Evangelicalism as opposed to evangelism is a movement within the Protestant churches that emphasizes particular ideas within the church. These ideas can be diverse, but usually include:
- one must be born again
- active in evangelism
- belief and obedience to the teachings of the Bible
- salvation by grace through faith alone
- having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ
These ideas are all perfectly sound Biblically, and perfectly proper. Nevertheless, another idea has crept into virtually all the evangelical churches, and this idea has never be acknowledged or articulated anywhere to my knowledge – until now. [Update – Frank Viola briefly addresses the problems of evangelical practices in his book Pagan Christianity. I highly recommend this book.]
That idea is that in order to win souls to Christ in today’s world, one must appeal to their fleshly desires. Nor does this appeal stop with conversion, but it must continue in order to maintain their presence within the church body. In other words, evangelicalism is all about appealing to fleshly desires in order to draw, convert and keep people in the church.
Do you find this statement shocking? Does it arouse anger or vehement disagreement? Or do you acknowledge the truth of the matter? No matter what your reaction, this article will demonstrate the reality of this assertion, show from the Scriptures that it’s practice is nothing less than idolatry and therefore anathema to God, and finally – the Biblical way to appeal to sinners and saints.
Some of the Ways that Evangelicals Use to Appeal to the Flesh
The means Evangelicals use to draw people to Christ and the church can be very subtle in their error. In cases where they are no so subtle, the error of their way has crept in so slowly, that no one seems to even recognize that they are wrong.
Let’s look at some examples, beginning with the more obvious ones. Because our eyes have grown dim and our ears dull of hearing (Rom 11:8), please pray that God will open your heart and eyes so that you may see the truth of these things.
Halloween is a holiday centered around Satan and the darkness of sin and death. God abhors these types of things. Witchcraft is the work of the flesh and those who practice it shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:20-21). Even greater condemnation of these practices can be found in Deuteronomy 18:
10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
13 Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.
Note particularly verse 12 – “these things are an abomination unto the Lord”, and verse 13 – “Thou shalt be perfect…”. Where have we also see these latter words? In Matt. 5:48, Jesus says:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Do you think these passages leave any room for compromise? For dabbling in darkness? If not, then how can evangelical churches justify celebrating Halloween? The usual excuse given is – “We are just trying to provide a safe alternative to the world”. If this reason is true, then why are children of Christian parents still dressing up in various costumes? Why are the practices of trick or treating done under the guise of “trunk or treat”?
How are these practices really any different from those of Halloween? They instead reveal the true heart of the Evangelical – to dress up the ways of the world in Christian garb so that he can have it both ways. He can worship both Christ and Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15).
Am I being overly harsh? Really? Can you cite an example in Scripture where dabbling in the ways of the world and evil is permitted? If the church really wants to provide a proper alternative, it can return to a common practice in the past – have an informal hymn sing. It provides a means of escape from the evil practices of the night and glorifies God in the process.
Do I hear an objection? What? People won’t come? Why won’t they come? Do they love the things of the world more than the things of the Lord? Is that what you are afraid will happen? It indeed just might happen. If it does, what does that tell you about the heart of your fellow evangelicals?
While I do not view the previous discussion to qualify as controversial in the clear light of Scripture, the subject of rock music certainly is. While I cannot prove from the Scriptures that rock music is carnal, there is nevertheless considerable evidence that it is. This evidence surprisingly comes from the rock musicians themselves. Here are some quotes (more can be found at http://insiderockmusic.com/what-is.html):
- “Rock ‘n’ roll: The term is a blues euphemism for sexual intercourse.”—The Rolling Stones Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.
- “Rock music is sex. The big beat matches the body’s rhythm.”—Frank Zappa.
- “Everybody takes it for granted that rock ‘n’ roll is synonymous with sex.”—Chris Stein.
- “Rock ‘n’ roll: A general term with sexual implications, as rocking ‘n’ rolling, originally meant fornicating. It has been used to cover many styles and types of music since the early 50s.”—Robert Fink and Robert Ricci, The Language of 20th Century Music.
- “In a sense, all rock is revolutionary. By its beat and sound, it has always implicitly rejected restraint and celebrated freedom and sexuality.”—Time magazine, January 3, 1969.
Now Christians who approve of Christianized rock music, rationalize the practice by insisting that music is amoral, that is it by itself is neither moral nor immoral; only the words themselves can be immoral. By replacing the words with Christianized versions, rock music can be sanitized and made acceptable to God.
But is this assertion true in light of the quotes above? These quotes are not referring to the words, but the music itself. The invention of rhythm and blues was not an innovation in words, but of musical form. It was so quickly spread throughout the world not because of the lyrics, but because the music itself so appealed to the desires of the flesh.
Consider these words of warning by David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade:
Pentecostal preacher David Wilkerson changed his position on jazzy music and began to lift his voice against Christian rock. In his book Set the Trumpet to Thy Mouth in 1985 he said: “One of the reasons God’s Spirit was lifted from the Jesus Movement of the last decade was their refusal to forsake their old music. They gave up pot, heroin, alcohol, promiscuous sex, and they even gave up perverted lifestyles. But they refused to give up their beloved rock…! I say its hold is stronger than drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. It is the biggest mass addiction in the world’s history…. rock music, as used and performed in Christian circles, is of the same Satanic seed as that which is called, punk, heavy metal, and is performed in devilish rock concerts worldwide.”
In 1991 Wilkerson gave the following warning: “About five years ago I became disheartened when many pastors opened up their churches to rock concerts. Teenagers went wild, dancing in the aisles, going straight out of church and into back seats of cars for sex. Parents wrote me brokenhearted, saying, ‘My teenager was on fire for God. Then our pastor and youth pastor brought in these wild groups, and I lost my son. he is backslidden. He got an appetite for occult music right in our own church.’”
Attempting to sanctify something inherently evil by Christianizing it, epitomizes the modus operandi of Evangelicals today. Of course this carnal music resonates with young people of the world. By bringing it into the church, it is in no way bringing sinners to Christ, but rather the world to the church.
I could write an entire book on the evils of rock music and the errors of trying to Christianize worldly things, but instead, I will end this discussion of rock music with two quotes from John MacArthur:
The primary audience for our singing is to be fellow believers, one another. Throughout Scripture the singing of God’s people is shown to be within the fellowship of believers. No music in the Bible is ever characterized as being or intended to be evangelistic…when emotions are played on without a clear or complete presentation of God’s truth to the mind, such music can be counterproductive by producing a feeling of well-being and contentment that is a counterfeit of God’s peace and that serves to further insulate an unbeliever from the saving gospel.
Our music cannot be like the music of the world, because our God is not like their gods. Most of the world’s music reflects the world’s ways, the world’s standards, the world’s attitudes, the world’s gods. To attempt to use such music to reach the world is to lower the gospel in order to spread the gospel. If the world hears that our music is not much different from theirs, it will also be inclined to believe that the Christian way of life is not much different from theirs.
User Friendly Churches
John MacArthur’s quotes on music also address the principal method of the way many contemporary churches operate as well. These churches are sometimes called user-friendly in that they are designed to make people comfortable whether they love God or not. To quote MacArthur again:
… can be counterproductive by producing a feeling of well-being and contentment that is a counterfeit of God’s peace and that serves to further insulate an unbeliever from the saving gospel.
His words apply not just to music but most of the practices of the modern user-friendly church. The problem with their various ministries is not so much that they are wrong per se, but that they appeal to and build up the flesh.
The flesh is their object, not the spirit. They minister to what makes a person feel good, when the way of the cross is about anything but feeling good.
Even the preaching is geared toward the flesh at the expense of the soul. Targeting the flesh in the way that it is, especially in the preaching, is so subtle that one needs to think long and hard to identify it as doing so.
It is not so much that the preaching is unbiblical. It usually is biblical. That is what makes it so pernicious. The gross error is not in what is being preached, but in what is not being preached. Sermons are designed to make the flesh feel good. They are not designed to convict and move the spirit to repentance.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of this practice when he said: “speak unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10). Paul also prophesied of this day:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. – 2 Tim. 4:3-4
Evangelical Practices are Idolatry
Now that we have examined and exposed common Evangelical practices for what they are, let us call them what they are – idolatry. One topic I have never heard preached from a pulpit is for Christian’s to flee from idolatry (1 Cor 10:14).
Common thinking today is that idolatry appears to be something only primitives practiced. After all, who build shrines to images of gods in the west today? Are Christians in the practice of buying little silver or stone idols? Are Christians presented with meat sacrificed to idols in the butcher shop?
Why of course not. None of these things are done today. We live in an enlightened age. We live in an enlightened society.
What has this age and society been enlightened by? Has it been enlightened by the light of Scripture? Or has it been enlightened by the reason of worldly intellectuals, i.e. godless men? Are we really enlightened then?
Of course not. We have simply changed the form that our idols take. Instead of worshiping stones, we worship sports. Instead of worshiping graven images, we worship music and those that perform it.
