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Unintended Consequences

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A veteran youth minister evaluates the state of youth ministry and "big church"--he doesn't like what he sees:
We look at our youth group now and we feel good. But the youth group of today is the church of tomorrow, and study after study suggests that what we are building for the future is ... empty churches.

What Pastor Marino says is not necessarily new, but it is helpful to have a man who has spent his entire ministry working with youth to say these things. Equally eye-opening are the comments that follow his post where other youth ministers either applaud or argue his premise. In response to one, Marino says:
The blog article comes from a seminar I put together a few years ago for the Urban Youth Workers Institute. Interestingly, when I did the seminar people over 35 would sit with their arms folded and youth workers under 25 would literally be standing and cheering. I can say that they resonated with what I was saying.

I think most pastors would agree that youth and children's ministries are some of the most difficult to navigate as a church, especially for those of us in churches that are intentional in our efforts to catechize our children and include them in the worship of the church. [For more on the treacherous nature of children's ministries, especially, see this fine post.] Let us, then, add Pastor Marino's council to that of others like Christian Smith and Kenda Creasy Dean: rigorous theology, Word and sacrament ministry, and service to others forms not just the basis of our adult pilgrimage but also our young adult pilgrimage. As Dr. Barnhouse said, "What you win them with, you win them to."
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  • It is hard to draw close to the Triune God who has revealed himself in history if we won't reveal him from our pulpits.

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  • Guest - Bill

    The problem with seeker sensitive mega churches is that they are filled with false converts. There's no preaching of sin, no preaching of God's wrath, no preaching of the lost condition of man, no preaching of hell and without this there simply is no preaching of salvation. They use the name of Christ, they talk about the cross, they talk about reconcliation but it doesn't matter because they are not talking of Jesus as Saviour (since nobody is lost and headed to hell why would they need a saviour, as an example pastors teach that people that haven't heard the gospel are not lost because they were not given an opportunity to make a decision for Jesus). Instead what is preached is a quasi-gospel (another gospel like Paul calls it) that teaches that man isn't perfect, God is perfect, we are separated from God, and we need Christ to reconcile us to a perfect God because to get to heaven we need perfection and Christ is the only ticket to heaven. This may appear orthodox but it's far from it. See the difference? It may look subtle but if somebody tells an unbeliever that he/she is not perfect, he/she will agree wihtout being convicted of their sin that deserves death. And they will not see the need for a Saviour. The total depravity of man in his natural state is something historic christianity (calvinists, lutherans, and arminians) always agreed on, and by this I mean the unbeliever is under God's wrath and is totally unable even with his best effort to please God through works. Modern evangelicalism, the seeker sensitive church, instead teaches that man is not perfect and this why he needs Christ. Nobody can be born again with this kind of preaching, to be born again you need to die first, the law kills the natural man and the spirit quickens him into a new man. That the natural man is imperfect and "needs to make a decision for Christ" to be saved and have a personal relationship with Jesus is not biblical preaching, that he's dead in treaspasses and sins, and totally incapable of doing good works that please God until he embraces Christ's mercy in his finised work on the Cross is what needs to be preached.

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  • Guest - Bill

    In the post I just wrote I indicated that the laws humbles a man when properly preached and leaves him ready for the gospel. Telling people they are not perfect does not produce the humility the sinner needs to embrace the gospel.

    Now I also should have added that there could be people in a megachurch that have already been humbled by the law and desparately need the gospel. Well they won't hear it either. There's no clear emphasis on Christ's finished work on the cross, penal substitution, Christ having fulfilled the covenant of works on behalf of mankind by his perfect obedience to the father, imputation. All this needs to be preached for conveting a sinner. Also it needs to be preached to christians every Sunday because it's the essence of faith and the source of ALL other benefits that God bestows on believers. Paul indicated in Philippians he has given up everythng having no righteousness of his own to embrace Christ's righteousness, he also taught in his letter to the Corinthians that he purposed to know nothing except Christ and him crucified. The megachurches are busy teaching self help soft legalism when Paul teaches that nothing but Christ's work on the cross is ought to be preached. "The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it's the power of God" (1 Cor 1:18)and then again "it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (1 Cor 1:21) and one more time "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to jews and folly to gentiles, but to those who are called, ..., Christ the power of God and wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24) The evangelical seeker sensitive megachurch doesn't get the cross, it doesn't preach it.

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  • Hi Bill,

    Thank you for your passion and clarity...and for keeping my post from a week ago alive. :-)

    For people to hear a clear Reformation Gospel message the Scriptures you reference would have to be first read and then expounded upon...neither of which are happening in many mega-relevant big-boxes. There are exceptions, of course. But the softening of the message is following the softening of the methods.

    I had a friend attend Easter services in the same church I refer to in my later post on thegospelside.wordpress.com - "Mormon Bishop to Mega-church: Thanks!". At the largest church in Arizona the name of Jesus was apparently not mentioned a single time on Easter-the celebration of his resurrection. Instead there were references to an un-named "Warrior."

    God help us.

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  • Guest - Mike King

    Matt,
    Thanks for clarifying. I did not read your original transcript. Probably should have... I am interested in your upcoming piece. Is there anyway you can send it to me so I can read it?

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  • Sure it is the top post on http://thegospelside.wordpress.com

    It is pretty short and doesn't draw out implications. But it was really fascinating to hear his take.

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  • Guest - Bill

    Hi Matt, totally agree that preaching and expounding the biblical text and the doctrines of grace that the Reformers stood for is a must to revive the evangelical church. For example Calvin in his Institutes explains the sinful nature of man, that he's in Adam, the nature of original sin, and as a result the natural man commits sin because of his sinful nature. He's a sinner by nature and this is why he sins and is totally incapable of performing good works pleasing to God.

    Something else that will need to be address is the evangelism methods. Decisions for Christ don't save you, making a decision to accept Christ's gift of salvation doesn't save you either although it sounds better. It is when we apprehend (or rather are apprehended by Christ) Christ's mercy in his work on the cross by faith that we are saved. And this is by grace, it's a gift of God. It has nothing to do with a decision we make, but instead God reveals himself to us his wonderful mercy and justice (Jesus satisfied God's demand of perfect obedience to the Law) embodied in the atonement. A personal decision is a commitment that we make to God, it doesn't save us. Salvation is by God's grace when we embrace his mercy by faith, very differnt from a decision where I take full or partial credit for my own salvation. Salvation comes by believing the gospel and this is of grace, not by making personal decisions or commitments.

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  • Guest - Bill

    Just to add. Salvation is of God, and only when He reveals himself in the gospel to us by his grace we can be saved. It is not something we do, it is not something we choose, or get to decide. It's God's decision and not our decision when he chooses to reveal himself to a sinner and save that sinner. Monergism needs to make its way into the evangelical church for true Reformation to happen.

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  • Thank you for upholding the majesty and grandeur or God's grace. ...And then, by faith we say, "Thank you, Lord!" That is a "response" of faith rather than a "decision" that saves.

    I am under the impression that "decisions" are the fruit of the Billy Sunday crusades.

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  • [...] Mama or Bride? Feb.12, 2013 by Eric Landry in Friends, General Our friend, Matt Marino (of Cool Church fame), has written another great post on the church: The Church is Christs Bride, Not His [...]

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