Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Re-Issue of “The ‘Country Club’ Church”-Aug. 23, 2017

          A year and a half ago I wrote about a long standing concern of mine that many believers display a sense of entitlement when it comes to the church.  Many, it seems, cannot lay aside their personal preferences and desires and focus on Christ and follow the pattern He set forth in the New Testament.  Every week, all across the nation a great number of people enter worship services only to focus on themselves for the next hour. 


Allen Raynor Weblog: “The ‘Country Club’ Church

(Jan. 26, 2016)


          For many years I have often heard the non-flattering comparison made between some churches and “country clubs.”  I did not quite understand the link early on, but I have come to appreciate what people mean when they make the comparison.  We live in a consumer-driven world and an unmistakable consumer-driven way of thinking has poured into the church of the Lord Jesus like a flood.  This mind-set is now driving much of what the church does and how it does it.

          The majority of people have never been a member of an exclusive country club and probably only know vaguely as to how it operates and what it offers.  I browsed the websites of several country clubs and found overwhelming consistency on a few key things.  Annual memberships seemed to run in the 2 or 3 thousand dollar range with packages offering extra perks and benefits costing even more.  They offer quality and abundance of the things they believe people desire.  These include such things as golf, tennis, racquetball, aerobics, yoga, swimming, fitness classes and equipment, banquet halls, fine dining, etc.  A direct quote from one country club’s website extends the invitation to “Become a member and enjoy the benefits membership has to offer.”  Another website offers as their mission statement: “It’s our mission to provide a tradition rich, outstanding private country club known for the quality of its membership and for service that exceeds expectations.”  I do not know of any particular church that is so bold as to adopt, word for word, as its mission statement the one used by this particular country club, but it seems to be widely implied across the church landscape of our consumer driven nation.  In fact, if you removed the words “private country club,” and substituted the word “church,” many churches in America would be comfortable adopting this as their mission statement.  It would then read “It’s our mission to provide a tradition rich, outstanding church known for the quality of its membership and for service that exceeds expectations.” 

          Recently I read a post on facebook by a gentleman who had visited a church.  He mentioned he had been looking for a church change for a long time.  He referred to the church he had recently visited and was complimentary of the music, friendliness, and overall environment.  He made no reference to the preaching or beliefs of the church.  Not to imply any of it was necessarily bad, but it is interesting that the things which were mentioned by him would be the things that had the most appeal to the flesh.  It would be the things that might also draw someone to a country club with all its amenities.  Somewhere along the line many believers have drifted from internalizing Christ’s Words “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mat. 16:24)

          One of the most frequent words I encountered in my browsing of the country club websites was the word “amenity.”  Webster’s defines it as “The quality of being pleasant or agreeable; something that conduces to comfort, convenience, or enjoyment.”  Most churches do things that lead to their further comfort and enjoyment.  One positive exception came early in my years of pastoral ministry.  In the late 1990s a tornado ravaged a nearby community and we were discussing, in a church business session, how much money we could/should send to help out.  We were a small church with limited resources.  Our church was in process of having our church pews re-upholstered at the time.  A man spoke up and suggested rather pointedly that we should send at least as much money to the tornado relief as we were spending on cushions for our seats.  The church could not argue with that challenge, so we sent an equal amount which was around 3 thousand dollars.  The two expenditures used up about 2/3 of the money we had in the bank, but we never missed it.  I have thought about that many times over the years as I have thought about the attitude churches should have as they fulfill their purpose and mission before the eyes of God.  Our attitude should be the exact opposite of the “country club” mindset.

          If it is about you, you may not be willing to settle for less than what you think you deserve when it comes to the overall church experience.  Many church goers are like rude patrons in a restaurant expecting top quality food and service for their money.  But if you are a Christian, you are still a Christian in that restaurant and even though you are not the waiter or waitress whose job it is to serve, it is your very purpose/mission to serve them.  It is an exponentially higher calling.  When we go to our church, or when we visit another church we need to be constantly looking for ways to help/serve rather than ways to be consumers of amenities.  We desperately need to follow the Lord’s example.   “The Son of Man did not come to be served; but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Mat. 20:28)


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

: Re-Issue of “The Disappearance of God”-Aug. 9, 2017

          In the spring of 2010 I read a book by Dr. Albert Mohler which gave strong warnings concerning trends in theological beliefs that were highly minimizing God and His Word.  He warned that it was serving to give sort of an “open door” licensing to sinful behavior and further, to masking the true identity of the God of the Bible.  When God is made out to be something other than what He has revealed Himself to be in and through the Scripture He has given to us then - BEWARE!


Allen Raynor Weblog: The Disappearance of God

(Mar. 1, 2010)


          In his book, The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary discusses the most dangerous trends within the realm of that which considers itself to be the evangelical church.  Many have observed that the most threatening attacks upon the church have come, and are coming, not from without but from within.  The world around us, in predictable fashion, is still yet failing to understand the church, and largely dismisses it.  But, from within the church’s own ranks serious damage is taking place.

