by Mike Ratliff
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
My wife and I just returned from a trip to Oklahoma. To get to where we are going each way we must drive over part of I-35 that goes through a town in Oklahoma called Guthrie. On the East side of the road, as we drove past this city, is a church very close to the highway. Someone at this church has erected a very large sign that says in bold letters, “I LOVE THIS CHURCH!” This really puzzled me and caused me to think of what the intent could be in the erecting this sign. As I thought through all of the possibilities, the only one that seemed to make sense was that someone wants to draw people to this church BECAUSE he, she, or they love it. In other words, this is an attempt to market this church using the ploy that since they love it, others will be sure to “come and try it.”
I remember from several marketing classes while working on my degree that this is called ‘band-wagon marketing.’ This is the ploy used by advertisers to portray to all who see their ads that ‘everyone else is buying and loving their product so you should try it too!’ My brethren, should churches use the marketing techniques of the world in order to “grow?” Should growth be the primary function of a church? A pastor’s primary concern should be the spiritual wellbeing of his flock. He should preach the word in season and out of season trusting in the Lord to provide the increase of repentance and faith. Never should the pastor resort to ear tickling in order to gain “converts.” This would also include reconciling the impenitent. His sermons should be the truth and, therefore, will give offense. George Whitfield said, “It is a poor sermon that gives no offense – that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.”
If pastors would place their flock’s spiritual needs in their hearts where they should be, their sermons and teachings would become rich in God’s truth from His Word and become less and less conciliatory with the culture. On the other hand, if a pastor does his job with the intent to please men and grow their churches using the ways and means of their culture then what they are building is not a flock of Christ’s sheep, but a herd of religious goats.
These religious goats do not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears. They accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. It seems like for every group of religious goat with their own cultural bent there is a conforming “preacher” ready to fill their pulpits. (or whatever they call it in their “church”). In any case my brethren, as we study the Bible as we should, we will see over and over throughout it that God’s people are to become separate from the world, that is, they should no longer try to force their culture over onto the gospel trying to conform it to them. Instead, through the gospel, God transforms sinners into children of God. The baggage from their culture that is keyed to the values of the world will be targeted by the Holy Spirit to be eradicated from the lives of genuine believers. These will be replaced with things that are keyed to God’s values and His ways. This is called repentance. Therefore, when you have “preachers” using the marketing of conforming to the world as the means to grow their ministries then we should know immediately that there is problem. Christians must live in this world, but must not be part of it. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. For preachers and pastors this is especially true.
Soli Deo Gloria!