Justin Perdue: Welcome to the members’ podcast. We are glad that you’re here with us. We are very thankful that you’ve partnered with us in this ministry to see this message spread as far and wide as possible.
We were having great conversations, the two of us, even this morning and yesterday about ideas that we have for things. I know we say this a lot, but just resources that we want to be able to produce that we think are needed and would be helpful to many. We’re not going to be able to do that without people partnering with us even financially, just because we need the resources to produce this stuff. Continue to partner with us in the ways that you have, continue to spread the word and encourage others to do the same. We’re grateful for you.
We’re going to have, I trust and I hope, an encouraging, but certainly a lively conversation about the state of the modern church. What are we doing? We’re not trying to be condescending; it’s not like we figured it all out. We’re not saying anything new. This isn’t even our own idea. We’re just picking up on what the Bible says and we’re picking up on what saints have said before. If anything, we’re just copying them. It’s not like we’re uniquely brilliant, but we look around and the thoughts on the part of some elderships and some church staff as to what they need to be doing on Sunday morning is just not good. We were saying, what is this, is this Showtime at the Apollo? Is this an amateur standup night? What are we doing?
Jon Moffitt: I want to find Luther and Calvin, and I’m going to sit them down when we get to our new home. Then I say, “Has anybody told you yet about this movement called the seeker-sensitive movement? Have you guys heard about this?” Then I want their commentary because it’s going to be good. It’ll be probably more sanctified from Luther because he’ll be glorified at that moment, but if I could get Luther and Calvin’s commentary, it would be my favorite thing to read. It would be unbelievable.
Here’s the thing: when you hold this perspective of the church and the gospel and the means of grace, that gathering becomes sacred. It becomes extremely important. For my own health, we were talking about being healthy before we hit record. We were talking about how we’ll eat and exercise, and how we need to prioritize our lives in such a way that we stay healthy. That is how you should see the church.
Unfortunately, the church doesn’t understand its mission. The mission of the church becomes church growth: how big can we get? So the sermons, the music, the style, everything becomes about appealing to the culture so we can draw the culture in no matter what culture that you find yourself in. There’s even cowboy church.
My point is that the church is functioning as trying to draw a crowd, and we have been told that the bigger the crowd, the more successful, and apparently the more that God is blessing them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. Secondly, churches that would say that church growth and seeker-sensitive churches are bad—a lot of Calvinistic churches would fit into this. “That’s bad. We shouldn’t do that. We need to be preaching the word.” I agree with you. But every sermon is the application of personal development; it’s just riddled with pietism. So this is what dominates the world church, these two styles of churches.
Justin Perdue: I trust that many listening to this would have seen for a long time that the attractional seeker-sensitive movement is obviously shallow and fluffy, and are trying to win the world through relevance, coolness, cleverness, and trying to help people feel better or whatever it may be. I trust many people have seen through that and I’ve seen the emptiness of that.
The thing that burns me up even more at this juncture is, like you said, the pietism that is just rampant in the Calvinistic church where the reaction in that church is against easy believism, it’s against nominal Christianity, and it’s against the seeker-sensitive movement. The thinking goes, “We need church to be robust, and we need to take the Christian life seriously.” So therefore, what the preaching, the teaching, the exhortation, and everything is built around how to be a mature and serious Christian, and they list the things one needs to do.
A lot of times people in that camp would look at guys like us. Of course they’re going to say that we emphasize grace too much, or they’re going to say that we’re antinomian, or they’re going to say that there needs to be a seriousness and a weight to corporate worship, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to achieve that unless you do this. I just want to stand up and say they’re wrong. Come to a service at Covenant Baptist Church or Grace Reformed Church or Christ Community Church; come to this and tell me that there is no reverence here. It is absolutely reverent. It is sober in every good sense of that word. People come in bearing the weight of their sin, and we acknowledge that from jump street. We talk about how much we struggle, the saint-sinner reality, and how needy we are. We don’t hide any of that. We, having acknowledged those things, then are given the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the entire service. We preach the entire counsel of God’s word with Christ at the center because that’s where He is in terms of the revelation that God’s given us. It’s about Christ and what he’s done. So that’s what we preach.
We take sin very seriously and we understand what in the world happened to us at the fall, and so we’re giving people the only thing that’s going to help them, namely Christ. Quit telling them to just do better.
