I am often encouraged by the ministry of Matt Chandler – defined by his relentless pursuit of the Gospel and a blunt, honest nature. His recent comments to the Southern Baptist Convention do not diverge from that norm and I think the have implications for the wider church as a whole.
“I, unfortunately, with a great deal of sorrow have walked away from the idea that all of you are men and women of the Word,” Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, told a group of Southern Baptist pastors Monday. “I’ve just come to find that a lot of you are really good at clichés and really bad at tying in the Word.”
Chandler has found some pastors to be preaching the Gospel as a means of justification but failing to teach the Gospel as a means of sanctification. That results in churches primarily focused on evangelism and having “no care in the world for the depths of spirituality and understanding the nature and character of God.”
Though active in bringing people to Christ, churches are not deepening and strengthening believers.
Consequently, many people end up leaving the church or becoming “dechurched,” he lamented.
Also, by leaving out the sanctification part, many pastors start to preach “Christian therapeutic moralistic deism,” a term he borrowed from author Christian Smith. In other words, they preach, “This is how a Christian behaves, this is how you don’t behave,” though they might not use that exact language.
The Christian Post has a full report that is worth a read but these comments get to an endemic in American churches. We are actively evangelizing but we do not disciple or push our members towards sanctification. We offer formulas for life success absent the Gospel because we are creative and rely on business models to grow a congregation. We use the same techniques as cigarette companies use to addict smokers.
We flash images of success, acceptance, and relationship – the Joe Cool Christianity if you will. Then instead of nicotine we addict believers with programming to meet their every coddled need. We create a Christian bubble that they can’t escape without complete shifting their lifestyle (think of the last time you labeled someone a “back slider”.)
The Gospel does not need slick marketing. The story of redemption through our God’s sacrifice stands above your color schemes and brands. Sanctification through pursuit of Christ is beyond what you have designed and as we hide behind facades of godliness we turn from God and despise his purpose and holiness.
I pray that we can collectively determine to pursue this Gospel unshackled from our own creativity and make the main thing, the main thing.