Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Constituted Means

"A revival of religion is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means - as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means." - Charles Finney- "With this statement, Finney not only rejected salvation by grace but also opened the door to the use of emotionalism and technique to produce a high body count when it came time to sing the hymn of invitation at the close of the service...And Sproul stated plainly the problems with body-count evangelism when he said, "Everyone who has faith is called to profess faith, but not everybody who professes faith has faith. We are not saved by a profession of faith. A lot of people, it seems to me, in the evangelical world, believe that if they have walked the walk, raised the hand, signed the card - that is, made some kind of methodological profession of faith - that they're saved."
Warren Cole Smith, A Lover's Quarrel With The Evangelical Church, (Colorado Springs, Authentic Publishing, 2008), 139-140.
Emotions. Nothing about a person impacts their decisions more than their emotions. Every day people make choices that are born out of emotional moment. It can be as simple as buying a beer because it was a stressful day at work or as complicated as making a "profession" of faith at a church service because the circumstances were set up to lead to that. Advertisers play upon the impulses & emotions of people to sell products, and often the evangelical church plays upon the same emotions to "sell" Jesus, offering, and serving. With the right lighting, music, words, and set-up, any church can make an effective decision weekend. As Charles Finney, 'the Father of Modern Revivialism', clearly stated it - the "right use of the consituted means" can produce a revival. People can make decisions that they feel like are changing their lives without realizing what they are doing or why they are doing it. The consequence (unintended as it might be) is that people make a decision for Jesus or put money in an offering bin without ever really choosing to do so. Their lives don't change. Their faith doesn't exist. They simply have a memory of an emotional moment and less cash in their wallet.

The hard part comes in the lack of trust that Warren Cole Smith gives to God in the process. Can God still use the moments that churches play upon emotionalism & technique? Could God not still change lives despite the clear manipulation being done to people? After all God is the one who remains sovereign - despite the mess people make in the world and in His church. My personal belief is that God can still use these "revival-like" moments BUT that a lot of the decisions made in these moments are not as deep as the church would like to believe they are. The number of decisions look good on paper & help us feel like we are accomplishing The Great Commission, but the reality is that if all of these emotionalism techniques being used across the evangelical church in America were truly 100% effective - we would see more "fruit" from the decisions. Instead - it seems the evangelical church contributes to the notion of a nation that claims to be 83% Christian and yet displays very little of the love & life of Jesus Christ.

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Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions