On the approach and strategy of church growth, Rick Warren and Jack Hyles little differ. With all the studies Warren did to figure out his scheme, he came up with something along the same lines as Hyles. Hyles is dead but the Hyles methods and men still operate. I’m not saying that Warren copied Hyles or that they’re twins separated at birth. Both of them understood human nature and marketing and used that knowledge to formulate their plan. The big thing is to give people what they want—target a demographic and customize your pitch to fit the target. Since what allures and attracts men hasn’t changed much, their plans have mirrored each other. Warren has a little different packaging, but besides that, he could be a Hyles clone.
Warren and Hyles both recognized what most people have long known—the world doesn’t like church. The world likes what the world likes, which is earthly things, so Warren and Hyles were faced with a conundrum. They wanted big crowds of unbelievers to be interested in their churches, and yet the world doesn’t like church. The world isn’t interested in spiritual things, and the church is all about spiritual things. Therefore, in order to get their big crowds, Warren and Hyles offered the world the things that it liked in order to get unbelievers to come to church. It really isn’t even that hard. Certain types of businesses have taken advantage of the same kind of knowledge in order to draw crowds to make money, namely places like amusement parks, rock concerts, arcades, and movie theaters.
There are differences between Warren and Hyles. In a lot of ways, Hyles is old school in the same kind of strategy as Warren. A Hyles church would be noticeably different than a Warren church, although there would be some overlap that I have noticed. I want to talk about the overlap first, however. Warren and Hyles would both provide fun activities that the world would like. Both would do a rodeo or carnival to get people to come. Warren and Hyles would both give out popular food or beverages. Both would alter their preaching, albeit in different ways, in order to attract and then keep a crowd. Both would use business marketing techniques that would catch the eye of unsaved people. So they have an overlap in technique.
On a root level, Warren and Hyles were the same. They both believed in building a church through inviting unsaved people to church services. They both believed in trying to get people to come by offering them things they wanted. They both conformed the church to their church growth ideology, straining theology to fit what it took to have a bigger church. Both would say it was about seeing more people saved. Both tried to reproduce their findings, their pragmatism, in others. Both have had many adherents and headed a movement built around their particular philosophy. Both used Scripture to justify what they did. Both attacked those who criticized them. Both used their size and success to silence their critics. Both preyed on the pride and the faux security that comes with bigness.
How do Warren and Hyles differ? Warren and Hyles have cultural differences. Warren says that finding the kind of music the world likes is the most important part of church growth. Hyles used music, what he would call evangelistic music, but he would preach against the kind of music Warren uses. Hyles believed music should be upbeat and fast and exciting, part of a strategy to thrill the unsaved people, but he drew a far more conservative line about what he might use. Hyles required a dress code. He expected modest dress, clothes with designed distinctions between men and women, and he dressed up himself, suit and tie. His workers did the same. Not Warren. Warren emphasizes a lower common denominator for appearance; in essence, dress like the world dresses to make the world feel comfortable being with the church. Warren zeroed even more on what the world liked, the earthly things, even than Hyles. Warren preaches from multi-versions with the people in mind. Hyles preached only from the King James Version, but his preaching was heavily entertainment, very little teaching. They both prioritize the audience, except in different ways. Both conformed the subject matter to fit the listeners, just in different ways.
Hyles would call Warren worldly. Warren would call Hyles legalistic. I would call them both about the same. Manipulative. Secular. Man-centered. Carnal weaponry.
However, Warren is far more acceptable to evangelicals than Hyles ever would be. Many young fundamentalists would never accept Hyles. But they don’t have such a problem with Warren. John Piper, a real favorite among many evangelicals and young fundamentalists, and even older fundamentalists, is having Warren come to his next Desiring God conference. That is not a deal-breaker to the Piper crowd. If Hyles were alive, and he had Hyles, that would end the Piper favoritism. Of course, Piper would never have Hyles, and really for the same reason young fundamentalists don’t like Hyles. Hyles wasn’t worldly enough. Hyles used the King James Version. Hyles said women shouldn’t wear pants. Hyles preached too hard against sin, i.e., he was too moralistic. Hyles would preach against attending the theater, something like Spurgeon was death on. They like that Warren isn’t that way.
The rock music of Warren, the casual dress of Warren, the earthly popularity of Warren, the hi-tech success of Warren, and, yes, the bigness of Warren—those are all the things about Warren that young fundamentalists and evangelicals approve about Warren. It’s why Warren is able to go to Piper’s conference. John MacArthur’s church uses the same type of Warren formula to attract for their Resolved Conference, so they haven’t shucked the Warren brand entirely. It’s a working plan, especially for the youth culture. They don’t go quite as far as Warren, just like Hyles wouldn’t go as far as Warren. Hyles wouldn’t have a hip-thrusting praise team up leading the worship.
Across the street from our church, a Trinity Evangelical grad, that would be well-accepted, I believe, by many young fundamentalists and evangelicals, kicks off his fall program with a parking lot full of jumpers. Especially since he went to Trinity and that’s where D. A. Carson teaches. He’s into the big sermon series, playing off some hit movie or the Beatles hits, if not the lyrics of U-2. Of course, he “gets it.” He “knows” what’s really important and what isn’t.
Young fundamentalists and evangelicals talk about the old hero worship of the fundamentalists, about how that too much revolved around big personalities. That hasn’t changed. That’s the same today. It’s just different personalities. And things really aren’t that much different. There really is quite a bit in common between John Piper, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, and Jack Hyles. Oh, and the young fundamentalists and evangelicals. Earthly things. That’s the common ground. Earthly things help keep their crowds. Different types of earthly things, but earthly things. And since they keep those earthly things, they stay big and that’s their success. Not all their success. But a lot of it. And God doesn’t get the glory in all of that. The men do. Still.
As anyone knows, we aren’t Hyles fans here. But I think Jack Hyles, and while we’re at it, Jack Schaap, are owed an apology. Don’t get me wrong—Hyles and Schaap deserve criticism. They merit the exposure of their errors and have earned the censures they have received.
So why the apology? The denunciation of Hyles and Schaap should proceed from their false doctrine and practice, their violations of God’s Word. The reprimands of them or anyone else should not arise from some personal distaste. We want to protect and propagate the truth out of love for God. When we desire for God to be honored, then the personalities are irrelevant. We are honest critics, ready to point the error where we see it. If we’re not going to be consistent in this, then we should apologize to Hyles and Schaap. We weren’t doing it for the right reason—it was only personal.
Where men have excoriated Hyles and Schaap, they have remained comparably silent on others with the same doctrinal or practical error. And I mean in the doctrine or principle behind the negativity over Hyles and Schaap. In this way, Hyles and Schaap have become the whipping boys for those who don’t seem to have a problem with the actual false doctrine or practice when it is practiced by other men. This rings of hypocrisy, one that no doubt God can see.
We’re either against a false belief and practice or we are not. The identity of the person who holds the distortion shouldn’t matter. So what are the practices of other fundamentalists and evangelicals that parallel those of Hyles and Schaap?
1. DEPENDENCE ON AND ACCOMMODATION TO THE WISDOM OF MEN FOR CHURCH GROWTH
In 1 Corinthians 1, the Apostle Paul writes in v. 22 that the “Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” Wrong church growth methodology starts with an evaluation of what unsaved people want. Paul took the opposite tack. He gave to the Jews what was to them a “stumblingblock” and what was to the Greeks “foolishness” (v. 23). He just preached the gospel to them. He didn’t want the growth of the church to stand in the “wisdom of men,” but in the “wisdom of God,” which was “to them that perish foolishness” (v. 18). Why? “That no flesh should glory in his presence” (v. 29). “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (v. 31). Men get the glory through the modernistic church growth methods.
Hyles pioneered many of the modern methods of church growth. A primary strategy of his at First Baptist Church in Hammond was to offer a particular demographic (children) an attraction for church attendance (small toys, candy, soda pop). The incitement to attend church would fit only the specific demographic, not another one (elderly, middle aged adults, etc.). Hyles targeted a special group with an appropriate seduction. Because of the success at increasing attendance, this method was imitated by many. The Jews required a sign, Greeks wisdom, and children temporary excitement. Rather than avoiding this wisdom of men, Hyles accentuated it. Schaap continues it. This technique directly violates 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16.
But is it only Hyles? Consider these recent statements on SharperIron, a fundamentalist forum, by fundamentalist leader Stephen Davis from Calvary Baptist in Lansdale, PA in an article entitled “Planting Urban Churches”:
Church planting involves numerous details such as strategy, demographic studies, . . .
You might be surprised at how many people think that new churches should dance to the same tune as churches which have existed for decades with their well-established traditions. The traditions are not necessarily wrong but may be unnecessary barriers in planting an urban church among those unacquainted with those traditions.
You might need to ask them to be open to different forms of worship, a different leadership style, a different philosophy of ministry, and a different way of living out practical Christianity.
Davis encourages young fundamentalists planting churches to accommodate the urban culture to enhance evangelistic efforts, just to be careful not to be too offensive to mother churches who practice something more “traditional.” A huge emphasis of the article is this decision for the church planter to cater to the way of life of the inner city lost.
The founder of SharperIron, Jason Janz, chronicled the “launch” of his church in downtown Denver with these words:
At the end of the meeting, we passed out a white envelope to everyone in attendance, and inside it was the balance of our checking account: $1,500. We gave every person $30 cash and asked him to find a person in need and give him the money. As clear as day, God said to me that we should do it again.
I walked into staff meeting on Thursday morning and explained the direction God had placed on my heart. I thought we should do the reverse offering again and give every attendee $10. They all agreed that we should do it in spite of the fact that we only had $2,500 in our checking account and the knowledge that we could have 250 people in attendance.
“God said to” Janz that they should do it again. This is the very kind of statement that Hyles often used to justify some evangelistic method that he used.
In the last year many fundamentalists expressed outrage over statements criticizing Calvinism by a pastor in a regional Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (FBFI) meeting. The blog world burned up with articles and comments. Shortly thereafter, the national meeting of the FBFI titled their corresponding children’s program, “When I grow up, I want to be a fundamentalist.” This as well fired up young fundamentalists. And yet there hasn’t been a peep about the Hyles-like philosophy represented by Davis and Janz from fundamentalists.
And conservative evangelicals? Or even a conservative evangelical who is the hero of fundamentalists and evangelicals, John Piper? Piper was in a conference this last year in Cleveland, OH and he answered a question about evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll, and in his answer he said these exact words, imparting his own belief and philosophy about evangelism:
These are weird people comin’ to his church . . . look at this . . . they wouldn’t come to hear me for anything. They wouldn’t go to my church, but they’ll go to his church. I’m cuttin’ him a lot of slack because of the mission. It’s kind of a both/and for me. You don’t need to go as far as you’ve gone sometime with your language, but I understand what you’re doing missiologically there and I have a lot of sympathy for, because I like to see those people saved.
Mark Driscoll does things in the way of coarse language and other strategies, completely detached from scripture and the Holy Spirit, that make him effective at seeing people saved. John Piper believes this.
If the fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are not going to scrutinize and denounce other fundamentalists and evangelicals, then they should just apologize to Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap. They don’t really care about these false doctrines and practices. I don’t know what it is, but they’ve got some other agenda.
False doctrine and practice have been around since the garden, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the constant, growing, and innovative arguments for justifying worldliness. Satan isn’t taking a vacation from his world system. And men love the world. It is tangible, tasty, and at the tip of the fingers.
A recent and common approach sees men, who propose to hate worldliness themselves, vindicate worldly living by redefining worldliness. They make worldliness impossible to judge by anyone but God. And He will. They say it’s only on the inside. These men challenge definitions of worldliness that recognize worldly externals. No doubt everything that is worldly in someone proceeds from his heart. However, what comes out is also worldly.
The World Is on the Outside
It is called the “world” because it relates to this planet we live on. Worldliness won’t ever have anything to do with Neptune or Venus. Men become enamored with what’s on the planet. They mind earthly things. Many of the things in the world or on the world came from people from here. They made it, invented it, played it, or produced it. And most of those things are the problem for men, the competition with God for their hearts. The stuff that man generates has been affected by the curse of sin. Because of that, it isn’t all innocent and it must be judged (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Music, dress, entertainment, recreation, and even the things that we put into our body have all been trouble for mankind since the beginning. And all of it is on the outside.
Being “conformed” to this world (Romans 12:2) is external. Even being “transformed” is external. It might start on the inside, but it will show up on the outside. The word translated “conformed” in Romans 12:2 is translated “fashioning” in 1 Peter 1:14: “not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts.” ‘Lusts” are internal but “fashioning” is external. The primary verses on worldliness in the Bible are dealing with something that is external.
The Attack on External Worldliness
A recent primer for this novel approach to worldliness is Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, edited by C. J. Mahaney with a foreword by John Piper. Many of the chapter titles reveal the emphasis: “God, My Heart, and Media,” “God, My Heart, and Music,” “God, My Heart, and Stuff,” and “God, My Heart, and Clothes.” You can tell where the book is heading in the foreword when Piper writes: “The only way most folks know how to draw lines is with rulers. The idea that lines might come into being freely and lovingly (and firmly) as the fruit of the gospel is rare.” We get the heads up that rules are going to be a problem in a stand against worldliness. Then Mahaney adds in the first chapter (p. 29):
Some people try to define worldliness as living outside a specific set of rules or conservative standards. If you listen to music with a certain beat, dress in fashionable clothes, watch movies with a certain rating, or indulge in certain luxuries of modern society, surely you must be worldly. . . . Worldliness does not consist in outward behavior, though our actions can certainly be an evidence of worldliness within.
When this book came out, you’d think that nothing had been written about worldliness before. Actually many books have been written about worldliness through the centuries since the printing press. If you go to google books and use the advanced search mode and look only for full view books, you’ll find many books in the 19th and early 20th century that are now public domain, which talk about worldliness, many of which were sermons (consider this by J. C. Ryle, and this and this and this by Spurgeon). They weren’t afraid to talk about external issues in the days when to us there didn’t seem like much in the world that could be a problem.
