Thursday, October 22, 2009

Michael Horton on the Purpose Driven paradigm (part 2)

In his book The Gospel Driven Life, Horton dismisses the Purpose Driven life paradigm, instead asking us to live by the promises of God. In a later chapter dealing with the church, Horton strikes again at the PD paradigm, this time on the issue of the church.

Under chapter 8 "How the Good News Creates a Cross-Cultural Community", under the section "The Promise-Driven Church", Horton addresses a couple of issue including the idea of the inclusion of children in the covenant, which is an interesting topic altogether but I digress. Horton undermines the entire PD enterprise, and finally attacks the marketing strategy both the Seeker Sensitive and the PD paradigm uses.

On the issue of being ambassadors for Christ:

... it is a promise that the church is called to deliver on God's behalf and in Christ's name. Ambassadors do not send themselves, write up their own job description, and then formulate their own policies. God already has his plans figured out. He has already elected the citizens-to-be of his kingdom, sent his Son to redeem them, and poured his Spirit out on them and within them, so that they come joyfully to his feast. (p. 205)

In other words, the Church and Christians have no right whatsoever to change God's message or "do ministry" in whatever way they think is right. This extends also to individual Christians, who are to conform their lives and witness to the precepts of Scripture. In the Christian walk, God is not a pragmatist; working for a commendable goal (ie a desire to see men repent and believe the Gospel) with pure motives even does not allow one to cut corners and practice whatever methodology one thinks is best to achieve that commendable goal.

Regarding the focus on friends and socializing in church, especially as focused on the young (the "Youth Ministry" - Purpose Driven Youth Ministry?):

... fellowship often takes the form of the niche marketing ... We may still call it fellowship, but it may be closer to socializing. There is nothing wrong with socializing. Clubs are fine. There is a time and place for hanging out with people with similar tastes, interests, and hobbies. However, Christian homes and churches are the only institutes in which our children will learn to find themselves in God's story. When they are united more by the trends of pop culture than by the faith and practice of the whole church in all times and places, our youth become victims of our sloth. We should not be surprised that over half of those reared in evangelical homes and churches today do not join or even attend a church regularly when they go off to college. If we are going to see our children grow up into Christ instead of abandoning the church, our spiritual life at home and in the church must incorporate them into the teaching and fellowship of the apostolic faith. They can find "ministry opportunities" through United Way, the Peace Corps, or Habitat for Humanity. They can find friends at the fraternity or sorority. They can find intellectual stimulation in class. And they can find a sense of meaning and purpose in their vacations. If their home churches exchanged the ministry of preaching and teaching the apostles' doctrine for a variety of ministries and activities that they could find legitimate versions in the world, then it is difficult to come up with a reasonable answer when they ask, "Why do I need the church?" (pp. 207-208)

On the goodness of diversity in the church:

I [Horton] tend to pray for the same things over and over again and these requests sound a lot like those of other Christians in my same age-group and demographic profile. Throw in some prayers from older and younger saints, from people who are richer and poorer, black, Latino, Asian, and European, and now my prayers become part of the prayers of the church. Once again, my narrow horizon of self-enclosed existence is opened up to a cross-centered and cross-cultural communion. (p. 208)

And finally, the case against the marketing that makes up the most part of Seeker-sensitive, Purpose Driven "outreach" methodology:

There are perfectly good reasons to target a particular niche-demographic for a marketing campaign. It all depends on what one is trying to do. A quick return on an investment, with the recognition that the product will become obsolete and therefore lack long-term profits, is one way of doing business. In that case, you'll want to make the product as attractive as possible not only to a narrow slice of consumers, but to a narrow slice of consumers who will soon move on to other fashions. The covenant of grace, on the other hand, is passed on "from generation to generation". Selling a product to the hot prospects is different from receiving a heritage from a previous generation and passing it down to the next. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, the Scriptures remind us, and only the kingdom that God is building will remain (Heb. 12:27-28). The churches that become slaves of the market are made of hay, wood, and stubble, while those built on the apostolic foundation of gold, silver, and costly stones will remain (1 Cor. 3:5-17) (p. 209)

Amen. Which is why niche-marketing the church does not work, even if one were to overlook the doctrine of total depravity in the first place.

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