Monday, August 31, 2009

The seeker-sensitive movement: A Shocking “Confession” from Willow Creek Community Church

Note: You can read the complete text of this October 2007 article written by Bob Burney at Burney is Salem Communications’ award-winning host of Bob Burney Live, heard weekday afternoons on WRFD-AM 880 in Columbus, Ohio. Contact Bob at For the sake of fairness, you can watch a video synopsis of the research with Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, and reactions of Bill Hybels recorded at Leadership Summit.
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For most of a generation evangelicals have been romanced by the “seeker sensitive” movement spawned by Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. The guru of this movement is Bill Hybels. He and others have been telling us for decades to throw out everything we have previously thought and been taught about church growth and replace it with a new paradigm, a new way to do ministry.

Perhaps inadvertently, with this “new wave” of ministry came a de-emphasis on taking personal responsibility for Bible study combined with an emphasis on felt-needs based “programs” and slick marketing.

The size of the crowd rather than the depth of the heart determined success. If the crowd was large then surely God was blessing the ministry. Churches were built by demographic studies, professional strategists, marketing research, meeting “felt needs” and sermons consistent with these techniques. We were told that preaching was out, relevance was in. Doctrine didn’t matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasn’t “cutting edge” and consumer friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity.

Thousands of pastors hung on every word that emanated from the lips of the church growth experts. Satellite seminars were packed with hungry church leaders learning the latest way to “do church.” The promise was clear: thousands of people and millions of dollars couldn’t be wrong. Forget what people need, give them what they want. How can you argue with the numbers? If you dared to challenge the “experts” you were immediately labeled as a “traditionalist,” a throwback to the 50s, a stubborn dinosaur unwilling to change with the times.

All that changed recently.

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth.

(Read the complete article)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guidelines and precautions in buying church property

(Note: You can download a free PDF of this article, reproduce as many copies as you want, and distribute them to pastors, Bible students, and church members. You can also embed the PDF in blogs and websites for online viewing.)

church propertyConsider the following situations and problems that some pastors have met in purchasing property for their churches:

[1] A veteran pastor-missionary paid half a million pesos for a property which his church started using at once. Later on, when he asked me for advice, it turned out that he paid the money without a Deed of Sale, whether absolute or conditional, or any kind of writing as proof of the payment. The whole piece of land was titled but the portion sold to the church did not have its own title. The pastor suffered months of worry and tension waiting for the landowner to have the whole area surveyed and the release of the subdivided title.

[2] A pastor from a province south of Metro Manila entered into a contract for the purchase of a land worth one million pesos. The church made a down payment of one hundred fifty thousand pesos. There was no deed of sale or any kind of document for that contract or the down payment. When the pastor asked me for advice and I asked him for a copy of the land title, he said that he did not have even a xerox copy. He said that the landowners promised to give him a xerox copy only when the complete payment had been made.

[3] A Baptist church in Metro Manila wanted to construct a new building for its church and ministries. The church secured a loan from a bank by putting up the title to its land as collateral. The church defaulted in its payments, the bank foreclosed the property, and the land is now owned by the Mormons.

[4] A faithful, unmarried old woman allowed this church in a province just outside Metro Manila to construct its buildings for the church and school on her property. Years later, the old woman was already in the States, the property had been fully developed, and the relatives of the old woman had become very interested in the valuable property. When I asked the pastor for the documents, he said that there was only a “verbal donation” made by the old woman.

[5] A pastor made a down payment of fifty thousand pesos for two condominium units which he wanted to turn into a church. The titles turned out to be fake.

[6] A church in Metro Manila entered into a lease contract for a land. The lease expired but the church continued using and developing the property. The church is now being evicted.

[7] A pastor entered into a contract for the purchase of a land in the heart of Metro Manila not with the owner but with the agent of an agent. The pastor went on deputation in the US to raise the money for the purchase of the land and the construction of the church. It turned out that the basis of the ownership of the land was a questionable court decision which claims almost the whole Philippines. The church is now being evicted by the sheriff’s office of that city.

[8] When this church in a northern province bought its property, it had not yet been registered with the SEC. The members agreed that the land be titled in the name of the pastor. When the pastor died, his children demanded that the church vacate the property since it was now their inheritance.

[9] The church bought the property and had the title transferred to its name after complying with the requirements of the Register of Deeds. Years later, the church received a notice of assessment from the Assessor's Office for failure to pay real estate taxes. It turned out that while the record of ownership of the land had been updated with the RD, the records in the Assessor's Office have not been transferred from the previous owner to the church.

[10] Numerous churches have built their structures within private subdivisions. The homeowners associations of these subdivisions are questioning the existence of a church within a residential area.

[11] A pastor wanted to buy the property the church was using. The land did not have a title with the owner merely having “rights” to the land. There were, however, other lands in that northern province which already had titles.

Posted below are some guidelines and precautions that pastors and churches must follow in purchasing land for their churches:

1. Get a certified true xerox copy of the land title. Do not depend on the copy provided by the landowner, even if it is certified. According to one media report, there are more than 100,000 fake land titles circulating in the Philippines.

If possible, check also if the person saying that he is the landowner is really the person mentioned as the registered owner. Meaning, the person saying that he is the landowner may just be posing as the real landowner. Ask for a valid ID.

If the title says that the registered owners are the parents of the person saying he is the landowner, that is a problem. There might be other heirs to that property. If there are several heirs claiming ownership of the land, and some heirs want to sell while others do not, that is a problem. The majority of the heirs cannot simply outvote those who do not want to sell. The heirs who want to sell must file a petition in court under Rule 69 of the 1997 Rules of Civil procedure.