Jon Moffitt: What I think is interesting is that people say we don’t give them things to do like practical application.
Justin Perdue: Or they ask, “Where’s the meat in the sermon?”
Jon Moffitt: So I say, “Remember when I said that we need to love and care and show patience and kindness for each other? How are you doing with that? How’s that going? You’re doing well at home yet? Let me talk to your wife and ask her how she’s doing.”
Justin Perdue: Brother, I’m with you with the exhortations all the time to love one another, bear with one another, be patient, show compassion, all this charity. How are you doing with that?
Even more fundamental than that. I’ve preached several sermons lately because this is often where things end up going; I’m in the early chapters of Ephesians so naturally, it would go this way. I think it demonstrates a very narrow perspective. It’s kind of myopic and there’s a lack of awareness here. Some people think that the only thing that is application in preaching is something that is like talking to them about their job, or talking to them about fill-in-the-blank. Like you’re a student and you’re trying to relate to your teacher in class. It has to be that kind of stuff if it’s really going to be application. Whereas, I think to reflect on the Scripture, to think at the level of implication, and to unpack for people the internal battles they fight… For example, this past Sunday, we we’re in Ephesians 2 and we’re thinking about the nature of grace, the nature of the gospel, and how we tend to short sell grace and Jesus in terms of what he does for us. How we so easily and subtly slip back into thinking in different ways, whether it’s works righteousness or needing to be doing something to improve upon the love of God. It’s as natural as breathing for us to do that.
For me as a preacher, to take 15 or 20 minutes and unpack how we tend to think and how we tend to short sell Christ and grace, if that’s not application for our hearts, then I don’t know what application in preaching is apparently. Because if that does not matter to you, I don’t understand your approach to the Christian life if you don’t think that’s practical. Jon, I don’t know about you but I’m battling this—my standing before the Lord, my identity and my status and what’s this life about, and me and my life—it’s hard. How do I process that? Then I sinned again. Here I am. What is it?
Jon Moffitt: Three passages, to go to your point of application. First of all, Ephesians four, walk in a manner in which we are worthy of the calling which we’ve been called. What’s our motivation? Our salvation. Colossians 3, he says now that you’ve been chosen, this is how you are going to respond. Hebrews 12, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. What do we do? Pursue, set aside every weight and the sin that easily possess us, look to Christ. Then 2 Peter 1, he says whoever is lacking in these qualities is so near-sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. So the motivation is always the gospel and the response to the application of the gospel is love within the local context of the church.
What people are wanting us to do is feed their pietism. What we’re trying to say is it won’t work. We’re going to show you that pietism won’t do what you think is going to do. You think it will, but it won’t do it. It’s not going to work.
Justin Perdue: In a context like ours, Jon, where the emphasis is Jesus, if people think I already spoke to how some will say that we don’t take sin seriously, that’s ridiculous. When people say that we don’t preach against sin or that we don’t try to show people the danger of sin, that’s also flat out absurd. I can think of sermons that I’ve preached in the last few weeks where I’m trying to unpack, in poignant and helpful ways, the language of Paul.
For example, in the early verses of Ephesians 2, this is what we were: we were dead, we were following the course of the world, we were following the prince of the power of the air, who is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived, carrying out the desires of the body and of the mind, and we are, by nature, children of wrath like the rest of mankind.
Here’s another one: we are slaves to our desires, cravings, and lusts. How that is true yet we’ve been liberated from the dominion of sin. Yet we as Christian saint-sinner reality, how often is this our experience where our flesh is craving something? We have a desire and it’s terrible; we know it’s wrong, it’s causing us pain, and hurting other people. So I’m trying to unpack that in the pulpit, and you’re telling me that we don’t speak to the gravity of sin? Give me a break. We are absolutely trying to help people see how sin is terrible and it will never do anything good for you. This is how bad it is. This is how your flesh operates and you know what you need? You need Christ, you need grace, and you need the saints. Here we are together to acknowledge all this and to trust Jesus and to help each other.
Jon Moffitt: To respond to that, I think that what they’re saying is, “You’re not using fear in order to fight sin.” We’re saying of course not, because Paul says when we walk by the Spirit, we will not indulge the flesh.
Justin Perdue: And we’ve been given a spirit of fear. We’ve been given the spirit of adoption.
Jon Moffitt: So it is faith in the gospel, it is faith in the finished work of Christ, and it’s faith in our identity. That’s what motivates us to keep fighting against the flesh.
I have one last thing. You may not have time for this but I’m going to throw it at you anyways.
The other thing that’s really dividing the church off of its mission is this movement that’s going on right now of “My American freedoms matter more”. When we don’t agree with them, they turn it into a theological issue of your political views on the mandates. Secondly, the thing that’s dividing the church is the racial reconciliation. “If you’re not making this the primary mission of the church, that the church must fix this issue within our culture and really in the world, then the church is off mission.” Those two things, I think, are creating division and distracting us away from faith in the gospel and actually turning us towards what I think are men-centered.
These aren’t issues that you can fix by everybody coming into agreement. Here’s my problem: people basically say, “If you don’t agree with my form of this is what racism is, then you’re not a Christian and you’re against me.” What should be causing unity in the body is causing diversity.
Justin Perdue: On racial reconciliation and racism, I want to be very clear, as we’ve been many times, that racism is from hell. Racism only exists because of sin and Christians are to pursue justice. That is not optional. Now where I think this breaks down is that we end up taking this thing to the level needing to agree on public policy, or needing to agree on the methods with which we combat injustice. Christians with the same goal may very well disagree in terms of the best way to go about fighting injustice. We can agree at the level of principle and biblical truth in terms of the image of God and the dignity that every human possesses, and how there are all kinds of implications for how we love and treat one another without turning something that is inherently political in our day into the focus of the church.
Then the other piece: the mask thing. I think it is a great example of how people have not been taught well in the church, how we tend to over-spiritualize everything and turn it into a theological and moral issue when it’s not. One, there is no verse in the Scripture that would speak directly to wearing masks in our local church context right now. When Paul writes about unveiled faces, he is not at all talking about this and it is not a slap in the face to the Lord Jesus. It is not us bowing the knee and being ruled by fear of death and fear of man that we would wear a mask in church right now. We’re doing it out of concern for love of neighbor.
For some of us, like my church, we’re doing it out of respect for the people that we rent the space from. We’re being good tenants. We’re trying to make those who are most vulnerable in our midst feel as safe as possible. If we were being motivated by fear of death or fear of man or whatever, then sure, maybe we could have that conversation about it. We shouldn’t be motivated by those things, but for the people that are trying to turn the wearing of masks into a theological or moral issue, brother or sister, sincerely, I think you’re misguided. I think you need to have your conscience trained according to Scripture. This is something that we can do. We can lay down our liberties for a period of time, for the sake of our brothers and sisters, so that we can be together—because my goodness it’s worth it to gather.
I really wasn’t riled up, in one sense, about those things because I want to be pastoral in how we think. Because these issues are serious for all of us.
Jon Moffitt: What I meant was you were obviously upset with the confusion and the damage that it’s causing right now.
Justin Perdue: I agree, brother. I care a ton about this and I’ve had a number of conversations with members of our church or visitors to our church lately about mass policies and how we are thinking about it as pastors and all of this stuff. It does matter a lot. And. We want to love and shepherd people in our own context as well as we possibly can, with respect to every issue, including these.
Good conversation. We’re kind of here, there, and everywhere in this members’ podcast, but you get our thoughts on pretty much everything and you may not agree.
I just wanna be really clear. You may be a listener to Theocast and you might not agree with my personal take on how we should go about some of this stuff, or Jon’s personal take, and that’s the point in some ways—but it is that we have Christ in common. We understand that he is who we need and we agree about why we gather and what we need to do in the gathering. That was really the point of this conversation: keeping the main things, the main things, and how sadly in many churches, it doesn’t seem like that’s happening. We say that humbly and charitably, and we pray that God would continue to work in those churches.
Anyway, thank you for listening to us. We hope that some of this at least has been encouraging and edifying to you. We’re grateful for your partnership with us, as we always say. We mean that sincerely from our hearts. We couldn’t do what we’re doing without you. Thank you for your ongoing partnership with Theocast. It is not lost on us.
We pray that you would continue trusting the Lord Jesus, that if you’re not already in one, that you would find a local church where you’re given Christ on Sunday and where the saints will love you, and you can love them in return.
Until next time. Thank you from Jon and I. We will speak with you guys again next week.