Reasons to Leave a Church, part 2

This is part two of a 3-part series of posts addressing the question, “what constitutes a good reason for leaving a church”.  Yesterday’s post dealt with issues relating to the leadership of the church, today’s post will deal with disagreements with the church’s theology and/or methodology.  Tomorrow’s third and final post in this series will adress conflict within the church.

So, here are a couple more “good” and “bad” reasons for leaving the church:

Good Reason #3 – theological disagreement on essential doctrines – If you find that the stated doctrine of the church (and/or the doctrine being taught at the church) is unBiblical, then it is also time to leave.  Now, to determine a doctrine as “unBiblical” is sometimes difficult.  There are a great variety of theological persuasions that provide ample evidence of Biblical support for their position; nevertheless, church members must do the hard work of determining whether the doctrines held by their church are informed from the Scriptures or not.  That being said, I would suggest that the “doctrines which divide” (iow, those that require members to disassociate themselves from the church upon disagreement), be limited to essential doctrines.  There is a vast difference between leaving a church over a disagreement on the authority of Scriptures versus leaving over a disagreement about the exact nature of end time events.  For an excellent discussion on what might constitute essential doctrines, I would encourage you to read Al Mohler’s 2004 article on theological triage.  I would suggest that the essential doctrines of a local church are those that Mohler describes in his article a “first-order and second order issues”.  In the case of NewBranch Community Church, our essential doctrines are listed in black and white in our Statement of Faith. I would argue that leaving over essential doctrines should be fairly rare, since new members should know the essential doctrines of the church they are joining, and determine in advance if they are going to be a problem for them.

Bad Reason #3 – theological disagreement on unessential doctrines – You probably saw this coming.  It stands to reason that although leaving a church may be justified when there is disagreement over essential doctrines, disagreement over unessential doctrines should not justify leaving a church.  Now, just because I call them unessential does not at all mean they are unimportant.  Unessential doctrines can be very important to us individually, but they are “unessential”  in maintaining unity in the church.  We believe that there can be diversity in the unessential doctrines and still have unity among the body of believers in a local fellowship.  In keeping with Mohler’s article above, these unessential doctrines are what he would describe as “third-order issues” (or “tertiary issues”).  For us at NewBranch, we like to say that the essential doctrines  are those that we hold with a “closed hand”, while the unessential doctrines are those that we hold with an “open hand”.   The issues we hold with a “closed hand” are those clearly articulated in our Statement of Faith, while those issues we hold with an “open hand” are those which are not discussed in our Statement of Faith.  Based on this framework, I would argue that leaving over “open-handed” issues is both wrong and hurtful to the unity of the local church.

Good Reason #4 – unbiblical methodology – If the methodology of the church is inconsistent with Biblical theology, and all efforts to address the issue have been exhausted without any indication of a willingness to change, then a person would be justified in leaving the church.  However, since one’s methodology follows from one’s theology, these issues should be addressed as theological disagreements (see good and bad reason #3 above).  If the theological disagreement is over essential doctrine, then I would argue that their decision to leave the church (while not a necessity) would be justified.  For example, if we (as a baptistic church) began to baptize infants, then the disagreement would be over our theology of baptism.  Now, just because someone disagrees with us about infant baptism doesn’t mean they cannot be a member of the church; however, that theological difference may be too much for the individual to overlook, and they may decide they need to leave the church.

Bad Reason #4 – disagreements about methodology – With that being said (above about unbiblical methodology), it must be noted that most of the time folks who leave a church do so because the church is doing something they don’t like or don’t agree with.  I believe this to be the biggest component of the “consumer mindset” towards church membership.  In years past, it was almost proverbial for folks to leave the church because of a disagreement over thinks like “the color of the carpet”.  Today, folks leave their church because it doesn’t offer enough programs (children’s activities, etc.), or because the music doesn’t meet their needs (too loud, not loud enough, too many hymns, not enough hymns, etc.).  In addition, disagreements over methodology can be centered on things like:

