By Paul Proctor
May 23, 2004
How many of you have heard that a church is built on relationships?
According to a Pastors.com article by Rick Warren; after polling a group of church members, a friend of his told him he discovered that 93% of the people joined because of the pastor but that 93% would stay, even if that pastor left because “I have friends here.”
So, instead of pointing out that following a pastor or friend, rather than Christ, is unbiblical, Warren chooses to exploit the error by declaring, “Relationships are the glue that holds a church together;” that we should therefore, “think relationally;” (not scripturally) adding that this “shift in allegiance” is “normal and healthy;” never once mentioning the Word of God, the Holy Spirit or any allegiance to Christ. It is because, in the church growth movement, an overriding emphasis is always placed on human relationships and how to manipulate them.
Using this pragmatic and unscriptural approach, Warren turns the sinful nature of men into a tool for church growth rather than bringing human nature under subjection to God’s Word by preaching repentance and faith and directing our allegiance toward Christ only. The true church, you see, is not built on relationships but on the Living Word of God.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1st Corinthians 3:11
In spite of Warren’s erroneous advice, you should know that a church built on relationships is a church ruled by relationships and is no godlier than any other social club or organization; because a church ruled by RELATI-onships is a church ruled by RELATI-vism and will readily sacrifice anything that jeopardizes those relationships, including the often-divisive Word of God.
In addition, when relationships are given priority over absolute truth, the church’s door is, in effect, left wide open for any charismatic charlatan that might come along with sweet lies and crocodile tears, to charm and deceive those who rely on the clever devices of men rather than the power of God – something we see quite a lot of these days.
When put to the test, these “relators” as I like to call them, will always forfeit scriptural commands (remain silent) to stay in the good graces of a favored friend, family member, group or organization. Believers, on the other hand, will obey whatever God commands, regardless of what people think, say or do, because their allegiance is to Him first.
The church today not only accepts such idolatry, but sells it from the pulpit as “God’s love” through words like “tolerance”, “diversity”, “unity”, “community”, “leadership”, “teamwork”, “consensus”, “contagious”, “purpose-driven”, “passion”, “seeker sensitive” and, of course, “relationship.”
In contrast, churches that are built upon God’s Word, never move, never change, never compromise or surrender absolute truth to accommodate the feelings, fashions, emotions, appetites or agendas of any person or group – no matter how good and “loving” their intentions may be.
In a recent Diaprax conference I attended, Dean Gotcher said that the true meaning of “sacred” is whatever we will not compromise or question. To some of us, that means God’s Word; to others, it means a relationship. And, we can become as addicted to those relationships as a drunk is to alcohol, following them like a slave to the grave, if that’s where they lead us.
The church is in the current state it is in because many Christians today are demonstrating a sacred allegiance to spouses, children, friends, employers, employees, politicians, parties, ministries, denominations, pastors, evangelists, music ministers, teachers, entire classes and whole congregations, instead of God's Word, repeatedly compromising, if not dismissing altogether, explicit commands that demand obedience. Why? They do it to preserve a relationship or the precious unity of a treasured group or organization and all of the good feelings that come with it.
The simple definition of “humanism,” according to The World English Dictionary is: “a concern with the needs, well-being, and interests of people.” Sounds very compassionate, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds a lot like today’s Christianity. Nevertheless, true faith in Christ concerns itself with the interests of Jesus Christ and His Word FIRST – people, second. This is the lordship of Christ.
Christians who defer God’s interests for the interests of people undermine the very Gospel they claim and unwittingly embrace, what amounts to, Christian flavored humanism and a carnal philosophy that teaches, “The end justifies the means;” which is why so many churches have become religious recreation centers for the scripturally challenged.
But, listen to what Jesus asked Simon Peter regarding relationships that were near and dear to him:
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” – John 21:15a
What person or group of persons do you love more than Jesus? If the Lord called on you to give them up, would you obey? Abraham was tested over this very issue when asked by the Lord to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. Abraham loved God more than his only son and was willing to give him up to prove it. Are we willing to trust and obey God even if it costs us a relationship? Do we have a stand-alone faith that believes the Word of God even at the expense of a loved one or friend?
Jesus put it in very blunt terms earlier in His ministry when preaching on discipleship?
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26
I dare say most Christians today wouldn’t even bother to give up a corrupt church, company or club they belong to, much less a rebellious friend or family member that was leading them astray. But, that’s just what we’re called to do when they come between God and us.
Many church growth leaders will try and convince you that you can’t love God without first loving others; and that you can’t love others until you first love yourself. That makes loving self job one, doesn’t it? What more, God moves to third place. More idolatry…
But, like most things in the church growth movement, they have it all backwards and sideways. The truth is; you can’t really love others as Jesus loves them, without first loving God and denying yourself. And, loving God means absolute obedience to His Word; the very thing that may alienate you from friends and family. But, that’s just the cost of discipleship and the true measure of our love for God.
You see, Agape love is found in the absolute truth of God's Word. Phileo love requires only a relationship.
Which one is sacred to you?
“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life.” – Matthew 19:29
Rick Warren: Relationships hold your church together.
© 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
"Using this pragmatic and unscriptural approach, Warren turns the sinful nature of men into a tool for church growth rather than bringing human nature under subjection to God’s Word by preaching repentance and faith and directing our allegiance toward Christ only."