The Program-Driven Church

mall_of_americaOne link led to another and I happened recently upon the website of a large NAPARC congregation. As I often do I looked to see who the pastor was. That link led me to a list of “pastoral staff” who coordinate a breathtaking number of programs. 

My first reaction was to blame the senior minister and elders. “How could they facilitate this incredible tangle of programs? Where is the gospel? Where are the sacraments? Where is discipline in the life of the church?”

Then it occurred to me that this welter of programs probably was not invented wholly by the minister and elders. To be sure, it often happens as the “staff” grows the number of programs tends to grow. People have to justify their existence and the bureaucratic imperative kicks in. “What is this person doing? Why are we paying them?” “Oh well, they’ve just come up with this exciting new idea that will really bring x (fill in the blank) back to church.”

Just as likely, however, the programs are a response to pressure from the congregation and the community. One of the questions pastors get most often is, “Do you have a program for such and such?” The answer to this is more or less binary: “Why yes we do!” or “Well, no, I’m sorry we don’t.” If the pastor can meet market demand then he may gain a customer. If he fails to satisfy market demand, the customer will go to the service provider down the street.

Pity the pastor. What is he to do? Can he educate someone, who has been conditioned by 50 years of modern evangelicalism, over the phone, about the centrality of Word, prayer, and sacrament to the life of the church? Can he do a mini-bible study right there on the phone for the 400th time, explaining that

We’ve made a principled decision not to become a ‘programmed’ church. We’re convinced that Jesus and his Apostles instituted a very simple three-fold program: 1) preach the Word when it’s fashionable and when it isn’t; 2) Administer the holy sacraments to the edification of the congregation; 3) administer discipline. He even had a name for his program and a name for his institution. He called the program ‘the Keys of the Kingdom.’ He called his institution: the ‘Kingdom of God’ or sometimes ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ and sometimes he just called it ‘the church.’ So, that’s what we do. We meet for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day morning. The service is oriented around the Word, prayer, and the sacraments. We have catechism instruction for the youth and for grown-ups. We go home to eat (and sometimes we share a meal together between services). We come back again on the Lord’s Day evening for another public service where we open the Word again and pray. That’s our program.

That’s a difficult conversation to have. More than likely the person on the other end of the phone (or email) will say, “Oh, well, I was looking for such and such a group. I was in one a few years ago and I really loved it. I need one of those. Thanks for your time. We’ll keep looking.” After a few of those sorts of call, the pressure to conform grows. The pressure mounts as the elders begin to press the pastor to keep “get some new people in here.” 

There are pastors who know better. They know what the marks of the visible church are, what the means of grace are, what the keys of the kingdom are, and what the elements of worship are. The demand for programs, like the constant drip of water that wears a groove into a rock, wears down even the most resolute pastor. Perhaps a new, more “business oriented” elder is elected. Perhaps a newer, “more exciting,” or “more relevant” congregation gets planted down the street and before long families begin to drift to the new program-driven congregation.

Some of those pastors who know better would like to do better. They remember the zeal they once had to preach the gospel, the joy they had studying and praying over their Greek and Hebrews bibles (time which is now spent managing a growing staff) as they prepared to bring the Word. They had hoped to minister the Word to people, to see them grow in grace and glorify God by doing things his way but few seemed to want that.

Those pastors with a conscience are troubled. They’re afraid of what might happen if they begin to rock the boat. No one wants to preside over a Scottish Revival. Some stifle the pangs of conscience by telling themselves that they will begin a reformation just as soon as we get another Reformed elder but somehow the conditions never seem to be just right.

Other pastors have simply accepted the “program-driven” model as the only one available. These cats openly measure themselves by “buildings, bodies, and budgets” and they are unashamed. The entrepreneur might have taken a modest small to mid-sized congregation and “grown” it into a large and influential congregation. If it were a business, he might sell it and start again with a new one. Perhaps they’ve heard tell of an “ordinary means” model of ministry but it sounds exotic and they’ve never seen it. They see themselves as CEOs or as “Ranchers” and they have no idea how a “Word and sacrament” ministry could possibly function in a go-go 24/7 wired world. 

Finally, to the engine of the program-driven church: the congregation. Not always, but often the congregation is just as culpable for turning the church into a mall. They have want they have (perhaps implicitly) demanded and it seems that they’ve demanded the “the mall.” After all, the mall is where they get their needs met. The mall forms their culture. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It works. The mall has a food court, a cinema, and all the right shops. Why can’t the church be like that? What’s wrong with it? 

