Sunday, May 18, 2008

A visit to a "seeker friendly" church

This weekend I visited a precious brother of mine and his family. On sunday morning we decided to go to the local church nearby. I could tell by the warm fuzzy feelings eminating from the pulpit that this was a "seeker sensitive" fellowship.

In my efforts to describe the experience I considered talking about how "man centred" the worship songs were or the secular song that talked about "relationships" which led into the sermon on (you guessed it) "relationships". A message on relationships - WOW, now that's really breaking new ground in much the same way that "Walker Texas Ranger" broke new ground for Chuck Norris as an actor. I also considered describing the complete failure to talk about sin, repentance, and Christ's redemptive work on the cross in order to reconcile a sinners relationship with God.

But when my 4 year old daughter returned from her sunday school class with the "prize" she'd won I realised that my efforts to describe the experience were totally unecessary. The miniature poker machine she held in her hands summised the experience perfectly.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Five Fold Ministry Goofs of the Seeker Sensitive Movement (Part 7)

“I believe in being seeker sensitive, it’s just that I only believe in one Seeker”
Paul Washer
Question 6. Can the desire for relevance compromise the purity of the gospel itself?

If we were to break down presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ into five essential elements then I would explain it in this order i) the Holiness of God; ii) the sinfulness of man; iii) the certainty of judgment; iv) the atoning work of Christ and His resurrection and; v) man’s response that requires repentance and faith. Other people may break it down in different ways but these five points encapsulate the necessary truths one must understand in order to come to saving faith. This message God has given to His church is both offensive and foolish to the unconverted sinner[1].

But the quest for relevance often turns into a quest to make the gospel inoffensive. The problem with this is that in order to make it inoffensive you have to tone down point i), avoid points ii) and iii), change the emphasis in point iv) to that of Christ identifying with our pain, and remove the repentance element of point v). As a leader within a “seeker friendly” church once said to me in an unguarded moment “we know we’re not putting all the cards on the table”. A pioneer of the “seeker sensitive” movement had this to say about point ii) “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition”[2]
I’ve sat through many “gospel presentations” where the message has undoubtedly been compromised. In fact on one occasion at an “outreach” the speaker actually neglected all five points and then had an altar call. Unfortunately this is becoming all too common, at least in my experience. John Macarthur had this to say “Unfortunately the philosophy and practice of compromise has even invaded the church. Because "tolerance" is the operative ideology in our society, the church adopts a similar perspective to reach the unsaved. Many churches now look for ways to give the gospel to people without offending them. Yet the very nature of the gospel is offensive because it confronts sinners with their sin. Ignoring that, many churches willingly compromise God's Word instead of standing firm on the gospel, and they give the world a watered-down version that can't effect any change”[3].
That concludes PART I.
Coming Soon PART II - The Discipleship Disaster

[1] I Corinthians 1:23
[2] Robert Schuller – Christianity Today – October 5, 1984

Go Back To Part 6
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Five Fold Ministry Goofs of the Seeker Sensitive Movement (Part 6)

“I believe in being seeker sensitive, it’s just that I only believe in one Seeker”
Paul Washer
Question 5. What is truly relevant to the non Christian?

To be sure, some people feel legitimate needs such as those suffering starvation or terminal illness (authentic Christians and churches should bare the fruit of the Spirit in taking care of physical, mental, and social needs), but the truth that Scripture highlights is that we are all terminally ill[1] and standing on the brink of eternity. Billions of dollars are being spent trying to find cures for AIDS and cancer all the while the ultimate statistic (that one out of one people die) is being left unattended. No one is working on the death problem because no amount of science can undo the curse of sin and death that God put in place.

With a universal problem like this it seems amazing that so many people wander through life filling their lives with enough distraction to forget this reality. The law of sin and death brings another universal reality into play, that of judgment. Every single person who has ever lived will have their day in court before the Creator of the universe. Many modern preachers in their quest for “relevance” ignore the most relevant issue of all - the universality of sin, death, and judgment.
To Be Continued tomorrow - where we will conclude PART I with Question 6:
Can the desire for relevance compromise the purity of the gospel itself?

