Friday, May 15, 2015

Acts 15:19 - Troubling Those Who are Turning

I recently watched mega church pastor Andy Stanley state that Acts 15:19 was his core ministry slogan and his all-consuming passion. It is mounted up in his office so he can see it every day. He cited it from the NIV:

"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God."

From this verse Andy has justified his seeker-sensitive church. According to Stanley, everything we do in ministry must make it easy, and not difficult, for people who are coming to God. This means not being offensive, not preaching difficult and unpalatable things, making church savvy and fun for everybody, having good coffee, dim lights, fog machines and catchy praise bands--basically, a church that anyone and everyone would have a good time and feel at ease in. This is the first rule of ministry: Ease at all costs.

Stanley has grossly mistaken this Scripture. When James said this, he wasn't thinking about making coming to God easy for people in every imaginable way. In the context, he was making a statement regarding justification through faith alone apart from the law. The council at Jerusalem was called to decide whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. The apostles unanimously declared that justification through law-keeping was an unbearable impossibility and that Gentiles should not be burdened with that which even the Jews could never bear. When James said what he said, he meant this and this only. He didn't mean that churches should serve high-end coffee, and should have catchy music, and shouldn't preach offensive things. The NASB provides a better translation of this verse: "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles." The idea that they had to keep the law to be saved was scary and unsettling for the believers. Let them not be troubled: it is through faith alone that we are justified.

We must not forget that this very message of justification through faith alone is the most offensive and hateful doctrine imaginable to the non-Christian world. It is not easy for people to believe that they are hell-deserving sinners, that their good works are filthy rags, and that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved but the name of Jesus Christ. If we continue to preach this we shall drive away most people just as Jesus did by His preaching of these things. Those whom God is drawing and who are broken over their sins will hear these things as good news and life-giving water, but for the majority of the world, this message is a savor of death, and it makes them angry.

Broad and easy is the road to destruction. Narrow and uneasy is the road to life. This is solely because of the truth, the content of the gospel. I beg Andy Stanley and my fellow pastors to stop mistaking this saying of James to justify their unChristian ministry practices, and instead to focus their energies on preaching the Word of God, "for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth." (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the law hindered their understanding of God and justification - as do very different things today. Interesting that Paul circumcised Timothy in the very next chapter. So as to not hider the Jews from coming to God. An application suggesting we need to remove hindrances isn't grossly mistaken.