Friday, February 24, 2017

The Shack; A Microcosm of Evangelicalisms' Immaturity: A Brief Analysis of Where This Problem Stems From.

American evangelicals today often flock to churches that offer "relevant, creative, and practical" Bible teaching. On the surface this sounds like a good thing, right? Many of these same "church growth" gurus promote "seeker-friendly" series such as "Finding God in the movies" and other topical messages in hopes of attracting large crowds and holding the interest of the audiences entertainment orientated minds. When books of the Bible are actually "exposited" in worship services it is generally done in a very surfacy manner. I often refer to this as "shallow, evangelical principlizing."  What's wrong with any of this Mr. blogger dude?  To which I say this...if the primary goal of a local church is to fill auditoriums and establish multi-site campuses under the banner of ministry success then this consumer-driven, market-savvy approach makes complete sense.  However, if the goal of Christian ministry is to make "mature disciples" of all the nations, as Jesus' states in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), then the American church is in serious crisis.

One of the problems with "church growth" methodology is that it often promotes a kind of topical (surfacey) preaching, which by definition, lacks theological depth and precision (see 2 Timothy 4:1-5). It is "evangelical lite" (see Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Over time congregations that are regularly fed milk fail to truly grow up; which is no small problem (see Colossians 1:28-29). Without a solid understanding of the orthodox faith (i.e. doctrine and theology) the flock of God will not learn how to discern.  Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4:11-16; And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Given enough time this unbiblical approach to preaching and ministry always come back to haunt the Christian church.

A perfect example of this is the best-selling book "the Shack."  When books and movies like this are published infant evangelicals and untaught church CEO's purchase and promote various heresies and half-truths assuming that what they are reading/watching/promoting is sound orthodoxy. Paul says these Christians are like children "tossed around like waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming."

One of the most common criticisms that is often made against doctrinal, Text-driven, (meaty) expository preaching is that it is just not relevant.  Who cares about the intricacies of the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ, the extent and intent of the atonement, the in's and out's of church discipline, the particulars of sovereign grace, etc, etc.  Though very few American churchgoers would actually post this on Instagram they certainly demonstrate this belief in where they choose to attend church and in the Christian books they purchase and promote.   As one who has lived in many different states (Wisconsin, California, Washington, Florida, Indiana, and Illinois) I can tell you this way of thinking stretches from coast to coast.

In 1 Timothy 3:15 the Holy Spirit calls the true Church to be "the pillar and buttress of the faith."  Jude says believers must "contend earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3) lest we lose our common salvation in Christ (Jude 4-18).  The apostles of Christ command believers to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" and to "hold on to that which is true" and to reject anything that is false.  Sadly, being a noble-minded Berean (Acts 17:11) today is viewed as a liability and/or as a hindrance to real ministry.  Jesus words in Matthew 7:1-6 on casting (proper) judgment is taken out of context in order to justify "mile wide and inch deep" Churchianity.

Spurgeon was spot on when he said, "Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right ." "That is both simple and profound. The devil likes to mix his lies with just enough of the truth to make it look plausible. We rarely fall for the out and out bald-faced lie, but those half-truths can be so deceptive."

In his article on "Why I won't be watching (or reviewing) the Shack (movie)" Tim Challies writes,
"The Shack presents God in human flesh. It makes the infinite finite, the invisible visible, the omnipotent impotent, the all-present local, the spiritual material. In its visual portrayal of God it diminishes, it obfuscates, it blasphemes, it lies. Even though I would watch the film to help others interpret it and to bring correction to error, I would still be subjecting myself to a false, blasphemous portrayal of God. I cannot allow myself to watch it even for that purpose. I cannot and will not watch or review it."
It's time for the financially prosperous American Church to take off their spiritual pampers and to put their big boy pants on.  After all the goal of every Word-centered ministry "is to present every believer MATURE in Christ" (Col. 1:28-29).  "To this end we toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within" us.

For helpful reviews of "The Shack" see Tim Challies- Why I Won’t Be Seeing (or Reviewing) The Shack Movie

Or Dr. Al Mohler's- The Missing Art of Christian Discernment-the Shack

For a more thorough analysis of this larger problem see John MacArthur's, Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses It's Will to Discern.