[1] Hebrews 9:27

Go On To Part 7
Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Five Fold Ministry Goofs of the Seeker Sensitive Movement (Part 5)

“I believe in being seeker sensitive, it’s just that I only believe in one Seeker”
Paul Washer
Question 4. Is there a correlation between a non Christian’s “felt needs” and what they really need?
A primary focus in the “seeker sensitive” model of reaching the community is that of “felt needs” or what a non Christian individual perceives as his primary needs. One church growth expert had this to say “It is . . . critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign. If our advertising is going to stop people in the midst of hectic schedules and cause them to think about what we're saying, our message has to be adapted to the needs of the audience”[1]. “The audience . . . is sovereign”? I am still trying to figure out what Bible verse that is. Jesus obviously forgot the sovereignty of His audience when He told them that they needed to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”[2]. Let’s just say that attendance really dropped off significantly after that.

In theory, this kind of church meeting will have plenty of non Christian or “unchurched” people in attendance as they are the target audience. This target audience are often surveyed by the church to find out what their “felt needs” are. I would contend (having sat through many seeker sensitive meetings) that an initial focus on the audience’s felt needs actually subliminally affirms their felt needs as their primary needs. But the question remains as to whether what they really feel and what they really need are even remotely connected. Scripture has this to say of the unregenerate human mind “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”[3]. Scripture also says that “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart”[4].

Herein lies the disconnect between what the natural man desires and what he truly needs. What we need is righteousness[5], but human flesh drinks iniquity like water[6]. The first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans inform us that the visible creation reveals the work of a Creator to an alienated world[7] and that the human conscience reveals God’s moral law written on our hearts[8]. Rather than ministering to the individual’s “felt needs” we need to reason from sin, righteousness, and judgment[9] in order to awaken that sleeping conscience (numb through continual sin[10]) that reveals our alienation from the Creator and need for righteousness.

To Be Continued tomorrow - where we will deal with Question 5:
What is truly relevant to the non Christian?

[1] George Barna – Marketing the Church p145
[2] John 6:53
[3] I Corinthians 2:14
[4] Ephesians 4:18
[5] Matthew 5:20
[6] Job 15:16
[7] Romans 1:20
[8] Romans 2:15
[9] John 16:8, Acts 24:25
[10] Romans 1:18

Go On To Part 6
Go Back To Part 4
Go Back To Part 1

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Five Fold Ministry Goofs of the Seeker Sensitive Movement (Part 4)

“I believe in being seeker sensitive, it’s just that I only believe in one Seeker”
Paul Washer

Question 3. Is the local church meant to grow by attracting the “unchurched”?

The popular thought among “seeker sensitive” proponents is that growth in attendance verifies success and validates the methodology. But is this a valid form of measurement? Following this logic Noah must have been an abject failure as an evangelist. To be sure he was a great ship builder but he was also a preacher of righteousness[1] for around 100 years. After a century of Noah’s evangelistic endeavors how many people got on the boat – his wife, his three sons and the wives of his three sons. Think about it, Noah endured decade after decade without a “church growth manual” to improve his ark attendance. How long would most modern mission boards have given Noah before they cut his funding. Few would argue that the problem was Noah’s preaching and Scripture seems to suggest otherwise[2]. It seems pretty clear that the reason no one listened to Noah was that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”[3]. Noah’s success as a preacher should be measured by his faithfulness to the message God charged him with[4] and so too should it be with the preachers of modern times. The church growth phenomenon has placed unnecessary pressure on many faithful preachers in the field as congregation size becomes a criteria that prevails over faithful preaching.
Some people will be critical of this analogy concerning Noah. Without a doubt healthy church attendance can be a reflection of faithful preaching and God’s favor. But my contention here is that this should never be our starting point. Several years ago I took part in some campus evangelism at a major university in Australia. Christian leaders on the campus were very interested in methodology and results. The first question asked was “does it work?” to which I responded “wrong question”. Their first port of call in evaluating my material and methodology should have been the question “is it biblical”? If everything we do is not grounded in Scripture then our labor can be like window dressing on a house with no foundation[5]. Many would argue that their methodology is grounded in Scripture but we need to apply a proper hermeneutic when assessing this (which will be discussed in a later chapter).
This pragmatic thinking where the end justifies the means is very prevalent in many of today’s mega-churches and can be a very dangerous road to travel. Our deceitful human hearts can be quick to embrace ideas that deliver a desired outcome. One key figure within the seeker sensitive movement said this “Create a service that is intentionally designed for your members to bring their friends to. And make the service so attractive, appealing, and relevant to the unchurched that your members are eager to share it with the lost people they care about”[6]. Did you notice the emphasis he placed on preaching content? No, me neither.
While many professing Christians can quote John 3:16 with ease the verses that follow seem to have been highlighted with invisible ink. Yet they contain the missing information. Verses eighteen through twenty have this to say “He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed”[7]. Scripture teaches plainly that unconverted humanity cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can never find a policeman.
I cannot find anywhere in Scripture where we are instructed to make our churches more attractive to the “unchurched”, but there is ample evidence of God growing His church[8] and men preaching His message. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Only God can change the human heart[9], and the “foolishness of preaching”[10] is the method God chose to facilitate that change.
To Be Continued tomorrow - where we will deal with Question 4:
Is there a correlation between a non Christian’s “felt needs” and what they really need?
[1] II Peter 2:5
[2] Genesis 6:9
[3] Genesis 6:5
[4] II Timothy 4:1-5
[5] II Timothy 3:16
[6] Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Church p253
[7] John 3:17-20
[8] Matthew 16:18, Acts 2:39,47
[9] Ezekiel 36:26
[10] I Corinthians 1:21