  • How we do evangelism
  • How we serve communion
  • Whether we do Sunday School or small groups
  • Whether we have a Sunday night service or not
  • Whether we take up the offering before or after the sermon

These are not issues to leave the church over.  Take “how we do evangelism” as an example.  There are a variety of evangelism methodologies (friendship evangelism, street preaching, attractional outreach, incarnational outreach, etc.), most of which are all Biblical.  There are some that I would argue are not Biblical (like telling folks they will “have their best life now” if they pray the sinner’s prayer), but it all goes back to the theological underpinnings of the practice.   If your church has an evangelism methodology with which you disagree, make the issue about the theological underpinnings of that methodology, not the methodology itself.   If the theological disagreement (about a methodology) is over an unessential doctrine, then leaving the church is not a wise option and is ultimately hurtful to the Body.

Tomorrow will be the final post in this series, and will deal with conflict in the church.

The Priority of Private Prayer

Why don’t we pray more?

If that question doesn’t resonate with you, then try checking back in with us tomorrow.  To the rest of us, this is a question that brings great conviction.  Why don’t we pray more?  What are our excuses?  DA Carson gives several in an excerpt from his book, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers”.

  1. I’m too busy
  2. I feel too dry spiritually
  3. I feel no need to pray
  4. I am too bitter to pray
  5. I am too ashamed to pray
  6. I am content with mediocrity

Which is it for you?

Or maybe a more fundamental question is “What does our lack of private prayer tell us about what we believe about God”? I believe that our theology drives our practice.  It was AW Tozer who said, “It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living.”  So ultimately, if we’re not praying, then something is wrong with our theology….or there is something about our theology that we only affirm with head knowledge, and don’t really believe it in our heart.  Such it is with prayer.  If we are not praying, then what does this tell us about what we believe about God and about what He says about prayer?

For those desiring further inspiration in this area, read this sermon by the late puritan, JC Ryle entitled, A Call to Prayer.

In closing, here’s one of my favorite “prayer quotes” from Leonard Ravenhill:

“Our spiritual immaturity never shows up more than in our lack of praying, be it alone or in a church prayer meeting. Let 20% of the choir members fail to turn up for rehearsal and the choir master is offended. Let 20% of the church members turn up for a prayer meeting, and the pastor is elated.”

May we be a people who love God, worship God, glorify God, thank God, beseech God, petition God, cry out to God…..in prayer.

Book Review: Love Wins

In his new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived Rob Bell sets out to tackle the big issues of eternal life. I got the book after no small controversy erupted surrounding this promotional video and blurb from his publisher . Is he a universalist or not?

First, let me start by saying that there are so many things wrong with the theology of this book that it’s impossible to write a brief review addressing them all. If you’re interested in a more thorough review you can download Kevin DeYoung’s 20 page review (yes, that says 20 pages!).

So let me just give you 3 major problems I saw…

1. A Lack of Clarity:
Bell is known for this. He likes to ask questions. A lot of questions then give wishy-washy answers that leave people more confused. In many places, you have to dig deep and read between the lines to find out what what he believes.

If Bell is proclaiming the gospel (he says he is), he needs to give biblical answers to such weighty questions regarding heaven, hell, eternity, salvation, etc.

Which leads me to the second problem…

2. A Devastating Misuse of Scripture:
If you ask Bell if he is a Universalist he will say ‘no’, as he did in this interview with Martin Bashir of MSNBC. But he uses several passages of scripture in an attempt to show that all people will ultimately be reconciled to God (Phil 2, Ps 65, various passages from Isaiah).

Bell states:

The writers of the Bible have a lot to say about this love:
In Psalm 65 it is written that “all people will come” to God.
In Ezekiel 36 God says, “The nations will know that I am the LORD.
The Prophet Isaiah says, “All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Chapter 52)
Zepheniah quotes God as saying, “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder” (chapter 3).
And Paul writes in Philippians 2, “Every knee should bow… and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.”
All people. The nations. Every person, every knee, every tongue.

