I just received an email from a media company inviting me to participate in a "beta-group development project" for church outreach whose stated values are "missional, incarnational, and transformational." This company states on their website that they have "a covert agenda to fuel a revolution in how the world views and responds to the Church."
In other words, they want to test ideas and strategies that will lure more people into church. And it's obvious they'll try just about anything to do it. After reading over their "Wow factor" marketing plans, which include "viral components" (sounds dangerous) "movement-making strategies," "licensed media tools," "wrap-around (synergistic) withreach strategies," "holistic social-ministry solutions" and "constant additions, updates, and revisions," I’m sorry, but I'm not their guy.
See, I'm just not into the jumping-through-hoops-to-provide-an-experience church trend. I'm glad the "beta-group" folks factored in "constant updates and revisions" because when you try to be all things to all people all of the time, you end up being nothing. And that leads to a constant returning to the blackboard to find out what went wrong. And here's what goes wrong when a church attempts to be the all in all instead of God: they attract and cater to self and a "what's in it for me” attitude. And when you have hundreds of individuals at the feeding trough who only want to be placated and made to feel comfortable within the context of a "spiritual experience," nobody is transformed, nobody grows and nobody learns the Truth. And people wonder why "church" or "religion" isn't working for them. And churches wonder why people leave.
The churches that follow the "paradigm" of trying to please everyone usually say they are doing it out of a desire for unity. But unity in what? When you have hundreds of self-centered attendees obsessed with what kind of spiritual experience the church can offer them individually, you have hundreds of different ideas of what "church" and "faith" should be. How does a pastor say anything when he's trying to appease 100+ attendees who are there simply to see Christ, faith, religion or church re-incarnated into THEIR vision of what Christ, religion and faith should be?
They may be singing Kumbaya, but it will eventually be through clenched teeth.
John MacArthur, in a sermon on his Grace to You website titled "The Christian's Authority: Experience or the Word" explains:
"There is a mentality today that, in the Church, has a great desire for unity and love and I like that if it's Biblical unity and Biblical love; and we want everybody to be one in its brotherhood and happiness and light and let's hold hands and all that and that's good and that's wonderful; but what happens is in this great run for unity and this great run for love nobody's allowed to say anything about truth without being considered somebody who's divisive.
What's so scary about it is that no experience ever really has to stand the test of Scripture. The experience itself is okay. Whatever your experience, that's fine; and then we don't worry about the Bible, we had an experience.
It is mysticism and mysticism is this. Here's a little definition. "It is the comprehension of a spiritual idea by intuition rather than revelation. It is the comprehension of a spiritual idea by intuition or feeling or self-generated thought, rather than receiving a revelation." So that Christianity, instead of being a response to the Word of God, is a whole pile of experiences and then the Word of God is twisted around to make it fit the experiences; and that's nothing but sub-Christian mysticism.
Now listen, if you were gonna build a Biblical theology, write down all true principles about God in the world, would you rather do it by adding up the experiences of a whole lot of people or would you rather do it by seeing what this book says? Imagine trying to build a Biblical theology of all the truth there is about God from the experiences of people. What a mess. What a mishmash. You'd have as many views as you have - what - people. That's why God gave us an authoritative revelation.
Now, there are only two approaches to truth; Biblically, you either take the Bible as the historical objective record or you go with the personal subjectivism and chaos. The historical, objective kind of approach is what is called creedal theology. It is based on creeds - Jesus Is, God Is, the Holy Spirit Is, God said, boom bang. It's all creedal and we would call it a theology of the Word. But the personal subjective one is simply intuitive, "Well, I think and I feel - well, to me God is - well, I think that God is -" and what you've got there is a theology of experience. But the difference is that the theology of experience is authored by man and the theology of the Word is authored by God and who knows best about Himself, God.
When the whole mentality is experience, experience and phenomena and feeling and emotion, then everybody who gets that certainly can't be told they're wrong and so there's no checks on it. There's no way to stop it. It just runs wild. It's like the America today - Christianity in America is literally drowning in a sea of subjectivism and mysticism and experience.
The mystical experience becomes the determiner of truth." (End of quote by John MacArthur)
The Bible predicts this very thing:
"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4
The Kjos Ministries Website further explains:
"These days, the word "incarnational" can be heard in most denominations and postmodern churches. It's at the heart of the new, experiential form of Christianity--the transformative movement attempting to unify the world under the banner of the evolving "Church."
It calls for a non-offensive form of the "gospel." No longer is the emphasis on God's Word and personal regeneration through the Holy Spirit. The new emphasis is primarily on collective experience and unifying community service. To avoid conflict, the true Gospel -- including the "offense of the Cross" -- must be banned along with other divisive Scriptures."
The Bible clearly warns against adding to or taking away from Scripture:
"I warn everyone who hears the prophesy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
John MacArthur sums it up when he says,
"You see, it is a question of authority. What is the authority in the believer's life? Is it his experience or is it God's Word?"
Which Jesus have we decided to follow and worship and live according to? The incarnate Jesus in the Bible, or the Jesus re-incarnated by humans in order to appease and allow everyone to be their own mini-God, "having a form or godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).
This all takes me back to the wise words of my Christian mentor who, when I disagreed with Biblical authority (without having read the Bible) she told me that I needed to go and read what the Bible actually said. She admonished me that if I was going to call myself a Christian, I needed to accept Biblical authority. Kicking and screaming, I did just that. And lo and behold, I found that Biblical authority--the Bible's Truth about Jesus and faith and the body of Christ and church -- to be far superior to my naive, self-satisfied, narcissistic and haughty opinion of the Bible that I'd formed based on faulty intuition, hearsay and second-hand information.
Through Biblical authority, NOT an "incarnational, experiential or missional" worship service, I found transformation, a changed heart and life, and a love and compassion for others. Through the authority of the Bible I was finally freed from the oppressive bondage of self and the ball and chain of constantly trying to re-incarnate myself, my life, my faith, my religion and my God. Only through the authority of Scripture did I come to know the Truth that set me free once and for all.
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32
"For he 'has put everything under his feet.' Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." 1 Corinthians 15:27-28
"All Scripture is God-breathed..." 2 Timothy 3:16
"'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Revelation 1:8
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Revelation 22:13