Everyone Deserves a Mulligan

Preach the Word
[4:1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

The Salesman-Marketer Driven Church Churches are now seeking marketing-savvy breed of pastor.

Home on the Range–The Need to Get Back to the Basics
When the golf swing is in trouble, it’s time to return to the fundamentals of the game. This is the situation before us today.

A Poor Swing
Listen to these unfortunate words: But in the opinion of Mr. London of Focus on the Family, any church leader’s success depends at least in part on bringing the best of corporate-marketing tactics to bear on a righteous cause.

“Nearly every pastor is a salesman or a marketer of one kind or another because … we have a philosophy to sell. The best marketers and best salesmen will have more converts, will have more people, will take in more money. Evangelicals are marketers because they’re really passionate about their product.”H.B. London Jr., vice president of pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family. (source: The Christian Science Monitor).

I read with great interest Mr. London’s biography considering the degrading labels he used to describe those who serve the Lord in pastoral ministry. Mr. London should know better. He has served for more than 30 years in pastoral ministry before joining FOTF’s staff; he’s a Nazarene by denomination (Dobson is too); and in 1990 was bestowed with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Point Loma Nazarene University.

His assignment now as vice president of Ministry Outreach/Pastoral Ministries Focus on the Family is to serve as liaison to pastors and churches – a kind of “pastor to pastors.” Since joining forces with Focus, H.B. has directed the development of ministries to pastors and their spouses, and given oversight to ministries affecting physicians, youth culture, the inner city, missionaries, chaplains and basketball camps for the children of single parents in many cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

He communicates with thousands of pastors and church leaders each week through “The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing” (a fax network) and produces a bimonthly Pastor to Pastor cassette and newsletter.

Mr. London’s Need of a Mulligan
What is so disturbing, despite his many years in ministry, is that his quote above does not represent a biblical approach to pastoral ministry whatsoever; and is a insulting characterization of the office of being an under-shepherd of Christ by its assertions. Mind you, this is from a man who served as a pastor for more than 30 years and begs the question of what kind of pastor was he? The severe disconnect in his quote above represents the current shift of evangelicalism’s fascination with the pragmatic rather than the biblical when it comes to church ministry. I now understand his current employ with Focus on the Family more fully in light of his words; for there exists in evangelicalism today no greater pragmatic influence by a Para-church institution lacking the foundation of sound biblical theology than Focus on the Family.

“Salesman and Marketers…”
1. Comparing pastors to “salesman or marketers.” Paul warns against “peddling the Word of God for profit” as some sort of huckster marketing the truth as retail merchandise. This is a blight against all faithful pastors serving in many cases without much pay, help or support (prayer or otherwise). Certainly there are those within evangelical circles (mostly on TV) that have made money their aim—and using the gospel to obtain it. But to blanket all pastors underneath the salesman umbrella is a gross overstatement and certainly not indicative of the thousands of under-shepherds around the world who serve the Lord and His people with integrity—not treating the gospel as a salesman or marketer.

The Gospel: Just “a Philosophy We Sell”
2. His justification is just as bad… “we have a philosophy to sell.” A philosophy to sell? Is this how an executive of pastoral ministries at FOTF views the treasure of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Philosophy by classic definition: “all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts; a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology; a pursuit of wisdom b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means; a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).

None of the above definitions comes close to defining biblical Christianity. What we proclaim is not theory; science; a general understanding of values by speculative… means; etc. Christianity is absolutely unique in its claims that the Word of God is God’s Word; it is absolute eternal truth free from error or imperfection; and is not the opinions or of men. The Apostle Paul leaves no room in what Scripture is when saying, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” -1 Thessalonians 2:13 He warns the young believers at Colosse about this very thing: “see to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“Mo’ Converts, Mo’ People, Mo’ Money”
3. But its his third description that should send us all screaming “bad form”: “The best marketers and best salesmen will have more converts, will have more people, will take in more money.” Mr. London asserts that if you’re one of the best marketers and salesman you’ll “have more converts.” Salvation, regeneration, justification, adoption, seems to now be a calculated thing by those who can “sell it” to the audience most effectively. Skubalon! This is rubbish. This is nothing but the sandy gospel of Arminianism on steroids. Mr. London has obviously forgotten that only “the Lord adds to the church daily the number which are being saved…” And it is only the Lord that can say, “I will build my church…” He alone is its head, He alone is its architect, He alone is its builder, He alone is its chief cornerstone. Clever salesman and marketers do not and cannot produce converts. But don’t let truth stand in the way of a good market driven philosophy of church growth courtesy of Mr. London and Focus on the Family.

And Mr. London then draws the conclusion that because of more converts, there will be more people and then the crown jewel of his pastoral leadership by salesman marketeering—more money! On this point, there is not much commentary needed. Biblically, money is never the measuring rod for a pastor’s or local church’s success–ever. Paul considered himself “…poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless; …we have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” -1 Corinthians 4:11b; 13b). Mr. London’s description for successful pastoral ministry is a bit different than the Apostle Paul’s, isn’t it?

“Christianity… A Product”
4. And he finally attributes the “more converts, more people, more money” philosophy for ministry because: “evangelicals are passionate about their product.” A product? Did you hear that beloved? Our Lord Jesus Christ is a product? The Holy Spirit is a product? God the Father is a product? The gospel of sola fide is a product? Salvation from the consequence of sin is a product? The cross is a product? The body of Christ is a product? Baptism and communion are products? Prayer is a product? Church discipline is a product? The imputed righteousness of Christ is a product? Worship is a product? The preaching and teaching of God’s Word is a product? Repentance from sin is a product? The bodily resurrection of Christ is a product? How dare Mr. London play marbles with the diamonds of our faith!

When money and numbers in ministry is the “focus” (no pun intended), then it’s not real ministry—pastoral or otherwise. Pastors are not salesman and marketers, Mr. London, but I think I might know where one is —–>

And the Mulligan Goes to… The Mulligan today then goes to Mr. London and to Focus on the Family. They took “landing on the green” a little too literally. Here is the tip for Mr. London and FOTF today: pastoral ministry is hard work and in many ways, thankless labor. The faithful pastor is not a clever salesman or marketer as you suggest, but a shepherd, a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, a workman, a vessel, a servant, a teacher, a preacher, and a disciple-maker (cp, 2 Timothy 2; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The game of golf, as with any sport, usually breaks down at the fundamentals–the basics. Time to do some serious hours at the practice range, Mr. London, to recover your biblical – pastoral swing once again. God has not called you sir to be successful, but faithful! The biblical gospel offends; there is an offense to His cross; as Paul once said, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” If the real gospel is being proclaimed “converts” would diminish, the crowds would dissipate as they did with our Lord, and the money would dwindle. The reward that awaits for the faithful pastor to the Lord Jesus Christ is not fame, money or notoriety; it is a crown of righteousness, a crown of glory, a crown of life, a crown of joy, and a crown which is imperishable (2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12; 2 Thess. 2:19; 1 Cor. 9:25). And not only to pastors, but to all who believe. This world is not our home beloved… set your minds on things above.

A Word from a True “Master of the Game”
“Help me to remember that I am prophet not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to the crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things… Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world… Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or, if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And, if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.” -A.W.Tozer, The Prayer of a Minor Prophet

Working it out on the driving range each day,
Acts 20