The Need for Proper Doctrine
During the 1990’s the Seeker Friendly Movement became popular among churches in the U.S. By the next decade tens of thousands of Christian churches had adopted the movement and a new way of “doing church” that was relevant to current times was now the model to be followed. Two mega-churches led the way in training thousands of pastors and church leaders in this movement, Saddleback Church in California and Willow Creek Church in Chicago. The Seeker Friendly Model is the premise that the solution to declining church membership is to become more relevant by adapting the church to the views of the current culture. The goal was to make the church more inviting to new members and seekers. The method was to move away from gospel and doctrine based sermons, to a more entertainment based venue. Church services soon became filled with concert like music, dramatic skits, and large screen monitors displaying video presentations. Sermons were now based on meeting the needs and desires of unbelievers. Preaching about sin, death, hell, atonement, justification and other fundamental doctrines was banished. Popular church sermons were now more culturally sensitive and entertaining. The pastor transitioned from bible preacher, to part motivational speaker and part stand-up comic.
A little more than a decade later the effects of the Seeker Friendly Movement soon became apparent as church leaders noticed that their pews were now filled with immature Christians who were not producing any spiritual fruit. It was evident that these churches had gone from being strongholds of Christian values and teachings to being shallow institutions echoing modern societal views. In 2004, the leaders of Willow Creek Church conducted surveys of their congregation and the results were disappointing. The conclusion was that the church had focused primarily on growth and new membership, resulting in the entire congregation not growing in the faith. Another issue was that the mature members of the church had been neglected and had stalled in their spiritual growth. They had been abandoned and become dissatisfied with the church. Many in this group either left the church or considered leaving.
The lessons learned from this movement were that the Church is not to conform to the beliefs of the current culture; it is culture that is to conform to the beliefs of the Church. The Church transforms the culture through the teachings of God. People are not to conform to the pattern of this world, they are to be transformed towards holiness by conforming to God’s will. Paul teaches this concept in the book of Romans.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”Rom. 12:2
The Church is the community of believers who come together to worship God, and to become disciples who go out to teach and preach the Gospel to others. It is not a marketplace that is primarily focused on reaching new customers. Disciples cannot be trained without the full teaching of Scripture. Seekers can only be brought to salvation by the power of the Gospel. Too many churches today preach shallow messages that merely entertain and make people feel good about themselves; instead of preaching the Full Council of God, (c-my blog on Being Fed A Sugary Gospel of Junk Food). The Gospel matters, doctrine matters; and nothing is more relevant yesterday, today, and tomorrow for mankind than–teaching and preaching the Gospel of Christ.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”Romans 1:16-17
The Doctrine: Union with Christ
A brief definition of the Doctrine of Union with Christ is: “that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation. The transforming union in which believers are changed into the image of Christ under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It is the relationship of believers with God on the basis of the salvation they receive through Jesus Christ.”
The Seeker Friendly Movement is a testament as to how Christians do not grow and progress in their sanctification without the wisdom and knowledge of the Gospel of Christ, and without the doctrines which define and organize the teachings of the Gospel. The doctrine of the Union with Christ is such a vital teaching for the Christian life that the Christian’s growth is hindered without it. Inversely, the doctrine adds an entirely new dimension to the spiritual life of the believer. At the time of the conversion of the new believer; when he is justified by his faith in Christ, many things occur that he may not be aware of. He receives salvation because his sins have been forgiven by the death of Christ, and he receives the righteousness of Christ by which he becomes righteous. As the believer is rescued from the Kingdom of Darkness and is now a member of the Kingdom of God, he becomes united to Christ. He is in Christ and Christ is in him. These are the words of Jesus as He speaks them in the Gospel of John:
“After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.John 14:19-20
“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
The Apostle John repeats this theme in his first epistle, emphasizing the marvel of believers dwelling in Christ, and Christ dwelling in believers through their faith in Him as God. (John in many of his passages uses the term “abide” which some may not be familiar with, especially those readers from other countries. John uses the Greek word “menō,” which is translated as remain, stay, or reside. The sense of the word “abide” as used in these passages, is to remain in God, or to reside(dwell) in God).
“ Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”1 John 3:24
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God”1John 4:13-15
In these two verses, John identifies two conditions that are necessary for the union of Christ. The first is that the believer must keep God’s commandments; and the second is that he must have faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Another point he makes is that it is the Holy Spirit that is the power that makes the union possible. We know that the Spirit is sent by the Son; and it is the Spirit who indwells believers. He is the change agent that causes believers to be conformed to the image of Christ during their sanctification. The Spirit continually points the believer towards Christ and His work. The transformation of the believer is not a passive event. Remember John’s two conditions, faith and obedience. This is the path that guides the spiritual life of the Christian. Being in union with Christ means that he is led by the Holy Spirit to be conformed to the image of Christ.
The Christian life cannot function apart from this union with Christ. It is dependent on Christ, His teachings, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Union of Christ has been formulated and organized by the Church from the teachings of the authors of Scripture as they were taught by Jesus and by the inspiration of the Spirit. This doctrine, and the other essential doctrines of the faith are for the instruction, guidance, and encouragement of Christians throughout the ages. To neglect these teachings is irresponsible, especially for the pastors and church leaders who are tasked with shepherding their individual flocks. For those readers who are not being properly fed the full Gospel of Christ, I suggest finding a faithful minister of God. I also advise growing and nurturing your own union with Christ. Remember His words:
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
Note: For the full teaching on the Union with Christ, go to the Salvation tab under the Doctrines drop down window.