By Paul Proctor
January 11, 2004
A late uncle of mine often used a favorite little saying as an all-purpose answer to any problem that needed a solution. He would always conclude any discussion by saying: "Well, whatever works�"
I give you pragmatism.
The 21st century church is quite fond of this practice. So fond, in fact, that it has become one of its three driving "principles" � the other two being pleasure and pride. I use quotation marks around the word "principles" because, as used here, it is an oxymoron. You see, when it comes to the things of God, there�s nothing principled about pragmatism.
When King David decided to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, a new cart was commissioned to transport it. Traditionally, Israel carried the Ark of the Covenant in a way specifically set forth by the Lord to Moses before its construction. It was to be carried using specially made staves that were laid upon the shoulders of chosen and sanctified priests and Levites. There was no cart involved. To employ one for such a task may have seemed pragmatic at the time to those in charge of moving the Ark, but as Israel soon learned, the Lord is not pragmatic and will not tolerate a casual and disobedient attitude toward His commands, especially where sanctification and holiness are involved and obedience is required � even when OUR way appears to be more effective than His. Whether we realize it or not, the Lord has reasons for everything He says and does though He may not care to reveal them to us at the time. So, when we take it upon ourselves to try something new and different at His expense, we demonstrate the kind of arrogance that brought about the very fall of man even though it may be done with good intentions.
I think it is worth noting that the wrath of God did not come down on their disobedience when the Ark was first rolled out of the house of Abinadab on the new cart but instead, came later when unforeseen difficulties put the Ark at risk. Was this interim period given, that those responsible might reconsider their actions and repent? Your guess is as good as mine. All we can do is speculate here. God�s mercy and grace are His own to dispense.
Nevertheless, when the Ark was eventually shaken near the threshingfloor of Chidon by stumbling oxen pulling the cart it was on, Uzzah, who had been driving it with Ahio, (1st Chronicles 13:7) reached back and took hold of the Ark with his hand in order to steady it. The Lord immediately struck him dead. (2nd Samuel 6:7) You see � touching the Ark of the Covenant was forbidden, which is why it had no handles. Had it been transported to Jerusalem in the manner specified by the Lord on the staves and shoulders of sanctified priests and Levites, Israel would not have sinned, the Lord would not have been angry and this terrible event would not have occurred.
We live in a time where many church leaders are looking for "more effective" ways of serving the Lord. A growing number are also imitating the world by implementing innovative and pragmatic programs, techniques and strategies � if you will, using new carts and unholy hands in presumptuous ways. If you question their carnal methods, often they will respond with something like: "Well, the Lord gave us our carts and hands. Don�t you think He wants us to use them?" This is the pragmatic rationale behind the new spirituality whose unofficial motto is "the end justifies the means."
The Associated Press recently reported that a man near Tampa Florida was trying to establish a Christian-themed nudist community, complete with a church and water park on 240 acres of land he purchased there. Well, that ought to be a big draw and why not? If it�s done to evangelize and minister, what�s the problem? The Lord gave us our naked bodies. Don�t you think He wants them to be seen and used for His Kingdom�s work?
Once again, pragmatism�
In another Associated Press article, Pastor Walter Hallam of The Abundant Life Christian Center in La Marque, Texas told the Galveston County Daily News "We want to do something to have a positive effect on people's lives." So, his church held two free drawings � one for a new P.T. Cruiser (for women) and another for a Harley Davidson Sportster (for men). Each member won an entry to the drawings every time he or she attended church services in the weeks preceding it. If they brought visitors with them, they received two entries for the car or motorcycle. How�s that for pragmatism? The Lord gave us cars and motorcycles; so He obviously wants us to bring people into the Kingdom with them, right?
USA Today reported that Baptist Bishop Fred Caldwell of Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Church in Greenwood, Louisiana, offered white people $5 an hour in August, if they would attend Sunday services and $10 an hour for attending Thursdays. Now that�s putting the Lord�s money to work for evangelism, don�t you think? He gave us money � so why not use it to lure our prospects in and promote racial harmony?
Of course, we might look at these extreme examples and say they�re just isolated incidents but I would suggest to you that this type of pragmatism is in widespread use by the church today even though it is taught nowhere in scripture. Satan has shrewdly persuaded us that godliness is attainable through ungodliness � that when it comes to doing the Lord�s work, the end justifies the means. We are constantly being taught new and creative ways to be "more effective" and almost nothing about being more obedient. And THAT, my friends is the problem. God did not call us to be "effective". He called us to be holy and obedient � something the church is flagrantly avoiding these days for the sake of numerical growth.
Pastor, if you�re teaching your flock to be "more effective", with programs, strategies and techniques, you are teaching them to focus on results and relationships, not obedience to the Word of God. This breeds manipulators, two-facers and blessing chasers, not Christ followers.
Why do you think we have rock and roll worship, sloppy attire, food courts, coffee shops, bookstores, health clubs, movie theaters, skating rinks, bowling and bingo in emotionally driven, biblically illiterate churches around the country today? � Because the end justifies the means.
Why do you think we're encouraged to appeal to men's and women�s egos and appetites with mesmerizing music, self-esteem sermonettes and "felt needs" festivals? � Because the end justifies the means.
Why do you think we train missionaries to go overseas with the Truth of God and then lie about why they�re there? � Because the end justifies the means.
Why do you think we encourage missionaries to lie to government officials in foreign countries about the contents of their luggage in order to smuggle bibles in illegally? � Because the end justifies the means.
Don't you see the contradiction here?
It seems we don't want to have to pray, fast, trust and wait for the Lord to open doors His way and in His time. We'd rather get on with it, make our plans and open our own doors in His name so we can show everyone how committed we are. But, without the holiness, obedience and faith God demands, our pragmatic evangelism is in vain! Worse yet, it's evil!
"Be still, and know that I am God�" � Psalm 46:10
And what are we saving the lost TO when we lie, deceive and manipulate our way through the "Christian life" and call it a "ministry?" Are we not representing a false christ by offering the truth in hypocrisy � exercising a fraudulent faith that robs us of the very righteousness we try to teach others? Will we be led, guided and delivered in our time of need by a Holy God or by a devious heart? I would say a god that needs you and me to bear false witness and act deceitfully in order to carry out his will is not a very powerful or consistent god, now is he?
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" � Isaiah 5:20
Remember Uzzah and the new cart? God doesn't honor good intentions wrought with ungodliness and disobedience. He punishes it � maybe not instantly but eventually and severely! So, I'd be very careful about calling today�s growing apostasy a "Spiritual Awakening", a "Global Movement" or a "New Reformation" because it is steeped in pragmatism, pleasure and pride.
"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." � Proverbs 16:25
� 2004 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved
Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at [email protected]�
"Pastor, if you�re teaching your flock to be �more effective�, with programs, strategies and techniques, you are teaching them to focus on results and relationships, not obedience to the Word of God.
...behind the new spirituality whose unofficial motto is "the end justifies the means."