Sep 28, 2011

The Elephant Room & “Extraordinary Means”

The Elephant Room & “Extraordinary Means”

    Ok I had recently stumbled onto the Elephant room. What is the elephant room? It is basically James MacDonald rounding up a gaggle of mega-church pastors for them to sit down and have a ministry philosophy chicken contest. It is set up like crossfire talk show. I am not going to even comment why the admission to this is between $80 and $100 per head. I am only wondering why anyone thought this was a good idea? Discussion over ministry philosophy is a good thing. However having the biggest dogs talk about it seems not quite practical to the rest of the Church since the vast majority of Churches will never be 5-10K people.
    In this episode the debate is about the culture in the church vs. the church in the culture. There was for sure some good stuff said here. I have to also say that even though I was not a fan of the overall idea, I thought the guys chosen were humble and winsome. This debate was between Mark Driscoll and Perry Noble, although it was not too much of a debate. These two guys were already pretty close in how they thought on issues of engaging culture, though Mark is far more articulate  about this and thus also more restrained.
    The debate really centered around how the Church may or may not use elements from our broader non-Christian culture to reach it. The example that dominated the discussion was Perry Noble’s us of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” in his Easter service. All of the pastors represented in the discussion disagreed with Perry doing this (Mark Driscoll, Greg Laurie, David Platt, James MacDonald, & Matt Chandler) with the exception of Steven Furtick. Most all said it was going too far.
    There was some good discussion, and Driscoll was a total cut-up as usual which definitely kept it form being boring. I guess my only frustration is that in the midst of so many allegedly “theologically educated” men, nobody seemed to be able to just cut through and separate the wheat from the chaff. There were some great things said and some original thought. But what struck be is that we did not hear some of the most basic elements of historic Christian theology. It was like theology was invented yesterday and this stuff had never been dealt with before. A simple reference to the Reformers would have really cut to the chase, but then, I guess that would not be entertaining and sell tickets right?
    What are you talking about Todd? Ok here it is. Classic Christian theology has for a long time distinguished between what we call the “ordinary means of grace” and so called “extraordinary means.” The ordinary means are basically Acts 2:42, the preaching of the Word, the communion of the saints, the Lord’s supper (sacraments) and Prayer. These are the established regular means God has given to the Church to nurture it in the Gospel and raise up new disciples as well. An extraordinary means on the other hand would refer to any of those personal subjective experiences through which someone might discover faith in Jesus. Like Matt Chandler noted in his typically spastic and sarcastic way: “some people have come to faith because their mom died, but I don’t want to start that ministry.” The question at hand was that a guy came up and told Perry after that he connected with God through that song, therefore Perry’s argument was that the song was thus “sanctified.” So it all turned on whether the end justifies the means. So an extraordinary means of grace is some thing or experience where a person might be lead to faith providentially through the hand of God that is separate from what God has specifically given to the Church. What is important is that Christian theology has long recognized extraordinary means.
    We would definitely call the use of “highway to Hell” as an extraordinary means, maybe even a “really, really, really extraordinary means of grace” if not a full blown miracle. Here is the problem though; an extraordinary means is a providential work of God not of the Church. In other words, God has clearly told the Church how we to minister the Gospel to the world and that is only through the ordinary means. Will God use extraordinary means? Yes of course. But is that any business of the Church? No not at all. So should the Church be trying to minister through extraordinary means to try and help God save his people? No. God has given the Church its marching orders, to minister the Gospel through the foolishness of preaching (1 Cor. 1:18 & 21). We need to keep in mind that God killed people in the Old Testament for creative worship (Lev. 10) and in the New Testament for lying to the Holy Spirit in the worship gathering (Acts 5:1-11) and for taking the Lord’s Supper in a selfish and unthankful manner (1 Cor. 11:30). So with that in mind, are we going to bring the following words into our worship service and say, “Oh God can use it!”

Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Don't need reason, don't need rhyme
Ain't nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too
I'm on the highway to hell
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody's gonna mess me round
Hey Satan, payed my dues
Playing in a rocking band
Hey Momma, look at me
I'm on my way to the promised land
I'm on the highway to hell
(Don't stop me)
And I'm going down, all the way down
I'm on the highway to hell

    I would also point out that the reason the song is being brought into the public worship in the first place is that Perry is operating under a faulty ecclesiology. He is assuming a revivalist ecclesiology where you reach the “lost” by herding them into a church or revival meeting to where the person is asked to “accept Jesus.” That is not making disciples the NT way. Again God can and will use such means. But actually Perry’s fundamental ecclesiology itself an extraordinary means. It disobey’s the Ephesians 4 principle, that the gathering of Christians for worship and Bible study is not to save the lost per se, but to save the church by equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry; so they can go out and win the world with the Gospel. The revivalist ecclesiology is a form of over-functioning. The “professionals” are doing the broader church’s job for it, rather than training them to do it themselves.
    All that said, I think if we want good answers to our toughest theological and ministry questions, putting a bunch of mega-church mavens in a room to battle it out is certainly interesting, but ultimately not the way to do it. The most important questions the Church will face have already been answered by her greatest minds of over the ages. Holy Scripture is our highest authority. But still over every pastor and theologian is the collective wisdom of the history of the Church. It should be our first stop after Scripture itself and would have simplified this discussion quite a bit.

Before you post that comment, give it a ponder.

Sacred Journey Church on the City Sacred Journey Church Covenant Membership