One of the greatest lies embraced by the ‘church’ is the doctrine of ‘the end justifies the means’. All good intentions aside, it is a slippery slope that will ultimately lead to an even more tepid church held in higher disregard by a world it’s trying to reach. It is a doctrine critical for those obsessed by church growth whatever the cost and about as dishonest and godless as you can get. The following articles by Paul Proctor illustrate this fact well.

 

 

WHATEVER WORKS

 

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." – Isaiah 55:9

A late uncle of mine often used a favorite little saying as an all-purpose answer to any problem that needed a solution. He would always conclude any discussion by saying: "Well, whatever works…"

I give you pragmatism.

The 21st century church is quite fond of this practice. So fond, in fact, that it has become one of its three driving "principles" – the other two being pleasure and pride. I use quotation marks around the word "principles" because, as used here, it is an oxymoron. You see, when it comes to the things of God, there’s nothing principled about pragmatism.

When King David decided to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, a new cart was commissioned to transport it. Traditionally, Israel carried the Ark of the Covenant in a way specifically set forth by the Lord to Moses before its construction. It was to be carried using specially made staves that were laid upon the shoulders of chosen and sanctified priests and Levites. There was no cart involved. To employ one for such a task may have seemed pragmatic at the time to those in charge of moving the Ark, but as Israel soon learned, the Lord is not pragmatic and will not tolerate a casual and disobedient attitude toward His commands, especially where sanctification and holiness are involved and obedience is required – even when OUR way appears to be more effective than His. Whether we realize it or not, the Lord has reasons for everything He says and does though He may not care to reveal them to us at the time. So, when we take it upon ourselves to try something new and different at His expense, we demonstrate the kind of arrogance that brought about the very fall of man even though it may be done with good intentions.

I think it is worth noting that the wrath of God did not come down on their disobedience when the Ark was first rolled out of the house of Abinadab on the new cart but instead, came later when unforeseen difficulties put the Ark at risk. Was this interim period given, that those responsible might reconsider their actions and repent? Your guess is as good as mine. All we can do is speculate here. God’s mercy and grace are His own to dispense.

Nevertheless, when the Ark was eventually shaken near the threshing floor of Chidon by stumbling oxen pulling the cart it was on, Uzzah, who had been driving it with Ahio, (1st Chronicles 13:7) reached back and took hold of the Ark with his hand in order to steady it. The Lord immediately struck him dead. (2nd Samuel 6:7) You see – touching the Ark of the Covenant was forbidden, which is why it had no handles. Had it been transported to Jerusalem in the manner specified by the Lord on the staves and shoulders of sanctified priests and Levites, Israel would not have sinned, the Lord would not have been angry and this terrible event would not have occurred.

We live in a time where many church leaders are looking for "more effective" ways of serving the Lord. A growing number are also imitating the world by implementing innovative and pragmatic programs, techniques and strategies – if you will, using new carts and unholy hands in presumptuous ways. If you question their carnal methods, often they will respond with something like: "Well, the Lord gave us our carts and hands. Don’t you think He wants us to use them?" This is the pragmatic rationale behind the new spirituality whose unofficial motto is "the end justifies the means."

The Associated Press recently reported that a man near Tampa Florida was trying to establish a Christian-themed nudist community, complete with a church and water park on 240 acres of land he purchased there. Well, that ought to be a big draw and why not? If it’s done to evangelize and minister, what’s the problem? The Lord gave us our naked bodies. Don’t you think He wants them to be seen and used for His Kingdom’s work?

Once again, pragmatism…

In another Associated Press article, Pastor Walter Hallam of The Abundant Life Christian Center in La Marque, Texas told the Galveston County Daily News "We want to do something to have a positive effect on people's lives." So, his church held two free drawings – one for a new P.T. Cruiser (for women) and another for a Harley Davidson Sportster (for men). Each member won an entry to the drawings every time he or she attended church services in the weeks preceding it. If they brought visitors with them, they received two entries for the car or motorcycle. How’s that for pragmatism? The Lord gave us cars and motorcycles; so He obviously wants us to bring people into the Kingdom with them, right?

USA Today reported that Baptist Bishop Fred Caldwell of Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Church in Greenwood, Louisiana, offered white people $5 an hour in August, if they would attend Sunday services and $10 an hour for attending Thursdays. Now that’s putting the Lord’s money to work for evangelism, don’t you think? He gave us money – so why not use it to lure our prospects in and promote racial harmony?

