29 September 2009

Theology On Tap

"Outlaw Preacher" Khad Young tweets:
"God wants to party with you. He'll run out to meet you where you are in order to party with you. (Your brother might be upset, though.)" Online source.

How deep. How profound. How unbiblical. At least he doesn't attempt to back it up with Scripture. I suppose just pulling an unbiblical thought out of thin air is better than twisting Scripture in order to make it fit your own agenda a la Rick Warren. So what is an "outlaw preacher" you ask? They're a new, self-defined breed that I like to define as "Emergents on Tap." As in, you're very likely to find your local tattooed, pierced "outlaw preacher" hanging out at your neighborhood watering hole, aka BAR. They began with Jay Bakker and now include such sadly familiar names as Nadia Bolz-Weber and Khad Young. The Apprising Ministries article OUTLAW PREACHERS, BEER, AND THE BIBLE offers a brief look into the philosophy and...ahem...theology of this new breed.

But I didn't start this post because I wanted to give you a history of outlaw preachers. What struck me specifically today was the above "tweet" by Khad Young: "God wants to party with you. He'll run out to meet you where you are in order to party with you. (Your brother might be upset, though.)" It caught my attention because it sounded disappointingly familiar to something I read over the weekend:

Billed on posters around the bar as "Faith, Hope, Love and Beer," Pub Theology is a Sunday night show that's one part church and one part party. In other words, it's like nothing else you will find in Broad Ripple -- or just about anyplace else.

The preceding quote is from an article in my former local paper, The Indianapolis Star. The article can be found in its entirety here. In a nutshell, the article tells the story of an Indianapolis band that began in a rather large Indianapolis mega-church and has decided to take their ministry "on tap." They call what they do "Pub Theology" and apparently can be found with a beer in one hand and a Bible in the other. In a bar. Supposedly sharing the Gospel. Looks like Indianapolis is breeding its very own Outlaw Preachers. Welcome to the postmodern, Emergent world, Indianapolis--I will pray for you.

If you ask me, the postmodern approach leaves much to be desired. Allow me to digress slightly from my focus here and ask: where is the reverence? First we eliminated the idea of wearing our "Sunday best" to church each week as members of the congregation. The pastors then joined in and can now be found wandering the aisles in worn jeans and cowboy boots. Then we decided to make church more appealing by giving it a coffee shop atmosphere with couches replacing the pews and with baristas in the back steaming lattes during the opening prayer. We eliminated the theologically sound hymns in favor of emotion-producing rock-band type praise choruses that say little if anything of substance. We decided that a beautifully trained choir was too stuffy so instead we tossed a few hip, trendy singers and guitarists on stage to put on a show and entertain us. Oh yes, we replaced the pulpit with a stage. We replaced sermons with "talks." We, well, we replaced church as a place of reverence and worship and instead turned it into the latest and greatest neighborhood hangout. A place where you won't be judged, you won't be convicted, you won't be taught anything except love and acceptance. The problem? The Bible convicts. The Bible speaks of judgment--a final judgment that is coming for all people who reject Christ. And if all you ever do is talk about loving people and never tell them about the disease that is silently but steadfastly killing them, then you, my friend, are failing in your mission as a Christian.

So back to "Pub Theology." This group thinks they're doing these barflies a service by "reaching out" to them. After all, didn't Jesus eat with the tax collectors? Well, yes He did. But did He preach to them with a cigarette in one hand and wine in the other? Not in my Bible He didn't. Just because Jesus surrounded Himself with the dregs of society (and lets remember here that we are all dregs of society and sinners without Christ) does not mean that He brought Himself down to their level and participated in their sin in order to make them feel comfortable. In fact, tax collector or Pharisee, I'd argue that Jesus pretty much made everyone feel uncomfortable until they came to realize the depravity of their nature and their hopelessness without a faith in Him.

Sadly, I don't see one reference to the true gospel in this Indy Star article. Is the band preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins through Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection? Or are they preaching that God loves everybody and life is really great if we love God too?

"Whether they want to admit it or not," Damon Earlewine says, "I think everybody wants the message of faith and hope and love in their life."

Well, there's my answer. "Faith and hope and love." Sounds like a Backstreet Boys song. Biblical principles, yes, but the whole Gospel? No. What I see described in this article is a weak offshoot of your typical social gospel. Social justice, feed the poor, clothe the naked, etc etc. All things that Christians are called to do as fruits of their faith HOWEVER, these works mean nothing if we are not preaching the full Gospel of repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ.

An interesting anecdote in the article reads:

"On more than one occasion, the band has found rides home for people who have had too much to drink. One man was so grateful to wake up in his own bed, McCord said, he called the band the next day to say thanks. Within a few days, he was being baptized at East 91st Street, with the band members as witnesses.

Okay, so they helped someone get home safely--how nice! And then that man was baptized...okay...Now tell me, is that man still spending his weekends sitting in a bar getting so drunk that he can't find his own way home? Because if he is, then I'm afraid that The Travellers, as this band calls themselves, need to re-evaluate their postmodern approach to church and to Christ.

The most heart-breaking sentence of this article can be found toward the end as the journalist tells us a bit about some of the band members. Member Kyle McCord is quoted as saying, "I can drink a beer and smoke a cigarette and play some of my favorite songs and hang out with my friends and maybe meet someone and tell them about Jesus."

We are all sinners. We all cling to undesirable habits. But should someone who is trying to lead others to Christ do so with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other? McCord is misleading these potentially new, young believers into thinking that they can continue in their worldly lifestyle and still be "Christian" thereby getting their free ticket to Heaven. I hope you've experienced that the closer we walk with Christ, the less we desire the things of this world--especially those things that can lead us into the dark trenches of sin. But if I see a leader doing these things and I am young and vulnerable in my faith, then I am going to be led to believe that Christianity can compromise with my sinful past. May it never be!

The members of The Travellers would do well to rediscover the words of the beloved disciple John who said, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15-17.

And they best heed the words of Christ Himself when He said, "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:6.

Below is further information on the "outlaw preacher" trend. You'll notice the grave danger of this mindset leading to a preaching of acceptance of homosexuality within the Christian church. This is the Postmodern Road, Friend. Please don't wander down this wide path, and if you see your church beginning to dabble in this postmodern thoughts, PLEASE speak boldly and hold your church leaders accountable:

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