The main thing wrong with it is that the mall is the Kingdom of Me and My Choices. The Church is the Kingdom of Christ and his grace. They’re two different kingdoms. The Kingdom of Christ is totalitarian. It is not a democracy. It is not egalitarian. It is not market-driven. It comes from heaven and enters history by the power of the Holy Spirit operating through the unlikely means of the preaching of the Gospel, the announcement of Good News, that something has been done for me, apart from me and that I benefit from all of that by hearing and believing. The Kingdom is not about my choosing but about being chosen. It’s not about my sovereignty but about God’s. There’s no food court but just a holy meal where God the Son feeds his people with his own body and blood unto eternal life.

What to do? Those who know better should pray for courage and for wisdom. Reformation has to begin somewhere. They need to begin teaching the elders what the church is, what ministry is, what the means of grace are, what the marks of the church are, and the purpose for which Christ has instituted his church. Then they have to begin teaching their congregations. Going slowly, being patient and careful of the well being of the sheep is essential to any Reformation. Yet there must be a certain resoluteness about this business. As reformation begins and programs diminish (they must decrease, Christ must increase!) some sheep will leave and find more attractive pastures with more and better programs. Know from the beginning that you will not “keep” them all. That’s okay. Your most fundamental conviction must be that the church is Christ’s kingdom, that it belongs to him, that he bought it with his blood (Acts 20:28). As long as you know for whom it is you work, you’ll be okay. If you’re seeking Christ’s glory and the salvation of his people, you’ll be fine—even if a Scottish Revival does break out. If you’re seeking something else, then perhaps you’re in the wrong line of work?

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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  1. Dr. Clark,

    The determining factor for wanting to go to a church is word of God is proclaimed, sacraments,and discipline. Not the presence of youth groups, a Pastor of x, minister of y, pastor/ leader of etc.
    So are you saying that youth groups etc. ought not to happen? You’re addressing that these “ministries” have stolen or even been given the primacy, taking away from what God has done in Christ which yielded word, sacrament, discipline?

  2. D,

    I’m reluctant to legislate exactly which are acceptable programs and which are not. I would begin with Word and sacrament ministry and evaluate any other possible program by asking, “does it enhance Word and sacrament ministry and how?”

    Much that youth groups do probably do not enhance Word and sacrament ministry. They do not often prepare young people for worship. They don’t include catechesis. They often train young people to be pentecostals and then we pull and “bait and switch” when they get to “adult” worship. Worse, the youth-group culture has come to dominate public worship.

    Sure there’s a place for young people to get together and play but that’s not “ministry” is it. Does the church as such even have to govern it? Can’t parents supervise that?

  3. I recall DGH once giving a thumbnail for evaluating a successful chuch. One does it the way he measures his golf game: the less strokes, the better. In the same way, the less brouhaha (read: programs, etc.) surrounding the church the better one may be doing.

    I’ve always liked that analogy, not least because real Presbyterians are golfers.

  4. Dr Clark,

    While I agree that the Church should have no official role in promoting, for example, pilate classes I wonder why your description of the role of the Church has no service aspect? Is the imperative to look after the orphans and widows left to the secular world or merely an individualistic choice either to give money to parachurch societies or perform it individualistically?

    Have we redefined the Heidelberg synthesis to:

    Sin, Salvation, and Solitude


    Guilt, Grace, and Gentrification?

  5. GAS,

    The Christian Life is guilt, grace, and gratitude, but the marks of the church, if you’ll read Belgic 29, do not include “community service.” The Christian is lives in two kingdoms and is obligated to community service. The church as an institution is not. Christ no where commissioned the visible, institutional church to community service as such. The diaconal ministry, in the NT, functioned within the visible church. Every example of diaconal ministry was aimed at the visible church.

    The move to make the church another community service organization is a vain attempt to make it more “relevant” and thus, ironically, distracts her from her vocation and ultimately makes her less relevant. Money that the church should be spending on church planting goes instead to “community service” and actually dilutes the proper influence she might actually have through Word, sacrament, and discipline. That’s why Paul calls it “foolishness.” It’s a counter-intuitive program.

  6. GAS,

    I quite agree with RSC’s answer.

