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Church-Growth
 

Seeker Friendly, Church Growth Failures in The Bible

Carol Brooks

You, like every other human on the face of this planet, have one overwhelming, and stupendously important, need (whether “felt” or not), and that is ... to be forgiven for the sins you have already been condemned for, and released from the death sentence that you have already been sentenced to.

ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

INDEX
Introduction

Two Overlooked Facts
People Rarely, If Ever, Realize What Their Most Overwhelming Need Is
Christianity Already Offers The Unbeliever "Something They Cannot Get Anywhere Else"

Did Jesus' Really Start With People's "Felt Needs"?
If Not, What Was His Approach

Did The Early Apostles Start With People's "Felt Needs"?

Church Growth Failures in The Old Testament

Strategic Evangelism?
Why Was The Gospel First Preached Only To The Jews? Was it Strategic Evangelism as Rick Warren Says?

What Did James' Mean When He Talked About Taking Care of A Brother's Physical Needs?

Must Churches  Appeal To The Unchurched?

Temporary Revivals in The Old Testament
Can "Anyone" Be Won To Christ, Or Will Just A Remnant Be Saved?

Summary and Conclusion

 


Introduction
In his mega-seller book, The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren makes several statements, all centered around his belief that churches must appeal to the "felt needs" of the unchurched, offer them something they cannot get anywhere else, and thus "win them to Christ". (Note that the assumption that anyone unchurched is an unbeliever). In line with this, Warren believes that church advertising must be written from a non-believer's viewpoint.

And where does he get these ideas? According to him... the New Testament, which he says he has read "over and over"...

    "... studying it with 'church-growth eyes,' searching for principles, patterns, and procedures. The New Testament is the greatest church-growth book ever written. For the things that really matter, you can't improve on it. It's the owner's manual for the church... [1]

Therefore the secret to effective evangelism "to not only share Christ's message but to follow his methodology". According to him, Jesus modeled timeless principles of evangelism that will still work today if only we would apply them.

And what were these timeless principles?

According to Warren, Jesus' approach to preaching was to first "establish a beachhead for evangelism", often by asking the person what He could do for them. He met all their needs, including physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, and financial... and did not judge some of these needs to be more important than others.

Give or take, this is pretty much the viewpoint of seeker friendly churches everywhere. But the question is... is this true?

The answer is a short one.. It is not. I have no idea what book Rick Warren was reading with the words "new Testament" printed on the cover, but most 'seeker friendly' ideas are as far from New Testament methodology as heaven is from earth.

For example, the number of times Jesus asked someone what He could do for them has been wildly exaggerated. Jesus certainly healed people but, as an objective reading of the Gospels will show, He didn't start with anyone's "felt needs". Much to the contrary He consistently, and usually from the very outset of the conversation, emphasized the cost of discipleship, which often caused people to walk away. To say nothing of the rage He often provoked. And, as this article shows, the New Testament authors followed suit.

However, I would like to start with two simple yet, seemingly, overlooked facts...


1) People Rarely, If Ever, Realize What Their Most Overwhelming Need Is
Since most people, if they haven't actually murdered anyone, believe themselves to be "good" people who will eventually get to Heaven, they do not consider themselves in need of salvation, or a Savior. In light of which, hearing the Gospel is not, and never will be, one of their "felt needs". One has to wonder if the needs that people are aware of are being met, what will make them realize that they have a much larger, stupendously important, need... to be forgiven for the sins they have already been condemned for, and released from the death sentence that they have already been sentenced to.

In short the "felt needs" of the unregenerate is the determining factor in what the church does and says. This means the church is expending time and energy in order to attend to people's self-perceived needs, and putting what is really important... the proclamation of the Gospel, on the back burner.

And, yes, I certainly do understand that for a large number of people who live below the sustenance level, warm meals, adequate clothing, and a roof that doesn't leak may well sound far more attractive than eternal life. However Christianity does not offer only eternal life, but eternal life in the utopia everyone else only dreams of.


2) Christianity Already Offers The Unbeliever "Something They Cannot Get Anywhere Else".
Rick Warren says

    "The only way a church can capture the attention of the unchurched today is by offering them something they cannot get anywhere else.

    At Saddleback, we take seriously the task of meeting needs in Christ's name. That's what "ministry" is all about; meeting needs in Jesus' name. The first line of Saddleback's vision statement says, "It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the hopeless, the discouraged, the depressed, the frustrated, and the confused can find love, acceptance, guidance, and encouragement. Written into the bylaws of Saddleback Church is this sentence: "This church exists to benefit the residents of the Saddleback Valley by providing for their spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and social needs." Our objective is to minister to the total person. We do not limit our ministry to only the so-called "spiritual" needs. We believe God cares about every part of a person's life. People cannot be compartmentalized. Their needs spill over onto each other. [2]

There is little question that most people are more likely to listen to anything you have to say if you have established some form of rapport with them. If you have been kind to someone, helped them in some way, or just been a friend, they are very likely to be more receptive. However, although the need definitely outweighs the supply, there are many organizations, both religious and secular, that do a tremendous job of helping those in need, whether it is food, clothing, medical assistance, or 'how to potty train your toddler' classes. 

Christianity alone offers the unbeliever "something they cannot get anywhere else".

Why are we forgetting that when it comes down to it, virtually all humans have two things in common.

    1) Almost everyone is searching for a 'better life', if not a perfect one, Most people are constantly striving to make their living happier, healthier, and less difficult. We grasp at every shred of happiness we can find, but frequently find that it slips from our grasp, often through no fault of our own.

    2) No one wants to die. Through the centuries men have tried to penetrate the veil of death and find out what, if anything, lies beyond. Simply because our spirit rebels at the thought that no matter what we have accomplished in our seventy odd years here on earth, we are eventually going to become worm food. Fighting the inevitable, most humans will cling to the last shreds of life.... even if that life has been far from perfect.

The Gospel tells us how we can have both.... A perfect life minus the fear of ever dying. Eternal life in a sin/crime/disease/disaster free world is NOT an offer you will find anywhere else.

If that doesn't grab someone's attention, I am not sure what will.

The problem is that most salvation messages, which usually amount to little more than "Believe in Jesus Christ" or "receive Christ as your Savior", never seem to tell the person what it is they are saved from, and what they gain by being "saved". Additionally, although the Bible labors the point that God is good to those who trust, follow, and obey Him, both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God's wrath towards sinners. Yet we rarely seem to remind non-believers that they need saving from the wrath of the Father Himself. [See Salvation]

Bylaws? Seriously? And, as a by the way, bylaws are laws or rules governing the internal affairs of an organization. The church is supposed to be a group of believers who meet together to partake of the Lord's supper, and for mutual edification, encouragement, teaching and admonishment. The only reason the church needs by-laws, rather than the Holy Spirit led guidance of an elder, is because it has been turned into a hierarchal organization, controlled by those at the top of the chain. The church was never intended to become what it is today.... a formal institution run by paid professionals who make the rules and officiate at services, which are a spectator event for everyone else. See The Church... Then and Now.


Did Jesus' Really Start With People's "Felt Needs"?
Rick Warren says

      "People crowded around Jesus because he met their needs - physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, and financial. He did not judge some needs as being " more legitimate" than others, and he certainly did not make people feel guilty for their needs.  He treated each person with dignity and respect.

    Jesus often met a felt need in order to establish a beachhead for evangelism in a person's life. I pointed out earlier that Jesus frequently asked people, "what do you want me to do for you?" God use all kinds of human needs to get people's attention.  Who are we to judge whether persons interest in Christ is for the right reason or the wrong reason?  It doesn't matter why people initially come to Jesus, what matters is that they come. He can work on their motives, values, and priorities once they enter his presence....

    It is my deep conviction that anybody anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the felt needs to his or her heart. That key to each person's heart is unique so it is sometimes difficult to discover. It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person's felt needs. As I pointed out earlier, this was the approach Jesus used... Before you can share the Good News of salvation with someone, you have to get his or her attention".... [2]

In another chapter, Warren added (Emphasis Added)

    Today "preaching to felt needs" is scorned and criticized in some circles as a cheapening of the gospel and a sell-out to consumerism. I want to state this in the clearest way possible: Beginning a message with people's felt needs is not some modern approach invented by 20th century marketing! It's the way Jesus always preached. It's based on the theological fact that God chooses to reveal himself to man according to our needs! Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with many examples of this." [3]

Rick Warren claims that it is his deep conviction that "anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the felt needs to his or her heart", and this was "the approach Jesus used".

But is this true....

We will have to carefully scrutinize the New Testament to see if this is the "way Jesus always preached". However, let us first examine Warren's statement that Jesus "frequently" asked people what they wanted Him to do for them.


What Do You Want Me To Do For You?
There seem to be only four recorded instances of Jesus asking someone this question and, in spite of minor discrepancies in the text, it is a strong possibility that three of the passages refer to the same incident.

Incident 1) The first time we come across these words, is when two of His disciples came to Jesus asking Him if one of them could sit on His left, and the other on His right in the coming kingdom. Please note that their request was not granted. Instead they were told that they did not have any idea what would be involved in that request and, in any case, what they wanted was not Jesus' to give.

    James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You." And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. "But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." [Mark 10:35-40 NASB]

Incident 2, 3 and 4?) The tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark relates the incident of a blind man outside Jericho who would not be hushed, but kept calling out to Jesus "Son of David" to have mercy on him. Jesus asked the beggar what He could do for him, and hearing that the blind man wished to regain his sight, Jesus healed him. Note the same incident is repeated in Luke 18:35-43, except that Luke said the healing occurred as Jesus was 'approaching' Jericho.

    Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they *called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you." Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. [Mark 10:46-52 NASB]

Matthew however, tells of two blind men whom Jesus healed outside Jericho. Matthew also says that Jesus touched them, which was not the case in the other healing.

The question of how many blind men is a subject that had been brought up and discussed frequently... often used to 'prove' the unreliability of the Gospels. However that is not our concern here. [If you wish to read more about the alleged discrepancy, please go HERE, but remember I am recommending one article, not necessarily the entire site].

Regardless of how many blind men Jesus healed, and where he did so, the fact remains that there is no evidence that Jesus "frequently" asked people what He could do for them. (unless, of course someone understands "frequently" to mean more than once). The Gospels indicate that He did so only twice, and possibly three times, and on one occasion the request was not granted..

So let's examine how Jesus handled most people He came in touch with.


Jesus' Approach... As Related in The Gospels
Luke 4:25-29
Jesus was brought up in Nazareth and, more than likely, knew, and was known by, everyone in the town.

However, one Sabbath, after He read from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus, anticipating that the people would ask Him to work the same miracles in Nazareth as He had done in Capernaum, told those assembled that no prophet was welcome in his hometown (Vs. 16-23). He then went on to say (Emphasis Added)

    "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. [Luke 4:25-29 NASB]

In other words... to use an expression of our day, Jesus basically said "not going to happen".

From Jesus' example of how, in the past, God had showed more favor to one Gentile than to many Jews in the same circumstances, the Jews understood that they would not be the recipients of His miracles, and the Gentiles were going to be somehow favored.

It seems quite clear that not only did Jesus refuse to attend to the needs of the people of Nazareth, but nothing He said could be considered friendly, considering they immediately tried to kill Him.
 

Luke 14:25-28
Luke also tells us of an occasion when "large crowds" (the KJV says "great multitudes") were following Jesus.

Rick Warren says "It doesn't matter why people initially come to Jesus, what matters is that they come. He can work on their motives, values, and priorities once they enter his presence.." [2] Which means that if Rick Warren were right, Jesus should have encouraged the crowd, and and worked on their "motives, values, and priorities" later. Even a cursory reading of the account shows that this is not what happened.

    Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? "Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. [Luke 14:25-33 NASB]

Unfortunately, for Warren's theory, the first thing Jesus did was to tell the "great multitude" they would have to completely rearrange their priorities. To become a disciple of Jesus meant their relationship with Him would have to take precedence over all other human relationships and all their possessions. He then went on to warn the crowd that they needed to first count the cost of following Him, before they made the decision to do so.

