By Missionary Buddy Smith
Bring the Books
With a great deal of publicity the latest model oxcart has been unveiled. It has all the bells and whistles the modern churchgoer could wish for.
The styling is at the same time sleek, strong, and sensitive, appealing to teens, offroaders and grandpas.
It is available in fifteen new designer colours.
The headlights feature the very latest laser technology, guaranteed to dazzle anyone driving in the opposite direction.
The sound system pumps out enough decibels to flatten a city block just by playing a single Hillsong track.
The seats automatically adjust to fit anyone.
The windscreen has been replaced by a wide screen, high definition television with selected video clips provided by the dealer.
Every new oxcart is equipped with a GPS receiver/computer interfaced autopilot so that the driver can sit back and enjoy just being a passenger. This innovative feature means that he does no thinking at all. He can sleep at the wheel or talk on his mobile phone. The age of the spectator-driver has arrived.
The media reports that politicians worldwide have been taken for a ride in recent weeks and are effusive in their praise. In fact, many church members are being taken for a ride as well. The demand for the new oxcart is so great that the factories in California and Illinois have been forced to license suppliers from Hollywood, Nashville, and Wall Street, and have tapped several New Age speakers and writers to help them market the new vehicle. Best of all, the buyer gets a free Hawaiian shirt with every new oxcart purchased.
Oxcarts are nothing new to the students of Scripture. When the Philistines sent back the Ark of God (I Samuel 6), they used an oxcart and reluctant milk cows for transport. And when King David longed to bring the Ark to Jerusalem he first tried an oxcart. I have always wondered who suggested that. Was it lazy priests, hoping to avoid the long hike up the road to Jerusalem? Or did he have in his employ an enterprising adman who thought dusty priests were out of date and that the Ark would get more exposure in an oxcart? Or was it the king himself, forgetting that God had given detailed instructions for carrying the ark?
Is it important how the ark is carried? Are methods of service and ministry important to God? Almost the whole world, it seems, is shouting “NO! The methods are not important at all, only the message!” Oxcarts are all the rage, no doubt, but the clamorous proponents of oxcarts are forgetting two important facts. 1) It was the Philistines who came up with oxcarts to replace the servants of God. Pagan, idolatrous, blasphemous, murderous, unbelieving Philistines. It was not God’s plan at all. And 2), God’s blessing was not on King David’s use of an oxcart to bring up the ark to Jerusalem. The Scripture records that “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza and He smote him…and there he died before God” (I Chronicles 13:10) Oh, I know, someone will say the problem was really Uzza touching the ark when the oxen stumbled. But have you ever thought about the fact that Uzza would not have died if God’s appointed method had been used? God’s method was for the priests to carry the ark on their shoulders. A life lost, a worthy purpose delayed, worship turning to wailing because somebody had a “better” idea. The principle of the thing is really so simple. God uses people, holy people. People who love God and love sinners. People who preach the gospel. People who carry the burdens of ministry on their own shoulders. People, not Purpose Driven oxcarts. Not New Age oxcarts. Just people. In churches. Good churches.
The last two Bring the Books columns have dealt with seeker sensitive churches, and especially the Purpose Driven Church as promoted by pastor Rick Warren. For fundamentalists, these churches represent the oxcarts of the Philistines, 21st century oxcarts. We are being assured by Warren that fundamentalism is dead or dying and that the old methods no longer work. We are being told that the new oxcarts are God’s way of doing His work today, and that we should get on board. Fundamentalists have always believed that our methods are a vital part of our message.
Recently a dear brother in the Lord gave a book that reinforces this old truth. It is called The Saviour Sensitive Church and is co-authored by Dr. Paul Chappell and Dr. John Goetsch. Very simply, it is an expose’ of oxcarts and a defense of God’s methods for doing His work.
The book is short and to the point. The three divisions of the book contain seven or eight chapters that lay out clearly God’s answer to the seeker sensitive church. In the first chapter Bro. Goetsch identifies a foundational precept in seeker sensitive churches when he warns of post-modernism. Most of us are unfamiliar with the term. It simply means that the wise men (?) of the world now believe that we can no longer know what is true and what is not. Long ago men rejected the Bible as being Absolute Truth. Now they have also rejected the findings of science. 2 plus 2 no longer equals 4, unless that is true for you. If you prefer the answer to be 5, well, nobody can tell you that you are wrong. Bro. Goetsch describes truth as postmodernists see it as being “designer truth.” It is like the actor’s nose of wax, shaped any way they want it. This is the key to the errors of the Purpose Driven Church. Worship has become “designer worship,” adapted to the whims of each age group in the church. Music is no longer psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Now, it is “designer music.” You like Bluegrass? You like rap, or hip hop? You like New Age mood music? We can do it for you.
In contrast with the “designer truth” of the seeker sensitive church, Bro. Goetsch writes of “discovered truth.” Discovered truth is eternal truth, established truth, examined truth, enduring truth because it is God’s truth revealed in God’s Word and discovered by the believer.
Very simply, this is the difference between fundamental churches and seeker sensitive churches. Fundamental churches reject post-modernism with its designer truth, and cling to the Bible. No oxcarts for me, thank you! Seeker sensitive churches embrace post-modernism and reject truth as it is revealed in God’s Word. No absolutes, everything is relative.
Dr. Chappell seizes the baton and runs with it in the second division of the book. He compares two of the churches of the New Testament, the church in Laodicea and the church in Thessalonica. The church in Laodicea was a seeker sensitive, post-modern church long before Robert Schuller ever started training pastors to be men pleasers. The church in Thessalonica was a different story altogether. It had pure motives as did its founder. They had personal care combined with a powerful message. There was none of the deceptive use of the world’s music to draw the crowds, or the world’s marketing methods to promote its message. Integrity, not duplicity was the keyword in that church. Bro Chappell reminds the reader that it is to be God who tells the preacher what kind of church He wants, not the unsaved or the carnal church member.
In the last section of the book, Dr. Chappell describes the Saviour Sensitive Church. (Ah yes, that is what we want our churches to be!) A Saviour Sensitive Church is to be 1)Owned by the Saviour, not the community. It is not the “people’s church,” but the Lord’s. 2) It must have a biblical message. The author makes it very clear that this is much more than psychology with a few verses thrown in here and there. The gospel must be clear. The messages must confront sin and glorify Christ, not man. 3) The mission of the church will be to change the saints and send the saints. Sanctification and evangelism are interdependent. What a contrast this is with the modern churches which encourage attenders to be spectators, not participants. 4) And it must be motivated by the Word of God, by our love for Christ, and by the grace of God.
Dr. Chappell finishes the book with two chapters dealing with the Practice and the Reward of the Saviour Sensitive Church. He points out that the first areas to slip in a church are usually the music of the church, the methods of the church, and the youth of the church.
This is one of those books I wish every fundamental pastor could read. It would help every one of us resist the allurements of the siren voices all around us. It would help us refuse to use the Philistines’ oxcarts. God’s methods are still the best.
Bring the Books!
Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.