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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
Fish aren’t biting. The water is cold and doesn’t heat up because the sun is low and the rays bounce off the water. Fish have moved to deeper waters to cool off. But Johnny the angler won’t go home yet, because winter is over and fish must be hungry and spawning. He sinks the bait once again. The pleasure is in the predatory pursuit of bait fishing he whispers to himself. The method of bait fishing offers both simplicity and effectiveness for anglers. It is simple in that one only has to bait up a hook and throw the line in the water, and it is effective because the presence of live bait is a temptation that hardly any fish can resist!
Casting his line, Johnny seats back and waits. He can secure the line and puff on his cigar or drift into blissful oblivion in the mean time. The trap is set. Waiting patiently till a gentle tug makes the bobber jolt. When Jesus said, “Come I will make you fishers of men”. I wonder if he had this type of smart fishing in mind. Did he know how easy proselytizing could be modified to accommodate the least possible purposeful risk?
In recent years many in the evangelical church have adopted a method of evangelism that has become en vogue commonly referred to as “seeker sensitive.” Generally, this movement has seen a great deal of numerical growth. Many “seeker” friendly churches are now mega-churches riding the waves of the popularity tide. The seeker sensitive movement claims millions of conversions, commands vast resources and seems to be attracting millions of the un-churched people into its fold. To reach out to the unsaved person the message of salvation has had to be toned down and the church experience palliated to a feebly “comfortable and non-threatening session”. Any visible differences between the Church and the world is reduced to a minimum blur. State of the art technology in lighting, sound and graphics is intermarried with theatrics and musical entertainment is programmed to keep the unsaved person from getting bored with church. Expertly run nurseries, day care, adult day care, community programs and much more are common fixtures in the larger seeker churches. Short sermons are usually focused on life enhancement and self-improvement. Supporters of this movement will tell you that the single reason behind all the expense, state of the art tech gear, and theatrics is to reach the unsaved with the gospel; however, rarely are sin, hell, or repentance spoken of. Like in bait fishing where Johnny seats back and waits for that “bite”, a colourfully disguised trap is set for the unsuspecting sinner.
The natural man the Bible says is “dead in his trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13) and because man is spiritually dead he must first be made alive or regenerated in order to understand and respond to the Gospel message. A good illustration of this is seen in Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Contrary to the popular “seeker sensitive movement” the Bible says it’s only by the grace of God that we are saved. Irresistible Grace or efficacious grace is the saving grace of God. It is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect) and, in God’s timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to faith in Christ.
I must say that until the Father (who actually should be the “seeker”) draws the sinner (John 6:44) and the Spirit awakens the heart so he can believe and receive the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8), an unsaved person cannot believe. Salvation is completely the act of God whereby He draws and empowers the dead sinner with what is necessary to believe (John 6:37, 39-40).
What part do we play in the salvation of others? God has commanded that we are the instrumentality through which the gospel is proclaimed. We faithfully share the gospel, which to the Jew is a stumbling bock and to the Gentile is foolishness but it is not our responsibility to make people believe, or manipulate them into believing. God has given us this message that we share with gentleness and all reverence. It goes forth as it is, offensive parts and all. Nobody believes the gospel because a speaker is persuasive. People believe because of the work of God in their hearts.
In addition to the outward general call to salvation (which is made to everyone who hears the Gospel), the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be — and often is — rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call, the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man’s will, nor is He dependent upon man’s cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God’s grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended. We should expect this seeker sensitive approach to create thousands of shallow servants, weak worshipers, and fickle followers of Christ. The seeker movement is large and well accepted, but it will eventually give way to the next fad, and in some ways that has already happened.