A plain reading of these passages in context shows us that God is not saying every single soul will be reconciled to God. But instead referring to the blessings of his covenant people Israel, the spread of the gospel to all nations, and lastly the fact that a day will come when all people will acknowledge that Christ is Lord (Phil 2), but this does not refer to a saving faith.

His bad interpretation also allows him to completely throw out the idea of a literal hell. Bell excuses Gehenna and Hades as words that have been misinterpreted to incorrectly refer to eternal punishment. Instead of a place where the unrepentant receive eternal due punishment for sins, it’s here and now. Hell is when we disobey God and undergo a period of pruning’ (91). In other words, Hell is what we get if we want it as well as a temporary place where God disciplines, but in the end, love wins.

God’s intent is not to confuse us with His word. While there are deep truths in scripture, it is an important rule of biblical interpretation to consider the plain reading of the text. Study passages like Matthew 25, Luke 16:19-31, and 18:18. Is the concept of eternal life real? Absolutely.

3. The Destruction of The Gospel
Bell takes sin lightly. It may not seem that way with all of his references to the personal pain that sin has caused to individuals (Chapter 3). While he is correct in pointing out sin’s heinous affect on individuals he fails to point out that sin, most of all, offends a holy God.

Without a proper understanding of man’s sin in light of the holiness of God one cannot properly understand the gospel. Bell doesn’t address passages like Isaiah 6 where the prophet pronounces woe (destruction) upon himself after realizing his sin before Holy God. He doesn’t address God’s consuming of Nadab and Abihu with fire because of their unauthorized priestly practices. Or what about God killing Uzzah for touching the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6?

Scripture clearly teaches that our sinfulness deserves the wrath of God. Paul tells us that we were by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3). The good news of the gospel is that it saves us from the deserved wrath of God. Bell thinks otherwise:

Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue. God has to punish sinners, because God is holy, but Jesus has paid the price for our sin, and so we can have eternal life. However true or untrue that is technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us form God.

Let’s be very clear, then, we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin, and destruction. God is the rescuer. (182)

With this Bell rejects the substitutionary death of Christ- a fundamental truth of the Gospel. Yes, God rescues us from sin. But He also rescues us from that wrath of God that awaits us because of our sin (Rom 1:18,2:1). This is the punishment that Christ bore on the cross from God. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him… (Is 53:10)

According to Bell, the death of Christ on the cross was more of a doing away with the Old Testament sacrificial system and less a payment of sin deserving death (125). But 1 John 4:10 says, In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation (Gk. hilasmos) refers to Christ’s sacrifice that bore the wrath of God for us (Rom 3:25, 2 Cor 5:21)

In short, there’s no eternal punishment, no justification by faith, no holy God who deals with sin. We all just need to live in the love that God has already been pouring out for all people, a love that will eventually melt every single heart of every single individual and save them. God is love but he’s not holy. He’s merciful but he’s not just.

This is not the gospel.

This is classic theological liberalism that seeks to make God and His word more accessible to the masses.  The truth is that eternal punishment is real and we all deserve it because of our sin. Eternal life with God is a gift of God by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone (Eph 2:1-10, Rom 6:20-23, Rev 14:10-11, 2 Thess 1:6-9).

The truth is, I wish this book had never been written. But it has, and so my hope and prayer is that Love Wins will force Christians to study the scriptures on these issues and contend for the faith against such false teaching, helping the many who will be confused by this book see the true light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Helpful Resources:
-Hell: Remembering The Awful Reality| 9 Marks e-Journal
-Panel Discussion on Love Wins: Moderated by Al Mohler
We Have Seen This All Before: The (re)Emergence of Liberal Theology by Al Mohler
-To Hell With Hell? by Mark Driscoll
-A chronology of the whole controversy provided by Resurgence

Do We Really Know What the Gospel Is? – Part 2

In the first post of this series, I discussed the possibility that our 21st century American Christianity has been neglectful in clarifying the gospel, and that in so doing, has caused the “gospel” to become some nebulous message of self-improvement.