We can all be thankful for a volume intending to slay internal or heart worldliness. However, circumventing the externals and painting only a partial picture of worldliness does more damage than good. It offers some leverage to deal with worldliness without depriving the worldly of the worldly things they demand. It vaccinates the adherents with a worldly, softer strain of Christianity that only inoculates them against the real thing. It sends an ambiguous warning signal across the bow while worldliness stays on board. I have to agree with Peter Masters in his recent short review of the Mahaney book, saying that it “hopelessly under-equips young believers for separation from the world.”
Others have obviously been influenced by Mahaney’s book. Blog posts began to appear everywhere that argued that worldliness is a heart matter, so the standards in churches and lines drawn are moralistic and legalistic, argued with fervent dogmatism. Of course, the point of Mahaney’s book was to deal with worldliness, not to encourage it, but the adherents caught one of his major emphases well, that is, people who obsess on externals don’t understand worldliness. “Oh good, I get to keep my music, my entertainment, my worship, etc.” Point taken. The book doesn’t do much to hinder worldliness.
But why would anyone write a book against worldliness but not be against worldliness? Worldliness is often how churches today got where they are. Worldliness is the goose that laid their golden eggs. They’ve produced worldly goslings, but they can’t very well destroy the goose. They use worldly music, encourage worldly dress, offer worldly activities, and allow for worldly amusement. It’s no wonder that they’ve got worldly people who need a book against worldliness. But you can’t slay the goose. So you go after “internal worldliness” with hopes for some kind of restraint.
However, Mahaney provides a perfect cover for the worldly person, excusing his worldly look, taste, and conduct. He says he has a scriptural basis for it and he uses the classic passage, 1 John 2:15-17. In an elaboration on v. 16, he writes:
Notice that in enlarging upon what is “in the world,” John doesn’t say, “this particular mode of dress, this way of speaking, this music, these possessions.”
Mahaney relies on the New International Version to continue with this point:
No, the essence of worldliness is in the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does.
Some of what Mahaney says is correct. The internal is important, even as James wrote in his epistle in chapter 4 concerning carnal desires over which we will fight and war.
Mahaney makes at least two errors that debilitate his presentation. First, 1 John 2:15 is far from the proof text on worldliness. What about Romans 12:2? What about worldliness as it relates to the doctrine of holiness, in setting a difference or distinction between the sacred and the profane? Second, he doesn’t hit target in dealing with 1 John 2:15-17. It reads as someone who comes to the text with a lifestyle to protect.
What about Romans 12:2?
Romans 12:1-2 is “gospel centered.” We’ve got eleven chapters of gospel presentation. What does the gospel effect? It effects acceptable, spiritual worship, the saint offering his body to God according to His will. That offering must not conform in its externals to the spirit of this age. Certainly, for that to be accomplished requires a renewing of the mind. You can’t think the same way about the world as you did when you were lost and not be conformed to it. So this isn’t “moralism,” a regular strawman of the new worldly Christianity.
We don’t have a reason to define worldliness only with 1 John 2:15-17. Those who claim to walk in the light, but love the world, are lying. Those who love the world conform to the world. Loving the world isn’t good and neither is conforming to it. You can’t say, however, that you don’t love it when you conform to it. The new approach to worldliness separates loving it from conforming to it. They’ll say they don’t. That’s part of the deniability found in ambiguous communication. They can profess that they weren’t dismissing externals really, but if you read their writing, they leave them by the wayside.
How do you conform to the kosmos, the spirit of the age, the zeitgeist? You do it with the way you talk, dude. You do it with your comfort first, shabby, disrespectful dress. You do it with your groovy music, your deco art, your fashions, your recreation, your amusement, and your entertainment. These externals smack of a philosophy originating from a system operating in opposition against God.
What about Worldliness as it Relates to the Doctrine of Holiness?
Holiness is described by more than just moral purity, but also the transcendent majesty of God. It relates to distinctions that separate us unto God from the common or the profane.
And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. Exodus 8:23
[T]hat ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. Exodus 11:7
And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; Leviticus 10:10
Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Ezekiel 22:26
God wanted a difference put between the holy and the profane. That explains “be not conformed to this world.” It also helps us understand this verse in Zephaniah 1:8.
And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.
God will punish those who “are clothed with strange apparel.” “Strange” could be understood as worldly. The clothing itself is “strange” or “worldly,” in fitting with a profane culture. The “strange apparel” meant something—it has a philosophy that accompanied it. We see this same kind of teaching from Paul in 1 Corinthians. Paul says that an “idol is nothing” in 1 Corinthians 8:4, because “there is none other God but one.” And yet, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10: 19-21 that the idol, even though it is nothing, has a meaning to it that is devilish.
The pagan, anti-God philosophy of this world weaves its way into every part of a culture. For this reason, everything must be judged (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and that which associates itself with a humanistic or depraved way of thinking must be eschewed (1 Thessalonians 5:22). This applies to piercings, modern art, tattoos, extreme hair styles, rock, rap, and country. In other words, we are not to “[fashion ourselves] according to the former lusts in [our] ignorance: but as he which hath called [us] is holy, so be [we] holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:14-15). Every aspect of our conduct or behavior is to be distinct. In no way should our externals reflect the old unregenerate life.
Hitting or Missing on 1 John 2:15-17
1 John 2:15-17 (KJV)
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world– the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does– comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
Mahaney leaves out the first part of 1 John 2:15 in his exegesis. His description of v. 16, which isn’t completely accurately portrayed by the NIV, explains the love for the things “in the world.” But v. 15 starts with “love not the world” before it moves to “neither the things that are in the world.” The world itself is external. Mahaney argues that “the world” is only internal because that’s how it is described in v. 16. But v. 16 is explaining the things in the world, not the world itself.
The word “man” isn’t even found in the original language of v. 16 (or in the KJV). What is translated “sinful man” in the NIV is a single Greek word, the word for “flesh” (sarx). The NIV makes this “sinful man.” The Greek words translated “cravings” and “lust” in the NIV are actually the same word in the Greek New Testament (epithumia), as we can see reflected in the KJV. When you read the NIV, you’d think that there were two different words. Mahaney applies two different meanings, when they are actually both the same word. The NIV uses so much dynamic equivalence that you can’t get the true sense of 1 John 2:16 from its translation—and yet that is the translation that Mahaney chooses to use. It suits his purposes for his treatment of worldliness.
The lust and pride are a problem, but so are things in the world. We are not to “love the world.” “The world” that we’re not to love is a system that includes dress, music, entertainment, art, conduct, politics, and fashion. Satan is the prince of this current system, one that will be overthrown by Jesus Christ in the imminent future. Yes, weaving its way in this false system are the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Those are not of the Father. We are to love only that which is of the Father. Whatever smacks of the world’s philosophy, the spirit of this age, we’re not to love. We’re called upon to show discernment and say “no” to some things. Those things are on the outside.
