Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Critique of George Hunter’s Apostolic View

By Max Strange

Mr. George Hunter’s view of the apostolic age and the apostolic churches are driven by the paradigm of the CGM (Church Growth Movement) coupled with his angst for cultural change. He sees the apostolic churches as one of innovation. To him it was cross-cultural church having new methods and new approaches. It was premeditated, earnest in prayer, gospel centered, user friendly, Wesleyan, adapting to culture, Bible program saturated, resembling a Wesleyan form of theology, with a Great Commission intentionality and outreach at the fore of its affections. In chapter one of his book, Church for the Unchurched, Hunter makes the case that the new sprouting apostolic churches are the way to release people to truly reach the unchurched and pre-Christian peoples of the world. Accordingly to Hunter, these kind of churches most resemble the early church of the 1st century and are far superior to the existing small, traditional, dogmatic, doctrinal, judgmental, and moralistic, churches with their dusty approaches to outreach.

Mr. Hunter makes several good points as he looks around at the secularization of society in Europe and North America. He acknowledges rightly that coming out of the Enlightenment’s bogus views of anthropology and reason, many people have been left with a void that science, therapy, medicine, drugs, self-help book, seminar, education, consensus morality, and modernity can not fill. He rightly asserts that “More and more people need, and seek for, a satisfying worldview and spiritual fulfillment” (pp. 23). This vacuum has always existed in the human soul and what sadly fills this chasm is a “pick and choose” religious system where only the five senses count for anything real (materialists). He does provide an accurate assessments of Western society in the 21st century.

Nonetheless, Mr. Hunter has several unhelpful assertions. First, he believes that the church’s main goal is propagating the gospel. This is an essential but he fails to mention an equal objective of the church and that is to train and build the body of Christ into a mature people (Eph. 4:11-13). He also thinks that new approaches and fresh methodologies are the key to reaching the culture and never thinks for a moment that the church has lost the true message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. Hunter presupposes that the temperature of the culture is a reflection of the success or lack of success of the church. This assumes that the church is to be a cultural-change machine. This is just not the case. The culture will be affected, and at times the culture will show signs of spiritual renewal and at other times be dead as a door nail. Yet, poor Mr. Hunter, coming out of the religious atmosphere of the 40-60’s in America, has wrongly made the connection that if the culture is bad then the church isn’t working. He also wants to reproduce the irreproducible apostolic era and imagines the apostolic churches to be a perfect heyday to “get-back-to.” The churches had their problems as well (see Corinth, 6 churches in Revelation, false teachers in Galatia, moralism, false prophets in Thessalonica, Ananias and Saphira dead at the church’s doorstep, Alexander the coppersmith, Simon the Sorcerer, etc). Lastly, Mr. Hunter imagines that the legitimacy of the church is by its numerical breadth disregarding any notion of spiritual depth. Mr. Hunter appears to be against tradition, small churches with small congregations, and doctrine. Because he believes in numerical growth over and against spiritual depth within a church, he has wholeheartedly sided with the mega church movement. Sorry to say, many of these churches has named as new-apostolic have failed in their program-driven church growth agenda. The churches like Willow Creek are now filled with unsatisfied customers, since the writing of his book (pp 26).

Mr. Hunter’s ideal church does not compare to a Biblically-based church that gives more attention to Gospel proclamation. The way to reach secular society is not an archaic method or some new method. It is to proclaim and herald the great message of life for the dead sinner through Christ alone. Of course this is not popular and goes against the grain of pop-culture, but it is true to God’s methodology which is not a man-made manufactured method. The Gospel must be accurate and right or else no change will occur inside the church and if changes do not occur inside the church it will not spill outward into the community in evangelism and love for the lost.

This Gospel proclaiming society must be led by good, godly, qualified, winsome men of God. Clearcreek Chapel exemplifies this kind of servant leadership. They stand out to lead. They do not shy from declaring the whole council of God in order that all may be built up into “a mature manhood” who in turn go public with truth and light and salt. If the Word is proclaimed and taught with accuracy, zeal, and love, this will be a very inviting and convicting atmosphere much unlike the world, which offers a cozy cushion to sit on and 1 hour of concert entertainment.

Unfortunately, with all due respect, Mr. Hunter’s has not assessed the right course of action for the church. He is a good surveyor of society but a poor evaluator of the church from a Gospel standpoint.

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