Pragmatism and the Christian (1 Corinthians 3:4-9)
Pragmatism is the practical or realistic approach to solving problems (retrieved from Google Dictionary) or the idea that the results themselves confirm the validity of the methods used and is often found in Christian circles. For example, if a method of evangelism doesn’t work by people confessing Christ, then one will look for another or different method to use for evangelism. Therefore, if a certain way of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not yield a person confessing salvation, then another method of sharing the Gospel is sought out. The problem with this approach is that it nullifies the reality of the One doing the saving for the methodological approach. In simple terms, it places the methodology above God. This exchange of man’s methods over God’s sovereignty is the problem with pragmatism and the Christian.
Most Christians do not understand that they have succumbed to this philosophical error in their walk with Christ, which displays the need for the Holy Spirit and the Scripture, for they can identify the issues within our worldview. Many Christians favor methods that will bring more people to church. Their heart’s motive is that they want more people to come to their church, and this motive itself isn’t necessarily wrong; however, it can be when the methods used to draw people to the church meeting are against what God has commanded his people to do in worship.
Churches do all sorts of things to attract people to their congregations. When this happens, there are fundamental questions that must be asked: “What is the motive for doing this? Does our method undermine the work of God? Would Jesus be pleased to participate in this action?” So, when a church spends $200,000 or more on an awesome sound system, lighting effects, and fog machines in hopes to attract more people, these questions become valid to ask ourselves. Maybe that $200,000 could have been used more judiciously? Maybe God would be more pleased to see some of that money go to help cloth the destitute in that city? Nowhere in the Scripture is a fog machine, lighting effects, or an awesome sound system required for a worship service that brings honor and glory to Jesus Christ. But if more people attend the weekly gatherings, the church members and the pastoral staff feel validated in their decisions to purchase the awesome sound system, fog machine, and lighting effects. This example is the essence of pragmatism.
Does one stop and consider how God views this? What if the love that the church members genuinely share for one another (John 13:35) or the solid exegetical work of the sermon were to drive the reason for why people start coming to your church instead of the lighting effects, sound system, and fog machines? I wonder if the pastoral staff would still find comfort due to obedience to God in that they spent so much time in their study or worked hard in seminary to learn how to exegete a passage properly? I also wonder if the church people would still find comfort due to obedience to God when their co-worker attends their church and joins after much prayer for that co-worker’s salvation had been offered to God.
You see, often the pragmatic approach validates how we feel about our methodology of doing church, but it undermines the work of God and God’s promises in a terrible way. God is the one who gives the increase. God is the one who adds to the Church. God is the one who commands us to worship Him. God is; therefore, He is the One who gets to prescribe the proper methodology for doing so. Let us reevaluate pragmatic approaches in our lives, and let us look to the Biblical solutions for growing our spiritual lives, church lives, and professional lives, trusting God at His Word. Prayer, proper exegetical preaching, and destroying the deeds of the flesh ought to be at the top of all our lists if we desire to see our churches grow numerically and spiritually (1 Thess 4:1-6, Luke 10:2, Acts 6:4).