We are not enlightened at all. Rather, our hearts and minds have been darkened. By failing to truly be enlightened by the word of God, we have become fools (Rom 1:19-22).
The practices of Evangelicals has been nothing other than those things that appeal to the flesh. Since a carnal man is at enmity with God, fleshly practices are in fact idolatry.
Evangelicals admit that they appeal directly to the flesh in order to draw sinners to the church. They will not of course admit to such a frank way of phrasing it, but do they not admit to it when they say such things as:
- We need to use the music of young people today in order to reach the young people of today.
- We need to provide a Christian alternative to the things of the world.
The implication being that if it we don’t provide the same things that the world provides, we will neither reach the world for Christ, nor will we be able to keep them from returning to the world. In other words, we must practice the same idolatry in the church that is practiced in the world, because we have nothing better to offer them.
That is the method and the message of the Evangelicals. To make it perfectly clear, let me repeat it again:
We (evangelicals) must practice the same idolatry in the church that is practiced in the world, because we have nothing better to offer them.
A Better Way
What Evangelicals totally miss is the best way to draw men unto Christ – Christ himself.
When Jesus walked the earth, he draw great throngs to himself wherever he went. Why? Because He is so wonderful that He is irresistible. His love, his grace, his passion, his manliness, and the list could go on and on, will draw anyone who wants to make peace with God. He even testified that when He is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself (John 12:32).
In short, the way to draw men to Christ is with Christ, not the world. So why are Evangelicals so intent on using the draw of the world instead of Christ? I cannot judge a man’s motivation, but I believe the answer is most likely because it is easier and appears to be more effective. Let’s look at these two motives.
The only way to use Christ to draw men to Him is to become Christ ourselves. The only way to do that is to totally submit ourselves to Christ. We can no longer live for ourselves, but He must live His life through us. In doing so, we become like Him. We will then draw men just as He did when He walked the earth. We now walk the earth in His place.
Yielding our life to Christ is not an easy thing to do. Evangelical programs are much, much easier, and can be done by anyone who says they are a Christian. They don’t actually have to yield themselves to God!
Evangelical practices appear to be more effective by all common measures. How many converts can one win by being like Christ versus the numbers that can be one by drawing in thousands to be entertained and persuaded by powerful oration? There is no competition. The latter wins hands down.
Wait a minute though. Consider what the latter is accomplishing. Are these converts truly disciples of Christ, or are they merely converts to the Christian religion? Allow me to remind you that “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;” (Psalm 127:1).
While the disciples that God makes may not be as numerous as those that man makes, the former are the ones that count. Only the Holy Spirit can draw men to Christ. Nothing we can do can add to that number, regardless of our methods.
One might object at this point, saying “Do you mean that converts won to Christ by means of modern Evangelistic practices are not truly Christians?” While it is true that most of these converts are not genuine disciples of Christ, it does not mean that God does not work through these means either.
Jesus made it clear that we shouldn’t forbid those who are doing work in His name, even if they are not doing it by God’s direction (Luke 9:50). God will use any means He desires to work in mens’ lives. He even used a donkey once. Just because God brings forth good from Evangelical practices, does not make them biblical nor as effective as God’s ways.
Effectiveness of God’s Way
I believe a main reason that God’s way doesn’t appear effective in comparison to that of Evangelicalism, is because it hasn’t really been tried in modern times. For a good comparison, let’s look at how it worked in earlier times.
Jesus was an obscure carpenter who never wrote down anything He said, yet predicted that His words would never pass away. So effective were His words and life that He set the world on fire and continues to do so today.
Paul lacked the modern means of transportation, communication and concentrations of people. As a result, he probably only won a few hundred to Christ if even that many. Yet from these few disciples, Christianity become an irresistible force in all the Roman empire.
Has God changed since then? Has His ways changed? Has man changed? Yea, man may have changed – his heart may have hardened. In that case, how can it be softened? Can anyone except God soften it? Other than the possible change in modern man’s heart, has anything else really changed? If not, then shouldn’t the means God used in the past be sufficient for today? Or does God need help from man’s wisdom and his ways? I will leave it to my reader to answer these last two questions.
In summary, I assert that:
- God’s way of winning lost souls has been rejected not because it is ineffective, but because it is hard.
- God’s way appears less effective because true disciples will always be greatly outnumbered by false disciples. God’s way will produce more true disciples. Man’s way will produce more false disciples.
We must reject the tenets and practices of Evangelicalism. They are the world’s ways, not God’s.