by Mike Ratliff
Bill Hybels and his Willowcreek “organization” have recently made quite a confession. It started when they did a survey of the members of their congregation. The survey was an attempt to evaluate how effective their ministries were. From the beginning they have always used numbers to determine how effective they were. After all, that is how marketing is done. Right?
What have those of us outside of the seeker sensitive paradigm been saying from the beginning about what is wrong with it? Isn’t it that their Soteriology is flawed? They have a man-focused concept of how people are saved. They assume that salvation is simply a decision and, therefore, they try to be as friendly with the world as possible so they can ease huge numbers of people into their church.
We contend that the Gospel without total dependence upon the understanding that all people are completely helpless in meeting God’s standards of obedience, which is His Law, is not the Gospel at all. The seeker sensitive model totally eliminates the offense of the cross and why it was necessary. Therefore, the gospel they preach is not the real Gospel at all.
What did the Willowcreek surveys show? They showed that the “seekers” that attended their church loved it. They were very happy there and liked the way they did church. However, the believers there, were not happy. They were hungry. They wanted to be fed the truth from God’s Word. They wanted to be discipled. In a way that should encourage us some because that means there are genuine believers there. Only genuine believers want to be fed from God’s Word.
Bill Hybels admitted that their methods were a mistake. They were going to have to make adjustments or changes in how they did things so that they could begin to “feed their sheep.” Amazing! Haven’t we been pointing this out to these people all along? Salvation is not in our hands nor is it our responsibility to save anyone. We contend that we must be obedient in sharing the Gospel correctly with everyone, but we must leave their salvation up to God to draw them into prayer to plead for their souls. They will do this as the Holy Spirit regenerates them and draws them to repent and believe.
I contend that the seeker sensitive advocates, the new evangelism folks, the emergents, the ReThinkers, the Word-Faith people, and the Oneness Pentecostal folks have one thing in common. They are all focused on elevating Man and demoting God. They may not say that in those words, but they all reject the truth we learn from Ephesians 2:8-10.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
What is it they reject? It is that little phrase, “not a result of works.” They include Baptism as a requirement for salvation or they require membership in their denomination or they require the speaking in tongues or they require a person to make a decision, etc. Any dependence on a “work” to be saved is a violation of what Paul wrote in that passage. He said that all who are saved are saved through faith and that faith is not of their own doing. Instead, it is a gift of God, not a result of works. Why? God does it this way so that no one may boast.
Anyone who “believes” as the result of the ministries that are “works” based in their Soteriology will also attempt to walk the Christian walk via will power. After all, they are Christians because they made the right decision so they must work and do good, etc. by “deciding.” They are trying to please God with their good works and those works are all by their own abilities and effort. I know because that describes how I walked this walk for nearly 20 years until God drew me to Himself and into the light.
Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk before God saved Him. He tried everything he could do to try to be good and perfect to try to please God, but he knew that he was a sinful man and couldn’t do it. It nearly drove him mad and almost ruined his health. Here are his own words about this in reference to John 15:6.
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6 ESV)
“When I was a monk, I read the mass daily. I weakened myself with prayer and fasting so much that I couldn’t have kept it up for much longer. Yet all of my efforts couldn’t help me in the smallest temptation. I could never say to God, “I have done all this. Look at it, and be merciful to me.” What did I achieve with all this striving? Nothing. I merely tormented myself, ruined health, and wasted my time. Now I’m forced to listen to Christ’s judgment on my works. He says, ‘You did all this without me. That’s why it amounts to nothing. Your works don’t belong in my kingdom. They can’t help you or anyone else obtain eternal life.’”
“So in this passage, Christ has passed a terrifying judgment over all works—no matter how great, glorious, and beautiful they might appear. If these works are performed apart from Christ, they amount to nothing. They may appear to be great in the eyes of the world, for the world considers them excellent and precious. But in Christ’s kingdom and before God, they are truly nothing. They don’t grow out of him, nor do they remain in him. They won’t pass God’s test. As Christ says, they will be tossed into the fire as if they were rotten, withered branches—branches without any sap or strength. So let others carve from these branches and see what they can create apart from Christ. Let them try to fashion a new birth from their good works. Let them try to create a tree from its fruit. No matter what they do, all of their works will add up to a big zero. – Martin Luther
Seeker sensitive churches or any church that is man-focused will be worldly. They must be so they won’t offend people with the Law and the genuine Gospel. Worldly churches are led by dried up branches. The fruit of these ministries will be mostly dried up branches. Why? These ministries are works apart from Christ. The world may love them, but they are worthless in the eyes of God.