          Mohler first discusses what he terms “theological triage,” a take-off from a system used in emergency rooms which refers to a practice of treating the most serious patients first.  It is not that each person there does not need treatment, but stopping massive bleeding is more important than setting a broken bone.  One is immediately life threatening.  In the evangelical church there is massive bleeding in some sectors.  And left untreated will lead to fatal results.

          There is now wide-spread attack on some of the most basic and fundamental doctrines in the history of Christianity.  Most notably perhaps among these is the disappearance of “sin” in the thinking and doctrine of an increasing number.  Sin is more and more coming to be seen as indefinite rather than definite.  Sin is no longer being seen by some as the violation of an absolute standard, but instead as violation of one’s own conscience.  Sin further could be hurting another person in some manner, instead of the more traditional view which says it violates an absolute standard, usually God’s law as revealed in scripture.  Sin is to be viewed from a much more “anthropocentric” (man-centered) point of view than a “theocentric” (God-centered) point of view.  It is much more then about our human relationships than any potential violation of God’s eternal law.  Mohler asks, “Whatever became of sin?  It has been redefined, ignored, rejected, neglected, and denied.”  He goes on to write, “Sin has been redefined as a lack of self-esteem rather than as an insult to the glory of God.  Salvation has been reconceived as liberation from oppression, internal or external.  The gospel becomes a means of release from bondage to bad habits rather than rescue from a sentence of eternity in hell.”

          Along with the disappearance of sin, there has predictably been a disappearance of eternal punishment.  Hell is viewed in a handful of differing ways, but less and less is it viewed by the traditional understanding which the church has held on to, for the past two millennium.  To some, hell is merely a state of mind – mental torment as one remembers various wrongs either genuine or perceived.  Hell, to others is much like it has been traditionally understood, minus it’s eternality.  People simply “burn up” and cease to exist; this is called “annihilationism.”  They say, how could anyone enjoy heaven knowing that others are burning and suffering in hell. 

          Hell naturally does not fit with the current culture.  Hell was never pleasing to anyone’s palate, but in generations past, it was an understood reality.  The congregations that men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield preached to lived each day with a fear of hell in the back of their minds.  Not so anymore.  That which man does not like or does not want to have to wrestle with is all-too-easily just dismissed.

          Mohler devotes 3 chapters in this book to our current cultures’ preoccupation with physical beauty over and above other forms of beauty.  Much of culture’s value system is based upon its concept of its ideals for physically attractive features.  Rather than valuing what is fixed or changeless, this culture has become fixated upon certain aspects that are fluctuating and changing – chief among these is physical beauty.  One need not look far to see what sells magazines, garners TV ratings, box office ratings, or is the image made for billboards.  The intellect, personal character, and a host of other qualities take a distant back-seat to physical beauty.  Consequently our culture thinks much more with the “senses” than it does with the organ specifically designed to think with – the mind.

             The church is further not exempt from this worship and service of the “creature” rather than the “creator.”  The typical church service these days is much more about man than God.  And, consistent with the title of Mohler’s book, God is disappearing from many of our  churches.  The obsession with physical beauty is tied closely with the pleasuring of all five of our senses both outside and inside the church.  Our society, and our churches, are obsessed with the wrong things.

          Mohler addresses perversions of Christianity such as that found in the phenomenon know as the “Emerging Church” which takes the wholly pragmatic approach when it comes to it’s philosophy for gaining adherents.  It minimizes everything which it perceives as “stumbling blocks” to people coming and being a part.  It essentially focuses on that for which the majority can agree.  The Emerging Church is particularly dangerous because it devalues the Bible.  It openly tells people that we really cannot know what the Bible actually says.  Scripture might condemn homosexuality, for instance, or it may not – we just cannot be clear about it, and we certainly should not be “dogmatic.” The natural outcome is that it produces people who are always searching but are never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.  It is something akin to the X-Files approach – “The truth is out there.”  It is just never quite found!

          In four successive chapters, Mohler shows the digression away from biblical church discipline which has, in many ways, led to the other problems and movements we see today.  How could theologians like Clark Pinnock, for instance, who openly advocates “open theism” (a belief that God does not really possess fore-knowledge but is surprised as are we when something happens) be taken seriously and sell books and even have a real voice in the debate?

          How can we be effective evangelists and missionaries when we cannot even come to widespread agreement about the basics?  Mohler sees these issues which are cropping up with greater and greater frequency as distractions to the commissioned work of the church.  He ends the book by making a passionate call for the Bible to be exposited by faithful, God-called preachers.  The best way to fight against lies is with truth.  The drift in beliefs are best combated with the truth.  As the church of Jesus Christ becomes less and less biblically literate, for many reasons, the drift away from authentic biblical doctrine continues.  As this doctrine drifts away, that which we know about God drifts away along with it.  The best thing we can do is get to know the Scriptures and allow them to teach us, equip us, and guide us.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor