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Religious Relativism

Hating Holiness

Bedridden Believers

Good Intentions

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By Paul Proctor

March 5, 2005

OK, here we go � more dialectic doubletalk from Zondervan Publishing on how to resurrect your church from the dead. You remember Zondervan, don�t you? They�re the folks who told us to get a Purpose Driven Life and then emasculated the scriptures with their new �gender-neutral� TNIV Bible. Zondervan, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, the Rupert Murdock company that blessed us all with such memorable classics as: �Making Out, The Book of Lesbian Sex and Sexuality,� and, of course, The Satanic Bible (Avon Books) now, it seems, has just released the latest thing for all you slighted, envious and frustrated pastors out there who are tired of preaching to the crickets on Sunday morning.

The Baptist Press reports, in a February 17th article by David Roach that, according to Thom Rainer, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

�Churches devoted to Jesus Christ must strive to break out of mediocrity and achieve unprecedented fruitfulness��

Really? �Strive� and �achieve,� huh; that�s the secret to bearing spiritual fruit? I guess I�d better pick up some Ginkgo Biloba and a good multi vitamin and start getting to bed a little earlier.

See, if I�d been reading The Message, like Rick Warren, instead of stubbornly clinging to my old King James, I�d have probably found that handy little tidbit in the scriptures. Surely it�s in this KJV somewhere! I�ll bet it�s hidden away in one of those ancient Bible Codes we hear so much about.

In Rainer�s new book, �Breakout Churches,� he and his research team highlight the �patterns and trends� of 13 churches he thinks we should all emulate because they, �experienced an extended period of health and growth following a period of decline or plateau.�

So, Jesus� New Covenant for the 21st century isn�t �Take up the cross and follow me,� it�s �Buy this new book and follow the big guys to good health and growth.� What a shame Gideon and King David didn�t have Mr. Rainer�s insight, influence and experience to draw from in their day. No telling WHAT they could have achieved.

The article goes on to say: �Rainer�s research methodology and organizational structure are drawn largely from Jim Collins� book �Good to Great,� which describes how businesses can transition from mediocrity to greatness.�

So, it�s just good business, folks � I mean ministry.

��The research team was motivated by much more than curiosity and intellectual stimulation,� Rainer writes. �We wanted not only to find out what happens to churches that move to greatness, under the sovereignty of God, but also to apply what we learned for the benefit of the Kingdom and other churches.��

Yeah, who needs the Holy Spirit to �achieve greatness� when you�ve got good old-fashioned �curiosity" and �intellectual stimulation� to motivate you in business � I mean ministry? But wait a minute; wasn�t �greatness� what the disciples were arguing about in Capernaum before Jesus corrected them? And, I�m curious; just how does one �seek greatness� under the �sovereignty of God� anyway; and when did the Lord ever instruct His church or anyone in it to: �Go ye therefore and be great?� Wasn�t the pursuit of �greatness� what brought about Lucifer�s fall? Maybe it�s just me, but it sure looks like �the lust of the eyes and the pride of life� are being passionately peddled to our ecclesiastical egos and ambitions here under a guise of virtue. Very shrewd, don�t you think?

Anyway, here comes the big double talk disclaimer:

Rainer: �I do not want to suggest that we have discovered some neat formulaic approach for leading churches to greatness,� he writes. �A sovereign God and the Holy Spirit are not instruments subject to manipulation by humanity. Yet the components of the chrysalis factor may provide insight into how God is working in his churches.�

Reminds me of Rick Warren saying that The Purpose Driven Life �isn�t a self-help book� and that �it�s not about you� before carefully guiding YOU step by step, through his 40 day plan for finding YOUR purpose.

It�s like telling some guy being pushed out the side door of an airplane at thirty thousand feet without a parachute: �It�s not about dying, it�s about learning how to get a grip on gravity.�

Anyway, here�s Rainer�s six-step non-formula:

1. �First, churches must develop leadership with qualities such as sensitivity to criticism, determination, kindness and visionary thinking.�

Maybe the Lord put Peter through a crash course in self-actualization and leadership training before His ascension and the Apostles just forgot to take notes in all the excitement. This might also explain what Paul was up to while convalescing in Damascus after the bright light incident. Now, maybe it�s just me, but I don�t think I know anybody that doesn�t already possess an extremely well developed �sensitivity to criticism.�

2. �Second, leaders of breakout churches must experience a moment in which they become aware of the church�s deficiencies, confront the facts and experience a personal crisis because of the deficiencies.�

What? Seek ye first a �deficiency crisis� and all these things shall be added unto you? Is that the latest interpretation? Is this what we�ve become at church; a whimsical bunch of wannabes focus-grouping our poor self-esteem to collectively �experience moments� so we can all forget our painful past and move on with our lives? This sounds like the kind of effeminate chitchat you hear on Oprah!

3. �After leaders experience the moment of crisis, they develop the third component of the chrysalis factor: a commitment to address issues of personnel and infrastructure simultaneously.�

�The chrysalis factor?� Don�t you just love it when Freudian flower children in Christian camo try to sell you socialism, humanism and the new age by painting picturesque terms that not only sound scientific but give you the warm fuzzies?

4. �Fourth, the church must discover its vision by noting where the passion of the leaders, the gifts of the congregation and the needs of the community intersect.�

OK, on to self-discovery and the synergy of energy�Let me see if I�ve got this straight; We�ll find our missing �vision� at the intersection of Passion, Congregation and Community and there, meet everybody�s felt needs with everybody else�s spiritual gifts in an eruption of emotion by �unequally yoking� the sheep to the goats. Does that about cover it?

5. �Fifth, breakout churches develop a culture that demands excellence in all areas of church life.�

Yes, of course. Today�s Christianity is ALL ABOUT cultural development, isn�t it? Something else the Apostles apparently forgot to write down for us at Pentecost.

For more on Christian �excellence,� read: The Best And Brightest

�The breakout churches were not fanatical about excellence in the same way a Fortune 500 corporation might emphasize excellence,� Rainer writes. �The church leaders all spoke about a drive to glorify God, to please the Savior, or to do their best in his power for his sake. In other words, we found the drive for a culture of excellence to be theologically and biblically driven.�

Oh, OK � So, a ministry should be run just like a business, only differently; and excellence is, of course, good for business � I mean ministry. Got that? You know; I�ve been a Christian now for almost thirty years and never realized that I was supposed to use my bible to "drive" our carnal culture toward excellence. So, THAT�S how you make a silk purse out of a sow�s ear. Well whadaya know? And, we�re doing it all to �Glorify God� and �please the Savior.� (wink-wink)

6. �Breakout churches complete their transformation by utilizing innovations to accelerate growth in a manner consistent with the vision, Rainer writes, noting that if churches trust God and follow biblical principles, they have the potential to move from mediocrity to greatness.�

Yes, we all have a need for speed, don�t we? And you thought you were already �transformed� when you repented of your sins and accepted Christ�Silly you!

According to Mr. Rainer, God�s redeemed (the church) needs another transformation � (I guess the first one didn�t take) one that not only �trusts God� and �follows biblical principles� but also �utilizes innovations.� So, God, His Word and faith are no longer sufficient for �transformation;� NOW we need to �utilize innovations� to complete our �transformation� and move out of our �mediocrity� and on toward �greatness.� Let�s call it the Gospel of Growth, Greatness and Gadgetry shall we? After all, that seems to be the bottom line for today�s business � I mean ministry�

For more on today�s �transformation� read: Changing Society

Rainer: �There is little doubt that many American churches are sick,� Rainer writes. �The documentation ... certainly paints that dismal picture. But there is no doubt that we serve a God of all possibilities. We must confront the reality of the struggles our churches face. And we must acknowledge a sovereign and omnipotent God who is the source of any solutions to the plight of the church.�

So, God is the source of �any solutions� that are proposed, including Mr. Rainer�s, right? I suppose he would have us believe that buying his book and following his non-formula is, without a doubt, God�s will and therefore should not be dismissed as more postmodern poppycock from another false profit � I mean prophet.

But, to be fair, Mr. Rainer is right about a couple of things; there are a lot of �sick churches �out there today and the picture is indeed �dismal.� But the solution is not found in formulas, innovations, visions, passions, gadgetry, greatness or any self-help book sold by businesses � I mean ministries like Zondervan. The solution is and always has been, hearing and obeying the Word of God � nothing more and nothing less.

�Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.� � Psalm 119:105

Related article:

Rainer: �Breakout Churches� model success against lethargy

� 2005 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved

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Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print.









Don�t you just love it when Freudian flower children in Christian camo try to sell you socialism, humanism and the new age by painting picturesque terms that not only sound scientific but give you the warm fuzzies?