Very clearly, in complete opposition to what Warren teaches, from the very outset Jesus made it clear that He did not want on-lookers or casual followers, but dedicated disciples, who were aware that discipleship came at a very high price. He did not want them to commit themselves to a course they would never complete.

In fact, Jesus' words were, if anything, even stronger in Matthew 10 when He called, commissioned, and instructed His twelve disciples. After giving them authority over unclean spirits, and empowering them to heal disease and sickness, Jesus warned them to expect persecution, then added...

    "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. [Matthew 10:34-38 NASB]
     

Mark 10:17-25
Perhaps the most telling example is found in the tenth chapter of Mark (also Matthew 19).

    As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. "You know the commandments, 'do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [Mark 10:17-25 NASB]

Note several things in the above verses .... The young man obviously had great respect for Jesus because he came running and knelt before Him. He asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life, telling Jesus that he had kept all the commandments from his youth. Jesus' reply was the young man only lacked one thing... He needed to sell all he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus.

Please note carefully what Jesus actually said. Especially considering the fact that Jesus actually loved the young man, one would imagine that He would have been satisfied with the fact that the young man kept all the commandments, and came to Him for guidance in how to obtain eternal life. Surely He should have been happy to count this young man as one of His followers, and work on his "motives, values, and priorities" in time.

Quite to the contrary, Jesus immediately zeroed in on the one thing the young man lacked.. the fact that his treasure was in his earthly possessions, which he was not willing to give up.

According to modern thinking, I guess Jesus just blew it... especially when the young man, although saddened, went away, and Jesus let him go


John 6
In the early days of His ministry, after He fed five thousand with five loaves, and two fishes (Vs 5-13), the crowd, believing Jesus was "truly the Prophet who is to come into the world" (Vs 14) followed Him to Capernaum, where they asked Him how they "may work the works of God" (Vs 28).

But after listening to Jesus' discourse on Him being the bread of life from heaven, the Jews, including many of His disciples, began to grumble among themselves saying "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" [John 6:60]. Not only, as verse 66 says, did many of His disciples withdraw and did not walk with Him anymore, but John goes on to say [Emphasis Added]

    After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. [John 7:1 NASB]


Summary
Jesus didn't take a poll to determine what the Jews in the community were looking for. He made no effort at all to water down His message to avoid offending unchurched Harry and Mary. He didn't keep it light and He didn't make it fun, and there is no evidence of Him appealing to people's felt needs.

So why did Jesus perform miracles? While there is no question that some healing took place simply because Jesus had immense compassion for the suffering, and often went out of His way to heal... most of the miracles He performed were to done to authenticate His message and mission. To show that He was indeed the Messiah. Jesus Himself declared his miracles to be evidence he had come from God, and was God.

    "The works which the Father has given Me to finish the very works that I do  bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me"  (John 5:36).

For Details See Authenticating The Coming of The Messiah and The Advent of the Kingdom

For the most part, Jesus largely focused what was really important... a persons soul

    "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? [Matthew 16:26 NASB]

And, over and over again, warned that it would be no easy matter. Jesus commanded those who would follow Him to count the cost of following Him before they decided to do so, because they would have to

    Deny themselves [Luke 9:23-24]

    Daily take up their crosses and follow Him [Luke 9:23-24]

    Be willing to give up their worldly possessions [Mark 10:21-22]

    Be willing to die for His sake [Matthew 10:34-39]

Besides which many, if not most of His messages were also very inflexible ... Anyone who denied Him before men, would be denied by Him before His Father in heaven, and evildoers would be thrown into the furnace of fire [Matthew 13: 37-42] etc.

In fact, not only does it seem that Jesus didn't take along His copy of the Purpose Driven Church, on the dusty roads of Israel, He can be counted (by modern standards) as one of biggest church growth failures of all time.


Did The Apostles Start With People's "Felt Needs"?

John The Baptist
Let's start with the man who paved the way for the Messiah... John the Baptist, about whom Jesus said there

    ".. among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! .... [Matthew 11:11 NASB]

Does anyone remember that John the Baptist took one look at the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to to be baptized, and calling them "offspring of vipers", and asked them who had warned them to flee from the wrath to come?

In fact he didn't stop there, but warned them not to take false comfort in the fact that they had Abraham for a father, which would not save them, since that all trees did not bring forth good fruit would be cut down and burned. They needed to repent.

    Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [Matthew 3:5-10 NASB]


The Twelve Disciples
When Jesus summoned the twelve disciples and sent them out in pairs, Mark tells us that they, echoing John the Baptist's unfriendly message, preached that men should repent...

    They went out and preached that men should repent. [Mark 6:12 NASB]

There is absolutely no record of them attending to the "felt needs" of the population, nor getting their attention by other means.

Peter on Pentecost
In fact Peter's message to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost was rather accusatory. (Emphasis Added)

    "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. [Acts 2:22-23 NASB]

    "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified." [Acts 2:36 NASB]

He then went on to urge them to repent and be saved from a perverse generation... words that certainly had an effect on three thousand people in the crowd who were immediately baptized

    And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. [Acts 2:40-41 NASB]

Nor did Peter seem to tone his message down over time...


Peter on Solomon's Porch
In Acts 3, Peter and John met a man who had been lame from birth, and who was set down at the temple gate every day to beg. He asked them for alms but, instead, miraculously received the use of his legs. He then joyously entered the temple with the two disciples, walking and leaping and praising God.

Amazed at this miracle done to someone they were all familiar with, the Jews gathered around the man who was clinging to Peter and John. Peter's first words to the crowd echoed His sermon on Pentecost. He said (note the parts I have emphasized)

    But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; [Acts 3:12-19 NASB]

Peter then got even more direct.

    "Moses said, 'the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 'And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' [Acts 3:22-23 NASB]


Paul At The Areopagus in Athens
When Paul was in Athens, the Bible tells us that his spirit was provoked at the city full of idols. Consequently he daily reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue, and with God-fearing Gentiles in the market place. As a result some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, wondering what the new teaching was which Paul was proclaiming, took him to the Areopagus (near the Acropolis in Athens, which functioned as the high Court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases). However as the Bible tells us, it was also where Athenians and visitors used to spend their time telling or hearing something new.

While it is more than likely that Luke has recorded but a mere summary of Paul's discourse, it is obvious that his speech was calm, dignified, and respectful. It was also very direct. Although he did not denounce the Athenians but gave them the essential principles of the nature of God and Christian theology, he very quickly got to the heart of the matter... (Emphasis Added)

    "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." [Acts 17:30-31 NASB]

It didn't take Paul long to warn the Athenians to repent, or face the judgment. And, as usual, a few believed and became followers, including someone presumed to be one of the judges in the Areopagus. (Emphasis Added)

    But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [Acts 17:34 NASB]


Church Growth Failures in The Old Testament
Since 2 Peter 2:5 says that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness", it is possible that Noah spoke to the public about God's impending judgment. But, if he did, all his efforts fell on deaf ears, since no one but him and his immediate family were saved from the flood.

Note that when Jesus said that until the day that Noah entered the ark, the people around him did not understand until the flood came and took them all away [Matthew 24:38-39], His words do not exactly indicate whether the people of Noah's day were not forewarned about the coming judgment, or that Noah did warn them and they simply ignored him. In either case it is certain that the timing of the flood took them by surprise, as will Jesus' second coming.

    "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. NASB


Jeremiah
Apart from Jesus, perhaps the greatest failure of all time (by Church Growth standards) was the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah is considered one of the "major" prophets, because he was one of the most prolific of the Old Testament prophets, writing both the book that bears his name and the book of Lamentations. Additionally, although one cannot be dogmatic, traditional Jewish scholarship has long identified the prophet Jeremiah as being the author of 1 and 2 Kings.

He was a young man of undeniable courage... the last prophet that God sent to preach to the southern kingdom of Judah, a kingdom that was rapidly hurtling towards its rendezvous with judgment. Jeremiah was called to tell the nation that unless they repented and turned from their evil ways (among many other things they were sacrificing their own children in the valley of the son of Hinnom), God would give their lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon [27:6]. and send them into exile.

    Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds. [Jeremiah 26:3 NASB]

Yet, from the point of view of church growth, Jeremiah was probably one of the most unsuccessful prophets/preachers in the Bible. No other Old Testament prophet suffered opposition from false prophets, and persecution from virtually everyone else, as did Jeremiah, who never even once saw any real changes in the stubborn, idolatrous people he was preaching to. His mission lasted around 40 years, spanning the reigns of the last five kings of Judah, and extending into the first years of the Babylonian captivity. Yet in all this time his people whom he loved and with whom he unceasingly pleaded with for years, continually refused to listen to him. Instead, Jeremiah's constant warning of judgment seemed to do little but anger the people, who rewarded his efforts with rejection and persecution. For example...

    When, according to the Lord's instructions Jeremiah stood in "the courts of the Lord's house" and said the words that the Lord commanded him to speak, that if they did not heed the Lord, and walk in His law, He (God) would make the temple like Shiloh and the city a "curse to all the nations of the earth" [Jeremiah 26:2-7], the priests and officials of the land wanted to have him executed, a fate he was saved from by one man [Vs. 24].

    The king burned a scroll of Jeremiah's prophecies, and commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch be seized, but the Lord hid them (36:26).

    Jeremiah was later accused of trying to defect to the Chaldeans and was beaten and jailed (37:11-15).

    When Jeremiah prophesied that the city will certainly be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and that the person who stayed behind in the city would  die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans will live [Jeremiah 38:2-3], the officials wanted him put to death and had him thrown into a cistern of mud [Vs. 38: 4-6]. Jeremiah would have died there, had he not been rescued by Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian eunuch in the king's palace who convinced the king that Jeremiah must not be allowed to die, then subsequently oversaw the rescue (38:7-13).

Much of the book of Jeremiah can be described as a lament about the refusal to turn from their sins, and the tragic fate that awaited them if they did not do so. In fact the English word "jeremiad," defined as "a prolonged lamentation or complaint" [4] or "a literary work or speech expressing a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom"  [5] comes from the prophet.


Why Was The Gospel First Preached Only To The Jews? Was it Strategic Evangelism as Rick Warren Says?
According to The Purpose Driven Church

    The secret of effective evangelism is to not only share Christ's message but to follow his methodology. I believe Jesus gave us not only what to say but also how to share it. He gave us a strategy. He modeled timeless principles of evangelism that still work today if we'll apply them.

    Matthew 10 and Luke 10 and two revealing accounts of Jesus' strategy for targeted evangelism. Before Jesus sent out his disciples to evangelize, he gave them specific instructions about whom they were to spend their time with, whom they were to ignore, what they were to say, and how they were to share it." [6]

He goes on to say that there isn't enough space for a detailed exposition of all the instructions Jesus gave, so he would "identify five fishing guidelines for evangelism found in Jesus' instructions to his disciples", around which principles they have built Saddleback's "evangelism strategy". The first of the five principles Warren mentions is " know what you are fishing for". He says

    When Jesus sent his disciples out on their first evangelistic campaign, he defined the target very specifically: they were to focus on their own countrymen. " These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel". (Matthew 10: 5-6). They may have been several reasons Jesus narrowed the target, but one thing is certain: he targeted the the kind of people the disciples were most likely to reach - people like themselves. Jesus was not being prejudiced, he was being strategic.  As I mentioned in chapter nine, Jesus defined the disciples target so they'd be effective, not in order to be exclusive. [6].

Let me refresh the reader's memory about something Rick Warren said about how He read the New Testament. In his words...

    I have read it over and over, studying it with 'church-growth eyes,' searching for principles, patterns, and procedures. [1]

And therein lies the problem.

