Paul Madson


Month: February 2012

Do you remember what was happening in your life in 1975?

This week, I’m honored to share with you the ministry work of GTN staff member, as well as long time friend and brother in Christ, Dan Smythe. Dan has been on staff with GTN for 5 years now, and I regularly hear dozens of exciting, life-transforming stories from him about the fruit God is bringing about as he trains pastors and church leaders all over the world.

As a side note to this story, Lisa and I have known Dan and his wife Debbie for 32 years now. Back in 1980, while Dan was serving as the new High School Youth Pastor (and department head of our church’s youth ministry), he was instrumental in mentoring me (a young, Bible-college attending, newly married Jr. High Youth Pastor).

After our years serving together in ministry at Northwest Community Church, he went on to plant and pastor several churches, while Lisa and I were sent out to plant NCC’s first daughter church in 1990. In 2007, God providentially brought Dan and I back together in ministry when he came on staff with Global Training Network. Dan is now training church planters and pastors in India, China, Cambodia and Nigeria.

If you want to hear an incredibly inspiring story of God’s work of transformation, take 3-4 minutes to watch this latest video where Dan tells the story of Pastor Samnang and his wife, Sharia, ministering on the front lines of the battle against sex trafficking in Cambodia. You’ll hear the connection of how training pastors is so vital to helping to bring an end to injustices such as sex trafficking around the world. I know you’ll be incredibly blessed and moved, as I was!

Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon (Part 2)

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“More missionaries have been martyred for their faith in Christ in the past 20 years than in the previous 200 years.” (OMF Outreach, July/August 1995 issue)

“Every year since 1950, the average number of those killed for their faith in Christ worldwide is at least 150,000. That’s 150,000 annually!” (Ralph Winter, Community Night, U.S. Center for World Mission – September 1990)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

This week I continue sharing some quotes and thoughts (FYI…everything in orange font is a quote from either Scripture or an author) from a 1993 sermon series I taught on: Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon.

The Associated Press released an article from its Los Angeles office that had to do with “Religion in America.” The article said that religion in America today is undergoing some major changes.

It said…

“Many people in North America are today forming their religious beliefs much in the same way as they shop for groceries and other consumer goods.”

The article drew its research from studies that had been done by George Gallup and Canadian sociologist, Reginald Bibby. Three of the religious trends that this article mentioned were these:

1) Americans revere the Bible, but they don’t read it. The world’s most famous religious work has become a family heirloom instead of a source of ethical guidance.

2) Instead of selecting one religion or denomination, most Americans are demanding religion a la carte. They want to pick and choose from various religious sources.

3) In North America, religion is in danger of becoming a flexible product or mirror of existing cultural trends rather than providing moral direction.”

Someone once said, “The job of the preacher is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

C. S. Lewis famously wrote…

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port [wine] would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity!”

Listen to what one Christian leader said about this:

“In my extensive travels over the past twelve years, I’ve met with pastors, talked with church members, and spoken in hundreds of churches. And from my observations I must conclude that the church, broadly speaking, has succumbed to many of the culture’s enticements.

I don’t want to generalize unjustly or be overly harsh, but it’s fair to say that much of the church is caught up in the success mania of American society. Often more concerned with budgets and building programs than with the body of Christ, the church places more emphasis on growth than on repentance. Suffering, sacrifice, and service have been preempted by success and self-fulfillment.

One pastor confided to me, ‘I try not to talk about subjects that make people uncomfortable. My job is to make sure they come back here week after week.’”

Stanley Hauerwas, who is professor of theological ethics at Duke University Divinity School said:

“The church in America exists in a buyer’s or consumer’s market, so any suggestion that in order to be a part of a church you must be transformed by opening your life to certain kinds of spiritual disciplines which involve hard work, inconvenience and self-sacrifice is almost impossible to maintain.

In America, the “called” church (which is the biblical term for it) has become the “voluntary” church, whose primary characteristic is that the congregation is friendly!”

Dave Dravecky, former all-star pitcher in the Major Leagues, who had to have his pitching arm amputated because of cancer – also a committed believer in Jesus Christ – wrote in his autobiography entitled When You Can’t Come Back, these powerful words:

“In America today, Christians pray for the burden of suffering to be lifted from their backs. In the rest of the world, Christians pray for stronger backs so they can bear their suffering.”

Here are some recent statistics (as of 2012)…

96% of the people who live on planet earth, live outside of the United States. The entire U.S. population only makes up 4% of the total population of planet earth.  If you live in this ‘bubble,’ that could properly be referred to as ‘The United States of Disneyland,’ you are living better than – and have more opportunities and resources than – 90% of the people living on earth today! The bottom class, the poorest of the poor in America, live better than 50% of the rest of the world (that’s 3.5 billion people!).

Chuck Colson, in his book Loving God, wrote this:

“And in the midst of all this [the emptiness in peoples lives, the moral decay within our society] we have the church – those who follow Christ. For the church, this ought to be an hour of opportunity. The church alone can provide a moral vision to a wandering people; the church alone can step into the vacuum and demonstrate that there is a sovereign, living God who is the source of Truth.

BUT, the church is in almost as much trouble as the culture, for the church has bought into the same value system: fame, success, materialism, and the celebrity syndrome. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best-known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices.

Preoccupation with these values has also perverted the church’s message. The assistant to one renowned media pastor, when asked the key to this man’s success, replied without hesitation, We give the people what they want”. This heresy is at the root of the most dangerous message preached today: the what’s-in-it-for-me gospel!”