Of course, we might look at these extreme examples and say they’re just isolated incidents but I would suggest to you that this type of pragmatism is in widespread use by the church today even though it is taught nowhere in scripture. Satan has shrewdly persuaded us that godliness is attainable through ungodliness – that when it comes to doing the Lord’s work, the end justifies the means. We are constantly being taught new and creative ways to be "more effective" and almost nothing about being more obedient. And THAT, my friends is the problem. God did not call us to be "effective". He called us to be holy and obedient – something the church is flagrantly avoiding these days for the sake of numerical growth.

Pastor, if you’re teaching your flock to be "more effective", with programs, strategies and techniques, you are teaching them to focus on results and relationships, not obedience to the Word of God. This breeds manipulators, two-facers and blessing chasers, not Christ followers.

Why do you think we have rock and roll worship, sloppy attire, food courts, coffee shops, bookstores, health clubs, movie theaters, skating rinks, bowling and bingo in emotionally driven, biblically illiterate churches around the country today? – Because the end justifies the means.

Why do you think we're encouraged to appeal to men's and women’s egos and appetites with mesmerizing music, self-esteem sermonettes and "felt needs" festivals? – Because the end justifies the means.

Why do you think we train missionaries to go overseas with the Truth of God and then lie about why they’re there? – Because the end justifies the means.

Why do you think we encourage missionaries to lie to government officials in foreign countries about the contents of their luggage in order to smuggle bibles in illegally? – Because the end justifies the means.

Don't you see the contradiction here?

It seems we don't want to have to pray, fast, trust and wait for the Lord to open doors His way and in His time. We'd rather get on with it, make our plans and open our own doors in His name so we can show everyone how committed we are. But, without the holiness, obedience and faith God demands, our pragmatic evangelism is in vain! Worse yet, it's evil!

"Be still, and know that I am God…" – Psalm 46:10

And what are we saving the lost TO when we lie, deceive and manipulate our way through the "Christian life" and call it a "ministry?" Are we not representing a false christ by offering the truth in hypocrisy – exercising a fraudulent faith that robs us of the very righteousness we try to teach others? Will we be led, guided and delivered in our time of need by a Holy God or by a devious heart? I would say a god that needs you and me to bear false witness and act deceitfully in order to carry out his will is not a very powerful or consistent god, now is he?

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" – Isaiah 5:20

Remember Uzzah and the new cart? God doesn't honor good intentions wrought with ungodliness and disobedience. He punishes it – maybe not instantly but eventually and severely! So, I'd be very careful about calling today’s growing apostasy a "Spiritual Awakening", a "Global Movement" or a "New Reformation" because it is steeped in pragmatism, pleasure and pride.

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." – Proverbs 16:25

© 2004 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved

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PRAGMATIC PROSELYTIZERS

 

The Baptist Press is proud to announce that the new evangelism is really catching on here in Tennessee. In an article entitled “Evangelist uses fans' passion to share his passion for Christ,” they had this to say:

“In the shadow of the Bristol Motor Speedway, just across from a booth selling Dale Jr. T-shirts and down from a fried Oreo stand, Ronnie Hill was making his pitch. ‘Get your free chance to win a Harley! All you gotta do is listen to me for 10 minutes.’

Like a carnival caller, Hill beckoned, ‘Bring your beer, I don't care. Get your hairy belly in here. It's a Harley! It's free! Come on, boys, get on in here and win you a Harley!’

…At the conclusion of his short sermon, Hill asked everyone to fill out the ticket with a name, address and phone number. If they prayed the prayer of salvation for the first time, they were to check the box at the bottom. He assured them that checking the box would not give them a better chance at winning the motorcycle.”

I don’t know why the Apostles didn’t think of this 2000 years ago! I guess they just weren’t as savvy as we are now, huh? Sure, they didn’t have Harleys back then but don’t you think a nice donkey or an unblemished lamb would have worked just as well? Guess we've come a long way, haven’t we? Come to think of it, there were those moneychangers Jesus chased away from the temple with a whip. But then, I’m sure He wouldn’t have done that if they had been hawking their critters in His name and shared a little of the action. (wink-wink)

How’s this for "Kingdom Building:"

In the August 22nd online edition, the L.A. Times reports that a “Church Earns Mileage With a Gas Subsidy.”

“In an effort to get people — figuratively and literally — pumped for Christ, the Main Place Christian Fellowship offered $1.67-a-gallon gasoline at a Tustin service station Saturday, 40 cents off the regular price.

"It's a win-win situation for God, for our customers and for us," Hovnanian said. "And in that order."

Over the last five weeks, church members raised $5,000 for the event. On Friday, the church handed over a check, enough to cover the 40-cent difference for more than 12,000 gallons of gas.

