketing strategy declares that the customer reigns supreme. How then can we present anything 'offensive' or 'unpleasant' to our 'customers'? Scripture tells us clearly that the message of the Cross is 'foolishness to them that are perishing' and that Christ himself is a 'rock of offense' (1 Corinthians 1v18; 1 Peter 2v8). If 'seeker-friendly' churches try to avoid any 'negative aspect' by making the temporal benefits of becoming a Christian the chief 'selling point' they are presenting neither the gospel nor the goal of a believer's life in Christ. Further, attempting to attract the lost on the basis of what might interest them is likely to result in appeals to the flesh. Of course, in many ways elements of the contemporary church in the West have long been appealing to what is popular in our culture: popular music and theatre, multi-media presentations, and short, positive messages emphasising how God can meet your needs and solve life's problems.
According to Warren, providing the primary issues are in focus (Christ and His gospel - at least the confused version Warren sees!), the secondary issues of the church model and methods, etc., can be as varied as you like. What works (pragmatism) is all that matters. 'I contend that when a church continues to use methods that no longer work, it is being unfaithful to Christ' (Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995, p. 65). So just as Jesus 'targeted' the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Paul targeted the Gentiles and Peter targeted the Jews, (ibid. p. 158) at Saddleback Warren claims he uses multiple venues to 'target' different markets. Jazz services for jazz lovers, rock-n-roll services for rockers, etc. Based on a mistranslation of Acts 5v42, Warren claims he's following the apostles who provided different kinds of services in separate 'courts' of the temple. Warren even claims that God enjoys every kind of music (ibid p. 240): 'I reject the idea that music styles can be judged as either 'good' or 'bad'... no particular style of music is 'sacred'... There is no such thing as 'Christian music', only Christian lyrics.' (ibid p. 281). Apparently, music that may have a corrupt origin, even written by pagans, employing sensual rhythms and singing styles, can be suitable for the spiritual praise of God (Ephesians 5v19).
After their weak 'gospel' presentations many church growth preachers lead their audience in a prayer of the kind Warren advises: 'Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ. If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe...bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: 'Jesus I believe in you and I receive you.' Go ahead. If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God' (p. 58-59). There is no conviction of sin, no repentance, no forsaking of the sinner's way, no counting the cost - just 'accept and receive' and you are now a 'Christian'! Do these false teachers actually understand the true need of the sinner? Not if they are following these men, for sinful man's first and greatest need is repentance and not self-esteem as Schuller teaches. Man needs salvation from sin, deliverance from wrath and cleansing from guilt. The 'consumer' is actually a rebellious unclean sinner who, far from being 'always right', is always wrong. He cannot possibly know what 'product' he 'needs' - because he is spiritually dead! How can he accept Christ as Lord and Saviour before he recognises his true sinfulness and God's righteousness?
The true gospel is not about making people feel better about themselves, but about making people realise they are lost, guilty and on the way to an eternity separated from God in Hell! The true gospel does not attempt to bring people to Christ to meet their 'felt needs', but proclaims forgiveness and justification to meet their real need if they will repent and trust in Christ alone. A product that exposes sin, condemns pride and strips away self-righteousness can never be 'marketed' because it is foolishness to the lost (1 Corinthians 1v18). The Warren gospel is being presented as an attractive item to the sinner because it liberates his self esteem, fills his emptiness, offers an 'exciting life', and meets his needs and heals his hurts.
So Warren's false gospel of the 'church growth movement' the sinner is told that Christ died for him because he is so valuable to God. But this is a false idea and a denial of grace. There is nothing in us to merit God's love, as Romans 5v6-11 states so succinctly:
 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Any idea that the sinner is friendly towards God but just turned off by the church is a denial of human depravity. Man is an enemy of God, alienated in his mind by wicked works (Colossians 1v21-23):
21 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Only if you have heard this true 'good news,' accept you are a sinner and need this Saviour who died for you, can you be saved - 'provided you continue in the faith'! The false gospel doesn't even present this to you, but declares: 'You may not believe in God, but God believes in you and you need to believe in yourself.'
Another question that must be asked: does this marketing really grow the local church through attracting non-Christians? Although numbers seem impressive in the USA, 841 churches have reached the 'mega' category, with 2,000 to 25,000 people in attendance at the week-end, the truth is that the sizeable increase in church attendance is not due to the influx of the unchurched. How do we know this? During the last 70 years, the percentage of the USA's population attending church has been relatively constant at about 43 percent. A surge to 49 percent in 1991, many years before the seeker-friendly movement, gradually declined and returned to 42 percent in 2002 -
www.barna.org The facts show that these 'mega-churches', which have spent thousands of dollars to attract 'the unchurched', mainly suck weak Christians from smaller churches that still strive to present the real gospel, recognise the deception of Warren's methods, or who are simply unable to afford the fleshly attractions.
However, even if as many as 5-15 percent of these 'mega-churches' were the formerly un-churched, we now have the situation where thousands of churches, who formerly at least strove to present the Biblical gospel, have restructured to present a worldly outreach. This un-Biblical move has weakened the church rather than increased it significantly in any way, for the church is for the maturing and equipping of the saints, who then go out to reach the l