    As I am on vacation, I just returned from visiting a small PCA. From what I could tell of a mini-sermon (couched in an otherwise exquisite Refomed liturgy) that I find hard to believe took all week to prepare, the point seemed to be that we are duty-bound in all ways, to Christian education. This, to me, is another example of what goes wrong when we don’t understand the simple mission of the church as traditionally conveyed in the three marks.

  7. Got to agree with Ben. (Perhaps with one caveat; I think that there is a place for genuinely evangelistic stuff, although “thin end of the wedge” issues are ever-present. Our kids’ club is well-attended by many non-Christian children and we are able to tell them the Gospel regularly.)

    As I am in a church where our minister told us recently that he wants to spend less time preparing sermons and more time with the leaders of church activities, this was also timely. While I appreciate that our congregation is blessed with a good number of able preachers and retired ministers, I still am a little worried at the prospect of a pastor-manager rather than a pastor-teacher. Ora pro nobis, as I am certainly not the person to raise any of this.

  8. Dr Clark,
    With all due respect I’m not buying into the false dichotomy that there is only two Churches either the “meet felt needs” or strictly “means of grace”.

    And i think you’re cutting your clothe too closely when you turn the diaconal ministry into only a intracongregational ministry. We’re Reformed, we interpret Scripture with Scripture using the whole corpus of the canon not just NT texts to define the ministerial office. And we better listen carefully to what Jesus said about a dirty Samaritan understanding the gospel better than those who directed the means of grace. If the Church isn’t showing her people how to live a life of gratitude how shall they learn?

    “‘Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, Amen!'” Deuteronomy 27:19

    • GAS,

      Re: the good Samaritan — why and how does this passage teach that the visible institutional church has this responsibility? I’ve taken the road you advocate and it threw me into full-time social work for two years (I come from a family that was deeply involved with social work so it was natural). Finally I realized that had drifted from my calling, that my ministry was suffering for it. I’ve read Tim Keller’s book. I’ve seen (and shown) the videos. Read closely and redemptive-historically (i.e. paying attention to the history of redemption) the Scriptures do not teach that the visible, institutional church has a social responsibility beyond the congregation. I used to assume that Scripture MUST (note the a priori) require what you say, but on inspection I found I had to give my assumption.

      Christians may form societies (groups) to alleviate poverty and suffering. No question. Go for it. Just don’t try to turn the congregation or the diaconate into a community-wide social-welfare agency. The church can barely do the three or four things (preach the Word, administer the sacraments, administer discipline, ministry of mercy) that it is divinely charged to do as it is.

      If one appeals to Israel then one one must understand who is the “Israel of God” in the New Covenant. It is no longer the civil society. God’s civil polity expired with the judicial laws of Israel. The Israel of God is the visible church. So fine, appeal to the canon but read it correctly or else you’ll find yourself in the theonomic soup.

  9. Zrim,
    I think Christian education falls into a different sphere than justice ministries.

    Besides, isn’t it a part of the means of grace to preach about our responsibities in gratitude?

  10. GAS,

    I think Christian education falls into a different sphere than justice ministries.

    Well, my experience with notions of Xian education (by which I mean compulsory education or day schooling) is that it is transformative in nature. The same transformers who talk a lot about “justice/mercy ministries” (over against old-fashioned “charity”) also use the same principles to further notions of Xian education. So to my mind it falls into the same sphere, different corner…do spheres have corners or is that my un-transformed,secular education mis-leading me?

    Besides, isn’t it a part of the means of grace to preach about our responsibities in gratitude?

    Absolutely. What I don’t understand, however, is how that translates into either understanding the church’s mission to be more than word and sacrament, nor how that means it should be understood by individuals that they are duty-bound to “Christian education.” What about those of us who understand their works of gratitude to be advocates of public education? If anyone thinks it hard to work out gratitude by transforming NYC or the world via Xian education try advocating for public education in our circles.

  11. It’s sad that these program-driven churches seem to accomplish what the Bible so clearly criticizes: the segmentation of the church into niche demographics – here’s the youth ministry, the singles ministry, the ministry for families with young children, etc., etc, rather than uniting around Word and Sacrament. Apparently, Paul shouldn’t be taken too seriously when he urged the unity of the body of Christ. Are we to assume that in the age to come the people of God will be similarly segregated?

  12. I don’t mean to do a gratuitous plug but, for further reading, my pastor recently wrote about this in a great series entitled ”churchapraneurs” at calvinontap dot blogspot dot com.

