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Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? -- Matthew 7: 15-16 (ESV)
As we continue to try and discern the plethora of false teaching invading and corrupting the church, it is important to look at the source of where many of the modern day leaders are learning their poor theologies and systems. We have documented extensively the damage of the Purpose Driven Church model that has led to heretical changes in what the role of the pastor and the church were biblically meant to be. One of the results of buying into the snake oil that Rick Warren sells is the obsession pastors now have with leadership. Remember, the purpose driven model shifts the burden of church growth from God to the pastor. As such he becomes a "vision casting CEO" instead of a shepherd tending to the sheep of the Lord. The focus of the church shifts from the edification of the saints to the entertainment of the lost. Even within the lost the focus shifts from their salvation to their church attendance. So not surprisingly, we see a church enamored with carnal tricks and business growth strategies which they employ expecting spiritual results. Every month it seems there is another conference on leadership where the world's experts line up to tell the church how to lead even though they do not believe in God.
The other predictable result is the growth of leadership ministry experts who make a living off of selling the church the latest and greatest fleshly ideas for church growth while reinforcing the overall paradigm of the purpose driven church. One such guru is Carey Nieuwhof. He has written books on the subject and is a sought after speaker for the many leadership events already discussed. Carey has his own website where he offers free advice in article and blog format that continue to reveal the sheer carnality of the systems he espouses and display why pastors today are so poorly taught. This week's offering can be found here:
Let's reason together beloved. Carey Nieuwhof has a brand to protect. The primary vehicle for his brand is the mega-church. It is the desired result for all of his teachings. Remember, he is a church growth guru. But he rightly garners criticism because his ideas are wildly unbiblical and purely of his own flesh. He leverages the Bible to try and prop up his false teachings but they are easily exposed. So in this piece, he offers up five "myths" to dispel regarding mega-churches. Let's go through them together.
If there's one thing I learned from blogging about the church, it's that some people hate megachurches. With a passion. I try not to engage the trolls and the haters in the comments on my blog (engaging them just gives them what they want). But I've also noticed that even among more balanced church leaders, it's easy to take swipes at megachurches. -- Carey Nieuwhof
Funny, I do not know anyone who hates mega churches. The mere notion is silly. Yes, some people are church hurt but they usually hold disdain for all organized churches. There is an inherent disconnect in the thinking Carey Nieuwhof routinely engages in. He has his own pre-formed beliefs and he seeks only to bolster them, never to consider the slightest possibility that he might be wrong. He is in other words, willfully ignorant. So when he sees people rightly speaking out against his last blog where he defended one of the worst heretics on the planet in Perry Noble, he automatically assigns all of the critics to the troll and hater class. It is also quite devious because he teaches his pupils to do the same. Ignore anyone who might offer a different opinion because after all, they are just haters. What intellectual garbage. Now he is right that it is easier to take swipes at mega churches but that is largely because they are better known. Heresy can of course exist at the local level as well and often does. But no one is going to know if I do a sermon review of Pastor Billy from Anytown USA, who or what I am talking about. Anytown has to deal with Pastor Billy and the best way to do that is to become a Berean and discern what teachings are from God and what are not. More from the introduction:
Even on a simple logical level, saying all megachurches are bad is like saying all small or mid-sized churches are bad. It's just simplistic and illogical thinking. If you're against church growth, you're against the basic mission of the church: to reach people. So what happens when a church starts to grow? Do you shut the growth down? Do you get bad at what you do so you stop reaching people? Do you keep your churches smaller on purpose and multiply (by the way, that's now called multi-site)? The logical issues alone with slamming large churches are riddled with problems. -- Carey Nieuwhof
The logical issues are riddled with problems only if you refuse to move off of your false starting point. Of course all mega churches are not bad, per se. The cold hard reality is most are however. That is because the larger you get the more likely it is that you compromise. The more you implement the purpose driven church model the more you will compromise. By the way, did you notice the huge false belief Carey holds to and teaches? The basic mission of the church is not to reach people. That is the basic mission of evangelism, which is one portion of the church. Read Acts Chapter Two and you will see a depiction of the early church and you will see what they were devoted to and nowhere is the mention of reaching people. Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying that the church should not be focused on the lost? No, that is what God has said. Of course we want the lost to attend church because if the pastor is fulfilling his biblical role then he is preaching the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only thing that has the power of God unto the salvation of man. This is one of the fundamental flaws in purpose driven theology. Instead of feeding and protecting the sheep, the shepherd's role changes to a business manager seeking new customers. You cannot market to the lost things such as the blood, the cross, sin and repentance - so you compromise. You remove all the crosses from your sanctuary and all discussion of sin from your sermons. You sing worship songs about how much God wants to do for you instead of how much He has already done. You lure the unsaved with club lighting and smoke machines and convince them to stay while starving the sheep. If the sheep ever object they are tossed into the bin of "haters" and "trolls" who are just "so darn selfish," as Andy Stanley once preached this year. As for what happens when your church grows? If you have been following the biblical mandate then you have been making disciples not mere pew-sitters. There is nothing wrong with sending out someone you have raised up to lead their own congregation. That is what Paul did throughout the New Testament. That however, is not "multi-site." The carnal multi-site version of mega-churchdom is one where the main pastor never actually cedes control. Now let us get to the five faux myths:
1. It's a one-man (or one-woman) show - I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say that a large church is a one person show. That's because--quite naturally--most of us think of the founder or senior leader when we think of a large church. As a rule, most large churches hardly behave like a one-man or one-woman show. There are actually teams of highly skilled leaders around the point leader. Anyone who says a large organization is a one-man show doesn't understand what's required to lead a large, complex, let alone multi-site organization. You simply HAVE to have dozens to hundreds of capable staff and thousands of capable volunteers. -- Carey Nieuwhof
Quick quiz. Who is the associate pastor for Joel Osteen? Who is second in command for Joseph Prince? Who fills in for Rick Warren at Saddleback? My guess is very few were able to answer those questions. Even those that attend those churches who might know the answers do not want to see the number two guy preaching. The purpose driven model is most certainly a cult of personality phenomenon. That is why your leader must be charismatic and a great speaker. Strange, what did Paul say about that?
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. -- 1Corinthians 1: 17 (ESV)
Paul understood that the Gospel must take preeminence. He is merely the vehicle of delivery. Words of eloquent wisdom actually empty the cross of its power! How? By taking our eyes off Christ and onto the speaker. The sad truth is most mega church pastors make it to be about them. They inspire people to follow them. I remember an interview with an Osteen adherent once where he said that "Pastor Joel gives me what I need to get back to him next week." What a lousy way to live a life. Who is Carey Nieuwhof kidding here? What happened when Mark Driscoll left Mars Hill Church? It imploded. Over 15,000 sheep scattered across the countryside. Sure some churches survive the unexpected departure of a senior pastor but many do not and even those that survive shed thousands of followers who were more into worshiping their pastor than they were into worshiping God. Of course the supporting crew for a mega church pastor is important because the purpose driven model calls for him to not be a shepherd. Thus all of the pastoral duties fall to the people underneath who were not called to that role. This is one of the contributing factors to why people stay in a mega church less than three years on average.
2. The people who attend are just blind sheep - First of all, if you think the people who attend a megachurch are all blind sheep, why don't you ask them if that's the case? After all, it's a pretty insulting accusation. If you visit most megachurches, you won't find blind sheep. You will find leaders. Actually, most often, you'll find capable leaders--independent men and women who appreciate the level of purpose, thoughtfulness and mission behind many of today's larger churches. -- Carey Nieuwhof
I do not like the mixing of metaphors Carey uses here to confuse the conversation. If we are believers in Jesus Christ then we are sheep by His definition. We are not blind because we ought to be verifying that what we are being fed is actually from God. I think his point though is that people in mega churches blindly follow their star leader-vision casting-pastor-dude. That is not a myth Carey. That is a well-established fact. Try explaining biblically to a Joseph Prince follower why his theology is so wrong. Good luck. Try explaining to a Joel Osteen adherent why he is so dangerous. Use as many Bible verses as you like; it simply will not matter. Even if you have a local pastor who is selling the purpose driven model. Try to explain to a fellow congregant why something he taught is not biblical. Invariably, you will be met with a defense of how great his heart is, how much he loves Jesus, and all of the earthly good works he has done. Oh and you? You will be branded a hater and troll and be blessedly subtracted. This is an actual teaching from the Purpose Driven Church which teaches pastors to get rid of dissenters. How pastoral. Carey is right that these mega church groupies do rally behind and get behind the vision, purpose and mission of their church and that is the problem. They never stop to ask if they should. If what they support is biblical and when anyone suggests otherwise? The blindness is glaring.