They said the subsidized gas campaign is a way to spread the word while promoting their 500-plus-member church.

Church youth director Leanne Grant said the No. 1 question was why they were doing this. Her answer: "This is a practical way to show Jesus' love and meet the needs of the community.”

I’ll bet the tears of remorse just flowed like gasoline…

Now, for those of you with a sweet tooth, the BBC reports this, in a piece entitled, “Sweet temptation back to worship:”

“A Manchester bishop is trying to tempt former churchgoers back to worship - with a gift pack of chocolate.”

The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch is supporting the ‘Back to Church Sunday’ campaign…

Newcomers to the church will be given a special copy of newsletter Crux and a free bar of Co-op fair trade chocolate.

Mr. McCulloch said in Crux: ‘We are all brothers and sisters in Christ... I wonder, have you ever thought of coming back to join us?’"

Maybe the prodigal son wouldn’t have stayed away so long if his father had just sweet-talked him home with something scrumptious.

You see, the underlying message of the pragmatic proselytizer is this:

If the Word of God and the Holy Spirit don’t turn sinners to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, maybe entertainment, covetousness, materialism and carnal appetite will. Sure it doesn’t look good but times have changed; so, let’s not sweat the small stuff, OK?

I mean, after all; they ARE coming to Jesus, aren’t they?…WELL, AREN'T THEY?

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2nd Timothy 3:1-2a & 5-7

© 2004 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved

O COME ALL YE FAITHLESS

 

 

It is painfully obvious to me that many Christians, even “conservative” Christians, are beginning to adopt the liberal principle known as: “the end justifies the means”, or “whatever works” – not only in business, education and politics but in matters of church and faith as well. Nowhere is it more evident than in today’s church growth movement where biblical absolutes are optional, experimentation is “healthy”, comfort is “crucial” and “results” (numerical growth) are mandatory.

Illustrating the absurdity of “the end justifies the means”, and how it has become the modus operandi of the postmodern church, I suggested in an article three months ago, entitled: Brotherly Bribes (www.newswithviews.com/PaulProctor/proctor 19.htm), that congregations who practice this principle ought to just cut to the chase and offer cash incentives to visitors. What’s good for GMC ought to be good for G-O-D, right?

Well, guess what? In a recent USA Today article, Diane Haag, of the Shreveport Times, tells of a black church that will actually pay white people $5 an hour during the month of August to attend their Sunday services. It was apparently the brainstorm of the church’s pastor, Bishop Fred Caldwell who, using the parable of Matthew 20:1-16 as his inspiration and justification said: “I just want the Kingdom of God to look like it’s suppose to.” – meaning what – like a government program – contrived, symbolic, superficial, humanistic and prone to failure?

Louisiana Black Church Will Pay Whites To Attend www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-07-30-church-usat_x.htm

Then, I guess, when the Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church is eventually overrun by unemployed and unaffordable white people with covetousness in their hearts and dollar signs in their eyes and fights begin breaking out over what Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw will report as more racial tensions among Christians in the South, the world can again laugh at this bigoted thing called Christianity while we hunker down in our little focus groups to scratch our noggins and exchange cuddly clichés like: “the Lord sure works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?”

Once again, absurdity becomes reality in a world without absolutes where “worship” has become little more than deviant displays of “bread and circus” designed to gratify the flesh and fill the eyes of those who crave the world’s clamor more than Word of God.

I suppose Bishop Caldwell, in all his brilliance, forgot what the Apostle Paul said about “the love of money”…

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” - 1 Timothy 6:10

…and about reaping what you sow:

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” – Galatians 6:7-8

Twenty or more years ago, a friend told me about a very unusual bible study group his mother was a part of at the First Baptist Church in the town where she lived. I don’t remember much about it except to say that it was a no-nonsense gathering that involved a great deal of in-depth study, research and preparation – a very demanding program that required a lot of reading, homework, sacrifice and discipline. I don’t recall if attendees were actually tested or graded from time to time but those who clearly failed to apply themselves and didn’t take the study seriously were kindly asked to not return. You see – they had a VERY long waiting list of people wanting in. Quite a contrast to today’s quaint little social gatherings and chitchats we call bible study, where everything BUT the Word of God is used to beg people in and keep them coming back, isn’t it?

In spite of Bishop Cardwell’s good intentions, the Christian life is not about what you can get, but about what you can give – because only by surrender and sacrifice are Christians made more like their Lord and Savior and less like the lustful world around them. That’s why Jesus Christ is remembered with a cross instead of a throne.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

 

© 2003 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved

 

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