If this is the case, then the only we to fix this is to return to Scripture in order to clarify what the Gospel really is.  Greg Gilbert, in his recent book, “What is the Gospel”, does an excellent job of doing just that, and suggests that there are four key Biblical truths that form the framework of the gospel message.  I will lay out the first two of the truths in this post.

Before I lay out those four truths, it should be clear from the outset that the core of the gospel is Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the long-awaited Messiah, that has come to redeem lost people back to God, and any description of the Christian Gospel that does not have Jesus as its core is not the real gospel.  But going on from there, one must ask, “Why is Jesus the core of the Good News….why is it good news that Jesus is Messiah”?  Answering that question Biblically will give us the following framework for the “Gospel”.

1. God is the holy and righteous Creator, to whom man is accountable

God spoke all of creation into existence, including mankind.  As created beings, we are not self-accountable; we are not autonomous beings.  We are accountable to Him who created us.  So, we must begin with God.

The God of the Bible is perfectly holy, righteous, wise, powerful, loving, just, and merciful.  As God He is sovereign over all that He has created, including us.  As God, He is worthy of (and due) worship from His creation, and is perfectly just to punish rebellion.

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:18-21

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Romans 3:19

2. Man has rebelled against God

The apostle Paul, in Romans 1-3, explains that all of humanity is guilty of sinning against God.  Nobody is free from this indictment.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

This “sin” is evidenced by immoral actions, words, and thoughts; however, Scripture is clear that sin is primarily about a heart problem.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:24-25

Our “sinful behavior” originates from the “sinful desires of their hearts”.  It is primarily a heart problem…a rebellion of our allegiance.  Instead of giving God glory and worship, we worship things other than God (self, the world, achievement, or any other myriad of “idols”).

As rebels with depraved hearts, we are hopeless.  The Bible says we are slaves to this “sin nature”; we cannot do otherwise.  This does not mean that we are as evil as we possibly could be, but it does mean that because of our rebellious hearts, we cannot please God.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. Ephesians 2:3

This is the predicament of every human being, and because this is true of us, there is a catastrophic consequence, namely eternal punishment.

“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

This “death” Paul talks about is not just a physical death (though, that too is a result of the Fall), but rather it is a spiritual death…a very real separation of our souls from the presence of a holy and righteous God.  In this life, this means we are spiritually “dead in our transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and thus completely dependent on God to give us new life in Christ.  That’s bad news in and of itself; however it gets worse because it’s not just bad news for this life.  In the next life (after death), the consequence of our sin will lead us to spend eternity in conscious torment in a place the Bible calls “hell”.

In Matthew 25, when Jesus was talking about the eternal judgment, He explains that in that day He will say to the unrepentant, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41), and then later says of these people, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46).  This “eternal punishment” is described in Revelation as a “lake of burning sulfur” where those who are there are “tormented day and night for ever and ever”, (Rev. 20:10).  Jesus calls it a place of “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43).

21st century cultural Christianity is embarrassed of these Biblical truths and shies away from talking about them.  We think it is somehow “unloving” to scare people with all this talk of hell and burning sulfur and eternal torment, so instead we talk about how our lives here are all messed up because of sin, and that is the consequence or punishment that we need to be saved from.  But if we really believe the Bible is true, then it is terribly unloving to be neglectful in sharing this bad news?

Thus is the condition of all mankind before a God to whom we are accountable.

And this is bad news.  Without this bad news, the good news is not good news.  Without a full understanding of what we need to be saved from, the Gospel will not be seen as our only hope for rescue from certain doom.

I hate to leave it there, but let’s let the “bad news” sink in a bit.  A subsequent post will describe the answer of redemption that God has provided in Jesus Christ as well as what our response must be to His initiative toward us.

Till then, let’s evaluate what we think of as the “Gospel”.  Have we sold the Gospel short by eliminating the bad news?

Baby Dedication versus Infant Baptism

This Sunday we will be celebrating Baby Dedication at our church.  While this may be a familiar tradition to many, to others it may not be something that they have ever seen.  Regardless of what we have seen in our respective pasts, it is important for us to understand why we do what we do (lest we become guilty of meaningless liturgy – going through the motions with no real understanding of why – which is empty religion).

