“We must be willing to do whatever it takes the reach the next generation.”
This sounds like a line that many Christians can embrace, and sadly, many Christians charge hard with this line as their motto for ministry. Unfortunately, even the most passionate Christian can be passionately wrong. While boundaries and prohibitions may seem like bad things that hold us back from reaching our full potential as a local church or an individual believer—God’s boundaries should never be viewed through a negative lens.
Every Christian motto is built upon a theological foundation. It’s either fueled by low theological conviction that takes a backseat to pragmatism or it’s fueled by a high theological conviction that drives decision making and functionality. We want the latter rather than the former. When pragmatism takes priority over theology, the church is driven to do all sorts of things in the name of reaching people for Jesus in ways that Jesus would never approve.
Pragmatism Leads to Worldly Worship Models
An honest survey of church history will demonstrate that the church has been driven to embrace models that do not look like what God had in mind for genuine God exalting worship. From seeker sensitive marketing evangelism models to the Emergent Church that attempts to become so relevant to culture that it becomes irrelevant. If your model for ministry is “whatever it takes” people will begin to dream up and imagine all sorts of tactics for weekly worship that will attract the culture to your church. But, is that what Jesus has called us to do when he said, “go and make disciples” when he issued the Great Commission?
We have all seen the YouTube videos of zip line mishaps, motorcycle accidents, and drone crashes inside church buildings that occurred while churches were seeking to attract people from their community. It seemed like something that would draw in the crowds and make the church seem relevant and exciting, but instead it became an instant video clip for people to laugh at online rather than to connect people to the Savior of sinners. When ministries abandon the Scriptures and point people to cheap attractions rather than to Jesus—their ministries become shallow and look more like a carnival than a church in the process.
Is the Bible sufficient or must we dream up something new in order to reach the next generation? Does your church need a marketing trick to reach the community or is Jesus enough?
Pragmatism Leads to the Embrace of Worldly Ideologies and Methods
There is no doubt that this world with devils filled is threatening to undo us. We live in a broken world with complex layers of injustices and oppression against women, crimes against children, legalized abortion, legalized same-sex marriage, and ethnic division and discrimination. We walk a broken road through Vanity Fair as we journey toward the Celestial City as depicted by John Bunyan in his classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress. As we walk this path filled with traps of Satan and all manner of human depravity—how should the church approach the sins and depraved patterns of our ungodly society?
If the church is fueled by the motto “whatever it takes” we will be led to believe that broken ideas that emerge from a broken culture will suffice. In recent days, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to embrace Critical Race Theory and intersectionality as “analytical tools” to view and approach our culture. Why should the church be encouraged to abandon Scripture and embrace ideologies that have emerged out of the sewer of radical feminism and Marxism in order to reach a God hating culture? Is the Bible really outdated and uniformed regarding the complexities we face in our day? Is Jesus not enough? Does the gospel need help from culture to reach the culture?
Pragmatism will always lead the people of God away from the will of God at some point. If the gospel is working—pragmatism says, “do it.” When the gospel seems to not be working, pragmatism says, “do something else that gets better results.”
We must remember that the Reformation was about the recovery of God’s Word. When the Scriptures are not viewed as sufficient—worship and ministry models will be contaminated by the ideas and methods of the world. When Paul was writing his final letter to Timothy before he was martyred for his faith, he didn’t say, “Timothy, do whatever it takes to reach Ephesus with the gospel.” He said:
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 4:2-5).
The motto—”whatever it takes” will eventually lead you to walk away from the Word of God. Beware of the broken road of pragmatism.