Christians Need To Stop Making Converts: Part 5 of 5

Part 5: Becoming Truly Relevant And Truly Counter-Cultural

We Must Never Stop Evangelizing

If you’ve read the first 4 parts of this series, and have made it to this final post, I thank you. Hopefully, whether or not you fully agree with my argument, you have at least taken a hard look at the issues I’ve been discussing. However, if past experiences I’ve had in attempting to discuss this topic are any indication, then I fear that those fully entrenched in the pragmatic approach of evangelical capitalism – those truly in need of hearing my arguments – will have already left the conversation. If that has occurred, then it is unfortunate, because I believe that this issue is critical to how we, as evangelicals, conduct our lives in the 21st century.

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Christians Need To Stop Making Converts: Part 4 of 5

Part 4: When “Personally Feeling Good And Being Happy” Is Our Goal

A Cultural Laziness Which Has Evolved From An Attitude That Life’s Main Goal Is To Have Fun

20100911-_MG_0833 It seems that our culture has come to expect to be catered to – to have their needs (felt needs) met. It also seems that we have moved from living as pragmatic narcissists to that of entitlement-expecting narcissists with a hedonistic bent. In the secular realm, catering to those felt needs is simply a business transaction; but in matters related to the spiritual, such catering can have eternal consequences.

In discussing the general attitudes of the younger generation with a friend from work, she told me of an e-mail she received from one of the coaches from her son’s baseball team. It had to do with what this coach has seen with the kids he’s coached and how it is also reflected in the college grads he’s hired. He titled his e-mail The Coddled Generation. Here are some excerpts,

Last night I was watching a 60 Minutes program about motivation in the work place and the uniqueness of the generation entering careers in 2011.

The show was really interesting, both from the perspective of an employer as well as a baseball coach. On this particular show, the coaching professionals interviewed were motivators and trainers used by businesses – experts on the emerging generation of workers and how best to speak to and communicate with them. The show highlighted fun and wacky office cultures like Google and Zappos where strange outfits are commonplace, happy hours are frequent and workers can take turns in the “nap room.” This was designed to show how corporate structure has evolved to help make workers comfortable, keep them happy and engaged, and ultimately increase productivity.

At one point, one of the consultants interviewed described this generation as “The Coddled Generation,” and then went on to describe how their upbringing has led to a completely different worker. This expert referenced school environments where Mom calls to complain about a grade, where simply showing up is reason for celebration, and where trophies are awarded to each and every athlete.

I honestly believe that the culture has changed, and there are two main differences:

A lack of desire to be outstanding…

A need for coddling and hand-holding

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Christians Need To Stop Making Converts: Part 3 of 5

Part 3: When Christianity Is About The Experience, Feelings Become Paramount

An Emotion-Based View Of Christianity, Giving Too Much Importance To The Feelings Of An Individual And To That Of Making Converts

At the heart of the twenty-first century Western model of Christian evangelism is the scripture found in Matthew 28 – what is commonly referred to as The Great Commission.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

– Matthew 28:19 ESV

With this verse Christians have, in sincere and fervent zeal, taken the Gospel message of Christ to all the nations of the earth. Unfortunately, and in spite of their zeal, some may have missed the true intent of the verse. Note that the reference I show above ends not with a period, but with a comma. The folks at Stand to Reason promote the principle of Never Read a Bible Verse[23], which is a pithy way of saying that one should never read a snippet of scripture (or any text, for that matter) without understanding the context of the passage the snippet is contained in. Using this principle, a better reference for The Great Commission would be Matthew 28:16-20, the paragraph which contains Matthew 28:19.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:16-19 ESV Read the rest of this entry

Christians Need To Stop Making Converts: Part 2 of 5

Part 2: When A Church Is Run As A Business, It Can’t Help But Be About The Bottom-line

A Pragmatic Mindset Derived More From Capitalism Than From Scripture

It is my opinion that the United States became a rich and powerful nation due, in part, to the aspects of capitalism which cater to the ability of humans to self direct their will towards goals, achieving them through determination, discipline and hard work. It is not difficult to find story after story of entrepreneurs who took little to nothing and built empires through their perseverance. Yet, hard work alone was not the recipe for success these people used. There were, and are, plans – business plans, marketing methodologies, sales approaches, growth models, etc.

20101119-_MG_1095 (2) Just about every salesman is schooled on how to entice a potential customer with the product he is selling, convincing the customer that he needs the product – regardless of whether or not the customer does, in fact, need the product. You may have heard the idiom, “He could sell ice to Eskimos!”[7], describing the abilities of a top salesman to sell a product to an unlikely buyer. Or consider the various marketing strategies employed by establishments wishing to get customers inside their stores – all for the purpose of pitching products to them. The “loss leader”[8] strategy stresses the point of selling one product at or below production costs for the sole purpose of being able to put other “for profit” products in front of the customer. It’s a gamble – a bet – that the customer will not leave the store with only the “for loss” product. And who among us has not had product B pitched to us via means of first having product A presented? For example, at a Bass Pro shop I recently had a timeshare presentation pitched to me after being enticed to win a new truck by just “entering a drawing.” Then there is the “bait and switch”[9] approach in which the customer is led to believe they are getting product A when, in fact, they are sold a cheaper product B. It should be noted that one common feature of any sales approach is that the product is dressed up – enticed – to appear as indispensible to the buyer. Is it any wonder, then, that the phrase “Caveat Emptor”[10] – “Let the buyer beware” – came about?

