Tag Archives: The Courage to Be Protestant

“Rethink your thoughts about the church” by David F. Wells

“The church is not our creation. It is not our business. We are not called upon to manage it. It is not there for us to advance our careers in it. It is not there for our own success. It is not a business. The church, in fact, was never our idea in the first place. No, it is not the church we need to rethink.

Rather, it is our thoughts about the church that need to be re-thought. It is the church’s faithfulness that needs to be reexamined. It is its faithfulness to who it is in Christ, its faithfulness in living out its life in the world, that should be occupying us.

The church, after all, is not under our management but under God’s sovereign care, and what He sees as health is very often different from what we imagine its health to be. The church, let us remember, is called the ‘church of God’ (Gal. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:9).

Churches are ‘the churches of Christ’ (Rom. 16:16) because they are His, bought by His precious blood. Christ not only constituted the church (Matt. 16:18), but God has given us the blueprint for its life in Scripture.

What we need to do, then, first and foremost, is to think God’s thoughts after Him, think about the church in a way that replicates His thoughts about it. We need to ask ourselves how well, or how badly, we are realizing our life in Christ in the church, how far and how well churches stand as the outposts of the kingdom of God in our particular culture.”

–David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 222-223.

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“The gospel cannot be a product” by David F. Wells

“The marketing model, if followed, empties the truth out of the gospel. First, the needs consumers have are needs they identify for themselves. The needs sinners have are needs God identifies for us, and the way we see our needs is rather different from the way he sees them. We suppress the truth about God, holding it down in ‘unrighteousness’ (Rom. 1:18). We are not subject to his moral law and in our fallenness are incapable of being obedient to it (Rom. 8:7), so how likely is it, outside the intervention of God through the Holy Spirit, that we will identify our needs as those arising from our rebellion against God?

No, the product we will seek naturally will not be the gospel. It will be a therapy of some kind, a technique for life, perhaps a way of connecting more deeply with our own spiritual selves on our own terms, terms that require no repentance and no redemption. It will not be the gospel. The gospel cannot be a product that the church sells because there are no consumers for it. When we find consumers, we will find that what they are interested in buying, on their own terms, is not the gospel.”

–David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 52-3.

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“The form greatly modifies the content” by David F. Wells

“Here was a newly invented and freshly minted church world. It was a church world completely reconfigured around the sales pitch. Here was the gospel product as sleekly fashioned and as artfully sold as anything in the mall or on television. Here also were churches smelling of coffee and reverberating with edgy music. There were bright and exciting videos. And the professional singers rivaled any one might hear in Vegas. It was all put together in a package to please, entice, entertain, relax, grab, and enfold potential customers, and worm its way into their hearts.

There was, however, a generational focus. The generational target for the marketers has been the boomers. The music is contemporary. Usually, though, ‘contemporary’ is no later, musically speaking, than the 1970s or early 1980s, because that is where boomers find their comfort zone. Rap or heavy metal would not be cool.

What results, all too often, beneath all the smiling crowds, the packed auditoria, is a faith so cramped, limited, and minuscule as to be entirely unable to command our life, our energies, or, as a matter of fact, even much of our attention. One church advertises itself as a place where you will find ‘loud music’ and ‘short services.’ It has a ‘casual atmosphere’ but, it wants us to know, it also offers ‘serious faith.’ This is always the rub in this experiment: the form greatly modifies the content.

The loud music and short services are part of the form, but the form, put together to be pleasing, actually undercuts the seriousness of the faith. The form is in fact the product, and in this market the sale has to be done quickly and as painlessly as possible because the customers all have itchy feet. That greatly militates against the seriousness any church wants to have. And that is why a deep chasm has opened between the church marketers and historic Protestant orthodoxy. It is less that the truths of this orthodoxy are assailed than that they are seen to be irrelevant to the building of the church. They are, it is believed, an impediment to its success.

Not only are the bare bones of this approach now showing, but it has to reckon with the fact that people have also become bored with it. They want something new. It has been mainstreamed. The marketing approach has become conventional in the American evangelical world, so now, people are thinking, it is time to move on. Frankly, there is no judgment more to be feared that this: you are now passé. That weighs more heavily even than words coming from the great white throne at the end of time. Imagine that!”

–David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 13-4.

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