Quietism versus Pietism
From Mahaney and Piper (and many other evangelicals) we’re to assume something gospel driven that so swings away from human effort. I believe it misrepresents the gospel and God’s grace. God’s grace teaches to deny. Grace fuels human effort. We live by faith. We don’t let go and let God. The new nature possessed by the converted will do good (Romans 7:21).
The truth is that the new definers of worldliness emphasize conduct. It’s just that it is, and ironically, the loose conduct appealing to the lust of the flesh. And they’re judging externals. They will judge your standards (which they do have) to be more strict than theirs, so you must be the legalist and the moralist. Even in writing style they work hard to make it as easy as possible to understand. Even in the dress down style of the sovereign grace ministries, something strategic is going on with their urban chic and soul patches. They are working at attracting or making comfortable a certain demographic. Something is driving all that, but it isn’t the gospel.
Perhaps it might dawn on these “gospel driven” that grace works toward using the ruler to draw the lines. It is grace working though. Old Testament Israel tested God’s grace by getting as close to evil as possible ( 1 Corinthians 10). Thinking their liberty would kick in on their behalf, these Jews in the wilderness fell because they didn’t get further away from the evil. They should have set up some safety boundaries. The real bondage was found in their attraction to worldly things. God’s grace and the gospel would have driven to distance themselves from them.
What we have here is the age-old tug of war between quietism and pietism. Quietism is a view of sanctification in which the Christian exerts the least effort possible to ensure a product from God’s working. On the other hand, there is pietism, which asserts that we must work hard and discipline ourselves to effect the favor from God that will empower the Christian life. Neither of these are true. The phantom enemy of Mahaney and his crowd is a pietism that wishes to bind his adherents in shackles of extra-scriptural regulations. Most false beliefs that would dictate their desired point of view benefit from a boogeyman to inspire irrational fear. Pietism is the boogeyman of only internal worldliness.
The grace of God that works in believers “denies ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12). As God is working in both to will and do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), true Christians are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). What is this “fear and trembling”? It is the fear of sinning, the distrust of human strength in the face of powerful temptations, and the terror at the thought of dishonoring God. The fear of God and his judgment seat motivated Paul to labor for Christ’s acceptance (2 Corinthians 5:11-12). When Philippians 2:13 says “to will,” the word speaks of the believer’s intent. God instills in His own the desire to please Him. He so respects God that he puts a distance between himself and the world, making no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14).
Noah and his family were “saved by water” (1 Peter 3:21). What did water save them from? The ark saved them from destruction, but the water saved them from the world. God promises to be a Father to those who come out from the world and “be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:18). Having that promise, a believer will “cleanse himself of all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Worldliness is more than internal. Believers will visibly and tangibly separate themselves from the world like Noah and his family did on the ark, and like God expected of Israel in the wilderness. Out of honor to God, to please Him, and with fear and trembling, they will work out their salvation. If it’s out, then it isn’t in. God put it in. Christians work it out. What God’s children work out is going to look and sound like something way different than this world system.
Almost always today evangelism efforts are judged by their effectiveness. In other words, do they work? Sometimes you’ll hear, “Door to door just doesn’t work any more.” Or, “Door to door evangelism turns people off.” Or, “We invite the lost to our church services because we have found that it is more effective.” I read often about all sorts of “effective” programs for evangelism. “We’ve got this ministry or that ministry, and we’ve found that they work.” Whether these evangelistic efforts work or not seems to be the justification for their usage. Does it matter that the “program” or the “ministry” are not in the Bible? I believe so.
I know this might sound harsh, but I don’t care about your evangelism statistics. I don’t care that a certain program that you used garnered more numbers than other means that you have used. I do care if you are obedient to the Bible in evangelism. That’s what will please God. It is living by faith when we trust what God told us to do and then do it. He gets the credit for it. When I hear about some new program, I can see the innovator getting the credit for it. And I think that following exactly what God said is most important in evangelism. God will always be the One doing the saving no matter what the innovation, but how we go about doing it will affect whether God will get the glory or not. It is for this reason that we should limit our selves and our churches to biblical evangelism methodology. God revealed the way and He gets the credit when it works.
Before I talk to you about why I believe we should do it only God’s way, I want us to consider that we can’t even judge results. God has a perspective about results that we can’t have. He sees all of time in one indivisible present. We may think that we see better results with a certain methodology because of something visible and immediate. We have no way of judging whether that will be the best for the next 500 to 1000 years. None of us should imagine that we could think of a better way than what God has proposed. And yet there seems to be non-stop innovation in the work of evangelism. I keep hearing about one new program and method after another that really makes a difference.
I might see few results in my entire lifetime, but those results may yield more results in the next generation, which then produces even more results in the next generation, and then it keeps going like that. My new method might see some short-term results and then crash in the next generation. This is where we get into trouble with a very cultural “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” philosophy. I think of Jesus in the parable of the mustard seed. He said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. A major point of this, I believe, is that the population of His kingdom builds up slow to something great. It doesn’t show immediate massive size.
What I’m proposing here is seeing your own personal stupidity. I think I’m too stupid to judge better than God. I’ll leave that judgment up to Him. I know that there are things that I can judge by the grace of God, through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Really these are things that God is still judging. Not me. I should take responsibility for judging where I am supposed to, but I don’t want to judge where I can’t possibly succeed. I’m ridiculous to do so. I want to think of myself as a methodological imbecile. God created a universe. I have, um, hmmmmm, not been very impressive. So let’s get off our high horse, folks. Get a rich understanding of how stupid you are and how smart God is. Stop depending on what you might think is keen judgment of results. You don’t have it.
The Permanence of God’s Glory
What will last is God’s glory. And that’s what He wants. He’ll produce salvations. He is the only One Who can do that. If we use His method, we’ll get exactly what He will effect. I’m fine with that, because He gets the glory and that’s why I do what I do. He’s a good God. He deserves to be glorified. I deserve zero glory, less than zero. He isn’t glorified when I do it my way, so I don’t want to do it my way. On top of the fact that I can’t judge results. I’ve got to leave all that in God’s hands.
His glory is the gold, silver, and precious stones. His glory is the laboring, that whether present or absent, I’m accepted of Him. His glory is what’s important at the judgment seat. His glory is what will last through eternity. My ideas are at the most a vapor.
What Glorifies God In Evangelism
The Bible is full of this teaching that God doesn’t want human innovation in evangelism, replete with the idea that God wants worshiped through our preaching of the gospel. We’ve obviously needed to have heard that instruction because we’ve often forgotten what He told us. We have built our own evangelistic towers of Babel. We’ve become the Thomas Edisons of evangelism. And I don’t think we’ve recognized how far we’ve gotten away from what He said.
I’m not going to focus on all of the passages on this, but some are very enlightening. I think of three right off the top of my head and I’ll deal with them in the order that they appear in my brain. The first is 1 Corinthians 1-2.
