Remember how Jesus, when He came to earth as the Incarnate Son Of God, actually became a vile, depraved sinner so that He could adequately reach sinners in a relevant way with His Truth? Or that time the thrice-denying Peter answered Jesus’ thrice-offered query, “Do you love me?” in the negative, but only so he could do effective ministry among Jews who didn’t love Jesus either? Or how about that story of the post-Damascus Road Paul who decided to forsake his apostolic calling and return to living as a self-righteous pagan so that he could reach pagans with the Gospel?
Don’t recall any of these things? Hopefully, you don’t. I certainly don’t. But according to the “pastor” of the purpose gospel, Rick Warren, it’s this sort of Scripture-denying, command-disobeying tact believers must take in witnessing for the goal of church growth. The mega-church, mega-pastor – who obviously doesn’t focus on being “Mega-Scriptural” – touted this in a recent Pastors.com article, How To Understand How Unbelievers Think.
This stellar example of Biblical obtuseness on the part of Warren comes only days after the “quick, delete that” Tweet by his doctrinally-inept Saddleback Church.
Nice, huh? Just the perfect message to appeal to the post-modern, feelings first, experience seeking, “who are you to judge” mindset. It’s the ideal sort of seeker-friendly message that might bring in pagan crowds, and just in time for Easter, too. Surely they’ll think, “Wow! A church that doesn’t focus on ‘theology’ but is interested in ministry first! And you know what ‘ministry’ means? It means it’s all about me! It should really be called “Minister-ME!’ And, just like Saddleback says, it’s what Jesus did! Yaaay!”
Saddleback received duly-deserved social media scorn from many and subsequently deleted the tweet. But notice something. While they deleted the tweet, they didn’t comment on it. No apology was proffered. No explanation of “that’s not really what we meant.” No confession that it was inaccurate, inappropriate, and posted in error. No “we’re counseling the person who erroneously posted on our behalf.” In effect, Saddleback offered no visible expression of repentance for proclaiming an arguably blasphemous view of Jesus. But, that’s Saddleback, and that’s quite accurately the “other” Jesus of Saddleback. He’s one completely foreign to the pages of God’s Holy Word yet one who perfectly fits the “YOU-ology” touted by Warren.
But, a week or so after the “Jesus dissed theology” tweet, Warren came out with his “think like a pagan to witness to pagans” article. As with the deleted tweet, his article is an exercise in Biblical ignorance with more than a whiff of intentional Scriptural disregard – it includes not a single reference to Scripture, btw – but is replete with what an apostle would call the “wisdom of the world.” (1 Corinthians 3:19) It sounds more like it was written by a guy at the top of a get-rich-quick pyramidal marketing scheme than a guy genuinely concerned with obedience to, and proclamation of, the Truth of God in His Word. But then that does fit the Warrenology modus operandi, does it not?
Warren, who – I could imagine – drives around (or is chauffeured around) Southern California with a “Honk If You Love The Pope” bumper sticker in some eco-friendly, steward-the-environment, “this’ll attract the millennials” electro-car, initiates his article with a chiding of churches for their sufficiently offensive-to-the-unchurched advertising. After all, for Warren the pastoral sales mega-coach, church isn’t what Jesus is building (Matthew 16:18) – not a body comprised of authentic believers given Him by the Father (John 17:24) – it’s what you, too, can create if you’re savvy, committed to success, know your purpose, and “subscribe to my Build Your Own Mega-Church The Warren Way” training program.
Because I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, I think like a Christian. I don’t normally think like an unbeliever. Worse than that, I tend to think like a pastor, and that’s even further removed from an unbeliever’s mindset! That means I must intentionally change mental gears when seeking to relate to non-Christians.
If you look at most church advertising, it’s obvious that it was written from a believer’s viewpoint — not from the mindset of the unchurched.
When you see a church ad that announces, “Preaching the Inerrant Word of God,” what group of people do you think that ad appeals to? Certainly not to unbelievers!
How absolutely egregious! That a church, which is supposed to be made up of genuine, Spirit-regenerated believers, would dare cater to genuine, Spirit-regenerated believers! How appalling! What are they thinking? That’s no way to reach pagans, fill your pews (and your coffers), and build your non-profit, multi-campus empire for Geeeezzzzuusss.
No, no, no. Rick, you do not “think like a pastor,” at least not one that could be remotely identified by even the simplest New Testament attributes. (I’m thinking of “Preach the word” – 2 Timothy 4:2 – or “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” -Titus 2:1- for example.) Rick thinks he thinks like a pastor, but he promotes like a self-serving carnival barker on a late night infomercial. His theology-free Jesus is merely an example that confirms this. But, so far as those “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13) are concerned, Warren is at the pinnacle of the post-modern idea of “church.” If you want a “pastor” who’ll twist the Scriptures to make you feel good, grant you absolution for an offensive to Scripture, repeat after me prayer, and coddle you with a “no need to repent” message from his folded, spindled, and mutilated Bible, then Warren is your pope.
I’ve often heard pastors complain that unbelievers are more resistant to the Gospel today than in the past. I don’t think that is necessarily true. More often than not, resistance is just a response to poor communication.
The problem is that the message isn’t getting through. Churches need to stop saying that people are closed to the Gospel and start finding out how to communicate on their wavelength.
No matter how life-changing our message is, if we’re broadcasting on a different channel from the unchurched, it won’t do any good.