When we read the Scriptures, we have to be make sure we are reading objectively. That we are not trying to read pre-conceived idea into the words, nor looking for something we are hoping to find, but letting them speak for themselves. In other words, we cannot to go to the Scriptures to find support for what we have already decided to believe. Perhaps, if Warren had not gone to the New Testament with "'church-growth eyes,' searching for principles, patterns, and procedures", but simply let the words dictate their own tone and their own message, he may have come away with a very different viewpoint. One that was not colored by pre-existing ideas, or thoughts.

Instead, he took every verse, every incident, and every word, that could be twisted into 'proving' his theories, patted himself on the back because the New Testament 'supported' his ideas, and then set himself to convincing as much of the Christian world as possible that his ideas were Biblical.

I cannot go into all five of his "fishing guidelines for evangelism" which supposedly are found in Jesus' instructions to his disciples, but can only focus on the fact that Jesus told the disciples to only take the Gospel to their own countrymen.

According to Warren, this was because Jesus was being "strategic". He defined a target for the disciples, not to be exclusive, but so they would be effective.

This is as far from the truth as one can get


"Strategy" or Privilege of the Firstborn?
From the very beginning of the Bible, we read that it was the Jews that God chose for the most important event in the history of man.

1)They Brought Forth The Messiah
The Messiah had to be born somewhere, and it was the Jews who were chosen to bring forth the Messiah who was to be the light to the nations, and the salvation of the world...

    "I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, [Isaiah 42:6 NASB]

    And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." [Isaiah 49:5-6 NASB]

    "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. "For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. "Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. [Isaiah 60:1-3 NASB]

As Jesus told the Samaritan woman

    "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. [John 4:22 NASB]

Matthew was quoting Isaiah 9:1-2 when he said

    and leaving Nazareth, He (Jesus) came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles-- "the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned." [Matthew 4:13-16 NASB]

 Note: The Messiah is often called the "light" and the "light of the world". See John 1:4-5, John 8:12, John 9:5, John 12:35-36, Revelation 21:23 and, finally, John 3:19-21

2) God Made a Covenant With Them
Therefore God made a covenant with Abraham and told him that it would be by his descendants (the Jews) that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed

    "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." [Genesis 22:18 NASB]

    "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; [Genesis 26:4 NASB]

3) The Jews Were Adopted As Sons Of God
It was the nation of Israel that was entrusted with the Law, the temple, and the promises, which gave them an advantage... to them belonged the adoption as sons

    Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. [Romans 3:1-2 NASB]

    I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. [Romans 9:1-5 NASB]

4) The Nation Of Israel Was The First Born...The Gentiles Were Adopted Much Later

    "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. [Exodus 4:22 NASB]

    "You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. [Deuteronomy 14:1-2 NASB]

    "With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn." [Jeremiah 31:9 NASB]

    When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. [Hosea 11:1 NASB]

In other words, it was the Israelites who were the first born sons, while the Gentiles were, as Paul told the Romans, later adopted into the family of God.

    For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" [Romans 8:15 NASB]

5) The Jews Had The Privileges of The First Born
It is therefore perfectly natural, and right, that they, as first born, were given the privilege of the Gospel being proclaimed to them, before it was to the Gentiles. Peter concluded his discourse to the Jews, who were amazed at the healing of the man who sat outside the temple begging alms, and who had been lame from birth, with the words...

    "It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' "For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways." [Acts 3:25-26 NASB]

Paul, who knew the Scriptures, consistently took the Gospel to "the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles"... the synagogues proving an ideal forum for preaching the gospel to the Jews, whom he called "his kinsmen according to the flesh".

    Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, [Acts 17:1-2 NASB]

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. [Romans 1:16 NASB]

    There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, [Romans 2:9 NASB]

Conclusion:
When Rick Warren came up with the idea that Jesus sent His disciples to the Jew first because He was being strategic, he was simply doing what he seems to do best ... twist Biblical stories, verses, and concepts... to suit his own theories. [
See Footnote I] The fact is that the Jews, as first born, had the right to be the first to hear the message of salvation.

The first covenant God made with man was with Abraham and his nation descendants.... Israel. For centuries they alone were the "sons of God".... His First born. The Jews were the only ones given the commands and revelations of God, that they were entrusted with preserving and passing down. To them alone was given the honor of the temple services. To them alone was given the honor of being the nation that the Messiah was born into, thus becoming the light to other nations.

In any case, if Warren's theory is right then Jesus' 'strategy' failed miserably, because the Jews largely rejected Jesus as the Messiah, the chief corner stone upon which the house of God would be built.

This largely because the Jews, who were immensely proud that the Law had been delivered to them, and had been preserved and passed down by them, seemed to believe that the very fact that they had been entrusted with the oracles of God, somehow conferred righteousness on them, and made them better than every one else. It is readily apparent that they thought they already had a corner on the market when it came to salvation. Jesus once asked them whether they had ever read the Scriptures (specifically Psalms 118:22) which said...

    'the stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. [Matthew 21:42-43 NASB]

    Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. [Acts 13:46 NASB]


What Did James' Mean When He Talked About Taking Care of A “Brother's” Physical Needs?
In Warren's words

    "James gave a strong rebuke to Christians who think the answer to every need is a sermon or a Bible verse: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well few, 'but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" (James 2:15-16) Meeting human needs, regardless of what they are, is being a "doer of the Word." [2]

James' words were

    What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother (adelphos) or sister (adelphe)  is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. [James 2:14-17 NASB]

The Greek word adelphos is used almost 350 times in the New Testament. The words comes from the prefix "A" and the Greek delphus or delphos, which means a womb. (The English word "dolphin" comes from the same source, and can be interpreted as meaning "a 'fish' with a womb" because of the fact that the dolphin bears live young) [7]

In other words, as Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon says, adelphos literally (or figuratively) means a brother (adelphe means a sister), which is exactly how the New Testament uses the word. A literal 'physical brotherhood', or the 'spiritual brotherhood' of Christians.

Blood Brothers:
That the word meant a literal blood brother is evident from the following verses.

