Thursday, February 07, 2013

Everyone Deserves a Mulligan
...sometimes you just need another swing at the ball

Preach the Word [4:1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] 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, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

The Salesman-Marketer Driven Church Churches are now seeking marketing-savvy breed of pastor.

Home on the Range--The Need to Get Back to the Basics
When the golf swing is in trouble, it's time to return to the fundamentals of the game. This is the situation before us today.

A Poor Swing
Listen to these unfortunate words: But in the opinion of Mr. London of Focus on the Family, any church leader's success depends at least in part on bringing the best of corporate-marketing tactics to bear on a righteous cause.

"Nearly every pastor is a salesman or a marketer of one kind or another because … we have a philosophy to sell. The best marketers and best salesmen will have more converts, will have more people, will take in more money. Evangelicals are marketers because they're really passionate about their product."
H.B. London Jr., vice president of pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family. (source: The Christian Science Monitor).

I read with great interest Mr. London’s biography considering the degrading labels he used to describe those who serve the Lord in pastoral ministry. Mr. London should know better. He has served for more than 30 years in pastoral ministry before joining FOTF’s staff; he’s a Nazarene by denomination (Dobson is too); and in 1990 was bestowed with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Point Loma Nazarene University.

His assignment now as vice president of Ministry Outreach/Pastoral Ministries Focus on the Family is to serve as liaison to pastors and churches – a kind of “pastor to pastors.” Since joining forces with Focus, H.B. has directed the development of ministries to pastors and their spouses, and given oversight to ministries affecting physicians, youth culture, the inner city, missionaries, chaplains and basketball camps for the children of single parents in many cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

He communicates with thousands of pastors and church leaders each week through “The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing” (a fax network) and produces a bimonthly Pastor to Pastor cassette and newsletter.

Mr. London's Need of a Mulligan
What is so disturbing, despite his many years in ministry, is that his quote above does not represent a biblical approach to pastoral ministry whatsoever; and is a insulting characterization of the office of being an under-shepherd of Christ by its assertions. Mind you, this is from a man who served as a pastor for more than 30 years and begs the question of what kind of pastor was he? The severe disconnect in his quote above represents the current shift of evangelicalism’s fascination with the pragmatic rather than the biblical when it comes to church ministry. I now understand his current employ with Focus on the Family more fully in light of his words; for there exists in evangelicalism today no greater pragmatic influence by a Para-church institution lacking the foundation of sound biblical theology than Focus on the Family.

"Salesman and Marketers..."
1. Comparing pastors to “salesman or marketers.” Paul warns against “peddling the Word of God for profit” as some sort of huckster marketing the truth as retail merchandise. This is a blight against all faithful pastors serving in many cases without much pay, help or support (prayer or otherwise). Certainly there are those within evangelical circles (mostly on TV) that have made money their aim—and using the gospel to obtain it. But to blanket all pastors underneath the salesman umbrella is a gross overstatement and certainly not indicative of the thousands of under-shepherds around the world who serve the Lord and His people with integrity—not treating the gospel as a salesman or marketer.

The Gospel: Just "a Philosophy We Sell"
2. His justification is just as bad… “we have a philosophy to sell.” A philosophy to sell? Is this how an executive of pastoral ministries at FOTF views the treasure of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Philosophy by classic definition: "all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts; a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology; a pursuit of wisdom b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means; a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).

None of the above definitions comes close to defining biblical Christianity. What we proclaim is not theory; science; a general understanding of values by speculative… means; etc. Christianity is absolutely unique in its claims that the Word of God is God’s Word; it is absolute eternal truth free from error or imperfection; and is not the opinions or of men. The Apostle Paul leaves no room in what Scripture is when saying, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” -1 Thessalonians 2:13 He warns the young believers at Colosse about this very thing: “see to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

"Mo' Converts, Mo' People, Mo' Money"
3. But its his third description that should send us all screaming “bad form”: “The best marketers and best salesmen will have more converts, will have more people, will take in more money." Mr. London asserts that if you’re one of the best marketers and salesman you’ll “have more converts.” Salvation, regeneration, justification, adoption, seems to now be a calculated thing by those who can “sell it” to the audience most effectively. Skubalon! This is rubbish. This is nothing but the sandy gospel of Arminianism on steroids. Mr. London has obviously forgotten that only “the Lord adds to the church daily the number which are being saved…” And it is only the Lord that can say, "I will build my church..." He alone is its head, He alone is its architect, He alone is its builder, He alone is its chief cornerstone. Clever salesman and marketers do not and cannot produce converts. But don’t let truth stand in the way of a good market driven philosophy of church growth courtesy of Mr. London and Focus on the Family.