    The saddest and most infuriating thing about this is that this mentality has permeated the Reformed tradition. I’ve been to Reformed churches that have 5-7 ”programs” per week and yet administer the LS once every three months. We are in the Reformed Twilight Zone.

    Besides Dr Clark’s RRC it will behoove you to also read DG Hart’s RECOVERING MOTHER KIRK.

  13. Zrim asked: “do spheres have corners”

    No, sphere’s are interrelated yet with distinct functions. But what we know of as Christian education is more just secular education in a Christian setting. That’s the problem. Justice ministries are about the relation between the economic modality and the biotic (life) modality. The question is what sphere has the moral responsibility to fill the gap when the economic modality fails to fully provide for the biotic modality? Is it the school, business, the government, family or the Church sphere? Which sphere is uniquely qualified in it’s intrinsic nature to fill the gap and if that sphere breaks down then what is the next closest sphere to fill the gap?

    Zrim asked: “What about those of us who understand their works of gratitude to be advocates of public education?”

    That’s a noble cause but it requires finding out what the public school puts in the form of divinity, that which everything else is dependent upon, and destroying that false god.

  14. I have very little disagreement with the re-affirmation of the primacy of the three signs of the True Church. I also appreciate the concern about the church being program-driven, but have as much concern about proliferating para-church ministries for people who are troubled. By God’s grace I am rooted in the Reformed tradition, but chose a career path of clinical social work and marriage/family therapy which allowed me to occupy leadership positions in secular agencies. Throuhgout my career I would serve my term as elder, and also carried a “Christian Counselling practice” on the side. This helped me to pay for Christian education of my children. Ten years ago I had the opportunity to work for a Christian Counselling Centre that wanted to be biblically based and also professional. Some would sniff at this and call it “integrationist” and in fact CCC has been criticised for not jumping on the band wagon of the neo-biblical counselling movement and its challenge of “Restoring Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church”. Those who originated CCC about 20 years ago, were committed to the three signs of true church, and also knew the dangers of spawning a para-church ministry. They were pastors and elders who acted out of a sense of humility in knowing their limitations, and also seeing the need to partner with those whose training and experience would offer a better sense of brokenness and where best to help alongside broken people and also working within the healing communion of saints. This requires trust and dialogue and a sense of shared care and mutual respect. I think it also requires special elders and pastors who understand that KISS is a lot more than sticking to the basics but challenges all of us to enter into the lives of God’s people and offer the best of care without watering down good social work, medical intervention, teaching, and pastoral caring. I am curious whether this is seen as relevant to the dialogue or not.

    • Hi Henk,

      Your post is helpful. I’m sure many pastors are wishing they had a resource such as you nearby!

      My thinking has changed a bit over the years. I have benefitted from and continue to benefit greatly from the nouthetic counseling fellows (esp. Jay Adams and David Powlison) but I’ve also come to appreciate the doctrine of the two kingdoms. When something is genuinely a spiritual issue (i.e. it is about sin and grace), it falls within the pastor’s purview but when it is not or to the degree it is not, e.g., a medical problem, it does not. I’ve had a few cases where I’ve had to learn my limits as a counselor. I’m grateful for the existence of qualified Christian counselors who have skill and training that I do not. I’m not one who thinks that the church should try to do everything. Counseling is one of the most difficult areas because what they do so often overlaps with what the church does and the counselor’s theology necessarily comes to bear in concrete ways. Obviously, since the number of Reformed congregations is relatively small, the number of Reformed counselors is relatively small. So that adds a layer complication. For most pastors in N. America, to send a member to “a Christian counselor” means sending him or her to a Baptist/Charismatic/Whatever evangelical who conducts what they consider “a ministry.” Yikes!

      I agree that the church is not a social agency and yet the ministry to the congregation should be holistic and the diaconate has a responsibility to help lead the social ministry of the congregation to the congregation. Most deacons need more training in identifying problems.

      My alternative to the strict nouthetic approach and to the “integrationist” approach is to recognize the “two kingdoms.” I don’t have it all worked out but it’s a better theory than making the pastor into a full-time counselor and it’s better than simply farming out counseling. It would be great to have the sort of partnership you describe!

  15. GAS,

    That’s a noble cause [advocating for public education] but it requires finding out what the public school puts in the form of divinity, that which everything else is dependent upon, and destroying that false god.