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Five Fold Ministry Goofs of the Seeker Sensitive Movement (Part 3)

“I believe in being seeker sensitive, it’s just that I only believe in one Seeker”
Paul Washer
Question 2. What is the local church’s role in the work of evangelism?

So if the local church belongs to Christ, and it is Christ Who builds the church, then what work has been allocated to the local church and each member of its congregation. Are you ready . . . preaching! Now I know this idea is about as popular as a pork chop in a Synagogue but that is every Christian’s responsibility. Jesus’ final orders, to go into the world and preach the gospel, is every Christian’s primary responsibility and the local church is charged with equipping them for this work. I know the ideas of “lifestyle” and “friendship” evangelism are very much in vogue these days but they seem to be employed more and more as loopholes around the Great Commission than the means by which we achieve it. Sure we can let our light shine but did Paul say “how shall they see without a preacher”? No, he says “how shall they hear”[1]. Furthermore, witnessing by example will always be brought undone by two things: i) our inherent sinful nature and ii) the guy on the mountain bike from the works righteous religion always seems to have a light that shines brighter (even if it is the headlamp of an oncoming train).

Others claim to be absolved from any witnessing responsibility because they don’t have the “gift of evangelism”. The text they cite is from Ephesians 4:11 where evangelism is recognized as a ministry gift. But the purpose of the gift is identified in the following verse which is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. So here we see that the gift of evangelism is for training believers and not for the unconverted. It is the work of evangelism that is performed by a church that is equipped to preach to a lost world.

Then there is the overused (by overuse I mean more than zero) quote by Francis of Assisi “preach always, if necessary use words”. It’s like saying “wash always, if necessary use water”. First of all whenever the word “preach” appears in the New Testament it always refers to forceful verbal proclamation like a town crier. Second of all, there is no official record of Francis of Assisi ever making this quote[2]. In fact history shows that Francis of Assisi was an open air preacher. As noted evangelist Ray Comfort rightly pointed out – Francis was no sissy.

Hopefully by now you are getting a mental picture of the church, the called out ones, going out into the harvest field/battlefield and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a hell bound world. These true disciples/soldiers return to the mother ship on a regular basis for the meat of God’s Word and honing of their spiritual armor in order to continue on the front lines.

I say “mental picture” because it is far removed from reality for many a modern church-goer. The general trend among “seeker sensitive” churches has been to place greater and greater focus on using the setting of the congregational meeting as the place to evangelize unregenerate sinners which are now called the “unchurched”. This allows the church member/evangelist the option of abdicating his responsibility to preach and merely invite people to a “seeker sensitive service”. Evangelism is an often hard and thankless task and the idea of handing this responsibility over to the leaders within one’s local church can be very appealing to our base human nature. It is here where evangelism shifts from the battlefront to the front of the altar.

