It’s the oldest trap in the ministry book. You begin with your wide-eyed idealism, ready to serve God and never compromise. Over time, frustration grows. For all your efforts, your numbers are still painfully small. God wants me to be fruitful, right? I’m supposed to make disciples of all nations. There must be something wrong with my method. It is at this crossroads that many Christians veer off course. They may become, in their eyes, fruitful but faithless as they compromise the Gospel.
As good as it is to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus, it should never be at the cost of watering down or outright changing the message.
The Fruitful Mega Church Problem
I’ve noticed a growing trend in evangelical worship music. Today’s most popular praise and worship songs are from mega-churches like Hillsong, Elevation Worship, Bethel, etc. The common trends between these churches are beautiful music, thousands of members, and very questionable teaching.
“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 4:12-14, NIV).
At worst, these churches turn to prosperity gospel teachings that remove any mention of sin and twist the Gospel into a self-help pep-talk. And then there’s whatever Bethel is doing. I’m not even gonna go there.
The Ends Do Not Justify the Means
How do we make sense of this? Why are the faithful left struggling to keep their doors open while nonsense reaches millions? First, we cannot be surprised by this. Scripture repeatedly warns of false teachers leading people astray. Much like the Old Testament’s false prophets, telling Israel that everything is fine and no judgment is coming, modern false teachers tell people what they want to hear. If your goal is to please the people, then of course it will appear fruitful.
Second, although we are called to seek and save the lost, our goal should never be the results. Christianity cannot operate on a philosophy of “the ends justify the means.” Yes, we want to do everything in our power to serve God and share his message, but not at the cost of changing that message. We adjust how we communicate, not what we communicate. The Gospel has not changed in 2000 years. However, people and cultures have, so we may need to be flexible in how we present it.
In an interview, Ray Comfort recounts several people he thought had successfully converted to Christianity but ended up falling away due to false promises. Comfort learned what many of these megachurch pastors have not. God does not call us to be fruitful but to be faithful. We faithfully plant seeds, or stones in shoes to borrow a different analogy, and leave the results up to God. This is how we uphold that principle and don’t become fruitful but faithless.
Faithless? How Could Evangelism be Bad?
One might respond that these churches are bringing thousands to Jesus. How could that be a bad thing? Christianity has a history of massive revivals and reaching countless people with simple presentations of the Gospel. However, when it comes to a church community, it must eventually go deeper. Ideally, a megachurch keeps it simple on Sunday mornings and has other small groups set up for people to go deeper.
That is a best case scenario for many of these churches. Often what happens is that thousands are reached with the wrong gospel. Hope is a powerful thing, but I don’t believe that we help anyone by giving them false hope. An encouraging pep-talk or promises of health, wealth and happiness are not enough to save. Too often they do the opposite because people never recognize their own sin and why they need a savior. Part of the Gospel is understanding our own brokenness. If we cut that out to please the people, we may become fruitful but faithless.
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