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Christians Need To Stop Making Converts: Part 1 of 5

Part 1: An Introduction to the Problem Facing the 21st Century Western Church

The “Takeover and Colonization of Christianity”

20100410-_MG_8446 Twenty-first century Western Christianity is in dire straits. Europe exists in a post-Christian state, and many believe that the United States is effectively on a path towards that same end. While some may argue that there has been a resurgence of evangelical growth, what with such phenomena as the megachurch or emergent church movements, it seems that more and more people in the U.S. are choosing to affiliate themselves with no religion[1]. Whereas up through the mid-twentieth century one could expect an average United States citizen to understand the tenets of a Judeo-Christian heritage, a worldview of pluralism is now permeating the environment, essentially deadening secular society’s sensory receptors pertaining to moral truths. Strangely enough, we find that this state of affairs has occurred despite the West having experienced over 60 years of peace, prosperity, and religious freedom. Or, perhaps, I should state that this condition has occurred because of said peace, prosperity, and religious freedom.

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It’s not often you hear me disagree with something that Greg Koukl, from Stand to Reason, has written or said. Indeed, I heartily agree with his series on Decision Making and the Will of God. However, on his 27 September 2009 radio show, he made a commentary regarding utilitarian decision making and how it is applied to a specific moral dilemma scenario. His commentary was lengthy, and I recommend you listen to it in its entirety (begins at approx. 1:01:20 into the radio show). He presented a scenario, which was presented to him, as follows:

A group of the French Resistance, including families with infants, are hiding from Nazi occupiers. One of the infants wails inconsolably and will, more than likely, alert the approaching Nazis. The infant’s life is terminated – probably by smothering the child so it’s not making noise… to improve the group’s chances of survival. But a moral imperative: Murder is wrong, has been violated. A case for utilitarianism could be made. However, is this not a case of moral relativism and, even though it’s horrific, something that’s necessary?

In responding to the scenario, he concluded that it would be expedient for the group to murder the infant. Take note that I am summarizing his statements here and, to reiterate, one should listen to his commentary in full for a complete understanding of what he stated. His reasoning included (my summary),

Utilitarianism as a standard model of moral action is relativistic (the end always justifies the means, but the end isn’t always a moral good). However, this does not mean that considering the means to an end does not entail legitimate considerations.

Facing the scenario as an objectivist: a decision has to be made, taking into consideration relative circumstances and utilitarian aspects.

This is a moral dilemma in that there are only two choices and each of the two choices, in isolation, would be wrong to do. Note: taking circumstances into consideration, in your moral decision making, is not relativism. If it were, there would be no moral dilemma in this scenario.

In the case of this moral dilemma, the guiding principle is that human life has transcendent value and should be protected. In this situation the obligation to protect one innocent life (the baby’s) is in conflict to protect the lives of all the other people in the group.

Which decision does the greater good? The morally obligatory action would be to silence the baby, although difficult and tragic. The only other choice would be much worse (and the crying child’s life seems to be forfeit anyway).

It seems to me that, while Greg’s decision is based on an objectivist methodology, he has placed too much weight on the concept of the “greater good”. Is the greater good truly good when it encompasses betraying our commitment to certain moral truths? Despite any attempts at circumventing the rationale for the action, smothering the crying infant is still murder.

Consider the complications that arise when one envisions how the proposed scenario might actually play out. I realize that the scenario is carefully set up to invoke a moral dilemma, and that life is more complicated than the illustrations in our pre-packaged philosophical scenarios. However, a little tweaking of the scenario can also help illustrate some of the complications that may arise.

In Greg’s commentary he noted that the mother of the infant may not want to have the infant silenced (murdered). Yes, I think that would be a safe bet. Let’s run with that and suppose that not only does the mother not want her child killed, but she herself begins screaming when the majority of the group decide that is exactly what must be done. Not to worry, though, because while one of the larger males in the group rips the child out of the mother’s arms, a couple of other males wrestle her to the ground to stifle her screams. After the child is killed the mother, understandably so, cannot keep from crying… essentially the same problem faced earlier with her infant. Despite their pleas, and subsequent threats, the woman will not relent from her incessant mourning.


That would be the sound of her neck being broken so as to silence her. All, for the good of the group.

A moment later, in walks her husband who had been away from the group on reconnaissance. After seeing that both his wife and child have been summarily executed he begins a wild, and loud, fight with several of the males in the group.


That would be the sound of his throat being slit so as to silence him. All, for the good of the group.

Unreasonable? Well, consider a scenario where we have a group with 6 adults and 5 infants, in which all the infants are crying. Since 6 is greater than 5, are we justified in silencing the infants?

How about if the group has 5 adults and 6 infants, and all the infants are crying? Tough luck for the adults, I guess, because 5 is less than 6.

What would happen if the group consisted entirely of adults, yet one of them has a severe case of hay fever (anyone been in Oregon in the Spring? Ugh!). There the poor sap sits, sneezing and honking, obviously having forgotten to take his Claritin.

“Aaaa-choo! Aaaa-choo! Honnnk! Honnnk!”


And pity his poor neighbor suffering from a cold.

“Cough! Cough! Hack! Hack!”


At a certain point, I think, the greater good argument begins to crumble in on itself. It’s one thing to offer one’s self in sacrifice, and quite another to force an ultimate cost upon someone else. Is the good gained truly worthy of the act committed?