Irresponsible Evangelism, or Bonding and Love Bombing - or It Works!

"Now Kent, you don't need to be so critical. It seems like you are against so much these days. Sounds like you don't want to fill the pews up. Relax and start celebrating, enjoy what God is doing today."

The above is not part of an actual conversation, rather it is a composite of statements directed at me during this last week (February, 2001). In fact, I heard similar comments the week before that and the week before that. And I suppose I need to examine the critiques and see if there is anything in me that is not honoring to God.

Let me explain though how it was I earned the criticism in the first place.

I spent years, 29 in total, operating with a works salvation model. And I did it very well. If I didn't get you to respond to a public invitation, and I could get you to join up in a small group setting. The results: many false conversions. But there is more to it.

My methods were essentially cultic. Through the use of various forms of psychological and sociological techniques I manipulated needy people into making a commitment to about whatever I wanted at the time. Maybe it was saying the sinner's prayer, maybe it was speaking in tongues, or joining the church. Lonely people, fearful people, grieving people, confused people, desperate people--ripe for about any kind of "conversion" or decision I wanted or needed.

Yes, I am an outspoken critic of the church growth movement because of the conscious employment of mind bending techniques to get people into the church.

My critics say, "Well, they are coming into the churches." My response: "Well, it seems so, but they leave quickly enough. At best it is a recycling of the believers, at worst, it is sinister confusion to those who think they had become Christians when in fact they had not."

Cults like the Moonies, Scientologists, and on and on, use varying techniques to recruit people into their groups. Usually it takes place in the small group. Usually there is a bonding process, sometimes to a leader, sometimes to the group of members of the group. Hurting people often find their lives enhanced in such groups and will do almost anything to keep from having the relationship end. The theology or philosophy is often irrelevant, they will believe anything and everything just to keep from being rejected.

Many observers of such a process are not fazed at all thinking that it is better that a person is helped, even in a cultic context, than for a person to struggle alone in fear and confusion. These observers care nothing for the great eternal consequences. Their concern is, however loving it might appear, human suffering here and now. This "liberal" point of view is adopted by too many in the church growth movement. (And note, it is a movement, it is here now, but it will pass on just as they all do.)

In the latter part of the Second Great Awakening in America, Charles Finney, the originator of the sinner's prayer and the altar call, was "evangelizing" in the state of New York. He labored hard and long there, so much so, that the area was later designated the "Burned Over District". People became hardened to the gospel, they were burned out from so many attempts to get them into the churches.

Kent Philpott


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