1 Corinthians 1-2
1:17 gets it started when Paul writes, “preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words.” The “wisdom of words” represents human strategy and technique. This is the gospel plus something else, the gospel along with the additions that make it work or make people like it, take some of the foolishness off of it so that it might seem a little more palatable to the lost. He moves on with this in v. 18:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.
What we should get from this is that preaching of the cross doesn’t make sense to us as a method. The world doesn’t like it. He continues in v. 19:
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Who are these wise and prudent? They’re the ones who have have figured out that people don’t like the straight preaching of the gospel, so they choose something else or something more.
The smartypants know that “Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1:22). They’ve studied the demographic. They know how people tick. They know how to customize the gospel according to the particular characteristics of a type of lost person—the alcoholic, the drug addict, the homeless, the American, the big city person, the third world country citizen, the rich guy, the kiddies, youth, urban braniacs, etc.
Paul moves opposite of the strategic program evangelism. He continues in 1:23:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.
And more in 1:25:
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
What people say doesn’t work is actually the wisdom of God. They don’t think it works because they don’t see something that says to them that it has worked. God says it works. That should be enough. No one should assume it hasn’t worked. The assumption should be that God has worked powerfully, because that’s what He does. The way that glorifies God doesn’t make any kind of human sense that it should work. It looks exactly like it shouldn’t work. That it does work is because it is of God.
And why this particular methodology of straight preaching, of just going out and proclaiming the gospel? 1:29 answers:
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
And v. 31:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
We don’t want the glory, do we? Do we? If we don’t, then we restrain ourselves from a different methodology. Just preach the gospel. “But people will be offended.” “It will turn people off.” “It works better if you….” But whether He gets the glory matters.
Because of the doctrine that we read in 1 Corinthians 1:17-31, Paul operated in a particular fashion. He explains that in chapter two beginning with this in v. 1:
I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
Read this in vv. 4-5:
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom . . . . That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Somebody who wants God glorified in evangelism will take the same tack as Paul.
Here’s the program our church uses for evangelism—we preach the gospel. We preach it house to house and to those with whom we come in contact. We preach it to relatives, to neighbors, to co-workers, to fellow students, to children, to teens, to college students, and to the elderly. We preach it to Buddhists, to atheists, to Catholics, to Hindus, to Sikhs, to professing Christians, and to Mormons.
In Matthew 13, the sower went out to sow. We go out and sow. We preach the gospel to every creature. We don’t hide our light under a bushel. We open our mouth boldly as we ought to speak. We don’t have a program. We just preach the gospel. The world might hate us. I marvel not.
We don’t use an invitation to church philosophy. We don’t use any kind of special program for teens, for kids, for drunks, for drug addict, or for any other demographic. We just preach it. I can explain to you how that what I am describing is scriptural. I can also describe how that your program is unscriptural. I don’t think a person invited to church has a better opportunity of being saved than someone who hears the gospel at his door.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.
“Serve” is the word latreuo. It is speaking of the worship of the priestly service, the sacrificial system, the offerings to God. The noun form is used in Romans 12:1 when the offering of your body to God is called latreia.
This verse says that our evangelism is a presentation to God as worship. The concern for an offering to God is whether God accepts it or not. Is it acceptable to God? The question isn’t whether it will work but rather will please God.
That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.
V. 16 uses the language of priestly service. Paul ministered in the sense that he acted as a priest. As the priest was to offer an acceptable offering unto God, so Paul offered up the believing Gentiles to God. Even as Aaron, the first Levitical priest, offered the Levites before the Lord (Numbers 8:13)—
And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the LORD.
—So also believer-priests living today may offer Gentile converts before the Lord that they may serve Him. God is well pleased when they’re offered up to Him, because it is His plan for this present age. Every new Gentile believer is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, indwelt by Him, made holy and acceptable to God. You see this thought in Isaiah 66:20 where people “out of all nations” are offered to God.
In v. 17 we see that Paul wants to “glory through Jesus Christ.” For Jesus to be glorified, the ministering, the offering that is Paul’s preaching of the gospel, must be acceptable to God.
The concern in evangelism is whether God will be glorified. When we take care of what is required for that to occur, we’ll get the exact results we’re supposed to get, no more or no less. More converts doesn’t justify a method. This isn’t living by faith but by sight. No one should assume that an evangelistic strategy is better because it has worked better than others.
In a question and answer time during a recent conference, John Piper commented that Mark Driscoll has a much greater opportunity to reach the people he does in Seattle than what Piper could. Why? What is it about Driscoll that would be more effective than Piper in reaching unsaved Seattle citizens? The implication was that Driscoll’s speaking style, his deco teeshirts, his grunge rock bands, and these types of customized innovations to the Seattle crowd were more prone to the use of God than what Piper would be able to offer. And this is coming from a Calvinist, who says he believes and teaches theological monergism in salvation. It is sheer pragmatism, Finneyesque new measures. Piper himself shows again and again that this is what he thinks. He would not have the same results if he hadn’t bowed to his own wisdom in evangelistic approach.
You look at the Resolved conference of John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Southern California, and you have the rock concert style theater lighting and platform, the relational dress, and the fleshly rock form of music all tailored for the youth culture. These all smack of the contextualization that defies these passages on Divine methodology.
I bring these two examples because they actually contradict what these evangelicals say that they believe. Young fundamentalists and evangelicals hover around them in part because they think that they are different than abuses in old fundamentalism. There’s hypocrisy in their condoning and acceptance.
Of course, we’ve got the promotion and marketing methodologies of modern fundamentalism, the giveaways and the gimmicks, justified by their effect. Methods don’t glorify God because they work. They glorify God because they stand in His wisdom and not that of men. God uses the supposed non-effective. He doesn’t get Jews through signs and Greeks through wisdom, children through toys and games, and adults through buildings and bribes. Music isn’t an evangelistic method. There’s no gospel music in the Bible, only gospel preaching. A Christmas concert is not an evangelistic strategy. A youth rally with pizza and big ball is not a biblical technique.
Typical comebacks are: “Scripture doesn’t say it’s wrong.” “Jesus got a crowd by healing people.” “The Lord gave food to the masses.” “Paul adjusted his message to the Athenian crowd.” “Jesus ate with sinners.”
The Bible does say the human innovations are wrong (see above). The healing of Jesus was to fulfill prophecy in order to reveal His identity. He wanted those to go away who were merely seeking after signs. Jesus didn’t keep feeding people because it wasn’t an evangelistic strategy. Paul preached the same gospel but used the truth that would pull down Athenian strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Jesus preached to sinners everywhere.
The limitations of the sufficient Word of God will free you from the bondage of evangelistic concoctions. You won’t be burdened by the pressure to find a way to succeed. You’ll find liberty in the simplicity of the gospel. Come to the methods of Scripture. God will give you rest. Above all, Jesus will be glorified. Oh praise His name!
I want to remind anyone reading that I’m writing about the side effects of revivalism, not revival. Anyone who hasn’t perceived that, with all due respect, isn’t reading very closely. We can diagnose genuine revival, contrary to someone’s comment on part one. We use the Bible. The point a commenter made was that my post assumed that we wouldn’t know if a real revival occurred or not. No, my post opposed revivalism. You can know when an occurrence or activity is revivalism, because it is something not regulated by scripture. We are to make these types of evaluations. Paul did (1 Corinthians 2). Jesus did (Matthew 7:13-29), and you could say that John did (1 John) and James did (James). In the same fashion, we can know based upon the Bible whether we have seen revival too.
I hear justification for revivalism today according to the same old arguments used by its inventors. Men see results and they choose to attribute it to some kind of parallel with what they read in Acts. They prayed and saw what they thought were good results mixed with bad. The problem with revivalism is that more occurs than just prayer. If men prayed in faith, they would assume that they had done all they could do to prepare for revival. Prayer assumes that we’re helpless and we must wait on God. Revivalism assumes in practice that God needs a little help. He needs our techniques and strategies and marketing and emotionalism and choreography, in addition to prayer. The Bible isn’t enough either—we’ve got to add our stories and histrionics.
The philosophy of concocting man-made and extra-scriptural activities intended to initiate a burst of salvation decisions is revivalism. On the other hand, revival is a surge of genuine conversions disconnected from choreographed human efforts. Revivalism plans revivals. We can’t plan revivals. We obey God. We live by faith. Sometimes revivals occur. God gives them.
In this two part series, I am listing and explaining some of the side-effects of revivalism. These negative consequences demonstrate revivalism and debunk it.
Inordinate Human Ingenuity (cont’)
Bible reading and prayer can contribute to the sanctification of the believer. They also manifest that sanctification. However, these two disciplines are not sanctification. A revivalist Christian, who wants God’s blessing on his life, might think that a habit of Bible reading and prayer will align him sufficiently with God to generate a revival. This isn’t true.
A revivalist might not need to know what he read in his chapters. The Bible, he’s been told, is a supernatural book, and it will do something to you irregardless of understanding the meaning of the words. You let it speak to you. You pray for it to give you the message you need. That may not be what it is saying, but still “the Holy Spirit was able to use it in your life.” This isn’t true either.
The revivalist might think that God will reward him according to the number of hours of “soulwinning” he does. It could relate to how many verses he memorizes. He might commit hundreds to memory, and again, not know what they mean, but those English words bouncing around in his head, seeing that they are the same ones found in his King James Bible, will leave a spiritual effect in their wake. And this also isn’t true.
None of the above is said to discourage prayer, Bible reading, evangelism, and Bible memorization. All of these can be wonderful spiritual disciplines with their rightful spirit, understanding, and emphasis. They could be a means to an end. They might be part of the end in itself. But not necessarily.
Iain Murray in Revival and Revivalism writes (p. 201):
Revival is not something that men can plan or command as they will; the revivals in the Northeast, which occurred over a period of thirty years, followed no pattern or sequence . . . but why these were years of great harvest, rather than others no one can explain. It was certainly not because of ‘protracted meetings’ (special evangelistic services), for they were unknown in Connecticut before 1931.
David Benedict in Fifty Years Among the Baptists writes (p. 326):
The revival ministers, as they were called, soon became very popular; they were sent for from far and near, and in many cases very large additions were made to our churches under their ministrations.
The itinerant preacher, who travels from church to church, for a week of meetings, was not an office formed by scripture. It isn’t the “evangelist” found three times in the New Testament. Knowing what we see about Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8) in Acts 8, that office was more of a church planter, someone who evangelized a community with the possibility in time of an assembly gathering.
Today what is commonly known as “the evangelist” seems to be an invented office.
Many, if not most, programs in local churches are the fruit of revivalism. The operation of a church in the New Testament reads very simple. We should assume that this is how God wants us to operate, since the Bible is sufficient. Many inventions have come out of this movement to aid God through our new measures. Some have taken other legitimate aspects of church worship to manipulate men. The revival song, what once was a part of praise directed to God, now takes on the task of enducing men to a saving feeling. This has been taken to new heights with contemporary Christian music.
Recently popular evangelical pastor John Piper was asked what he thought about the coarse pulpit speech of Mark Driscoll. As a part of his answer, he excused Driscoll by saying:
These are weird people comin’ to his church . . . look at this . . . they wouldn’t come to hear me for anything. They wouldn’t go to my church, but they’ll go to his church. I’m cuttin’ him a lot of slack because of the mission. It’s kind of a both/and for me. You don’t need to go as far as you’ve gone sometime with your language, but I understand what you’re doing missiologically there and I have a lot of sympathy for, because I like to see those people saved.
John Piper calls himself a seven-point Calvinist. He’s the hero all over of professing young evangelical Calvinists. And yet you get this kind of revivalistic language in which missions has become so dependent on us. You see the conclusion here. Mark Driscoll does things in the way of course language and other strategies, completely detached from scripture and the Holy Spirit, that make him effective at seeing people saved. John Piper believes this. And in this case it is the worldliness of Mark Driscoll that he says is causing it.
This understanding of Piper is no different than Jack Hyles or other well-known revivalist fundamentalists through the years. Perhaps the gimmicks of Driscoll, congratulated by Piper, are more appreciated by the younger evangelical and fundamentalist of the day. These same would say that they despise revivalism. They just choose a different brand of it. Iain Murray writes (p. 412):
Whenever wrong methods are popularised, on the basis of a weak or erroneous theology, the work of God is marred and confused. Dependence on men, whoever they are, or upon means, is ultimately the opposite of biblical religion.
One almost unanimous characteristic of revivalism has been inaccurate assessment of results. Murray again comments (p. 215):
[T]hese leaders were against treating anyone as a convert simply on profession of faith. Beecher’s warning against ‘the hasty recognition of persons as converted upon their own judgment, without interrogation or evidence’, was echoed by all his brethren.
The revivalists are often anxious to quote post meeting successes as proof of the genuineness of the experience. In the same audio of Piper above in his answer about the methods of Driscoll, he mentions the “four hundred” whom Driscoll had “baptized” on Easter Sunday as reason for admiration. For Hyles, it may have been his 3,000 “new converts” on a Pentecost Sunday.
What is ironic about many of the false results of revivalists is that the methods produce the results and the results validate the method. This is a destructive circular reasoning that circumvents the Word of God as the authority for faith and practice. Ignoring the Bible leaves solely human evaluation, which falls short as a means of discernment (John 17:17).
Because revivalism depends so much on man’s methods and inducements, he gets the credit no matter how much he might protest it. This is in part why Paul said what he said in 1 Corinthians 2. We see the purpose of keeping man out of God’s work in v. 5:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
God doesn’t want the results of His work to be understandable, we see that in the last several verses of 1 Corinthians 1:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
God doesn’t choose things that seem to men like they will work. God chooses to use what looks like it would never work. It does work, not because of man’s cleverness, but because of the power of God.
Genuine Christians will be concerned when God isn’t glorified by what they do. They won’t fight to defend their own turf and reputations. They want something real. In the end, what we produce will produce a lot of us, yet telling people that it is God producing something of God. We’ve got to be scriptural, transparent, and honest about this. When we follow God’s ways, the world will despise it, but God will be pleased and praised.
In the late 1960s, early 1970s, mega churches exploded with growth in California. Popular evangelical pastor and author John MacArthur talks about it in an interview with Albert Mohler:
I can trace certain trends and a visible process over the past twenty-two years. When I first came to this church as pastor, I started to preach this way and people flooded the place. It was an interesting time. It was just after the publication of The Living Bible — for what it is worth — and that certainly gave people a fresh insight into Scripture. Then came the New American Standard Version, the “Jesus Movement,” Calvary Chapel, and the intensive interest in personal Bible study. People came to church carrying Bibles with covers featuring a dove and a cross, and all that. Christian bookstores and publishers began to flourish. Maranatha Music hit — and Christian music exploded. I really think that one hundred years from now the 1970s and the early 1980s will look like a revival — and that period really was.
MacArthur elsewhere says that the Jesus Movement was a primary cause for the phenomenal growth of his church:
We kind of caught the wave of that, the tail end of the Jesus Movement. There were new Bible translations, that was huge. People were beginning to understand the Bible in new ways. There was just a wave, I think, at that time when I came that the Lord sort of allowed us to catch that I think a real moving of the Holy Spirit in a special way.
Churches in southern California became huge at this period of time, filling up with the proselytes of the Jesus movement. Like so many other fads that start in California, those churches in turn had a huge impact on the church all over the United States through their radio ministries with now well-known names in addition to MacArthur—Chuck Swindoll, Chuck Smith, and Greg Laurie—among many others. These churches took on a flavor that was admired and mimicked all over the country before there was a Hybels, Osteen, or Rick Warren.
This was the beginnings, even by testimony of those who were part of it, of something that still today has a major influence in Christianity, evangelicalism, and fundamentalism. The leadership that pioneered this direction and style made decisions about how they would function that continue to affect churches all over the world. They were uniquely non-denominational, choosing to forego the typical church brands that repulsed the spirit of that era’s seekers. They made plain choices in their evaluation of cultural issues that clearly impact the belief and practice of churches today.
Was that place and period truly subject to God-given revival? Does what occurred represent what we would see as revival according to a scriptural understanding? Did the leadership make decisions befitting of a movement of God among men? Or was this a bevy of deceit that has since caused more problems than good?
What Kind of Movement Was It?
The Jesus Movement was born out of the sixties counterculture. Young people, distrustful of authority, attempted to find fulfillment in an anti-establishment attitude and behavior that characterized the war protesters. Disenchanted with the status quo, they became hippies. The Jesus Movement contrasted with established churches both in style and substance, keeping many of the mannerisms and appearance of the hippies yet tweaking the content of the message. The hippie culture infiltrated and then changed churches into its image.
Sally Thomas in First Things, The Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life characterizes the start of the Jesus Movement in an article entitled “Grooving on Jesus”:
There’s no denying that, in many places, have it your way was an effective formula. Witness the nondenominational Calvary Chapel phenomenon. In 1968, Pastor Chuck Smith, encouraged by other conservative evangelical California pastors, recruited a youth pastor, the groovily named Lonnie Frisbee, from the Christian-coffeehouse counterculture as a “hippie liaison” to draw in the unchurched. The results were electrifying. Traditional hymn-sandwich services gave way to an effusively emotive worship atmosphere more like the quasi-religious atmosphere of a Grateful Dead concert.
The Calvary Chapel was a struggling congregation of less than thirty until Lonnie Frisbee started bringing hippies to the meetings. Thomas explains what happened:
Hundreds of shaggy young people clutching Bibles in zippered leather cases turned up for Wednesday-night Bible study with Frisbees. The church outgrew its space, outgrew it again, and ultimately multiplied into a network of churches, its own freestanding denomination.
Rock music itself had already swept the nation through its collection of noncomformists and malcontents. The Jesus movement was the beginnings of Christian rock. It began when some hippie and street musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s converted to this brand of Christianity. They continued to play the same style of music they had played previously, but began to write lyrics with a quasi-Christian message. Many music groups developed out of this, and some became leaders within the Jesus movement, rockers like Larry Norman, Keith Green, and others.
The same Chuck Smith founded the first Christian rock label when he launched Maranatha Music as an outlet for the Jesus music bands performing at Calvary worship services. It was here where the whole contemporary Christian music industry got its start as well as the new viewpoint that the music itself was amoral. The new innovation was that only the words communicated any moral content. The only ones still who hold this deceived position are those who like and support Christian rock, country, rap, rhythm and blues, and even grunge.
The churches that saw amazing numeric growth were those receptive of the hippie lifestyle, not expecting it to change. The Jesus movement was a trojan horse to wheel the world into the church. There were several keys for contextualizing God to this worldly crowd: non-denominationalism (an anti-establishment move), toleration, come-as-you-are dress, modern language translations, long hair on men, pants on women, the world’s music, and little application of scripture to the culture (dismissive of worldliness).
John MacArthur calls this time period of the Jesus Movement a genuine revival. This is when his church saw amazing numeric success. You see pictures of MacArthur in those days on his book covers wearing long hair. This is when, more than ever, you would hear the accusations of “legalism” and calls for grace. It was obvious in the counterculture hippie movement that the long hair was rebellion. If you moved that direction with your hair, you were making a statement that contradicted God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 11:14. Although MacArthur’s hair wasn’t as long as Lonnie Frisbee‘s, it was a clear signal to hippies that he wasn’t a part of the establishment.
A later contribution as a polemic for worldliness and the new view of grace to vindicate the worldly practices of this Southern California “laid-back” style was Chuck Swindoll’s 1990 book, fittingly named Grace Awakening. The Jesus Movement was a Grace Awakening in the opinion of the participants. Here are some of the statements by Swindoll that typify the defense necessary subsequent to lowering the barriers to the world:
[It is a] freedom from the demands of other people, from all the shoulds and oughts of the general public.
I can be me—fully and freely. It is a freedom to know Him in an independent and personal way.
It means I’m free to choose righteousness or disobedience.
At one point in the book, inspired by an “awakening of grace,” Swindoll asked why it is that we couldn’t visualize God in a pair of bermuda shorts.
You can’t explain a true revival outside of the gospel. When measures are adopted to produce results, you have revivalism. The Jesus Movement was very careful to adapt its methods to the tastes of the hippy culture. They liked rock music. Rock music was a new method to gather and excite a crowd. They labeled and relabeled their churches with names not packed with the theological dogma of denominationalism.
When you hear MacArthur talk about that time period that fueled the numerical growth of his church, you read of the key conditions that must be met for God to work in a tremendous way: new translations of scripture and even the paraphrase, the Living Bible, use of contemporary Christian music, and verse-by-verse teaching.
David Wells writes in No Place for Truth, speaking of fundamentalism and evangelicalism (p. 129):
Strong, authoritarian preachers emerged whose very demeanor banished doubt on sight. The stronghold of faith was thus made invincible. . . .Fundamentalism was a walled city; evangelicalism is a city. Fundamentalism always had an air of embattlement about it, of being an island in a sea of unremitting hostility. Evangelicalism has reacted against this sense of psychological isolation. It has lowered the barricades. It is open to the world.
