I suppose it shouldn't be any surprise that the American church has latched on to the real potential for church growth here. Countless pastors get up on their stages, dim the lights, and begin with a scenario like this: "Good morning! Today, we are going to talk about relationships--happiness in relationships. Are you having a bad marriage? Do you need help to recover the romance? Wives are you tired? Have you lost your bearings? Husbands, are you wondering where the fire went? All ears are atuned, "yes, yes, yes, and yes," the listener responds. The pastor replies, "Well, I have good news for you. For the next two months we are going to begin a series on relationships. God has something in store for all of you. You just need to tap into his resource box." Then comes the bombshell. "Today", says the minister, "we are starting right at the issue that no one has been bold enough to address in the church, and that is sex."
As the weeks go by, the church begins to fill-up. The message is spreading, there is actually a minister willing to address the subject of sex in church. Down at the coffee shop the women are talking, "I have finally found a pastor who is discussing something relevant and practical, he speaks to me, and, ever since I started attending, I think my relationship with my husband is getting better." The other women begin to talk, "I am missing this at my church, my pastor is just not reaching my family, maybe I will come this week." And so it goes, the church must be doing something right because since it started back in 2002, there has been an increase to over two-thousand people.
The above scenario is happening in countless churches across the US on a given Sunday. Popular pastors such as Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell and others have frequented series on sex, pornography and other subjects of this nature. At Daystar Church in Good Hope, Alabama, Pastor Jerry Lawson is having a monthlong focus on sex in his sermons (see here ), and it's explicit. In fact, the church has raised a billboard throughout the county that advertises the Sunday worship services with this new series: Great Sex God's Way. Citizens, naturally, are confused. You can't even buy beer in Cullman County, and this pastor has license to promote his sex-talk in the public arena and on billboards? Even a local truck driver spoke out, "Paul said preach the Gospel. Talking about sex ain't gonna get nobody to heaven."
The point of the truck driver is something that needs to be addressed. What makes pastors experts on these subjects? When I studied to be a minister of the gospel, there were no classes on how to have better sex in my marriage relationship. I was trained for a specific purpose. And that purpose compels me not to deal with symptoms, but with the heart of all problems, namely, our sin, and how a just God can be properly propitiated. When the power of Christ and him crucified is preached, there is a power made available to the hearer by the Spirit to put to death sin in his life. Does this mean pastors should never address these subjects? We address them in so far as the Word calls us to address them. In other words, our applications must arise from the text itself. This is not what is happening in the above scenarios. The applications are completely divorced from the Bible and have become manipulated by the pastor for his own causes.
Pastors have to be very careful not to spoon-feed their congregations application. The imperatives in the Bible are never given as a set of rules. The pastor has the obligation to preach the law and the gospel is such a way that the believer, now renewed in the mind, might set himself to apply these things to his own circumstance and setting. If this is not done, numerous dangers arise. First, the people become too dependent on the pastor. This, I suspect, is a major part of the problem. We are in a cult of personality and today most people enter church more tied to the man than the message. Second, if we are only giving people a series of to-do lists, we leave them powerless to fulfill them and under the law. These are very serious dangers.
Further, I can't help but see here a certain transformationist ideal that suggests that Christians are the only ones who have the true answers on these subjects. Forgive me if I would rather listen to Dr. Laura than Pastor Lawson on these issues. At least with Dr. Laura I know that her intentions are sincere and that she is trained to address the subject matter. When I see pastors redefining the entire focus of ministry to social causes instead of the advancement of the gospel, I cannot find anything really life changing or sincere in the approach. It is exactly what Martyn Lloyd Jones called a rape of the emotions. It panders to peoples weakness and leaves them without the life changing power of the Spirit. This is not ministry, this is not our mandate.
Finally, look at what happens to our witness. Isn't it sad to hear of the unbelieving citizens of Cullman County crying out because the church is not doing what it should be doing? What effect might pastor Lawson have in his community if he were preaching Christ with conviction and power? This is a serious call to all pastors. Stop the silliness! This is a mockery, and God will not be mocked. Fufill your callings. Enough is enough, the trumpet is sounding. Preach Christ!