    Abraham was the father (adelpho) of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. [Matthew 1:2 NASB]

    Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers (adelpho), Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother (adelpho), casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. [Matthew 4:18 NASB]

    It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother (adelpho) Lazarus was sick. [John 11:2 NASB]

The Jews of Jesus' day were absolutely unshakable in in their idea of who their brethren were... their fellow Jews.

    At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (adelpho) (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, "Brethren (adelpho), the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. [Acts 1:15-16 NASB]

    "Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. "But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren (adelpho), the sons of Israel. "And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. "And he supposed that his brethren (adelpho) understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. [Acts 7:22-25 NASB]

And there was a good reason for that. Brethren, or brothers, are usually those siblings that share the same parent, or parents. All Jews considered Abraham to be their father and they were, therefore, of one family. They considered each other blood brothers.... a family to which the Gentiles did not belong.

    And he said, "Hear me, brethren (adelpho) and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, [Acts 7:2 NASB]

Physical Kinsmen or Spiritual Kinsmen
However, note the distinction Paul made when he talked about his fellow Jews. He specified that they were kinsmen "according to the flesh"

    For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh [Romans 9:3 NASB]

This was because Jesus made it very clear that an accident of birth could not include a person into the family of God. Only those that did the will of His father would be considered sons of Abraham, members of the family of God, and heirs to the kingdom.

    and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. [Matthew 3:9 NASB]

    While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." [Matthew 12:46-50 NASB]

    For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. [Romans 4:13 NASB]

    For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. [Romans 8:14 NASB]

    Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. [Galatians 3:7 NASB]

It is faith in, and obedience to, God that makes someone part of the family... not blood ties, ethnicity, nor membership in a synagogue or church,

    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:12-13 NASB]

    If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. [1 John 2:29-3:1 NASB]

    For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:26 NASB]

The term "brethren" in the New Testament meant not a literal 'physical brotherhood', but a spiritual brotherhood of believers who were born again of the Father. It was quite specifically used to refer to other believers. So when James said...

    What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother (adelphos) or sister (adelphe)  is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. [James 2:14-17 NASB]

.... he was very definitely referring to other believers.

Again, we are morally bound to do what we can for any fellow human being in need. However, It is NOT the church's responsibility to provide for the "spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and social needs" of the community at large.

Part of this belief stems from a basic misunderstanding of the role of the church, which brings me to a related point. Seeker friendly churches believe that...


Churches Must Appeal To The Unchurched

Making Churches "Attractive"
Part 4 of The Purpose Driven Church is entitled "Bringing in a Crowd". In the context of having plants "clean, safe nurseries", "clean restrooms", and a church building that fits the community that surrounds it, Warren says

    "The goal in all that we do to brighten up the environment is the same as what Paul said in Titus 2:10 (italics added): "... so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." [8]

Those that do not read the Bible for themselves, are likely to fall for Rick Warren's explanation of Titus 2:10. However, even a cursory reading of the chapter will show that pleasant surroundings were aeons away from Paul's thoughts when he wrote to Titus. The second chapter of the book of Titus is devoted to a giving directions as to how various members of the church should behave. Paul briefly addresses older men and women (vs. 1-2), and young men and women (Vs. 4-6). In verses 7 and 8 Paul gives Titus directions on how he is to conduct himself then finally , in verses 9 and 10, addresses servants whom he says are be subject to their masters... pleasing not argumentative, saying.

    Urge bond slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. [Titus 2:9-10 NASB]

The part Rick Warren left out of his quote is in italics above. Not that Paul is specifically saying the servants are not to appropriate to themselves what belongs to their masters so that they might "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior". In other words show that their religion has improved them in all respects. As Bible commentator Albert Barnes put it

    That one in the most humble walk of life may so live as to be an ornament to religion.... That servants may do much good, by so living as to show to all around them that there is a reality in the gospel, and to lead others to love it.

In short, Paul was urging believers to conduct themselves in such a manner that they would be "beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us" (Vs. 7).


Advertising Should Be Geared To The Unchurched
In another chapter entitled Developing Your Strategy, Rick Warren says

    "If you look at most church advertising, it's obvious that it was written from a believer's viewpoint -- not from the mind-set of the unchurched. When you see a church ad that announces, "Preaching the inerrant Word of God!" who do you think that ad appeals to? Certainly not to unbelievers! Personally, I consider the inerrancy of Scripture as a non-negotiable belief but the unchurched don't even understand the term. If you're going to advertise your church you must learn to think and speak like unbelievers. The spiritual terminology that Christians are familiar with is just gibberish to the unchurched." [9]

And, a few pages later, in a chapter entitled Preaching To The Unchurched, he goes on to say

    If you scan the church page of your Saturday newspaper, you'll see that most pastors are not attempting to attract the unchurched with their sermon titles. A sample of intriguing sermon topics from the Los Angeles Times includes: "The Gathering Storm," "On the Road To Jericho," "Peter goes Fishing," "A Mighty Fortress," "Walking Instructions," "Becoming a Titus," "No such Thing as a Rubber Clock," "River of Blood," and "The Ministry of Cracked Pots."

    Do any of these titles make you want to hop out of bed and rush to church? Would any of them appeal to an unchurched person scanning the paper? What are preachers thinking? Why are they wasting money advertising titles like these? [10]

However, the Bible never equates the purpose of the church meeting with evangelism. 1 Corinthians 14:26 clearly states that everything done in a church assembly is done for edification.

    What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. [1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB]

The English word "edify", which has been translated from the Greek oikodome, means to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement. In other words, it is "building up" of a person, which is exactly how it has been translated in other verses. For example see Romans 14:19, 2 Corinthians 10:8, and Ephesians 4:11-13. Building up a person (in the context of Christianity) encompasses several concepts.... since it is believers that need to be encouraged, taught, and even admonished, the weekly assembly exists for the benefit of the body of Christ,

There are plenty of New Testament examples of believers engaging in evangelism outside of the church meetings. The gospel was commonly preached in the places frequented by unbelievers, such as in the synagogues and market places, but there is not a single example in the NT that shows any church gathering was for the purpose of telling unbelievers the good news, or getting people to join their "church". See The Four Main Reasons Modern Christians 'Do Church'

In order to ensure that we are not missing the mark in any way, lets look at the methods used by the prophets and preachers of the Old Testament to turn people to, or back to, God.


