Battlelines: Pragmatic Modernism

The disease of the church truly is systemic at this point. Everything that it once was, it no longer is. Instead, it has become a steadily focusing mirror of the predominant groupthink of the day. This may sound extreme to you, it does to most people. The reason for that is very simple; you tend to normalize your surroundings in order to keep sane.  Most kidnap victims will begin to have empathy with their kidnappers. A recent poll of girls aged 12-25 revealed that over 45% of them thought there were grounds for a man to hit a woman and 40% said they would take him back if he did it.

You normalize your surroundings and so you bob and weave through life normalizing everything you see until you eventually come to believe that ‘it has always been this way’.

Case in point; in reformed circles today you will hear about how everyone that the Father gives to the Son will come to him. Therefore, why sweat things like evangelism? Since God is the one who seeks you out and since it is he that draws you with irresistible grace, why go through all of the rigmarole of troubling yourself with evangelism? And yet they have forgotten George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, all champions of evangelistic effort.

In Arminian circles there is also massive confusion. Everyone is so focused on the newest revelation, the freshest program and the most relevant façade that they have forgotten their own history and thrown orthodox doctrine out the window.

We are a product of the age that we live in, have no doubt about that. And the modernist mindset has held sway in the church for a very long time now. And it is that pragmatic, humanist mindset that has led to the decline that we currently see in the church.

To those under the influence of the zeitgeist, it may seem like there is actually no problem at all. There are large churches; there are Christian radio stations and Christian television channels. There are Christian schools and universities that you can send your kids to. There are Christian bookstores selling Christian mints that you can use to “evangelize” your unsaved friends and loved ones. What could possibly be wrong?

I am going to lay out for you one of the issues that I think is most hindering us at this point and one that I feel we must correct if we are ever going to see revival: pragmatic flesh-based ministry. What do I mean by that exactly? A pragmatic flesh-based ministry is one that sees everything totally based on a human’s viewpoint and then sets goals and meets them based on what works best.

Recently, I had someone get very, very angry with me because I said in a service that it is absolutely wrong to go to church. They were shocked and offended because they had been a church-goer for years and it was a main part of their life, how could I even suggest that going to church was wrong? I can just hear some of you now wondering if I actually said that to the group. I did.

But my point was not that you shouldn’t attend a service or be a part of a group of the Elect who are walking out the dominion of the Kingdom of God on earth. My point was that if you “go to church” you are already deceived because we ourselves are the church. But for most people, it is easiest to confuse the terms because that way, you can assume that you are the church because you attended one. But as Keith Green said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger”.

Pragmatism says that the most efficient way to be a Christian is to decide to and then proceed to do the things that Christians do, like go to church. You should sing songs, learn the lingo and read a bible. But the Word does not say to do any of that in order to be a Christian. It says that you must repent, it says that you must die and be raised with Him through baptism and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. But pragmatism can’t be bothered with any of that, it takes too long and is generally outside the comfortable confines of our convenience.

Let me ask you an important question; what is the church? Is it a group of like-minded individuals who gather together regularly to worship? Or is the church truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that they occupy?

If it is the former then everything is fine. You can afford to qualify its success or failure on tangible things like the number of people who attend and the amount of money that they generate. As the Pastor, you can drool your seeker-sensitive affirmations all over them and lull them into an eternal sleep because all that matters is the number of people attending not what they are doing. If you know whether or not God is with you by the amount of income generated then use any means that you can to generate it. Go ahead, help yourself.

But if it is the latter then we are in deep trouble. If you can’t determine the success of intangibles using tangibles, how should you determine the success of what you are doing? If we are truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that we occupy, how much area do you occupy? How do the poor fare in your district? How is injustice ended? How are your people living under common grace? Is Eden being spread and has the Kingdom come and is his will being done in your district as it is in heaven? If we asked the poor, the drug addled, the suicidal, the criminal individuals in your district who the Christians are, would they say it was you? Or are you hoping that they would say it based on the numbers and money that you generate?

The Westminster Confession states that man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. We like to assume that God is glorified in our buildings and programs. Just like the Crystal Cathedral, right? I mean, they had people and money so God was obviously glorified.

Doxazo (Glorify) means to make something renowned, to render it illustrious, to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged. Most of what we do glorifies ourselves and our inflated sense of calling and importance but does little to nothing for the glory of God.

We are flesh and we have adapted our methods and goals to the flesh. It is as Tozer said, one fallen head instructing another fallen head. But it has been normalized and become convenient and finding the truth would be so darned difficult. Besides, I have to pay bills and eventually retire. So, while truly pursuing the glory of God sounds nice, it is not pragmatic nor practical.

God help us all before the Bema.

So, here is my challenge to you today; read only the red that Jesus said for the next week. Don’t bother with the Old Testament or Pauline sections, just stick to the red bits and ask yourself how closely you are following what He said. Then read just the Book of Acts for the next week. Write down everything that they did and the way that they did it. And then juxtapose that with what you are doing right now. If we are going to get it right then we must base everything on the original intent. It can’t be Luther, Calvin, Finney or Spurgeon alone. We must get back to the whole counsel of the Word of God outside of the zeitgeist.

And then I double dog dare you to begin to live out what Jesus told you to do and to begin to conduct your church as they did it in the Book of Acts. I am not telling you to only meet in homes as cell groups or totally eschew the use of buildings, I am telling you to do what they did; meet together in homes daily for prayer and fellowship, breaking bread together. Voluntarily redistribute your goods. Care for the widow and orphan. Evangelize the world. Stand against tyrants and usurpers. Take correction and love others enough to correct them. Be merciful. Bear fruit. Make disciples.

In other words, settle for no less than actually being a Christian.

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2 thoughts on “Battlelines: Pragmatic Modernism

  1. Richard says:

    Hi James, it’s good to drop back by your site. Good stuff as always. I truly like where you summed it up with Jesus’ teachings and the book of Acts. Right on! I have believed that all my second birth long. You have always had good “church” insight.
    I hope to stop by more. I have spent so much time in Fb and little time in the blog arena.
    God bless you and your family!

  2. Richard says:

    and again….I love your banner pic :-)

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