For that reason, I’d like to explain why we celebrate baby dedication as opposed to the baptism of babies.

First of all, there are a couple of views of baptism that we need to consider.  The first is

the practice of paedobaptism – the baptism of infants.  This tradition is often misunderstood by the evangelical church that practices believer’s baptism, because often we confuse the Presbyterian view with the Roman Catholic view.

The Roman Catholic view teaches that infant baptism saves or regenerates the baby by infusing saving grace into the soul of the infant, which in turn washes away original sin without any faith on the part of the baby.

On the other hand, Presbyterian infant baptism has to do with God’s covenant relationship with Christian families.  In this view, baptism does not have any regenerating benefits.  Further, it also does not mean that every baby who is baptized will be necessarily saved.  Salvation is still by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, apart from any works of man (including baptism).

The second view of baptism, and the one which we affirm here at NewBranch, is that baptism is a sign that one has come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, baptism is for those who have an understanding of their salvation and are publicly professing their faith before the Lord and the congregation.  As they are immersed they are illustrating their death, burial and resurrection as a new creature in Christ, which has come to them by faith through grace.  This is called credo-baptism.

Since the view of baptism we affirm requires a baptism candidate to demonstrate individual faith in Jesus Christ, and since babies are not developmentally able to do so, we do not baptize babies.  Instead, we prefer to celebrate a child’s entrance into a Christian family with whom God has a covenant relationship, by allowing those parents to dedicate their children in a Baby Dedication service.  In this service, parents are in essence saying to the Lord:

We understand Lord, that our child has been given to us by You as a precious gift, but we recognize our inability to raise this child as You would ultimately desire, so we present our children to You and ask that You would bless, protect, provide for, and save our child – and guide and lead us as parents to raise them in a home that is pleasing to You and glorifies Your name.

The foundation of both the Presbyterian view of infant baptism as well as our view of baby dedication is the covenant. In fact, the covenant is the basis of all of God’s dealings with man.  It is the basis of all that God has done, is doing, and will do in time and on earth. Nothing can be understood rightly apart from an understanding of God’s covenant with man. The covenant is the means by which man has communion with God. It is a living bond between God and man wherein God pledges to be our God and claims us to be His people. The common formula by which God describes this relationship is, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”

At NewBranch Community Church we believe that children of believers have a special place in the covenant community. We read in Psalm 127:3 ‘Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him.’   And then Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Children are indeed special gifts from the Lord and are highly valued by Him.  God certainly saves His elect as individuals – one at a time – but little children are a part of something bigger – the family – and the family is to be a part of something bigger – the local church or covenant community – and the covenant community at NewBranch is a part of something even bigger – the universal church of Jesus Christ – the Body of Christ.

Together for the Gospel Conference: Top 5 Highlights

In no particular order…

1. The Singing
Worship through song consisted of Bob Kauflin, a piano, and 7,000 people. We sang some of my favorite hymns including My Hope is Built (The Solid Rock), It is Well, And Can it Be That I Should Gain, and more.

We also sang some songs that I am less familiar with. My favorites being All I Have is Christ (FREE DOWNLOAD) by Jordan Kauflin and a hymn by John Newton called I Asked the Lord.

2. Teaching
This is a given. To sit under the teaching (9 General Sessions and a Breakout Session) of Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Thabiti Anyabwile, John MacArthur, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, and Matt Chandler was a huge blessing to my soul and thousands of others. I’ll be processing my 22 pages of notes over the next couple of months.

***All of the mp3s will be available for FREE at t4g.org

3. Books
By the end of the conference we each had 20 free books! Not to mention the book store fully stocked with gospel-centered materials at discounted prices. This was another encouraging example of the desire to know Christ in a deeper way.

4. People
The four of us (Ken, Tyler, Andy, and myself) had some great times of fellowship over meals, in our hotel rooms, and with new friends. Simply being around others who have a passion for the gospel can greatly encourage a minister.