And Mr. London then draws the conclusion that because of more converts, there will be more people and then the crown jewel of his pastoral leadership by salesman marketeering—more money! On this point, there is not much commentary needed. Biblically, money is never the measuring rod for a pastor’s or local church’s success--ever. Paul considered himself “…poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless; …we have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” -1 Corinthians 4:11b; 13b). Mr. London's description for successful pastoral ministry is a bit different than the Apostle Paul's, isn't it?

"Christianity... A Product"
4. And he finally attributes the "more converts, more people, more money" philosophy for ministry because: "evangelicals are passionate about their product." A product? Did you hear that beloved? Our Lord Jesus Christ is a product? The Holy Spirit is a product? God the Father is a product? The gospel of sola fide is a product? Salvation from the consequence of sin is a product? The cross is a product? The body of Christ is a product? Baptism and communion are products? Prayer is a product? Church discipline is a product? The imputed righteousness of Christ is a product? Worship is a product? The preaching and teaching of God's Word is a product? Repentance from sin is a product? The bodily resurrection of Christ is a product? How dare Mr. London play marbles with the diamonds of our faith!

When money and numbers in ministry is the "focus" (no pun intended), then it's not real ministry—pastoral or otherwise. Pastors are not salesman and marketers, Mr. London, but I think I might know where one is ----->

And the Mulligan Goes to... The Mulligan today then goes to Mr. London and to Focus on the Family. They took “landing on the green” a little too literally. Here is the tip for Mr. London and FOTF today: pastoral ministry is hard work and in many ways, thankless labor. The faithful pastor is not a clever salesman or marketer as you suggest, but a shepherd, a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, a workman, a vessel, a servant, a teacher, a preacher, and a disciple-maker (cp, 2 Timothy 2; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The game of golf, as with any sport, usually breaks down at the fundamentals--the basics. Time to do some serious hours at the practice range, Mr. London, to recover your biblical - pastoral swing once again. God has not called you sir to be successful, but faithful! The biblical gospel offends; there is an offense to His cross; as Paul once said, "but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles." If the real gospel is being proclaimed "converts" would diminish, the crowds would dissipate as they did with our Lord, and the money would dwindle. The reward that awaits for the faithful pastor to the Lord Jesus Christ is not fame, money or notoriety; it is a crown of righteousness, a crown of glory, a crown of life, a crown of joy, and a crown which is imperishable (2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12; 2 Thess. 2:19; 1 Cor. 9:25). And not only to pastors, but to all who believe. This world is not our home beloved... set your minds on things above.

A Word from a True "Master of the Game"
"Help me to remember that I am prophet not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to the crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things... Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world... Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or, if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And, if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them." -A.W.Tozer, The Prayer of a Minor Prophet

Working it out on the driving range each day,
Acts 20


Pester Brat said...

Wow, I'm the first to respond?? Woohoo :-).

Indeed, how sad this is. Thanks again Brother Steve for stand, faithfulness, and love for Christ, His church, His word, His blessed gospel. Your Blog ministry is a blessing to me and our church.

Pastor Bret Lovitz

Sparks said...

Why is a Christian, evangelical Pastor of over 30 years giving interviews to the publication of a cult like the Christian Scientists, thus giving the appearance of credibility to the organization?

SJ Camp said...

Good analogy! Cotton Candy Christianity - what an unfortunate combination of words.

This is the saddening affect of an Arminian gospel - we take credit for souls being saved due to our methods and salesmanship. Unbelievable.

Sparks... I don't know? In the world of pragmatics anything goes--the ends always justify the means. The ends in this case... making a sales pitch.

Pastor Brett--always good to see you on this blog brother. I appreciate all you are doing for the kingdom!

Grace and peace to you all,

Having more fun than a Reformed Baptist should be allowed,

Jeremy Weaver said...

I agree with you Campi, Skubalon!
It still amazes me to see the influence money has on today's ministers! What a condemnation of American Christendom (not Christianity). When you step back and look at this objectively we have become very much like Tetzel, selling forgiveness of sins.
But the profit margin is good...

