Secular Church, two words that seem to contradict one another. Apparently that is no longer the case. A “church” in Baton Rouge is about to have their first service. A secular church providing “life enhancement” messages about how to be a better person and how to enjoy life more.
In some ways this is nothing new, the Unitarian Universalists are almost to the point of being a secular church. Many of the churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and United Methodists no longer seem to believe in Jesus, or that He is the only way to the Father anymore.
A few things did stand out from the article though. First is DeWitt’s own testimony, that his background is Pentecostalism and that he was “saved” (emphasis in original) at Jimmy Swaggart’s church at the age of 17. As a follower of the Reformed tradition, or Calvinism, if you will, I don’t believe that someone could be saved and then somehow have lost that salvation. Rather, we believe that God does not lose His sheep. But, I definitely believe that false converts are often made, especially when emotionally manipulated into the semipelagian act of “making a decision” for or “accepting” Jesus.
Is it possible that DeWitt was emotionally manipulated, or even somewhat convicted about his sin, and told to pray a prayer, to accept Jesus, or to go and do better? Maybe he was told that God helps those who help themselves and he should live better and God would save him? And after Mr. DeWitt prayed that prayer, was he told by Mr. Swaggart that he was saved?
If the Gospel is not rightly proclaimed, and if the command given is something other than to repent and believe, what should we expect but false converts?
Jimmy Swaggart is known for his rather charismatic Pentecostalism. The charismatic church is known for its “experiencing the Holy Spirit.” Seeking after feelings rather than trusting in God’s promises. Seeking personal revelation rather than God’s Word. Seeking that which God has not promised rather than trusting in what He has. When someone no longer “feels” this experience what do they turn to? If they’ve never been taught to read and trust God’s word and promises, what will they seek? From where does assurance come?
A false convert in a church that sought after, and likely even manufactured, experiences rather than truth is a bad recipe. A false convert told to live better or do your best and God will do the rest is a tragedy. A tragedy as the false convert likely for awhile thought he was saved, but then comes to realize the things he was taught aren’t true, that is, he never heard the true Gospel and believed.
The other point that really stood out to me though, and which leads to my assumptions above, is what DeWitt thinks the churches preach. And, sadly, I would have to agree with him, that most churches do preach exactly what DeWitt says.
The sermons will be about “life enhancement” – a subject that DeWitt says successful ministries already focus on, with lessons about how to be a better person and how to enjoy your life more. DeWitt’s church just won’t wrap those messages in a religious context.
The sermons will be about “life enhancement”, how to be a better person, and how to enjoy your life more. There are many sermons like that, there are many so-called pastors that preach that. But, that isn’t what Jesus and the Apostles taught. A sermon is supposed to be about Jesus, about how He died in the place of sinners paying for their sin and giving them His righteousness. If the Christianity I believed in was what DeWitt seems to believe the church teaches, I too would become an atheist.
Fortunately, the Gospel isn’t about life enhancement, it isn’t about becoming a better person, and it isn’t about enjoying this life more. It isn’t even about “life change” as many preach today. It is about Jesus dying for the sins of the world to save those who believe. Repent and trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins.
And to Mr. DeWitt, I’m sorry that you heard a false Gospel of life enhancement for those 25 years. I’m sorry that you were probably told to pray a prayer to accept Jesus into your heart. I’m sorry that you were probably told that you were saved because you prayed a prayer. And I’m sorry that you were probably told to look to feelings and experiences rather than God’s promises as found in His word. If by chance you come across this post please contact me and I’d be glad to hear and discuss your experiences and, if you are willing to listen, to talk about Jesus and the Gospel. I live within a few hours of Baton Rouge, so if you see this and want to talk, let’s make this happen.