|Did You Buy A Used Vehicle
From This Man?
by Sandy Simpson, 7/00
C. Peter Wagner has been writing books for a long time. Some people never change their sales pitch and the same used vehicle still sits on the same lot.
Case In Point
A book published in 1976 called "Your Church Can Grow - Seven Vital Signs Of A Healthy Church" was written during a time when it was very "hip" to put forth ideas on church growth. This book has a few revelations in store for the reader who is aware of Wagner's current leadership in the "New Apostolic Reformation" and move toward an apostate world church.
What was of interest to me was the fact that, back as early as 1976, Wagner had already bought into a very pragmatic view of Christian evangelism. I have long thought that C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber looked at the "Signs And Wonders Movement" as an end justified by any means, especially with regard to "slain in the spirit".
Wonder of wonders! This is exactly the approach Wagner was already taking in the 70's, as evidenced by this quote from his book:
"... we ought to see clearly that the end DOES justify the means. What else possible could justify the means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method. If, on the other hand, my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in continuing to use it?" (C. Peter Wagner, "Your Church Can Grow - Seven Vital Signs Of A Healthy Church", 1976, pg. 137. - emphasis in original)Since Wagner is talking about church growth and evangelism here, let's take this thesis to its logical conclusion. If a church is not increasing in numbers, then according to Wagner you should use any method that increases those numbers. If this idea is correct then I guess we can assume that if preaching the Gospel is not working then we are to try employing things like: more entertaining stories and unsubstatiated subjective testimonies ... geting anyone to our churches who can do alleged signs, wonders and healings ... having less preaching from the boring old Bible and more psychological and topical sermons ... putting more emphasis on financial blessings from God and less emphasis on serving God no matter what the circumstances.
According to Wagner if is works it is a "good" method.
Let's look at it another way. Let's hypothesize that preaching the straight truth is not bringing in lots of people to your church. They struggle. Some even leave because the teaching is just too "harsh" for their taste. Don't fret. Change the method. Change the message! Update it. Hip it up! Make it more tolerant. Make it more appealing and less judgmental.
This pragmatic approach is exactly what C. Peter Wagner was hawking and what John Wimber later initiated in the Vineyard. This pragmatic Wagner/Wimber emphasis continues today in the Toronto/Brownsville movement.
I guess Jesus should have sat under the tutelage of C. Peter Wagner. He might not have turned so many people off like He did in the following case:
John 6:53-66 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever." He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no-one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.Apparently Jesus was not "hip" to the pragmatic methods of modern anointed "apostles" like C. Peter Wagner. I guess Jesus could have benefited from paying some money to go to a lecture by Wagner, because it sure looks like Jesus went out of his way to offend people and not build a large mega-following.
Paul made the same mistakes. He failed to build a big following at the council of the Areopagus:
Acts 17:33-34 At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.Only a "few" became followers? Paul's method apparently was not working, according to Wagner. Maybe Paul should not have been preaching the gospel but doing signs and wonders! He probably would have gotten much better results that way, according to Wagner's methods. Remember, if the method is not working it is, by implication, at least "not good" and at most an "evil" method. Whatever method works is a "good" method, accordingly.
Employing Wagner's methodology, Paul just gave up too soon. He should have stayed longer. Maybe instead of preaching the Gospel he should have had other believers come in and testify about the miracles they had received at the hands of Paul. Perhaps he should have tried toning down the references to Jesus Christ being the only Way, and instead told them that all roads ultimately lead to God. Maybe he could have changed the semantics so that the word "God" could also be interpreted as Artimus or Athena. Perhaps he should have concentrated on finances and asked them to bankroll his future mission trips with their "seed faith" gifts, giving away trinkets made from rocks along the Damascus road. Maybe he could have put on a week long "crusade" in downtown Athens with big signs saying "Come and get your miracle". Anything but that tired old useless Gospel message!
Let's look at another Apostle who really used the wrong methods ... Stephen:
Acts 7:52-60 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him--you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it." When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.Boy, Stephen REALLY messed up! He preached the Gospel and NOBODY believed, not even Saul (Paul)! Too bad he wasn't around to read Wagner's book before he died.
It's true that Jesus and the Apostles continued to preach the Gospel wherever they went, and in some places the response was better than others. But they NEVER changed their method! They may have changed certain emphases in the Gospel account as Peter did for the Jews and Paul did for the Gentiles, but never the basic message itself. They never added or took away from the salvation message. Yet today we see many churches diluting the Gospel or simply eliminating it altogether in order to pad their numbers.
What Wagner's model seems to ignore is that the issue is the hearts of people that are either good soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, or hard soil. The cold hard fact of the Gospel message is that you either believe or you don't. There is no way to sugar coat it. Jesus says: "Come and die ... so that you may live".
Christians should never change the message to suit the statistics. We are not called to employ ANY method just to add numbers of people to our Christian "club". Look what using any means to an end has spawned ... an entire church movement that is totally pragmatic and cares little or nothing for objective truth, that simply changes the "truth" to fit the circumstances. "Whatever works, man!" is the cry of the Third Wave today. Church growth has become more important than spiritual growth. Quantity has won out over quality. Mega churches and mega movements are whitewashing the truth so they can increase their stats on their "salvation" tote boards. The cross has taken a back seat to the new "glitter Christianity".
Thanks to people like C. Peter Wagner, much of the church today is driving a used "Charade" when they could be riding in a shiny new "Infiniti".