Chuck Smith, MacArthur, and many others used the verse by verse expository type of teaching. Smith would sit on a stool in front of a microphone before a sea of hippies and work his way through the text. Certainly whatever good that did occur could result from the Bible they did get. However, what was missing was strong, authoritarian preachers, who wouldn’t lower the barrier for the world, who by their very demeanor would banish doubt on sight.
Like Finney’s Second Great Awakening, the numerical success is the main evidence for the revival. Iain Murray writes in Revival and Revivalism (p. 283):
Numbers seen to be responding were claimed as more than sufficient evidence for the rightness of the changes in practice and teaching. If the argument for the new measures had been based upon the testimony of Scripture or the witness of church history, the likelihood of the propaganda succeeding would have been small, but these were not the grounds on which the case for the new measures was based. The proof urged for them was much simpler: people had only to look at what could be seen across the country.
Finney himself wrote in his Memoirs (p. 83):
I used to say to ministers, whenever they contended with me . . . Show me the fruits of your ministry. . . . Much fault has been found with measures which had been preeminently and continually blessed by God for the promotion of revivals.
For the numerical success, the cooperation with Lonnie Frisbee, hippies, and rock bands was a necessary measure for continuing revival for Chuck Smith. Then numerical success validated the new measures. This was the way to revival that others had missed and became necessary to continue. Then, like Finney, new theological explanations must be developed that would authenticate the fellowship with the world. John MacArthur said this about that time at his church:
[I]t doubled about every two years for the first ten, just kept doubling and it went from three hundred, to six hundred, to twelve hundred. Obviously our growth has slowed down eventually. But in those early years it was amazing growth. We were doing something that was fresh, expositing the Scripture, there was a new hunger for that. We kind of caught the wave of that, the tail end of the Jesus Movement.
In his break-down of revivalism, Murray writes (p. 22):
Revival are not brought about by the fulfillment of ‘conditions’ any more than conversion of a single individual is secured by any series of human actions.
I believe that the Jesus Movement and Finney’s revival were both authored by human measures uniquely adapted to their time. Murray explains it this way (p. 298):
[A]ll christian rightly want to see success, and the new measures seemed to offer that possibility in a way not known before. . . . [T]he introduction of the new measures in a time of real revival gave weight to the claim that their ‘successes’ were due to divine blessing. . . [T]he illusion was ultimately accepted because the alleged successes received far more publicity than did the evidence of harm done to the life of the churches.
The Jesus movement was a revival in the tradition of the Second Great Awakening. It wasn’t. However, the numerical successes have influenced thousands of pastors and churches to follow the style of the Southern California mega-churches. If there is a new wave today, it is the manner of Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, or in another way, that of Mark Driscoll and those imitating him.
Lonnie Frisbee, as much as anyone, ignited the Calvary Chapel phenomena. He sat cross-legged in the front lawn of a local public school, wearing a long robe, beard, and shoulder length hair, the identical circumstance at which Greg Laurie made a profession of faith. Lonnie Frisbee died of a AIDS, a long time closet homosexual. Frisbee not only led in the beginning of the spread of the Calvary Chapel, but also the Vineyard churches.
Recently Phil Johnson, a right hand man of John MacArthur, has written a lengthy series against contextualization, coming from Acts 17. In a comment on vv. 16-18, he writes:
What’s crucial to notice here, first of all, is Paul’s relationship to the culture. He doesn’t try to assimilate. He doesn’t embrace the culture and look for ways to shape the gospel to suit it. He is repulsed by it.
As part of the Jesus movement, the churches of Southern California embraced the culture and did try to assimilate, including Johnson’s own Grace Community Church.
A new type of Jesus movement is exploding all over the country, perhaps best represented by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill in the Seattle, WA area. They have embraced the grunge culture of Seattle. Driscoll’s presentation, the design of the building, the dress, and activity are like the world where Mars Hill exists. John MacArthur wrote about it in an article he entitled, “Grunge Christianity: Counterculture’s Death-Spiral and the Vulgarization of the Gospel”:
You have no doubt heard the arguments: We need to take the message out of the bottle. We can’t minister effectively if we don’t speak the language of contemporary counterculture. If we don’t vernacularize the gospel, contextualize the church, and reimagine Christanity for each succeeding generation, how can we possibly reach young people? Above all else, we have got to stay in step with the times.
Those arguments have been stressed to the point that many evangelicals now seem to think unstylishness is just about the worst imaginable threat to the expansion of the gospel and the influence of the church. They don’t really care if they are worldly. They just don’t want to be thought uncool.
We could turn the clock back to the early seventies and say the same thing about MacArthur’s compromise with the Jesus Movement. We could even look today at the youth conference of his church, called Resolved, that dresses up the room to fit the vernacular of secular culture, to make the preachers “cool” with the young people. What I see Driscoll doing is operating with the same strategy as the Jesus Movement and Lonnie Frisbee, except with the world having gotten that much worse and his targeting the Seattle grunge culture.
Even John Piper, whose churches have followed the Jesus Movement pattern of rock music, is rethinking this now. He was in a recent Q & A along with D. A. Carson, and he was asked, “What are some of the biggest issues you think the church and evangelical scholars will need to deal with in the next twenty years?” As part of his answer he said:
Whether the ethos of the explosion of contemporary worship music and worship forms (i.e., chummy rock music) can sustain the gravitas of the glory of God over the long haul.
How could he be questioning the gravitas of rock music? That’s a done and settled case, isn’t it? Piper knows in his heart that the rock music is a self-gratifying sell-out to the world. He said it in a very understated way, but you can still catch his thinking on it.
One of the tragic casualties of the Jesus Movement and its offspring is spiritual discernment. People see numbers and they assume it must be God. They have a feeling and it must be the Holy Spirit. They want to see something spectacular and so they produce it. And then the methods are copied with very little evaluation. Later they defend it by calling it grace, so grace becomes a casualty as well. Many evangelicals and fundamentalists who decry the revivalism of Finney latch on to the revivalist children of the Jesus movement.
Holiness is more than moral purity. It is separation from that which is common and profane. God in His unique and supreme attributes retains a majestic separation far above His creation. He desires a difference be put between the sacred and the profane. As He is holy, He calls on His own to be holy as well (1 Peter 1:14-16). The angels hovering about His throne repeat “holy, holy, holy.” He says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). The Jesus Movement was not compatible with holiness or separation, but that wasn’t a problem for its adherents, as long as they could catch its wave.
The Jesus Movement birthed modern day non-denominational evangelicalism, it’s music, methods, and mega-churches. It made worldliness the norm for the church. It spawned even worse paganism in churches for today. It concocted the entire Christian music industry with its Dove awards and entertainers. It encouraged an all-time low for reverence in the house of God. It watered down grace. It demeaned Christianity. As much as or more than anything that Finney did, it profaned the holiness of God. It contaminated and perverted true worship of God. It produced a wicked generation that seeks after signs.