What? People are resistant to the Gospel? The message is not getting through? Folks are “closed to the Gospel,” despite how “life changing” it is? Really? How can this be? What do we do?
Fret not, because Warren the wonder Word-twister understands your problem. You need to “communicate on their wavelength.” You have to “broadcast” on the channel of the unchurched. You need to change channels, and for that, you have to change your message. (There’s a verse somewhere, I think, about tampering with God’s message … Oh, yes. Here are two. Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19 oughta suffice. Check them out on your own.)
The abide in my word believer (John 8:31) will understand immediately why the message isn’t being received. The dead can’t hear. They can’t see. They can’t answer a call. They can’t reach out for the life preserver. They can’t understand spiritual things. They are dead. And nobody’s knocking on the door of their dead hearts. But that’s just going by the Book. (See Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:14, for further details on being spiritually dead.)
To go by Warren’s book, though, altering the message is the super secret way to ensure post-modern mega-church success and is a surefire method to get pagan posteriors planted in your plush pews. And the way to do that? Think like a pagan.
How do you learn to think like unbelievers? Talk to them! One of the greatest barriers to evangelism is that most believers spend all their time with other Christians. They don’t have any non-believing friends. If you don’t spend any time with unbelievers, you won’t understand what they’re thinking.
Frankly, based on what comes out of Warren’s Saddleback bloviating, he’s one of the “greatest barriers to evangelism” himself. When you promote a false, it’s all about you Jesus, you’re touting an “other” gospel that doesn’t save and is apostolically anathematized. (Galatians 1:9) When you tell a believer to think like an unbeliever in order to reach the unbeliever, you’ve taken upon yourself the presumed ability to save.
But, Scripture makes pretty clear that “salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9) Even before the wrongly- conceived, “theology-dissing Jesus” of Saddleback’s deleted tweet archives became the incarnate Son of God, the last book of the Old Testament tells us that it is God who does the work of salvation. “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” Malachi 1:2
Telling a believer to think like an unbeliever flies in the face of not only the ministry of Jesus, of Peter, of Paul, and of the entirety of the New Testament, but it’s also usurping specific apostolic commands which instruct us otherwise. We are never told in Scripture to mimic the thought processes of the pagan, even if for the noble goal of witnessing to them. Instead, we are told “we have the mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16) to think on things above not on things below (Colossians 3:2), to hate the things of this world, which would certainly include the depraved “thinking” of the world (1 John 2:15) and, from Paul, we are even given a list of things to “think about,” (Philippians 4:8) none of which would land on the “top ten list of things pagans think about.” Telling believers to think like pagans is telling them to engage in sin.
We are told, commissioned, to proclaim a paradoxical Truth to the pagan – that God sacrificed His own Son to save man from God. We are to proclaim this “you must be born again” message (John 3:1-8) to the pagan whose spiritually darkened, dead soul cannot apprehend it – apart from the sovereign, illuminating, regenerating, faith-gifting work of God. He saves, we merely proclaim. We cannot so twist God’s Gospel to make a Jacob out of an Esau, but we are to faithfully proclaim the Gospel so that God can save the “Jacobs” He has chosen from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)
But, if you just want to build a super successful non-profit business enterprise wrongly called a “church,” following Warren’s “think like a pagan” marketing plan makes sense. The five points of Warren, which put the mega-church mogul on his own way to ecumenical stardom, are drawn from savvy marketing wisdom, not from Scriptural truth. Using Warren’s unbiblical methods may gain you a club member, but those souls will be not a step closer to the pearly gates.
“I began Saddleback Church by going door to door for 12 weeks and surveying the unchurched in my area. I wrote down in my notebook five questions I would use to start Saddleback:”
Warren’s five points for mega-church mega-growth to achieve evangelical glory isn’t remotely Biblical. In fact, doing a simple cut and paste maneuver to it would hardly cause one to think the questions were even about “church.” Replace the word “church” with “social club,” “country club,” “society,” “alliance,” or any other organizational community structure and the responses given would likely reflect a negligible difference. Why? Who wouldn’t want to go to a place that caters to their express needs, wants, and desires? But church ain’t Santa Claus and the unregenerate don’t need coddling; they need the Gospel.
But, by calling it “church,” it simply caters to fallen man’s innate need to worship and assuages his natural proclivity to be legalistic. I’m going to church so God’s gotta be happy. Such behavior may be culturally acceptable and superficially rewarding, but adherence to a false gospel doesn’t gain one points for glory. Instead, Scripture says those who do such things are “merely storing up wrath.” (Romans 2:5) Instead of hoping drops of Truth rub off on the legalistic, but unregenerate church goer, Christ has chosen to build His church by first saving souls. The Spirit-regenerated believer is given something that Warren’s method cannot provide, nor does it even ask for – genuine repentance and faith that is evidenced by fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and good works (James 2:17).
We don’t need to think like a pagan to share the Good News. While it will be summarily rejected by most – after all, the road is wide that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14) – the Gospel is the only mechanism by which God saves. (Romans 1:16) The proper goal for the believer – and for the church – is never numerical growth. The proper, biblical goal is faithfulness. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
But for Rick Warren, and those who promote his theology-dissing Jesus (this is a false Jesus …) and his unbiblical, market-driven, do-it-yourself, build-a-church techniques (and this is an unbiblical tactic), we have been given a simple, apostle-approved, command. “Avoid them.” (Romans 16:17-18)
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]
For more on the dangers of Rick Warren, see HERE.
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