At last, a really hard-hitting book that confronts the apostasy of the so-called community church movement, AKA the user-friendly church movement, the market-driven church movement, and the church growth movement! In the spirit of John the Baptist, John MacArthur, Jr., has become the voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Like the modernists a century ago, churches in the user-friendly movement have decided that doctrine is divisive and that peace is more important than sound teaching." "We evangelicals desperately need to recover our determination to be biblical, our refusal to comply with the world, our willingness to defend what we believe, and our courage to defy false teaching."
MacArthur quotes frequently from the fervent writings of Charles H. Spurgeon, a renowned Baptist preacher, whose controversial "Down-Grade" articles mortified the liberal, evangelical leaders of 19th-century England. Like Spurgeon, who warned that the Church had drifted away from the purity of the Gospel in his day, MacArthur now sounds the same alarm for the 21st century.
Today too many churches have become market-conscious, pragmatic, entertainment-oriented, and worldly through shallow preaching and contemporary methodology that are designed to boost church attendance. Their sideshow gimmicks include upbeat music, plays and skits, clowns and puppets, food courts, theatre-like "worship centers," and psychological self-help programs. "Sermons" -- pleasing, attractive messages peppered with amusing anecdotes that address people's "felt needs" -- specifically avoid such "offensive" Gospel topics as sin, hell, the wrath of God, and divorce. Instead, modern evangelicals proclaim, "God loves you and wants to make you happy." But MacArthur charges that their undefined theology and seeker-sensitive philosophy also do not permit them to take a firm biblical stance on such politically charged, moral issues as abortion, feminism, and homosexuality, because if they defy the spirit of the age, they forfeit their marketing appeal. "Perhaps the most serious indictment of contemporary market-conscious preaching is the absence of Christ. His name or some fact about Him may be thrown in at the end, but our Lord is rarely central in the trendy preaching of today," because "the gospel itself is disagreeable, unattractive, repulsive, and alarming to the world."
The chapter "The Sovereignty of God in Salvation" is especially significant. According to Scripture, God, as the Absolute Sovereign, orders, controls, and rules over everything. This includes the biblical doctrine of "divine election," which applies to those whom God has already called to be saved before the foundation of the world. That is, salvation is entirely God's work, not man's. It is God Who makes the selection, God Who calls people to repentance, and God Who gives them the faith necessary to live the Christian life. Thus, believers deserve no credit for any aspect of their salvation, for it is the gift of God. Pragmatists find it difficult to accept the fact that popular church trends and fads are superfluous, for they alone cannot ever induce anyone to be saved. MacArthur makes the point that, "Faith in God's absolute sovereignty would deliver the church from the down-grade of pragmatism and worldliness. It would drive us back to biblical preaching. If preachers only had confidence in God's power and God's Word, they would not feel it necessary to trim and adjust and tone down the message...They would not view evangelism as a marketing problem, but they would see it for what it is -- the proclamation of divine revelation as the only means by which God calls the elect to Himself."
I greatly appreciate the book's frank, no-nonsense approach backed with copious Scripture references. As the title asserts, churches whose philosophy and policies serve to please men instead of God truly are "Ashamed of the Gospel." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.