Temporary Revivals in The Old Testament
Israel After The Exile
The book of Nehemiah tells us that after the walls were rebuilt, the people gathered at the square (8:1). Something obviously happened because a few verses down we read that ...

    "... the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. [Nehemiah 8:16-17 NASB]

One has to wonder what the leaders did to provoke a response of this kind, involving close to 50,000 people [Nehemiah 7:66-67]. Ezra and the other priests did not poll the people to find out why they were not attending synagogue, or ask them how they thought the temple services should be conducted. They did not provide any entertainment, nor other gimmicks to appeal to the masses. They simply...

    read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they (the people) understood the reading. [Nehemiah 8:8 NASB]

And this simple preaching caused the people to weep (Vs. 9), to the point that the Levites had to calm them, and tell them not to be grieved, but to rejoice in the Lord, urging them to

    "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved. All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them. " [Nehemiah 8:10-12 NASB]

But there was a sad epilogue to this seemingly successful story of revival. After a stay of twelve years in Jerusalem, Nehemiah returned to Babylon for a year, staying, it seems, only for a short time before he asked leave to return to Israel [Nehemiah 13:6]. On his return Nehemiah found that things had deteriorated very quickly

    1) Tobiah the Ammonite who violently opposed the building of the wall around Jerusalem (4:7), and even hired a false prophet to frighten Nehemiah (6:10-14) had been been given a room in the courts of the house of God (13:7)

    2) The portions due the Levites had not been given them, so that they and the singers had all left the temple to tend their own fields. The house of God had been forsaken (13:10-11)

    3) The people were treading wine presses and buying and selling on the Sabbath (13:15)

    4) The Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. (13:23)

Nineveh
Perhaps the greatest (in terms of numbers) revival in the history of man took place in the Assyrian capitol of Nineveh, simply because the entire city repented.. something that had never happened before, or has never happened since. If judged by modern church growth standards, his mission was a resounding success.

The Assyrians, descendants of Noah's son Ham, were a cruel, bloodthirsty, nation who "spread terror in the land of the living" [Ezekiel 32:23], which is why Jonah was not in the slightest bit inclined to see them repent and be forgiven. (Sending him to preach to the Assyrians was like telling a Jew to go Nazi Germany and tell the Gestapo to repent). Since Jonah would have liked to see this nation destroyed, we can be certain that he was indifferent to their "felt needs". We can be equally certain that the prophet did not look for the best way to "reach" them without hurting their feelings. However, the Bible tells us exactly what Jonah said and what he did. Completely insensitive to their thoughts, ideas, needs, or even feelings, he walked through the city crying out one message

    "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." [Jonah 3:4 NASB]

And the result?

    Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, "In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. "But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. "Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish." When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. [Jonah 3:5-10 NASB]

Because the repentance of the Ninevites was not permanent, and it was not long before they returned to their old ways, Jonah's mission cannot be called successful by Biblical standards.

Once more it is very clear that preaching in the Bible was direct and unambiguous. It is also very clear that few people stay the course, but this is hardly surprising. Jesus told us that the good seed is sown in many places, but a number of things can, and often do, happen to ensure that the seed does not flourish and produce a crop. The evil one can snatch the seed away, others fall away because of affliction, persecution, or the worries of this world. Many are led astray by the deceitfulness of wealth. [Matthew 13:18-23 NASB]

It is only a few that hear the word, understand it, and who bear fruit until the end.

Therefore Rick Warren's claim that "anyone" can be won to Christ, is


Can "Anyone" Be Won To Christ, Or Will Just A Remnant Be Saved?
Warren's claim that "anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the felt needs to his or her heart" [2] is as unbiblical as it gets. Not only did Jesus say...

    "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Matthew 7:13-14 NASB. Emphasis Added]

But He did not do a very good job of winning people over via their felt needs, and/or the key to their hearts.

As previously mentioned, when the rich young man who had kept all the commandments from his youth, asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus immediately zeroed in on the one thing the young man lacked.. the fact that his treasure was in his earthly possessions. The young man, although saddened, was obviously not willing to give up his possessions and walked away. And Jesus let him go.  According to modern thinking, Jesus completely lost an opportunity to make a disciple of what seemed to be an honest seeker.

Now either Jesus had no idea that He (and, by extension, us) could win people over by discovering the key to their hearts, or Rick warren is totally off base.

In the book of Romans, Paul, quoting from the prophets Hosea and Isaiah (Romans 9:25-33), more than once refers to the remnant that would be saved. The word "remnant" which means a remainder, or something left over. (A study of the topic in the Bible shows that the remnant are usually spoken of in terms of as survivors of the Lord's judgment). 

In Romans 11:1-5, Paul drew a parallel between his day, and the days of Elijah, when a remnant of Jews did not reject God, and survived the Lord's judgment. However, if only a "remnant" was to be saved, it stands to reason that great numbers of them would not be saved or, as Paul put it, "cast off".

    And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and they that are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again lean upon him that smote them, but shall lean upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people, Israel, be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them shall return: a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. For a full end, and that determined, will the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, make in the midst of all the earth. (Isaiah 10:20-23)

    And Isaiah crieth concerning Israel, If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that shall be saved: for the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short. (Romans 9:27-28)

When Isaiah said these words, there is no question that the prophet was referring to the Jews of his own time... the remnant that would be left after the Assyrian had invaded, and desolated, the land. However, in the spirit of Hebrew typology, Isaiah's words also had a future application. Paul took Isaiah's prophecy and applied it to his own day when, as he said, a multitude of Jews would be cast off. Only a remnant would be saved, or kept from destruction. [See Typology]


Summary and Conclusion
I completely agree with Warren that we should follow Jesus' methodology. The problem is, unlike him, we need to have a realistic and unbiased grasp of what Jesus' methodology was.