    I never hear that onus put upon anyone who pursues any other quarter of creation; why are those who are involved in secular education supposed to “destroy its false gods,” while bankers can just bank?

  16. Maybe this passage is addressed in RRC, but I have always felt that Paul’s instructions given near the end of his epistle to the church in Galatia would remove any hesitation on our behalf when ministering to the needs of those outside the church. Galatians 6:10 in particular seems to demand (or at the very least, allow for) this kind of work by the church.

    I know that we had a discussion of this very issue in Christian Ethics with DVD, and this passage was brought up for discussion. It did not seem to me that the exegetical questions were really answered.

    Any thoughts?

  17. I think it is clear that this is instruction by Paul to the church as a whole (as officers and laity alike have been given instruction just several verses prior), and not just a statement that would apply to the endeavors of the laity outside the bounds of the congregation.

    The argument that DVD gave was that Paul was not addressing the officers specifically, and therefore not the church as church. But Gal. 6:6 would seem to indicate that it is indeed the church as church that is being addressed.

    I do not want to advocate mindless and gospel-obscuring social work as pushed by the mainliners, but I do also want to be careful that in our desire to preach the gospel with clarity we do not also overlook the clear instructions given us in living out its implications as a church.

    What is your take?

  18. AJM,

    That is an intriguing question (Gal 6:10). But is Paul referring to the visible church as an intitution or to individual members of the visible church? Likewise, was Christ’s answer about who our neighbor is (Lk 10:25-36) adressed to the church as a body or to individuals? I confess ignorance but these are some of the questions I have myself.

  19. I take this as a parallel to 1 Tim 4:10. It’s essentially the same doctrine. I’m convinced by Steve Baugh that σωτερ (Soter) in 1 Tim 4:10 = “benefactor” and is a response to the statue to Caesar in Ephesus. So God is the benefactor to all (in common grace or general providence) and esp. in salvation to those who believe.

    Paul’s using a similar construct here when he says let us do good to all and especially to the household of faith.

    I don’t think that the fact that the words were spoken to a congregation and in a congregational context, however, means necessarily that the congregation, as such, is given a mandate to perform community service.

    There’s no question whether Christians as individuals have such a mandate. The question is whether Scripture clearly and unambiguously lays upon the congregation, the visible church as such, a diaconal ministry beyond the congregation.

    If we distinguish between the obligations of Christians and the obligations of the congregation, as such, then the picture is clearer.

    One might paraphrase this verse: Christians do have “common grace” obligations to the community but they have a special obligation to the church.

  20. Thanks, Dr. Clark. I think that I have some difficulty in seeing how an apostolic instruction given to a congregation, and most likely read in a congregational setting, should be taken as anything less than instruction given to the visible church as the church, but I am willing to camp on it a bit, and to give it some more thought.

    Now for a question that may be a bit more sticky. If we were to say that the congregation did not have a mandate here to reach out to the community through the diaconate, would we be able to say that, although not constrained, it is still allowable? I know that you made clear to us that it is an invalid use of the RPW to apply it to settings in life outside of Christian worship, so if we should not apply it to congregational actions outside of worship, would this then make extra-ecclesial diaconal work permissible?

  21. I think a better question is: is it prudent?

    The first thing I want to do is push proponents of diaconal ministry as evangelism/outreach to do is to justify their program from Scripture. Let’s say that Gal 6:10 is an ambiguous text.

    What clear, unambiguous teaching is there that the church as such (not thinking of individual Christians but the institution) has an obligation to relieve poverty outside the walls, as it were, of the church? It is widely assumed that it does and then we read texts about charity in that light.

    It’s the same problem with “every member” evangelism. Proponents assume it and then they see it everywhere. I don’t see it.

    Notice that Paul did not take up an offering for general poverty or famine relief for everyone in Jerusalem but for the church. That’s significant. What a “missed opportunity” for witness and evangelism — that’s what some might say.

    Might the church do it? Well I go back to prudence. Does the church have a right to spend funds designated for Word, sacrament (incl. mission), discipline, and diaconal ministry on community social work? If the congregation understands that the diaconal ministry is being spent outside the congregation, that’s one thing. People ought to have a choice.

    My years as pastor/social worker taught me that, outside the context of the covenant community, the church only becomes another enabling agency. We “buy” opportunities for bible studies and the like but it’s a form a ecclesiastical bribery — at least I was guilty of that once upon a time. Perhaps others have avoided this problem.