Jeffrey said...

I do not mean to rain on your parade, but Mr. London is correct.

Evangelicalism is a capitalist interpetation of scripture. The fact that it promotes itself as a biblical, and I would argue does make a sincere effort at being such is beside the point. Evangelicalism and Capitialism rose to prominence together and even if it was not in the beginning Evangelicalism has become a Capitalist interpetation of scripture.

Do I have something better to offer? No. To play on Winston Churchill, I believe it was, "Democracy (or Evangelicalism) is the worst form of government (or interpretation of scripture) except for all the others".

All the best evangelists I know of (except for one and his life and preaching...) are all either very successful salesmen or were very successful salesmen before going into ministry. Even Billy Graham, as I understand it, set multiple sales records for the Fuller Brush company before he became an evangelist.

Before you dismiss me I should share that I have a Bachelors in Economics and I am a Christian. In short, I am familiar with both economic systems and Scripture and trust me it is extemely simple, as evidenced by Mr. London, to reduce Evangelicalism to nothing more than a capitalist take on the Bible.

littlegal_66 said...

Okay, I'm more than a little bit "teed-off" at Mr. London's presumptuous assertions (I'm shooting from the ladies' tee, of course). ; )

This is so disconcerting, I feel like someone shouted at me during my backswing, and now I'm searching for my ball in the rough.

As you stated, Sledgebo, "philosophy" is a "theory," (by one of Webster's classic definitions). Let's substitute the word, "theory" for "philosophy" in the following quote, just to see how it looks in print:

"We have a 'theory' to sell."

A Christian minister referring to the gospel as a "theory?" How offensive is that? So, all this time, we've been following a "theoretical Savior?"

As for screaming "bad form" in response to "Mo' Converts, Mo' People, Mo' Money," (my paraphrase), just yell, "fore," and everybody duck, because Mr. London's shot was way out of control! Insinuating that to be good pastors or ministers you should be nothing more than "pastorpreneurs" or "ministerpreneurs"; that pastors should measure their "success" by the sizes of their membership roll and their bankroll? Incredible!

Try again, H.B., the gallery is waiting!

(Next time, I'll try to dispense with the golf metaphors--sorry). : )

farmboy said...

Analogies can be helpful provided they are not pushed too far and are on point regarding the topic being examined. Using this standard, how does the comparison of evangelicalism with capitalism measure up?

Economic systems are mechanisms for allocating resources. On one extreme are centralized economies where the resource allocation decisions are made by central planners. The central planners base their decisions on the information they have access to and on their preferences.

On the other extreme are decentralized economies where resource allocation decisions are made by individuals as each individual trades on the information he/she has access to and on his/her preferences.

Though there are many differences between centralized and decentralized economies, there are two important similarities for purposes of the topic under discussion:

1) In each system human desires (preferences) are sovereign. In a centralized system it is the desires of the central planners, while in a decentralized system it is the desires of the individuals who trade in the market.

2) Centralized systems concentrate power in the hands of the central planners, while decentralized systems disperse power amongst all the individuals who trade in the market.

Given what the Bible reveals about fallen human nature and hence the preferences of fallen human beings, is it a surprise that Christians will disagree with the preference driven outcomes of either centralized or decentralized systems?

Given what the Bible reveals about fallen human nature and hence the consequences of investing too much power with any group of human beings, can a Christian conclude that a decentralized system is useful for limiting the concentration of power in a group of fallen human beings?

Protestantism is more decentralized, while Catholicism is more centralized. To the extent that relatively decentralized evangelical Protestants depart for what the Bible teaches, they substitute human preferences for Divine directives. Likewise, to the extent that relatively centralized Catholics depart from what the Bible teaches, they also substitute human preferences for Divine directives. Christians should disapprove of either departure. Examples of Catholics substituting human methods for Divine directives are just as easy to find as examples of evangelical Protestants doing the same.

Given the above, I'm unsure how helpful the economic analogy is for understanding the topic under discussion. A faithful servant is not necessarily the same thing as a good salesman. After completing a couple of church growth classes and reading way too many church growth books, I was left with the following thought: According to modern church growth standards the Old Testament prophets were abysmal failures. As an example, Jeremiah ministered for approximately forty-five years and few people listened to his message. Jeremiah was a bad salesman but a faithful servant. As Isaiah 55:8-9 notes, God's thoughts are not the thoughts of human beings, and God's ways are not the ways of human beings. It's a recipe for disaster to organize evangelism based on human thoughts and ways.