There is simply NO evidence that Jesus had any kind of strategy other than telling people the pure unvarnished truth. There is NO evidence that He ever eased anyone into the Gospel nor that He was particularly concerned with numbers. In fact, at times, Jesus literally repulsed large crowds of seekers by being as blunt as any man has ever been. [11]

In fact, none of Jesus' preaching can possibly be labeled seeker-friendly. While He had great compassion for the hurt and the sick, His basic message was the same straightforward, unambiguous, one preached to the Ninevites... 'repent, or you will be destroyed'.

There is no question that as we get to know an unbeliever, we are likely to find out what makes them tick, and as a result more likely to be able to reach them. But this can only be done on a one to one basis, not in the, usually, very impersonal atmosphere of a large church.  Besides which, something that we should never forget is that no one is particularly pleased at the thought of being "destroyed".... everyone wants to save their own skin.

Seeker friendly churches will tell you that in order to reach people, you have to first entice the unregenerate into the church by what ever method necessary, make sure the church is attractive as possible, and make them as comfortable as possible. 

Again there is NO evidence in the New Testament that any of the apostles did this. On Pentecost, not only did Peter preach to complete unbelievers but, as said before, his message was very blunt. He told them that they had crucified the Savior [Acts 2:36, 22-23], then urged them to repent and be saved from a perverse generation. Those who repented and believed the gospel were added to the church. [Vs. 38-42)

None of this means that we ever give up on preaching the Gospel. What it does mean is that 1) we follow the New Testament pattern of preaching the Gospel outside the the church. If and when those we are preaching to become believers, they are added to the church. 2) we do not modify the assemblies of the faithful to cater to the unsaved.
That few heed the Gospel message does not mean that we have to search for new methods to reach the unregenerate. It simply shows that the Bible knows what it talking about when it says few will find the narrow path. Regardless of how many people we entice into the church with various programs formulated to meed "felt needs", these programs are designed to appeal to what Paul calls the "natural man". However, the things of God are "spiritually appraised".

    But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. [1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB]

We need to faithfully proclaim the Gospel message, to as many as we can, and let the God who knows the heart of all men, convert those who would be saved.

But, note that proclaiming the Gospel message does not mean conveying any of the highly modified, highly inaccurate, versions that are heard in so many churches today. A large percentage of the modern church will tell you that in order to receive salvation and life eternal, you merely have to "Believe in Jesus Christ" or "Receive Christ as your Savior". Unfortunately, although the words come from the Bible, by themselves these instructions are horribly abbreviated. They neither tell the person what they are saved from, and what they gain by being "saved". Nor do they accurately convey all that is involved in a person being saved. Diametrically opposed to most modern methods of preaching the Gospel, the message should begin with the wrath of God. The bad news has to come before the good news. Telling someone that they can be saved is completely ridiculous if they neither know they are lost, nor what it is they need to be saved from. [See Salvation]

All of which leaves us with one question... How is it that some seeker friendly churches seem to be so popular? Seeker friendly churches like Saddleback, and who knows how many thousands more, will tell you that their methods are winning people. And it is true that many of them seem to be quite popular, with their membership numbering in the thousands.

The problem is we are confusing people who attend church with those who are true disciples. Remember Rick Warren's words... "It doesn't matter why people initially come to Jesus, what matters is that they come. He can work on their motives, values, and priorities once they enter his presence.." [2]. To repeat what I said once before, and probably need to say a dozen more times... church attendance cannot be confused with "coming to Jesus". Coming to church DOES NOT, and I repeat DOES NOT, mean entering into Jesus' presence. A person who merely plants himself in a pew every Sunday, sings along with the rest of the congregation, and puts his ten dollar bill in the offering plate is not necessarily a follower or disciple of Christ.

Although Jesus Himself clearly showed that He was only interested in those that had counted the cost of following Him, and did not want hangers-on or mere spectators, we are busying ourselves with winning members to a social organization called 'the church', which is a far cry from winning disciples of Christ. As Tozer once asked...

    "Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, "But we are winning them!" And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world's treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no. [12]


End Notes

[1] Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Church, Zondervan Hardcover. 1995. Pg. 18

[2] ibid. Pgs. 219-220

[3] ibid. Pg. 295

[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jeremiad

[5] [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/jeremiad

[6] ibid. Pg. 186

[7] [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Dolphin

[8] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, Zondervan Hardcover. 1995. Pgs. 268-270

[9] ibid. Pg 189

[10] ibid. Pg. 299

[11] Part of this sentence was adapted from an article on the website myfortress.org that no longer exists.

[12] A. W. Tozer. Man - The Dwelling Place of God. Chapter 29...Religious Boredom.
http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/tozer/5j00.0010/5j00.0010.30.htm

 

Footnote I
In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Warren used a plethora of highly questionable Bible Versions and assorted paraphrases. The latter amount to little more than Bible commentaries, or what the author thinks the paragraph in question says. Warren is not quoting the Bible when he quotes The Message and several other equally faulty paraphrases, but is treating as Scriptural truth what another human being thinks the Bible says. Warren's method has the advantage of giving the appearance that he is actually using the Bible as the authority for whatever point he is trying to make, especially since the average reader is none the wiser, but by doing this, he is treading very dangerous ground and given a whole new meaning to the word deception.

While not everything Warren says is wrong, the irony is that even when he says something that is Biblically correct, rather than use the right passage of Scripture to make his point, he has deliberately used the translation or paraphrase that best suits the particular thought he is writing about, regardless of whether that version of the passage is true to the original meaning, or has completely distorted it. In other words, to suit his purposes, Rick Warren is a party to the deliberate and blatant twisting of Biblical text.

It is a grave concern that Warren adopts the same attitude toward the Scriptures as every cult and heretic who has, to one degree or another, attempted to make the Scriptures support their line of reasoning, instead of letting God's word dictate what they believe.

Rick Warren's casual attitude towards the Scriptures shown by his willingness to accept misrepresentations of God's word, is a shocking commentary on a Southern Baptist preacher who has such far reaching influence. [DETAILS]

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