5. C.J. Mahaney
My most specific highlight is C.J.’s address to ‘Ordinary Pastors’ during the final session yesterday. We had just sat through session after session of solid teaching from some of the most gifted pastors and teachers in the church today.  He humbly reminded us that most pastors aren’t unusually gifted.

We are ordinary pastors. But that’s ok because our task to preach the gospel in and out of season (2 Timothy 4) is an extraordinary one.

Mahaney shared a quote from Charles Spurgeon that is an encouragement to all Christians in their preaching of the gospel

Wesley and Whitfield may preach the gospel better than I do but they can never preach a better gospel.”

Lord willing, I will attend Together for the Gospel again in 2012. You should too!


Why A Conference About The Gospel?

This week, I am at a conference in Louisville, Kentucky.  I brought my staff (Tyler and Kevin, also blog contributors here), as well as my good friend Andy.  The four of us are gathering with about 7,000 of our friends to learn about and celebrate the Gospel.  Three days of messages about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The question is, why?

Why would pastors from all over the country gather to talk about something as simple as the Gospel.?  Is there something more to the Gospel message that we don’t know about; is there some special insight that will take three days to unearth?  Why do we need to spend so much time talking about it?  What do we need to say about the gospel that couldn’t be said in one 15 minute message?

These are valid questions.  After all, the gospel really is simple.  It is not a complicated message.  It’s the message about a good and loving God who created man for His glory.  Man destroyed that relationship with God through his rebellious sin.  That good and loving God who cannot allow sinful man into His presence, sent His Son Jesus Christ to be a substitutionary sacrifice for those who would respond to Him through believing faith and repentance of sins.  That’s the gospel, short and simple.  Not complicated.

So why a three day conference?

A conference of this nature is so vitally important to the church today, because the church today has departed from this simple gospel, and has replaced it with what can be called an “adjusted gospel”.  The church of today is confronted with a prevailing culture that is vastly different from that of previous ages.  In light of the prevailing culture, today’s church is caught in a predicament of trying to relate timeless Biblical truths to an increasingly skeptical culture.  Inevitably, the divide between faithful proclamation and cultural relevance tempts the church to head down a number of dangerous trajectories that could lead to an “adjustment” of the gospel.  Tonight, Dr. Al Mohler (president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) explained 8 of these trajectories.  I’d like to comment on just one of them (potentially returning to this in the future to comment on others).

The Pragmatic Trajectory – This is where we begin to value pragmatism over orthodox Christianity.  It happens when the hard truths of the Biblical Gospel are sacrificed on the altar of “whatever works”.  Foundational to this trajectory is the assumption of an unbiblical definition of success (see previous posts here), and then building on that foundation by utilizing the bricks and mortar of “whatever works”.  If “success” is large numbers, then whatever works to bring in the most number of people is what will be valued.  If “success” is making lost people feel good, then whatever works to eliminate “bad feelings” will be what we value.  It’s not too difficult to see that valuing the pragmatic can lead to dangerous cutting of corners in our theology, and cutting corners theologically is tantamount to adjusting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This pragmatic trajectory is attractive to many pastors, especially those of us who(like myself), are prone to “managerialism”.  This works for us because usually it involves things we can measure and evaluate tangibly.  We can pull out our charts and graphs and statistics and we can gauge if whether or not what we are doing is “working”.  The danger of this trajectory is that if we have been given a Biblical mandate to preach a particular Gospel as outlined on the pages of Scripture, and if doing this is not “working” (according to our man-made arbitrary definition of “working”), then we may tempted to abandon the unadjusted gospel in favor of one that will “work”.

This is happening all around us, and all over twenty-first century Christianity….and it is tarnishing the display of God’s glory among the nations through the church.

So, spending these three days clarifying and celebrating the true Gospel, is absolutely critical to maintaining the faithful testimony of the church in our day.  Will you pray for us…that we will listen, learn, and be equipped to faithfully proclaim an “unadjusted gospel”?