For a “seeker sensitive church service” the preaching is tailored not only to the “unchurched” level of understanding, but also to try and capture their interest. The effect this has on the dietary intake of those who are disciples will be dealt with in PART II, suffice to say it produces MacLarens instead of MacArthurs and Spongs instead of Spurgeons.
To Be Continued tomorrow - where we will deal with Question 3:
Is the local church meant to grow by attracting the “unchurched”?

[1] Romans 10:14

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Five Fold Ministry Goofs of the Seeker Sensitive Movement (Part 2)

“I believe in being seeker sensitive, it’s just that I only believe in one Seeker”
Paul Washer
Question 1. What is a local church in the biblical sense?

With this in mind it is worthwhile examining what a church is, in the biblical sense, and what its primary role is. The word church as it appears in the New Testament comes from the greek word “ekklesia”[1] which means “the called out”. They are a group of people that have been called out of the world into the kingdom of Christ[2]. So here we see that the church comprises solely of those who have been saved by Christ and He adds them to His church[3].
The word “church” appears in the Bible in both a global context and a local context. The global context is what Christ had in mind when He said “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”[4]. In regard to that verse it is well worth bearing in mind Whose church it is and Who builds it. When Paul, for example, writes to the church in Rome we see the word church appearing in its local context. In Romans 16:16 where Paul says that “the churches of Christ greet you” he was not referring to different churches or denominations, he was referring to different congregations of the Lord’s church. This can be confusing to a lot of people who usually think of the church in terms of different denominations or congregations. But Scripture is devoid of denominations. The church, the Body of Christ, is made up solely of those who have been saved by Christ’s redeeming work on the cross and the local church is merely a small part of the greater whole.
Why have I mentioned all this? Because a biblical understanding of what the church is, Who it belongs to, and Who builds it certainly puts the modern “seeker sensitive church growth” strategies in a different light. This is not to suggest that local churches should ban non Christian people from attending their services, but rather that the local church service should not pander to the dietary needs of unregenerate sinners when it has been charged with the responsibility of feeding Christ’s flock with the meat of God’s word[5].
To Be Continued tomorrow - where we will deal with Question 2:
What is the local church’s role in the work of evangelism?
[1]G1577 ἐκκλησία ekklēsia ek-klay-see'-ah From a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564; a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): - assembly, church.
[2] Colossians 1:13
[3] Acts 2:47
[4] Matthew 16:18
[5] Hebrews 5:12-14

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Five Fold Ministry Goofs of the Seeker Sensitive Movement (Part 1)

Today is the start of a five part series on the errors/problems birthed out of "seeker sensitive" or "church growth" models of evangelism. Part I will run over the next 7 days and deal with quesions concerning when the congregational meeting becomes the model for evangelism. This series is not aimed at just criticism but also contrasting it with the biblical remedy. Here we go:

“I believe in being seeker sensitive, it’s just that I only believe in one Seeker”
Paul Washer

After ten years of military service my brain was left tattooed with this imperative: my first priority should be my commanding officer’s last order. The same is true for the Church. Paul pointed out to Timothy “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him”[1]. Jesus Christ, our commanding officer, issued this final order “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”[2]. Evangelism is not only important, it is the reason that the Church exists today and why Christ delays His return and judgement[3].

No one questions the importance of evangelism. It is the issue of how it is defined and how it should be done that has become the crisis facing evangelical churches. One of the catch cries of modern times is “being relevant without compromising the message”. But beneath the rhetoric the question must still be asked as to whether the message has been compromised after all? We’ll get to that later.

The prevailing wind of influence among evangelical congregations in the new millennium seems to be that of what one might call a “consumer driven” approach to building a local church. This is when the “felt needs” of the “unchurched” within the local community exert a heavy influence over the way church meetings are conducted. This, of course, happens to varying degrees and no two fellowships are identical. But this philosophy has undoubtedly impacted on the approach many evangelical congregations use in their attempt to carry out the Great Commission.
I recently saw a “modern church” advertising itself by promising that one lucky first
time attender would win a car. Others try to draw the “unchurched” through the
doors by being “relevant” and “seeker sensitive” which is interesting considering
the Apostle Paul taught that “there is none who seeks after God”[4].
Sermons/messages in these “seeker sensitive” church meetings generally tend to
be (to varying degrees) tailored to the “unchurched” or non Christian’s personal
“felt” needs and level of understanding. This raises several questions that should
be asked in the light of Scripture.