Given all the other doctrinal problems with Catholicism, there's little reason to focus on doctrinal problems present in organizational issues. However, the Protestant reformation was all about recovering the gospel, the good news, the evangel. As theological descendents of that reformation, evangelical Protestants need to make sure that the methods we use to proclaim the gospel are God's methods, not man's. Unfortunately, Focus on the Family has missed this eternally significant point.

As a postscript, economics is about people and the choices they make (Gwartney, Stroup, Sobel and Macpherson). When a person combines the tools and methods of economics with all that the Bible reveals about the desires and preferences of fallen human beings, he/she can understand much of the behavior that he/she observes in the world. Given that redeemed children of God (Christians) have a radically new set of desires and preferences (2 Corinthians 5:17), a person can use the tools and methods of economics to understand how Christians should behave differently from non-Christians. In this sense, biblical economics is not completely comfortable with either conservative economics or liberal economics.

Not that it makes any of the above points any more persuasive, but along with earning a masters degree in economics and a doctoral degree in business, I have also earned a masters degree in theology. As a professor at an evangelical Protestant college I am afforded the opportunity to use these studies as I ponder what it means to see and understand business and economics from a distinctly Christian perspective.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Pretty good for a farmboy.

Tim said...


You said,
"All the best evangelists I know of (except for one and his life and preaching...) are all either very successful salesmen or were very successful salesmen before going into ministry. Even Billy Graham, as I understand it, set multiple sales records for the Fuller Brush company before he became an evangelist."

Well, I must say who are these "best" evangelists? Billy Graham does not top my list. He doesn't even get the gospel right. His is a decisional regeneration gospel. It is not intended to save, but to make one feel good. As a matter of fact, he has been quoted as saying he preaches the same gospel as the pope. That's from his own mouth. The best evangelists are those who put the word of God and the glory of God first, because to be quite honest, every preacher does not necessarily preach to people first, but to God. The lost are simply those who are the dry bones who are at the mercy of God and in need of His resurrecting power.

You also said, "Before you dismiss me I should share that I have a Bachelors in Economics and I am a Christian. In short, I am familiar with both economic systems and Scripture and trust me it is extemely simple, as evidenced by Mr. London, to reduce Evangelicalism to nothing more than a capitalist take on the Bible."

Sadly, I don't trust you. But I do trust Peter when he said in 2 Peter 2 that one of the big marks of those who are false teachers is that they do what they do for money and sexual favors. We have already seen some of the sexual issues come out of FOTF and I think the money issue has been on the table for many years.

I last listend to FOTF many years ago. I turned it off, when after a tremendous testimony by a husband and wife of their conversion and God's work in their lives, was followed by Dobson who said, and I paraphrase, "People should go to the Word and it will change their lives, but when the Word doesn't work, they should seek outside professional help." That my brothers and sisters, quite plainly is talking out of both sides of you mouth.

dogpreacher said...

Yes sir, Farmboy!

Now, let every man called of God to "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4), do so in said manner. Undaunted, faithful exposition of God's word is ALWAYS God-glorifying, and NEVER returns void.

By the way....doing the above will keep you far away from that 'camp' that 'campi' is referring to, and instead, leaves you as one obedient to the directives of God.

Bhedr said...

>I agree with you Campi, Skubalon!
ah ha ha ah ha ha ha ha! Warm hearty guffawic LOL's. Who can forget the Skubalon?

Ah I agree in that you agree with the Sledgmeister. Yes indeed, the ends always justify the means.

Jeffrey said...


I used Billy Graham because he is the only person I could think of that everyone on the forum would be aquainted with. Do you know who Sam Kennedy, Gary Simpson or Ken Swanson are? I doubt it.

Each of those men are gifted evangelists that I either do currently or have known personally in the past and all of them either currently is or has been a very successful salesman, which was my point. For some reason good salesmen also tend to make good evangelists.

I should also add that of those three men only one, to my current knowledge, makes his living from the preaching of the gospel. The other two are laymen that God just pours out of and at least one of them lives quite comfortably because of their success as a salesmen.

