November 27, 2006
Do Seeker-Driven Pastors & Churches Minimize the Bible?
I have been pondering a possible relationship between the minimizing of the Bible in so-called seeker-driven churches and in some of the radical forms of contextualization that have emerged in missions. Perhaps there isn’t any connection. But I wonder. The common denominator that I am pondering is the loss of confidence that declaring what the Bible says in the power of the Holy Spirit can create and sustain the church of Christ.
This morning I just read John 2:11, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” I bowed and prayed, “O Lord, this is how faith happens. People are given eyes to see your glory in your person and in your deeds. Please don’t let me turn away from the ministry that puts all the emphasis on the ‘gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God’” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Then I was reminded of another text in John that connected the revelation of Christ’s glory to the written word of God. John 20:30-31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The signs that reveal the faith-awakening glory of Christ are not mainly new signs being done today, but the signs that are written in the gospels. These are written “so that you may believe.” He “manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” That is the way faith comes. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes “He will glorify me!” (John 16:14). Therefore we declare the fullness of the glorious Person and Work of Christ in history. That is how the church is created and sustained.
It seems to me that a growing number of pastors and missionaries have lost confidence in this truth. They have concluded that the gap between the glory of Christ and the felt needs of their neighbors, or between the glory of Christ and the religion of the nationals, is simply too great for the fullness of God’s word to overcome. The upshot seems to be the minimization of the Word of God in its robust and glorious fullness.
This is on my front burner just now because in recent weeks I have received a steady stream of testimonies from aching saints who say in so many words, “Our pastor doesn’t proclaim to us what the Bible says and means. The messages are not revelations of the glory of Christ. They are advice-talks with a religious twist.” And then I have been reading about certain kinds of gospel contextualization in missions that seem to minimize the fullness of the biblical revelation which converts should share with others. So I have been pondering whether there are connections.
I have no desire to naively equate the cultural conglomerate of western Christianity with the true, spiritual body of Christ. I can appreciate avoiding the word “Christian” in a missions context where it signifies: degenerate, materialistic, immodest western religion. And I realize that most of the ways we “do church” are culture specific rather than biblically mandated. But there are other questions that trouble me: