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19 November, 2007 / theexpositor

Fads in the Church

Phil Johnson has posted two articles of a series on the state of the evangelical church. These posts are tremendous!

The Flaws of a Fad-Driven Church

No, Paul told Timothy: “But you . . . fulfill your ministry.” “Preach the word! . . . in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

That is what we are called to do as pastors—not follow the fads and fashions of our culture. Not even to follow the silly parade of evangelical fads that have assaulted the church in wave after wave for two decades running. The fads and the programs are killing the evangelical movement. And I’m convinced that those who do not get back to the business of preaching the Bible will soon see their churches die—because, after all, the Word of God is the only message that has the power to give spiritual life.

And, frankly, the death of the fad-driven churches will be a good thing in the long term. It’s something I hope I live long enough to see.


I have sat in meetings with publishers who have tried to convince John MacArthur to tone down his message, soften his hard stance on controversial issues, ignore things that are unpopular, and tell more funny stories. Publisher after publisher has tried to tell him he could broaden his audience and sell more books if he would just broaden his message a little. One publisher looked at some of his material—it was the series on the twelve apostles—they looked at it and told him, “It’s just too biblical.” I kid you not. They said it sounded too much like Sunday School material; they wanted more contemporary stories and hip language, and less Bible. That book was published anyway, without dumbing it down or removing a single Scripture reference. It was titled Twelve Ordinary Men, and despite the experts predictions, it stayed on the bestseller list for more than two years.

But that’s how all these fads are crafted. They are deliberately dumbed down, made soft and generic and nonthreatening, so that they don’t rebuke anyone’s sin; they don’t endanger anyone’s shallowness; they don’t threaten anyone’s comfort zone; and they don’t challenge anyone’s worldliness. That’s the way both the publishers and the people want it.

That is the culture the evangelical movement deliberately created when it bought the notion that religion is something to be sold to consumers like a commodity. It created an environment where unspiritual and unscrupulous men could easily make merchandise of the gospel. It conditioned people to be like “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” That’s Ephesians 4:14, and it is a perfect biblical description of the faddism that has overtaken the evangelical movement in recent years.