Church Education Trust


2.4.7 Faith weakness. 

As the CGM is influenced by post modernity, those influences may distort and damage personal faith.  Because of the use of modernity’s tools to gain numerical growth, the inherent damage to personal faith is not always recognisable.  Personal trust is not the issue, but being part of the group is the expression of faith.  Spiritual health and not numerical growth should be the driving vision of the church but it would seem that numbers for many are the only thing that counts.

Warren genuinely sets out to find balance through the use of his five principles to promote numerical and spiritual growth.  However, it could be that he ends up in the same position as Hybels in his evaluation of the developing church.The power of post modernity is reflected in three main trends in modernity which have greatly weakened the CGM’s missiological development, i.e. secularisation, privatisation and pluralisation. 

Any superficial understanding of secularisation must conclude that it has a strong influence on the development of religious ideas and ultimately on the development of the institution which carries those ideas. Privatisation divides the public and the private into a culture allowing religious ideas to grow only in the private sector.  

Pluralization is a very subtle way of equalizing all belief systems and not offering one alternative as the truth.  All religious systems while markedly different in beliefs and practices are equalised and at best offer an incomplete truth.The outcome is uncertainty about truth and ultimately in the confusion the loss of faith altogether.

Paul Robinson writes that the church that fails to let Biblically based theological reflection inform her identity and practice risks the danger of either sinking or losing her way in the storms of life.[1] Out of this modern way of thinking the CGM evolves by not shaping the culture that surrounds it but being shaped by a post modern culture itself, causing it to become a small but effective part of the “new ground” or religious wing of post modernity.Professor Stan Norman[2] comments: “the absence of healthy churches might be traced back to the absence of a vibrant, passionate theology”.

This will continually be a criticism of the CGM by her most passionate adversaries. When closely examined, the CGM is heavily influenced by post modernity’s rationalisation drive which ultimately leaves any faith based organisation isolated; its teaching becomes less influential and ultimately meaningless to society.

Productivity, technological advance and human reason are some of the driving forces of post modernity. Ultimately humankind becomes desensitised to spiritual matters, while logic and rational thought reign supreme.  The effect of this journey on the church is its eventual decline, even though for a season it is numerically strong, particularly in America.The church is only the church when measured in terms of faith, character, belief and holy living.  

It is driven by the desire to worship God and ultimately, through His revealed will to the hearts and minds of individuals, become a witness for Him and not for a post modern interpretation of the word of God.The need to submit to any biblical imperative to follow Christ is sacrificed for cultural expediency.  

That sense of compromise with the world is something that is carried out often unconsciously but none the less, carried out. Compromise is so subtle that it begins in the area of assumption; it is so easy to assume certain aspects of modern culture could be helpful in the growing of the church. Certain assumptions may lead to an abandoning of biblical teachings or a re-interpretation or de-emphasising of them.  

Behind this reasoning there is a sense of abandoning only the strategies of another generation of first century interpretation when in actual fact one is maybe abandoning truth itself.If biblical truth is abandoned, of necessity it is replaced with something which is a compromise.  A new belief, when adapted as truth into the development of a new movement, arrives at the point where that new interpretation is assimilated as a piece of the bright new cultural expression of reality.

In 1966 the World Council of Churches suggested “that the world must set the agenda for the church”.  It will be demonstrated that this road has been clearly followed by advocates like Schuller[3] with his self esteem gospel. The CGM and the market consultants, especially Barna and Drucker, influenced the churches to see themselves as a business, to see the market forces they need to conquer and offered the Bible as a marketing text.  

In this model there is a danger of the church being seen as a service industry satisfying the consumer needs, whatever that would mean in any given situation.One key exponent[4] of this philosophy has suggested that “we must keep in mind the fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message is sovereign”.  

This would be considered to be an unbiblical position to hold, detrimental to any development of teaching on the nature of the church and yet widely accepted in Church Growth circles.  A people driven gospel never meets people’s needs; while life and ministry are never black and white yet Paul[5] could say: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe”.  

Post Modernity has caused many to move away from that understanding of the gospel and its power.The outcome of the CGM driven by post modern thinking and church growth principles could well deliver a diluted gospel presentation and sow the seeds not of church growth but of church decline.  

On the other hand it could well be the answer to the declining church in the present and in the future; the clarity of its theory, theology and practice may well deliver the church from the place of assuming that church growth will happen anyway, to the place of being so actively involved as disciples that it is the power of personal and collective witness that ultimately through the power of the sovereign God prevails and the building of the church is confirmed. This model will now be explored.      


[1] Paul E. Robinson, Theology of the Healthy Church, The Theological Educator 57-1998, 45-52.

[2] Professor Stan Norman, Baptist distinctives determine church health. The Gatekeeper, 32- 2002.
[3] Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem, The New Reformation, Waco, Texas, Nason, 1982.

[4] C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, California, Regal Books, 1976, 137.   

[5]Romans 1:16.

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