In this article written by Ben Wright, pastor of Cedar Point Baptist Church in Cedar Park, TX explains what the attractional church methodology [i.e., do whatever it takes to make Church appealing] is,
” We’re offering the experience of worship that you’re looking for.”https://www.9marks.org/article/do-9marks-churches-foster-expressive-individualism/
Let’s make a minor adjustment to the above to see if attractional church methodology as a form of Expressive Individualism is in the same neighborhood as Multiple Versions Onlyism being a form of Expressive Individualism. The text-critic in conjunction with the publisher says,
“We’re offering the version(s) of the Bible you are looking for.”
The formula is identical. All we’ve changed is the variable “experience of worship” with “version of the Bible.” And the result is the same as well. Where with the former variable we have to deal with church-hopping; in the latter variable we have to deal with Bible-hopping.
American Church’s have become attractional because Expressive Individualism is the air we now breathe. Quoting from Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self,
“It [Expressive Individualism] is the very essence of the culture of which we are all a part. To put it bluntly: we are all expressive individuals now.”Trueman, Rise and Triumph, 25.
Trueman goes on to observe after noting that we can choose which church to go to among several Christian denominations; we can also choose the kind of worship we like
“as well as a host of other subjective variables – where we feel comfortable, welcomed, supported. We can choose our churches as we choose our house or car. We may not have infinite choice and may still be subject to some material restrictions, but the likelihood is that we have more than one church option with which we choose to identify.”Trueman, Rise and Triumph, 385.
Again the formula is the same and all that has changed is the variable. The MVO crowd do choose their preferred version of the Bible like they do their house or car. Most MVO adherents advocate for choosing the version(s) which with which you feel most comfortable, welcomed, and supported [i.e. the one that makes sense to you, the one that uses language you are used to, the one that says it the way you like]. Indeed, we do not have infinite choices of versions of the Bible but “the likelihood is that we have more than one [version] option with which we choose to identify.” Sound familiar?
The funny part [in a strange and sad kind of way] is that most pastors around the country would warn against church-hopping but wholeheartedly advocate for Bible-hopping. The tragic comedy of the whole thing is that there are indeed many pastors so why not be MPO – Multiple Pastors Only? There are multiple Bible preaching churches, so why not advocate for MCO – Multiple Churches Only? These are the natural outworking of Multiple Version Onlyism.
If it is within my purview to choose multiple Rules at the same time and in the same way then it is within my purview to choose multiple pastors at the same time and in the same way. And if it is in my purview to choose multiple Rules and multiple pastors at the same time and in the same way then it is in my purview to choose multiple churches at the same time in the same way.
Translation: I believe several Bibles are the word of God at the same time and in the same way and I believe the pastor at the Presbyterian church and the Baptist Church and the Lutheran Church are all equally my pastors at the same time and in the same way. Furthermore, I believe that I am a member in good standing in the local Presbyterian church and the local Baptist church and the local Lutheran church. As such I expect each of these churches to minister to my several needs. That is, I expect each pastor to visit me in the hospital. I expect three funerals done by each of my pastors when a loved one passes away. I mean, if they are all sufficiently reliable pastors and sufficiently reliable versions of Christianity then why not have 10 pastors in 5 denominations and be shepherded by and a member of each respectively?
Come on, pastors! Who’s with me!?
The point is pastors, if you are going to allow Bible-hopping/Rule-hopping then don’t be surprised when your people go Pastor-hopping which either looks like comparing your messages with other pastor’s messages only to find that you are not as good at preaching like the other guy is. That of course can turn into people leaving your church for the better pastor or it can turn into the people asking you, the pastor, to leave so they can get a pastor that make sense to them or a pastor that better meets their preferences of delivery or wording. Sound familiar? If you can choose a Bible based on your preferences of syntax, delivery, and wording you can certainly choose a pastor based on those same preferences. And as we are encouraged to do, when your preferences change you may change which Bible you’d like to read and while you’re at it, get yourself a new church and pastor based on those same preferences.
Some of you all were so short sighted that you thought people could prefer a Bible but not their pastor. Well ladies and gentlemen that time has come, and now churches and pastors are objects of “what makes sense to people” and “what they prefer.”
Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a seminary/church/pastor sows that shall he also reap.
In closing, turn with me in your non-existent hymn books to 357, Bringing in the Sheaves…
5 thoughts on “Does the American Church at Large Foster Expressive Individualism? (Part 3)”
I like the way you characterize the view of our adversaries as Multiple Versions Only. It’s revealing that none of them are willing to stand behind a single Bible version, whether ancient or modern, as perfect (or even best). They insist that perfection is impossible, and that Christians should use multiple versions in their “study” of Scripture (but what does “scripture” even mean in such a context?). The reality is there are those who assert that the King James Bible is the inspired and preserved words of God in English, and everyone else asserts we do not have God’s perfect words today. That reality speaks volumes.
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