The Pastor’s Perspective
“Beware of Christian Fads”
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
A few days ago I had the opportunity to reflect on some of the silly things that were a part of my past. One involved wardrobe that was a part of my life when in High School: bellbottom jeans with a double row of metal studs going down the length of the outside seam!! Cool! I am so glad that that was in the distant past. I am sure that, given the chance, you too, could remember with some fondness and much embarrassment certain fads that captivated you in your youth.
The New American Heritage Dictionary defines a fad as;”A fashion in dress, behavior, or speech that enjoys brief popularity“(emphasis mine). In my lifetime I have witnessed many fads come and go; bell-bottoms, disco “music”, pet rocks, Cabbage-Patch Dolls and Beanie Babies to name a few. Such fads are harmless at best and a nuisance at worst.
What is far more troubling to me is the tendency of the Christian community to instigate and follow its own fads (WWJD bracelets, last years hit book “The Prayer of Jabez” etc.). The current fad that has distracted the church is the book “A Purpose Driven Life” written by Pastor Rick Warren. This book is intended to take the Christian through a forty day study that will help the individual understand his purpose in life. It is not my purpose to critique this book in this article, but to question why this book, or those like it, are even needed.
I consider this book and many of those that have gone before it to be nothing more than fads because, despite their present popularity, these books will soon fade from their place of prominence in the “Christian” community. What is tragic is that fads, by their very nature, will have little lasting impact on the majority of those who participate in them. Though there will be some who will testify that these items were somehow used by God to lead someone to Christ or help them personally, the truth is that the fads that come and go through the church have little in depth instruction from the word of God and therefore contribute little to any believer’s “growing in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord.” (II Pet. 3:18) Many of the “fad” books that have been published recently contain sloppy theology and downright error. How can discerning Christians expect such a mixture to be a healthy supplement to the truths of God’s word?
Why are Christians so susceptible to these fads?
1. We are not content with Scripture.
We have come to believe that the word of God is not sufficient to help us where we need it most. The problem is notthat the Scripture does not address important issues, but that we are asking the wrong questions. The Bible contains everything God has determined we need for “life andgodliness” (II Pet. 1:3). The sad truth is that many professingChristians do not have a genuine interest in godliness. Paul warned Timothy that one of the characteristics of the church in these days before the Lord’s return will be that “men will be lovers of self, unholy, ” (2 Timothy 3:2). Many of these fads that circulate through the church have been so successful because they have appealed to the “felt needs” of professing Christians instead of exhorting them to genuine holiness.
2. It is more convenient to participate in fads than fellowship in a local church.
Christians are increasingly finding it acceptable to avoid any serious participation in the ministry of the local church. For many of these people, participation in these fads becomes a substitute for the local church. People can attend home Bible studies where their needs are supposedly addressed and never be bothered with the responsibilities associated with faithful participation in a local church. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)
3. It is easier to be spoon fed junk food than having to chew on and digest the real meat of the word.
Too many Christians are unwilling to take the time to seriously study the word. These people have contented themselves with eating spiritual “junk food”. Many of these fads are appealing to a wide range of people, but they are seriously lacking any significant nutritional value that will benefit those who partake of them in their walk with the Lord.
The result is that they open themselves to each and every fad that is foisted upon the church and the theological error that so often accompanies them. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ” (II Tim. 2:15) “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrinewhich you have been following. ” (1 Timothy 4:6)
As with other fads that are less likely to hold our attention as we mature, so too, Christians will increasingly avoid the latest fad affecting the church as they mature in their walk with the Lord. The reason for this is their growing appreciation for and contentment with the sufficiency of God’s word. Rather than chasing the latest best-selling book or video series thoughtful saints will immerse themselves in the unfathomable riches of God’s Holy Word.
So how can we recognize a fad when it comes?
1. Promise to address Biblical truth with a new perspective.
Be wary of any book or video that holds forth the promise of unlocking some Scriptural truth in a new or creative way. Now I love to read extensively a wide variety of theological books. But those most profitable to my walk with the Lord are simply and faithfully reminding me of the God-inspired truths contained in the Scriptures. “For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God. ” (Ecclesiastes 5:7)
2. Popularity among divergent theological backgrounds.
Sadly, we come to recognize the latest fads because so many people are talking about it. This speaks volumes about the lack of discernment in our churches today. When people from hugely divergent theological backgroundsembrace a book, movie or some such thing, warning flagsshould immediately go up. The reason so many people can embrace a certain book is because there is such a lack of any solid doctrinal content that no one will be offended.
3. Marketing spin.
My personal conviction is that anything that has to be marketed in the same way as McDonalds sells their hamburgers is probably similar in value. “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:17)
So how can the Church avoid being swept up in the latest fad?
1. The church should embrace only those items that will accurately proclaim the gospel and instruct
believers for the purpose of bringing maturity – Christ-likeness.
The purpose of any instruction is to accurately convey biblical truths through which people will be confronted by the gospel and, by God’s grace, come to a saving faith and then instruct those new believers so that they may mature as Christians. Anything else is of little eternal value. Paul told Timothy “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscienceand a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, ” (I Tim. 1:5,6)
2. Christians need to be far more discerning than they currently are.
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” (Eph. 4:14)
3. We need to stand firm on truth already revealed.
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (I Cor. 16:13) “The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. ” (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12)
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a call.
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church