The final entry in our series on evangelicals' pathological obsession with trendiness.
(First posted Thursday, July 28, 2005)
- The Fad-Driven Church
- The Church-Marketing Fad
- The Fallout of All Those Fads
- Evangelicalism in Ruins
- A Better Way
ome people actually watch the undulating waves of fads in the evangelical movement as if these were the best barometer by which to discern how the Holy Spirit is working in the world. Many evangelical leaders actually seem to think the fads are a better gauge than the Word of God for giving us a perspective on what God wants to do in His church from season to season.
Rick Warren, for example, encourages church leaders to develop their skill at fad-surfing:
At Saddleback Church we've . . . tried to recognize the waves God was sending our way, and we've learned to catch them. We've learned to use the right equipment to ride those waves, and we've learned the importance of balance. We've also learned to get off dying waves whenever we sensed God wanted to do something new. The amazing thing is this: The more skilled we become in riding waves of growth, the more God sends! (The Purpose-Driven® Church, 14-15.)
Notice his tacit assumption that the fads are the means God uses to bring growth.
Faddism has begun to usurp the role of Scripture in contemporary evangelical thinking. Fads (not the Bible) are seen as the main instruments of growth and edification. Fads (not Scripture) also set the agenda for church ministry. If you want to discover what God is doing and formulate a working strategy for church growth, you have to get your nose out of the Bible and hold up a wet finger to pop culture. Take a survey and find out what people want, then give it to them.
That is the not-so-subtle message of a hundred or so volumes on church growth that have circulated among evangelical leaders over the past 20 years.
By definition, a Fad-Driven® church cannot be a church governed by the Word of God. Those who set their direction by following the prevailing winds of change are being disobedient to the clear command of Ephesians 4:14, which instructs us not to do that.
It is a serious problem that in the contemporary, Fad-Driven® evangelical culture, very few pastors, church leaders, and key evangelical figures are both equipped and willing to answer the serious doctrinal assaults that are currently being made against core evangelical distinctivessuch as the recent attacks on substitutionary atonement, justification by faith, and the doctrine of original sin.
Someone decided several years ago that the word propitiation is too technical and not user-friendly enough for contemporary Christians, so preachers stopped explaining the principle of propitiation. Now that the idea of propitiation is under attack, we have a generation of leaders who don't remember what it meant or why it's important to defend.
Something seriously needs to change in order to rescue the idea of historic evangelicalism from the contemporary evangelical movement.
And here's a good place for the change to begin: A generation of preachers needs to rise up and be committed to preaching the Word, in season and out of season, and be willing to ignore the waves of silly fads that come and go and leave the church's head spinning.