Megachurches and the Compromise of Biblical Doctrine: Two Enlightening Articles and the Call to Be “Set Apart” for the Gospel

I have read two incredibly insightful articles today about the compromise of the gospel and biblical doctrine in the context of the megachurch.  In essence, these articles reveal the apparent necessity of megachurch leaders to dilute or ignore the clear teaching of Scripture in order to grow the church/ministry in light of the postmodern, post-Christian state of our society.

The first article was written by Al Mohler in response to a recent sermon by megachurch pastor Andy Stanley.  Stanley has built a reputation of being a proponent of conservative, conversionist theology faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus and the necessity of His death and resurrection for salvation.  However, in his sermon about balancing grace and truth, Stanley makes a clear divergence from biblical teaching in an apparent effort to harmonize a growing social dilemma the Christian church is being forced to address.

Mohler’s article gives an excellent summary on the history of the phenomenon known as “megachurches” and how in effort to sustain crowds or draw larger crowds these churches often feel compelled to capitulate to the sentiments of society rather than biblical doctrine.  The larger culture has grown increasingly hostile to exclusivist doctrine in the Bible (e.g. faith in Jesus as the only means of salvation) and teaching that is considered judgmental and archaic (e.g. biblical passages on divorce, complementarianism, etc). Because of this, megachurches are increasingly under pressure to side with the world instead of the Bible on key issues.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and read Mohler’s article- “Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?” here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/05/01/is-the-megachurch-the-new-liberalism/

The second article I read was by Chris Lehmann published in Salon.  Lehmann recounts his recent experience attending a rally held in Washington D.C. in Nationals Stadium by megachurch pastor Joel Osteen.  The article is a thoughtful critique of the humanistic, self-help platform espoused by Osteen.  Lehmann summarizes the message, testimonies, and music of the event all placing man, not God, as the center of focus and that God’s plan for each person is to seize “destiny moments” in order to have personal, financial, and emotional success. So egregious was Osteen’s message that Lehmann referred to it as “talismanic faith” that was more akin to narcissistic personality disorder than Christianity.

Again, I highly encourage you to read this article as an example of how far the “church” can get away from biblical doctrine. Read the article, “Joel Osteen Worships Himself” here: http://www.salon.com/2012/05/01/joel_osteen_worships_himself/

These articles reveal more and more how we have hijacked the gospel to suit our desires and the demands of our culture.  I certainly do not want to give the impression that I think all megachurches have compromised the gospel. That is not the case.  Yet, as Mohler noted, megachurches are often the institutions on the front line of difficult cultural issues the church must address.

I paused to reflect on Paul’s writings regarding the gospel, truth, and its role in the world and thought of Romans 1:1- we are “set apart for the gospel of God.”  The gospel is God’s gospel- not our gospel.  He accomplished and announced the gospel and has merely called us to proclaim and live it.  James Boice notes the grammatical structure of the phrase “of God” is subjective genitive rather than objective genitive. This means that God creates and announces the gospel rather than that he is the object of its proclamation.

This is important in that it illustrates how the gospel, not just being about God but initiated by Him, should never be altered by us.  The gospel isn’t ours to begin with- it’s God’s.  Thus we enter dangerous territory when we edit or truncate the gospel and biblical doctrine to suit our desires and agendas.  The world doesn’t like the gospel.  The gospel offends sinful nature and political correctness.  We live in days where there is great pressure and temptation to make the gospel what we want it to be.  In doing so, we abandon the truth and the power of God’s message of salvation. The church must never forget that in its handling of the gospel, it has been “set apart” (i.e. be different than the world) to engage culture in love and grace, while never abandoning the truth.

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4 Responses to “Megachurches and the Compromise of Biblical Doctrine: Two Enlightening Articles and the Call to Be “Set Apart” for the Gospel”

  1. Very important read…..

  2. Todd, great blog! I agree that many churches compromise the Gospel in search of bigger numbers. I would like to list a few that stand in contrast, though, by standing firm in the teaching of Jesus Christ. Gateway Church in South Lake, Pastor Robert Morris. Pastor Brady Boyd who took over New Life after Ted Haggard almost destroyed that congregation. Pastor Jimmy Evans, Trinity Fellowship of Amarillo, where a town of 200,000 holds service for 10,000 loving Christians. My only point is there are a few megas out there that love our Lord and want to see people healed here on earth and in congregation in Heaven. These guys have to stay in constant accountability with others to resist the temptation to compromise, it is essential. Loved you blog, Todd, and Beth and I are proud to be a part of this congregation!

  3. I watched a seminar this weekend where jimmy Evans used Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 21(the verse right before marriage is spoken of) to illustrate how man and wife submit to each other. Wife does not submit to her husband. Perhaps I’m too critical but I believe this to be exactly what the blog is referring to.

  4. Should have been Ephesians 5:21