1. What is a local church in the biblical sense?
2. What is the local church’s role in the work of evangelism?
3. Is the local church meant to grow by attracting the “unchurched”?
4. Is there a correlation between a non Christian’s “felt needs” and what they really need?
5. What is truly relevant to the non Christian?
6. Can the desire for relevance compromise the purity of the gospel itself?
To be continued - tomorrow : 1. What is the local church in the biblical sense?

[1] II Timothy 2:3-4
[2] Mark 16:15
[3] Matthew 24:14
[4] Romans 3:11

Go On To Part 2

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Bottom Line With Atheists

Last year, after viewing the debate on ABC between Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron and the atheists Brian Sapient and "Kelly" I found myself initially walking away with mixed emotions. The chest beating male in myself saw it as a contest of Tyson v Holyfield proportions and was cheering for my guys (Ray and Kirk) to kick some serious atheistic butt. Having been heavily influenced by Ray and Kirk's ministry I was well aware that both Ray and Kirk are fine Christian apologists who have deep familiarity with the Scriptures and are very capable at going "into the ring" with the angriest of atheists. As I watched them argue primarily from the basis of creation and human conscience pointing to a creator I found myself screaming on the inside begging them to pull out the heavy argumentative artillery and teach these atheists a lesson. Many Christian commentators felt the same and launched some stinging attacks on both Ray and Kirk and suggested that they did a poor job of defending the case for a Creator.

My thoughts were that I loved Ray and Kirk and there ministry but I was disappointed that they didn't "go for the jugular" with their opponents. They failed in their attempt to convince the American public of God's existence......... or did they. It was at this time that I was slowly working my way through the book of Romans and the Gospel of John. By the time I'd hit chapter 3 in both of these books I was convinced that my initial impression of the debate was wrong and that Ray and Kirk actually did the right thing in appealing to the idea that creation proves there is a Creator, and that the conscience reveals God's moral law written on the human heart. No one has asked me to write this, but my hope is that it would serve as a reminder as to what Scripture tells us about sinful man and what our priorities should be as the body of Christ, sinners saved by grace, embarking on the great commission.

So what happened in my travels through the early chapters of John and Romans? I would like to plead with the reader at this point to biblically consider these following observations in the hope that they might galvanise and transform our evangelistic endeavors in the future.

As a Christian our primary calling is to preach the Gospel because the wrath of God is poised to slay our "opponent" at any moment and condemn them to eternal conscious punishment.
Most professing Christians can quote John 3:16 but are unfamiliar with the rest of the chapter. One who is familiar with John chapter 3 understands that "he that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18) and that "the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). The atheist spends every day on the brink of eternal torment and the cruelest approach a Christian could take would be to engage in a debate without ever proclaiming the Gospel. I applaud Ray and Kirk for leaving their egos at the door and focussing first and foremost on giving a clear proclamation of the Christian message which is the (already condemned) atheist's only hope of escaping God's wrath.

A healthy understanding of our own depravity dissipates our desire to deliver a knockout punch and raises our urgency to plead with those who are lost.
Romans 3:9 asks the question "are we better than they?" and goes on to say "no, in no way" for we are "all under sin". The following verses go on to tell us that "there is none righteous" (v10), "none that seek after God" (v11), "none that do good" (v12), that the law of God "stops every mouth" from justifying and leaves the whole "world guilty before God" (v19), and that God's law brings "the knowledge of sin" (v20). A healthy grasp of this passage destroys any remaining traces of self righteousness and, with that, the need to compete with an ungodly adversary. But this passage does serve to remind me of my own guilt, that it is only an understanding of God's moral law that will stop the sinners futile self defense and, in turn, awaken his guilt before God. With this in mind, I see the biblical soundness of Ray and Kirk's approach in explaining God's moral law via the Ten Commandments prior to presenting the Christian Gospel.

The following observations really took me by surprise.

