And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." -- Mark 7: 5-8 (ESV)
In his farewell speech President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term "Military Industrial Complex." He did so to warn the country that the people who made money from the implementation of war should not be trusted. That war essentially should not be a business endeavor. That once you are driven by material motives, you lose your moral compass for why you choose to engage in war. That such matters should never be taken so lightly as to trivialize something so serious. So it also has gone for the past several decades with church. The church itself is the chosen instrument of God to represent Him to a lost and dying world. The moral imperative was plain. There is an eternal life to gain and a temporal world to shun. That people walking in their sins now have a Savior they can turn to for the remission of those sins and be reunited in glory with their heavenly Father who created them. Something funny happened along the way though. Someone realized that as media expanded, that church could also be a thriving business. That money could be generated not for the moral purposes of spreading the Gospel but for the goal of self sustenance.
Thus was born the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex. An intricate web of teachings that have incorporated the wisdom of the world to manage the things of God. Underlying this is the foundational teachings of rank heretics. People who claim the cause of Christ but cast aside His Word in order to achieve their ends. People like Bill Hybels designed churches not to feed the sheep but to cater to the unsaved. Polling those who did not go to church, the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex figured out how to market church to people who really did not want to go. For example, Hybels learned that people were made uncomfortable by the appearance of crosses inside churches. Why wouldn't they be? The cross represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins they do not really wish to give up. So Hybels built a church without crosses. Along came Rick Warren and his purpose driven church model, which essentially took the early seeker friendly theologies and placed them on steroids. No longer was the pastor to be considered a shepherd. Instead he was a CEO running a business. He was a "vision caster" who mapped out the future plans to grow the church. Not the kingdom mind you, but the individual church he was CEO for. Today we see adherents of these teachings like mega church pastor Andy Stanley actually preach that the word shepherd should not even be used anymore! As part of the whitewashing of Christianity, Warren eliminated terminology that might turn off potential churchgoers. So instead of referring to the lost as unsaved, they are now considered "unchurched." Think about the profound implications of that subtle change alone. When you strive to reach the unsaved you are infinitely concerned about their eternal state -- their salvation. When you change that to unchurched, you are concerned about their temporal state and whether they come back to your building.
One of the other changes Warren and Hybels implemented was a change to worship. No longer would solid biblical hymns be used. How boring! Instead, worship needed to be an "experience." The best musicians were recruited and the best voices paid to turn the worship of God into entertainment. Smoke machines and club lighting were introduced to elicit an emotional response from the flesh of the unsaved so you could convince them that they were having a spiritual experience. Sermons which focused on sin, the cross and the blood were now considered unfriendly for people seeking God. Of course that was only one of the many poor assumptions that were made at the start. The term seeker friendly implies that the unchurched were by default seeking God when they most likely were not. They were seeking the entertainment and the sense that they could have their sin and believe they were heaven bound at the same time. To further this illusion, sermons now were to be motivational in nature and relevant to their current temporal situations instead of dealing with their shared eternal problem. Services were cut down to a palatable hour and a half with sermons rarely exceeding a half hour.
The result was predictable. The world loved this new model. What sinful creature would not? Rocking music followed by a self help speech about how great I was? Every Bible story now mangled to secretly be about me? I defeated Goliath? I tore the walls of Jericho down? God wants me to be the head and not tail? More than a conqueror? That He has a wonderful, sugar coated and pain free plan for my life? And I get to go to heaven? Without having to actually change anything in my life other than a 10% surcharge? Sign me up! Thus the era of the mega church began. Stadiums erected to hold church in. Multi site churches across the land. Thousands upon thousands answering two minute altar calls after twenty minutes of preaching that never actually addressed their sin and need to repent. And the churches grew and grew and grew. Suddenly, church was big business. For example, Lakewood Church brings in 90 million dollars a year in offerings. Leadership conferences sprung up to elicit the very best carnal techniques from the fallen world to help grow the newly fallen church. The complex soon existed for the sake of protecting the racket. After all, that is all this is but a racket. The definition of racket is a fraudulent scheme and an easy, lucrative way of making a living. That is what the seeker friendly church has become and the complex protects it. The complex protects it by defending the practices and pushing back against any legitimate criticism. These defenses are usually well thought out and well written. They have the veneer of piety, in that Scripture is misused to defend and attack. And beloved let us not lose sight of why we criticize. This is not some intellectual exercise. It is not sowing discord or division, which the Bible teaches us happens through the introduction of false doctrine, not those who correct it. We critique because there are lives at stake. The eternal destination of the souls of men is on the line. You cannot strip sin, repentance, the cross and the blood out of the Gospel and still think your preaching can lead anyone to salvation. It may lead them back to your church but not into heaven. Jesus spoke exactly about this when He was pronouncing judgment upon the false teachers of His day:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. -- Matthew 23: 15 (ESV)
Today we see these churches do just the same. There is no questioning their zeal to spread their false gospel but in doing so they only consign the people they "church" to being twice the son of hell that they are. Why? Jesus taught us that if we have convinced ourselves that our darkness is actually light -- how deep is that darkness! If you think you are already right with God and your pastor swears you are, it is very difficult to come out from under that false teaching. This is why so many on the last day will stand before Him and say, "Lord Lord" only to hear -- "I never knew you." Think about that for a moment.
So we can expect the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex to continue to muddy the waters. To continue to defend the racket. There is too much money at stake. There is too much power at stake. In many ways the parallels to the Pharisees are obvious. They had the power and control in the days of Jesus. They were the most well off. They had a lucrative racket and they were not about to let some upstart carpenter from Galilee spoil it. As it was so it goes. I came across an article the other day that displays the disingenuous falseness of the complex and how it tries to defend itself:
In this article, Tony Foglio tries to make the argument that he has identified three signs of a church that is dying. By dying he means churches that refuse to compromise the Gospel by seeker friendly, purpose driven means. To try and prop up his false arguments, he uses the key verses today. Actually, he paraphrases them. He breaks them into three parts to make three separate points that God never intended when He inspired Mark to write them. Let us reason together:
The heart has become confused with emotions. -- Tony Foglio
"People honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." -- God Almighty
The enemy according to Foglio is tradition. It is singing your favorite hymn, the order of church service or a particular Bible translation. The summary however he has concluded from this verse fragment is ludicrous. God is not saying through the Prophet Isaiah, whom Jesus was quoting, that the Pharisees were confusing their heart with their emotions. What He is actually saying is that while they speak of God they are not speaking for Him. That their piety is fake. Interestingly enough, this criticism now belongs leveled at the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex who love to talk about Jesus while ignoring His Gospel. That is actually the point. Saying the name of Jesus is not some magical balm that makes all of your false doctrine true. Even note the specific items Foglio tries to come against. Favorite hymns are based upon the Bible. The order of church service is so ordered in the Bible. Bible translations are critical for proper doctrine. Many in the complex insist on using paraphrases instead of actual translations, such as the heretical Message Bible. The issue Foglio cannot see is that it is not confusing your heart with your emotions. It is confusing your heresy with Biblical truth. He even goes as far to suggest that we may need to seek repentance from our "sacred cow" traditions. This is a common scheme of the complex. To turn everyone who disagrees into stodgy old religious relics. The word religion is actually vilified by the complex even though it is a word God instituted in the Bible! We continue:
All new forms of worship are considered "vain."- Tony Foglio
"In vain they worship me."- God Almighty