What do we think will give the increase? Obviously, the church will use the tools of the culture. We all know that computers, overheads, etc. are neutral. You can use a hatchet to destroy a tree or pound a tent stake. But in the work of the Gospel we should not place our reliance on physical tools and principles (“not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord”). The problem is not in the physical tools of the culture. Rather it is reliance on ideologies and marketing schemes. Even though it is vehemently denied, ultimately, our dependence is placed in schemes and paradigms to give us the increase. Well-intentioned people depend on the well-oiled chariots of Egypt rather than to wait upon the Lord to confirm the truth of His word. Observably, our trust has shifted to imported marketing and psychological therapies abounding in the society. But when these models become what we rely upon, the focus gradually and sometimes imperceptibly shifts to these imported methods rather than the “Word of the Lord.” Schuller pioneered the adaptation of Church Growth Principles and societal/contextualization from the foreign mission context of McGavren/C. Peter Wagner as taught at Fuller’s “ School of World Mission .” He adapted these growth principles to his own theology of self esteem and fashioned a gospel presentation to lure southern Californians into his church. He then taught this model yearly at the Crystal Cathedral pastors’ conferences. Among his most famous students were first Bill Hybels and then Rick Warren. Schuller’s creation of the Church Growth model for America was clearly a theological departure from historic evangelical doctrine. He off-loaded the doctrine of sin in order to make room for a self esteem gospel. Hybels and significantly Warren did not publicly and officially off-load theology. Rather they marginalized doctrine. They maintained an orthodox position for the record but it was put on ice in favor of personal fulfillment sermons, (posted on line for pastors to replicate to their congregations) and designed for a post-modern audience. For example the doctrine of the cross is accepted, but is then referred to only in passing and placed on the periphery. In practice their preaching is very similar to Schuller, but care is given to keep an acceptable doctrinal statement on reserve like a spare tire lest the seeker friendly message is challenged. But all of this concern is overshadowed by the apparent reliance and dependence upon imported sociological, marketing/business and therapeutic models which then displace a robust reliance on the teaching and preaching of the Gospel and reliance upon the work of the Spirit. The method (medium) has become the message. In actual practice the mission statement replaces the word of God. God is not relied upon and is relegated to a spectator who is given a box seat to watch the church apply pragmatic schemes from the culture on His behalf. Martin Luther used a brilliant illustration that is pertinent to this discussion. He referred to a tuning fork used to arrive at middle C on a harpsichord from which all the other notes were based. For Luther, the two vibrating prongs of the tuning fork were the Word and the Spirit. The Word and the Spirit resonated together to produce a spiritual middle C from which all other spiritual notes agreed. Seeker-Sensitive enthusiasts have apparently changed the two prongs to cultural strategies on the one hand, and the churches ability to process them into numerical success on the other. Paul in his letter to the Romans announced that he is “not ashamed of the Gospel, for IT is the power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16a) Paul also reminds Timothy that the word of God is “profitable for doctrine for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, in order that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV).
Catholic Contemplative prayer techniques and spirituality is often hidden by the code word “Spiritual Formation.” It’s incursion into Evangelicalism is deep and broad.