The atheist already has knowledge of God but suppresses it in unrighteousness.
It is worth asking ourselves the question at this point as to whether it is a worthwhile exercise investing time in dazzling the unbeliever with wizz bang apologetics concerning God's existence when the issue is not one of knowledge but of sin.

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.
Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

These verses from Romans 1 tell us "that which may be known of God is manifest" in the unbeliever "for God hath shown it unto them". They are holding "the truth in unrighteousness". And what is it that testifies God's existence to sinful men? Verse 20 tells us the answer. The "invisible" things of God are "clearly seen" in God's creation "even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse". Put simply, the creation compellingly testifies to the Creator God Himself. My disappointment with Ray and Kirk in using the argument of creation instead of "deeper and more profound apologetics" was one of biblical ignorance on my part (it is interesting to not that some atheists did call in to talk back radio after the debate and concede that they did find the creation argument compelling). It is clear to me that Ray and Kirk showed great wisdom in realising that the atheist already has knowledge of God's existence and time is better spent trying to awaken this knowledge rather than try and win an argument with him. Because the atheist's problem is not a lack of proof concerning God's existence, but rather one of human pride and a love of sin. Understanding this has helped enormously with my witnessing activities because I have stopped wasting time arguing over God's existence and spent time trying to awaken the unbelievers conscience through God's moral law that brings the knowledge of sin which leads to my next observation.

The atheist already has knowledge of God and his conscience bears witness that he is alienated from Him.
The atheist can deny all he wants and try to argue from an intellectual standpoint. It is both foolish and futile to war on this front because knowledge is not the issue and some atheists are a lot smarter than I am. But try as he may, the atheist cannot explain why his conscience opposes his human nature. But we know why because God's Word tells us that God's law is written on everybodies heart and our knowledge of right and wrong testifies both to God's existence, and man's alienation from this God.

Rom 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
Rom 2:15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.

By explaining God's moral law via the ten commandments prior to explaining the Gospel message Ray and Kirk actually gave the necessary point of reference in order to understand the Gospel and in so doing avoided futile reasoning on the intellectual level. I do not mean to discount the use of the intellect but rather to use it only when an individual is humbled before God. Brian Sapient and Kelly may have mocked and laughed but they have the knowledge of God and suppress it in unrighteousness, this I know for the Bible tells me so.

It seems ironic that in a land with so many "seeker sensitive" mega churches built on a catch cry of "relevance" that they have neglected to fully explain the universal guilt of mankind. I can't think of anything more relevant than the fact that "all have sinned". Sure it might get mentioned from time to time, but rarely is it explained. Sin by definition is transgression of God's law (I John 3:4) and I fail to see how an individual could fathom their sinfulness without an understanding of God's law.

People don't reject the Gospel because it wasn't presented in a clever or attractive manner, people reject the Gospel because they love darkness and hate the light.
Again, John 3 explains to us why people reject the Gospel. It is amazing how much neglected yet important information is contained in the verses following John 3:16. Information so important in fact that a working knowledge could have saved many "seeker sensitive" pastors a lot of time and effort with how they approached evangelism.

Joh 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Joh 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

Again, I commend Ray and Kirk for avoiding the conventional route of clever argument and instead choosing to reason of sin, righteousness and judgement. It's not rocket science - people love sin and therefore hate the light of God's Holiness. With this in mind and knowing our own sinfulness and the incredible mercy extended to us by God, let us approach the task of evangelism with deep humility but strong urgency to show the sinner (as lovingly as we can) that his deeds are evil and his primary need is not happiness but righteousness. Reasoning from God's law is the only way to show the sinner his exceeding sinfulness and warn of the coming judgement as Paul did in his sermon to the pagan culture of his time

Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Act 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

In the Old Testament God continually reminded the Israelites that they should remember that they were once strangers in Egypt. We Christians should humble ourselves in the memory that we were once strangers from God and that our redemption had nothing to do with our own merit (because we have none) but by God's grace so that we could never boast in anything but the cross of our risen Saviour. With this in mind may we plead with lost souls appealing to the Holiness of God, the wretchedness of man, the justice of God in punishing sin, that God punished Himself in our place, sealed our eternal hope through His resurrection, and that all men must respond in repentance and faith.

Cameron Buettel 12 February 2008