Finally Tim you seem to have missed my primary point, which is (and I am making a blanket statement), that evangelicalism is a commodified form of Chrisitianity. There are those who are who are fighting this, such as the owner of this blog, but the point remains.

I could ramble on, but replying in book forum is forbidden on this site. Suffice it to say that, in my opinion, Evangelicalism has become a reflection of Capitalism and this is being maintained and perpetuated by the evangelical publishing industry which is located almost exclusively in the United States of America, the most proudly capitialist nation in the entire world. American culture is influencing how the Body of Christ practices Christianity and that is the problem, not any one person.

Unchained Slave said...

A little help here please:
What is the definition of 'Evangelical' as it is used here?

I consider myself to be 'Evangelical' by the 'Barna Group' definition.
I have a 'Christian World View'
I believe the sufficiency of the Scriptures (alone), Salvation by grace, through faith (alone)...

It is the duty of all believers to fulfill the Great Commission...

So what I'm asking is because it is 'obvious' that 'Evangelical' is defined somewhat differently here... Particularly it is not a 'flattering' term...


Even So... said...

I saw this quote from HB a little while ago, and I was shocked (only a little, actually, considering the source). I am glad you took this up here. I shouted from the pulpit several weeks ago...focus on the family, no...focus on the faith! Your Tozer inclusion was right on the mark, had that in my office since the start..God bless you, and remember, they are not the enemy, but victims of the enemy. Concerning Calvinism and apostasy, think about 1 Corinthians 6:17..there is a reason some don't get it. Maranatha!

Sparks said...

It seems to me that if everyone in the family is correctly focusing on Jesus Christ, there won't be much need for "Focus on the Family".

Unknown said...

As one of those "master" salesmen, I do see some similarities between sales and preaching, whether it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ or a sermon to the congregation. Both professions engage the emotion of the individual when done properly. However, I agree with Steve on this. We are to buy the truth, and SELL IT NOT.

I used to believe that all of life was some form of sale, the only thing different was the currency used for payment. For example, my then 5-year-old daughter SOLD me my vacation plans based on an emotional connection and the features and benefits that most appealed to me. However, I have come to a new conclusion about this.

"Sales skill" is descended from the communication skills employed by the seers and prophets of old. They were not paid well, they were often mocked (Daniel), persecuted (Elisha), or even killed (Jeremiah). Seems like poor commission to me as a sales professional. They had something else - a call from God Himself. It is God that supplied the message and gave these men (and many others) the power to communicate them in a life-changing way (or close the sale, to use sales terminology).

What I now am beginning to see (after something like 28 years) is that life is all about communicating the message that God gave each one of us. How we deliver it may change, but it is not a form of sales. It is the other way around.

Unknown said...

Greetings in the name of Christ,

Steve - you are a good writer - I find it easy to follow your clear writing style. I pray I can write as clearly as you.

I pray you can help me out...

My name is Andrew Bain and I live in Orlando FL with my wife and children.

We cannot find a congregation to fellowship here with.

All the congregations require me to subscribe to a man-made fallible doctrine-of-man human-tradition creed in order to become a member and one day maybe a deacon.

God willing, I'm interested in congregations around the world where I can be baptized and become a member/deacon and the Word of God can be my only creed.

If you would be so kind to call me on 4079149059 that would be helpful.

A filthy leper saved only by the perfect obedience and shed blood of the chosen anointed son of God, Jesus Christ,

Andrew Bain

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1 Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to the gospel of God,
2 which He promised before through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
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5 by whom we received grace and apostleship to obedience of faith among all the nations, for His name's sake,
6 among whom are you also, called-out ones of Jesus Christ;
7 to all those who are in Rome, beloved of God, called-out saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of in all the world.

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Francois Mulder said...

Hi Steve - greetings from South Africa. I'm a reformed pastor in George, Southern Cape. We've just held a week of Pentecost services at our church where Reverend Jaco Strydom preached. His organization is called Echo Youth development. Their credo is: "Don't tell them Jesus Loves them, until you're ready to love them too." I told him that I know your song, and we sang it during some of the services. 3 Questions: 1. can we post our singing of the song online? 2. We'd like to record the song in a studio. Who do we contact for permission? 3. Untill we record the song for our congregation - can we post a mp3 of your 1988 version of the song on our church website? THANK YOU FOR YOUR MUSIC & MINISTRY. Francois Mulder -