  22. Thanks again.

    Would you say that it is a bad idea for the church to provide medical aid or poverty relief in their mission works overseas?

    If we allow for that, couldn’t we also say that doing the same at home is just an extension of that missionary practice (since we often call our evangelism and church planting activity in the states “home missions”), granted that we often do not face that level of extreme poverty and lack of medical care which often is found in many works outside of the U.S.

    If you do not believe that those endeavors are wise practices, even when it involves foreign mission work, then I guess that this would not be a very strong argument.

    But it is still a question!

  23. I think that the church should be the church where ever it is. Planting overseas doesn’t change the nature of the church as institution or the marks etc.

    We probably need to strategize how medical groups/societies (e.g. the Luke Society) and others can work cooperatively with church plants.

    I know you’re not a fan of MGK but he wrote some interesting things about this in the Guardian in the 60s by way of a letter to the editor. I think it’s this piece:
    “Minority Report, Committee on Foreign Missions” Presbyterian Guardian 33 (May-June 1964): 81-82.

    Hart and Muether write, in Fighting the Good Fight:

    The report did not satisfy one member of the Foreign Missions Committee, Meredith Kline, then a professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary. In his minority report, Kline claimed that the committee violated the principle of “sphere sovereignty,” which held that different social structures had separate spheres or areas of responsibility. No social institution should perform the work appointed for another. Specifically, Kline argued, the church could not claim for itself tasks that fall in the sphere of general human culture (such as medical work). Instead, the clear teaching of Scripture was that the church should restrict itself to the ecclesiastical functions of the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments.

    Herbert Bird responded to Kline on behalf of the majority of the committee. Bird first noted the difficulty that affluent Western cultures have in appreciating the value of mercy ministries in underdeveloped countries. Eritrea was not a place “where the pure teaching of the Word will not be complicated by the demands of human wretchedness.” Bird also agreed in general with the principle of sphere sovereignty, but he felt that Kline drew too fine a distinction between the church’s task in carrying out the Great Commission and individual Christian responsibility in pursuing the cultural mandate. Could the church ever engage in cultural activities? Bird thought Kline’s “never!” was too extreme. Instead, a balanced biblical response was “hardly ever.” Here Bird compared the work of medicine and translation. The medical missionary, he argued, is no less engaged in cultural activities than the missionary linguist who commits an unwritten language to writing in order to translate the Bible. His conclusion—that “a ministry of mercy is a valid expression of Christian concern by the church as church”—convinced the 1964 Assembly, which approved the construction of the mission hospital.

  24. It is absolutely amazing that in this main post and the 28 comments that there was only about one verse quoted in full and only a few citations of verses. How can we adequately critique “Program-Driven Churches” and propose solutions with so little Scripture?

    I don’t mean to isolate just this one particular post and comments for this question. This is just another example of how little Scripture is even in Reformed blogs that I read. There is every kind of argument and reference to the writings of theologians, but there is so little Scripture. Sometimes, I wonder by the lack of Scripture if seminary teaches its students to minimize the importance of quoting Scripture. At least for such an important topic as “Program-Driven Churches”, I thought that there would be more Scripture.

    We should not need to remind each other of the unique living power of Scripture, but we do need to do so. Paul reminds us that the word of God performs its work.

    “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” I Thessalonians 5:23-24.

    Don’t we need the word of God both to critique “Program-Driven Churches” and propose solutions?!

    Let us recognize our belief in the word of God which performs its work by our actions of filling our writings with it. Thank you dear brothers!

    • Hey Bill,

      I’m a little tired after two very long days so forgive me but: lighten up. Its’ a blog buddy. If you want detailed biblical exegesis buy the book.

      Are you suggesting that the PDC is so manifestly biblical that the burden of proof is on those who reject it?

      Where was Paul’s “Youth ministry”? Where was his “church league softball team”? How did they ever get on in Philippi without a Christian aerobics program?

      Do you have another book of the NT that I don’t have that gives warrant for the church to institute all these programs alongside of and in place of Word, sacrament, discipline, prayer, and the diaconate?

  25. Bill,

    “How can we adequately critique “Program-Driven Churches” and propose solutions with so little Scripture?”

