The Biblical Paradigm but Upside Down

As pointed out in the last post, we have a clear and fairly well defined model for the presentation of the Gospel in the life of our Lord and His Apostles, as presented in Scripture. The scriptural presentation does not contain any proposition that the models presented will grow insufficient or ineffective over time. It also does not state nor imply that further development by men is either desirable or intended. In fact, Scripture tends to imply that movement in this direction will be a sign of error. There is no mandate for any fundamental departure from the paradigm.

Now to the upside down part. Let us have a peek at what we hear from the church pulpit. We will take it at face value.

Basic one-on-one evangelism is often encouraged in words. However, it is not cited as a tenant of the faith. However, since it is prescribed in Scripture, it sure is just that. It is usually excused with the statement that many are not suited by personality, temperament or demeanor to be able to participate. In human terms this is indeed valid, but there is no provision is Scripture releasing any believer from responsibility in this area. Did not the Lord create each believer uniquely as they are, yet not release them from this responsibility? At the very least, all are responsible to educate themselves as needed to appreciate the task, participate as the situation might be present by the Spirit, and support it as they can. This sort of education does not happen by chance, and it is rare at best in today’s churches beyond cursory lip service.

The growth of the church has gained massive significance in many congregations. Congregational growth is erroneously construed to be synonymous with growth in the body of believers. The presentation of attractive church programs requires ever increasing resources, and an increasing congregation size is needed to provide (fund) these. Although some of these programs may contribute to true evangelism, they are a very costly solution and more that anything else they contribute to church organizational growth and support. That is a completely different matter, and is only peripherally related to presentation of the Gospel.

Next, to stimulate growth it is assumed that any effort at evangelism in today’s world requires that the church entice and entreat people to the congregation before they can be presented with the Gospel. They must be made to feel organizationally wanted and needed, impressed by great programs and fellowship, and made to feel that “this Christianity thing” (a direct quote) is something that they have to get in on. Then, it is proposed, can the Gospel be most effective and is the message most likely to be accepted. It may not be stated that bluntly but that is the message, as clear as day.

Let’s be blunt. This insipidly usurps the Sovereignty of God by implication and make the key factor in sufficiency to be the work and creation of men. This is error!

Harken back to our Lord’s model. Where is any of this? This is precisely upside down from what he did and what he modeled. This is subtle immersion in the world. This proposes that men must improve upon the Gospel for it to be effective. This implicitly proposed that the presentation, and at least part of the acceptance, of the Gospel is under the Sovereign control of man, and that the Lord and the Holy Spirit need help. This is exactly the sort of thing that the Scripture warn against in the coming ages before the end.

Too strong? I think not!

Now, is this proposing that a welcoming church is incorrect? Not at all. We are mandated to hospitality to all, especially fellow believers. Welcoming fellowship to all who come is very important and is in fact required of us as a body. Is there anything wrong with great programs, an attractive assembly and communication that speaks to the people of the time? Again, not at all. These are desirable and encouraging to all. However, this is not the primary mandate or model for us. It is peripheral. Because it has become primary, it is upside down, and all that stems from it is upside down.

Since the world of flesh can only beget the world and can only encourage the kingdom of the Prince of the Air, organizational growth bound in the techniques of the world must be likewise based there.

What is insufficient for evangelism based upon the paradigms, model and examples left for us by our Lord? What is it that justifies and mandates further development or strategic change by man or the church? In a word, nothing…

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One Response to “The Biblical Paradigm but Upside Down”

  1. cnaphan says:

    I think the main problem lies in the definition that passes for “conversion” and “evangelism” these days. It seems universally agreed upon that the point of “church” is to induce an intense, emotional state, which hopefully lasts until death. The saccharine hymns, the sermon, the altar call, all designed to produce an effect of dubious value. This trend, which seems to be carried to its extreme in older forms of Methodism and Revivalism, and modern Pentacostalism, seems to be assumed uncritically even in denominations which are traditionally known as resisting such trends, like Baptists. I’m not too familiar with Reformed history, outside of books and some anecdotal experience, but I don’t think it’s been that long since hymns were frowned upon, no?

    Anyways, in that milieu, it’s easy to see why A) church growth is viewed as important and B) doctrine is distasteful. Firstly, if your services are less emotionally potent than other denominations, you’re perceived as being “dead”, “not Spirit-filled”. Who wants that? People want to go to “lively” services, they want “good music”. If there’s hands waving and maybe some tears, all the better. Secondly, doctrine is bound to have less of an emotionally powerful effect, due to its nature. Who wants to put a crimp on people’s mirth with dusty old confessions, creeds, councils, etc…?

    Anyways, my conclusion is not so much that emotionalism is bad, but that we’ve lost our faculty to criticize that side, because it’s become so universal that we can’t conceive of actually doing things differently.

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