J. I. Packer, in his excellent book entitled Rediscovering Holiness, wrote the following [this was written back in the early 80’s]…

“What do we Christians mainly preach and teach and produce TV programs and video cassettes about these days? The answer seems to be not holiness, but success and positive feelingsgetting health, wealthy, freedom from care, good sex, and happy families. I remember seeing in a Christian journal a group of eight new ‘how-to’ books reviewed on a single page. How long, I wonder, is it since you heard about eight new books on holiness? Shall I guess?”

I leave you this week with a few simple, straightforward Scripture verses that tell us unambiguously what the focus of our lives should be as followers of Christ. Let these verses sink deep within our hearts and minds and ask the Lord to give us the grace needed to live these out day in and day out.

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7)

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:15-16)

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:3-5)

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1-2)

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)


Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon


It’s been over four months since my last blog post. Why? In a nutshell: GTN has been in the middle of the single most significant growth in our eight years. By God’s grace, we’ve added 24 new staff in the last 9 months – going from 40 staff to over 60. Along with managing the growth, we have implemented five substantial (and much needed) organizational structures and systems to help deal with the current and future growth in a healthy manner. All that to say, I’ve been running at a fairly fast clip.

On top of all this, we currently have another 8 to 10 couples that are in the process of potentially coming on staff in the near future. God is certainly on the move…and we are on our knees.

Thanks for your patience…and prayers.

Now for my blog post for this week….

A few years ago, Chuck Colson wrote an article entitled: “Beyond ‘Jesus and Me’.” The article described “Christian culture” in America today in a poignant way.

Colson wrote…

What is the Christian faith all about? One thing’s for sure-it’s about a lot more than your, or my, personal happiness.

Christian Smith of the University of North Carolina…a sociologist, has studied American Christianity in depth. In his book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Life of American Teenagers, Smith writes that the “de facto dominant religion” among American teenagers is what he calls “moral therapeutic deism.”

According to this “religion,” God created and watches over the world but otherwise is only to be called upon to solve problems. All He requires is that people be nice and fair to each other, “as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” Not surprisingly, “the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

Smith notes that moral therapeutic deism is “more than a little visible” among conservative protestant teenagers. And it’s not only teenagers. As theologian Albert Mohler has pointed out, what Smith describes is a belief “held by a large percentage of Americans.”

This kind of pabulum is the logical outcome of reducing the entirety of the Christian faith to “Jesus and me.” This Jesus does not challenge the way we see the world, much less how we live in it because He wants us to be happy; so He sanctions our desires.

Of course, as I’ve argued in my most recent book, The Faith, this Jesus bears little, if any, resemblance to the Jesus of the Scriptures and historic Christianity.

Back in the Fall of 1993 (when our young church plant was only three years old) I preached a series of sermons (six month’s worth) entitled: “Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon.”

I began the series with this statement: “I believe that we (the Christian church nationwide) have bought into the ‘man-centered, consumer-driven, convenience-oriented mentality’ when it comes to the church in America… and it’s not honoring to God.”

The first passage we looked at was 2 Timothy 3:1-5, where it says…

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self,…” (NASB)

Here are several of the quotes that were peppered throughout the series…

“So while the church may seem to be experiencing a season of growth and prosperity [my note: which, by the way, it was back in the early 90’s], it is failing to move people to commitment and sacrifice. The hard truth is that we have substituted an institutionalized religion for the life-changing dynamic of a living faith.” (Chuck Colson)

Colson goes on to say, “I have long been bewildered by the paradox Gallup describes as ‘religion up, morality down.'”

It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul writes in Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him…” (NASB).

“The roots of the church’s identity crisis are found in the consumer mentality so pervasive in our culture. Aside from those hierarchical denominations that assign members to the parish in which they live, most Americans are free to choose which church they will join or attend. And choose they do.

Ask people what they look for in a church and the number one response is “fellowship.”

Other answers range from “good sermons” to “the music program” to “youth activities for the kids” to “it makes me feel good”. People flit about in search of what suits their taste at the moment. It’s what some have called the”McChurch” mentality. Today it might be McDonald’s for a Big Mac; tomorrow it’s Wendy’s salad bar; or perhaps the wonderful chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A. Thus, the church becomes just another retail outlet, faith just another commodity. People change congregations and preachers and even denominations as readily as they change banks or grocery stores!”

As someone once put it: “We are not selling a product to a consumer, but proclaiming a savior to a sinner.”

Gregory Lewis once said, “God is not a product to be pushed, but a King to be obeyed!”

The late Leonard Ravenhill, the well-known writer on revival, once said: “The church in America is 20 miles wide but only one inch deep!”

I have always been intrigued when traveling through the Majority World as to how Christians in most of these countries have no concept of what we refer to here as“church hopping.” In most of these nations, there is only one church within a several mile proximity (with no cars to get around) that they can attend – they haveno choice! And they learn to make it work – and learn to grow together as a body through the good times and bad times.

In the beginning of John chapter 6, we see Jesus feeding the 5,000 and then walking on water. The next day, on the other side of the lake, he runs into some of those that he had fed the day before.

Pay close attention to what the text says in vv. 25-26, When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.'”

In other words, Jesus was saying to them: “You’re not converts. You’re consumers. You’re like stray cats that follow, not out of any attachment to a new owner, but because they remember who fed them last.”

Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3? “…in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self…”

Next week I’ll share a few more quotes and thoughts from my 1993 series on“Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon.”

And finally, a quote to ponder…

“God’s primary concern is our holiness, not our happiness.”

(Note: In the coming weeks I will also be wrapping up the last few blog posts on “10 Lessons I Wish (as a pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago” and then combining all 10 lessons into one single PDF file for pastors, church planters and other young leaders to use and pass along).


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