    The “so little Scripture” solutions were pointing to a broader context, even inviting readers to read the lot of it to see the drive of the text. Never mind the various Scripture addresses given to deal with the matter at hand. If you’re not willing to read those on your own, your lazy eyes are at fault, and any subsequent comments should be with held because you’re not willing to read them. Where would one stop pasting, the whole book from where the text is drawn? The whole Bible? Pick up your Bible and read the citations and context, please!

  26. Zrim,
    Maybe someone with banking knowledge could find the false underlying philosophical presuppositions that may infect banking but my guess is that what would be found is that those false presuppositions were learned in pagan humanistic schools while they were children.

  27. Bill, Dr. Clark utilizes lots of Scripture to back up his argument in his book RRC. Have you read that perchance? You can also read With Reverence and Awe by DG Hart (lots of Scripture verses there too!)

  28. Thank you Victor and DrollFlood!

    My point is not that Dr. Clark does not have “lots of Scripture to back up his argument”. I am not contesting his conclusions in this post. l am just making a general point that I see little Scripture in some Reformed blogs in the main article post or comments.

    How can we write about spiritual matters without including more Scripture?! For there only to be in this main post and the 28 comments, only about one verse quoted in full and only a few citations of verses is reason for concern.

    It is not an excuse that the quotes are elsewhere, any more than it would be an excuse for a Preacher or Teacher to omit Scripture from his sermon or teaching on the ground that his books or articles contain the Scripture elsewhere.

    Consider how Jesus used Scripture. Here are some examples:
    Matthew 21:42
    Mark 12:10
    “Have you not even read this Scripture:’ THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED,THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone;
    Luke 24:27
    Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
    Luke 24:32
    They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

    Consider how Philip and Paul and others used Scriptures. Here are some examples:
    Acts 8:35
    Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
    Acts 17:2
    And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
    Acts 18:28
    for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

    Consider how we all are generally exhorted to use Scriptures. Here are some examples:
    Acts 17:11
    Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
    Romans 15:4
    For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
    1 Timothy 4:13
    Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
    2 Timothy 3:16
    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

    Thank you again!

  29. Dear Dr. Clark:

    I do agree with your conclusions in your post on the “Program-Driven Church”. In my words, we should be the “Word-Driven Church”. My support of the primacy of Scriptures should be evident in my comments. I do not want church league softball or aerobics. I want the church and our writings to focus on Scripture!

    I just was making the general point that you and the people who commented could have quoted Scripture more, or at least included more citation references to Scripture to support your conclusions such as including verses of the type of proper activities for a church.

    Here is an example. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42. See also Acts 2:42-47. Now, I understand that there may very well be better verses. You can supply your own as examples without fearing that you might omit some other good ones.

    In conclusion, I think that the inclusion of some Scripture is better than omitting all Scripture out of the concern that you will not be able to include all of the Scripture in the blog. Thank you.

    Yours truly,

  30. GAS,

    Maybe someone with banking knowledge could find the false underlying philosophical presuppositions that may infect banking but my guess is that what would be found is that those false presuppositions were learned in pagan humanistic schools while they were children.

    If by “pagan humanism” you mean sinful thoughts and practices, well, that is less nurture than nature. We don’t need schools to make us sinners—we get that from mom and dad. Besides, sin also resides ostensibly Christian environs as well. I bet plenty of people who have “false underlying philosophical presuppositions” learned as much in parochial schools.

    My point is that, while projects like compulsory education and banking are certainly different from each other, in the bigger picture they are still both only temporal endeavors and thus really no different; both belong to this age and not the next. Also, it seems to me that your comment suggests education is somehow more naturally religiously responsible than, say, banking. But the family is God’s ordained institution to nurture or neglect true faith in children, not education. I suppose it sounds too odd to say only Christian should have kids, so putting the task of “tearing down false gods” onto educators is the next best thing. But it still makes little sense to me.

  31. I blame businesspeople and entrepreneurs, who are used to starting and administering programs. Their “can do” spirit makes them stand out, and they are often chosen for positions in church leadership (especially overseers!). Proclamation of the Gospel is OK with them, but its nor “practical” and so they are always looking to start programs. They are used to measuring everything in a quantifiable way, and making quantifiable goals, and establishing best practices to meet those goals. The clergy, overworked and underpaid, finds it very tempting to lean on them. Of course, the bidnesspeople can often give lots of dough for programs and ministries, so that makes them all the more appealing as leaders in many congregations.

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