If the landowner is married, then marital conformity is needed for the sale of the land.

If the person selling the land to you is merely an agent and not the registered owner, that is a problem. Ask to meet and deal with the real owner.

If the landowner is a member of the church, you must insist that you do things in a legal manner, for the protection of all parties concerned. The church is protected and the pastor cannot be accused later on that he took advantage of that member.

2. Check the back portion of the title to see if there are annotations for liens or encumbrances like adverse claim, notice of lis pendens, mortgage,etc. If there are liens or encumbrances on the title, then do not buy the property.

3. If the copy of the title on file with the Register of Deeds is clean of any lien or encumbrance, then bring the certified copy of the title to the Land Registration Authority (LRA) in Quezon City, opposite the Land Transportation Office. Ask the LRA Task Force on Spurious Land Titles to verify if the title is genuine.

4. If the LRA says that the title is genuine, then check with the Assessor’s Office if the “amilyar” or real estate taxes are paid up (no arrears or back taxes). If there are arrears, then talk to the landowner. You can propose for example to pay for the arrears but this should be part of the purchase price already. You need a written notarized document for this agreement on the payment of back taxes.

5. Ask the landowner permission to have the land surveyed. The purpose of the survey is to determine the actual land area. If the title says that the land area is 2,000 square meters but the survey only shows that the area is 1,500 then you can ask for a proportional reduction in the price.

6. Do an ocular inspection of the land for potential problems (for examples, if the area is prone to floods, if the property has access roads or right of way, etc).

7. Clarify with the landowner as to who will shoulder the payment of the taxes (transfer, capital gains, etc). If it is the landowner who will pay for all the taxes, then he might ask you to sign two deeds of sale. One deed of sale will be for the actual amount you agreed upon, while the second deed will state a price much lower than the agreed amount. The landowner will submit to the BIR the deed with the lower price so that he will be paying lower taxes. Will you as a pastor or as a church agree to this illegal and immoral way of doing things?

You have to clarify also with the landowner as to who will pay the notarial fee for the deed of sale. The notary public usually charges one percent of whatever the price mentioned in the deed is. For example, if the price mentioned in the deed of sale is two million pesos, the notary public will charge Php 20,000.00 as notarial fee.

8. In the actual payment, paying in cash is not recommended. You must have a paper trail of your payment. You can ask your bank to issue a manager’s check or cashier’s check. Before signing the deed of sale, the landowner can verify from the bank if the check is genuine or is funded, etc.

“Dapat kaliwaan”, as we say in the vernacular. When you present the check for payment, the landowner must at the same time give you the title. After you receive the title, “dapat malinis na”. Meaning, all you have to do after payment and receiving the title, is to work on the transfer of the title to your name.

9. In transferring the title to the church’s name, you will have to submit all the documents to the Register of Deeds (RD). Beforehand, you need to get the confirmation receipts from the BIR and the Assessor’s office. If the documents are complete and the BIR and Assessor’s office issue the proper documents saying that the taxes have been paid, then the RD will now transfer the title to the church’s name. The RD will require that you submit the church’s SEC registration papers, board resolutions, Deed of sale, etc.

10. There is no such thing as “verbal donation” when it comes to lands. The New Civil Code of the Philippines requires donations worth more than five thousand pesos and the acceptance of such donation to be made in a notarized document. In a donation, the donor’s tax (20% of the value of the property) must be paid within 30 days from the time the deed of donation is executed.

11. If the church has already bought a property but the landowner for one reason or another refuses to hand over the title, you should file immediately an “affidavit of adverse claim with the Register of Deeds. Within 30 days after the adverse claim was annotated on the back of the title on file with the RD, you should file in court either a case for specific performance (for the landowner to comply with the terms and condition of the contract) or for rescission (cancellation) of the contract, both with damages.

12. In a contract of sale by installments, there is usually a part of the contract which provides for an “acceleration clause.” This means that failure to pay one or more installments will make the whole amount due and demandable. For example, your church is bound to pay two million pesos in 24 monthly installments for the land. Your church paid its January and February installments, failed to pay the March installment, and then continued paying again. If there is an acceleration clause in the contract, then that failure to pay the March installment, for example, gives the landowner the right to demand that your church pay the WHOLE amount at once.

You might ask, why would the church agree to have an acceleration clause in the contract? Well, the church might not be aware of such a clause in the contract, if it was the landowner who prepared the deed of sale, or if the church (if it was the one which prepared the contract) merely copied a deed of sale or downloaded it from the Internet. The point is, the church should consult a lawyer before buying any property.

Related articles:

If your Bible school, church or group of pastors wants to know more about these guidelines and precautions, please email me at for a free half-day seminar. My other contact information is in the sidebar. You can also download a free PDF of this article.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Free e-book download “Why It Pays to be a Christian”

Why It Pays to be a Christian by Norbert Lieth (93 pages PDF, 1 MB total file size; from Midnight Call Ministries)


The Encyclopedia Britannica uses 20,000 words to describe Jesus. This description takes up more space than the encyclopedia devotes to Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed and Napoleon.

The following statements are from well-known people concerning Jesus:

French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said: “It would have been a greater miracle to invent such a life as that of Christ than His actual existence is.”

At the end of his life, Napoleon Bonaparte, who engaged half of Europe in war, wrote these words in his diary: “With all my armies and generals, I have not been able to make one single continent subject to me in a quarter of a century. But this Jesus has conquered nations and cultures without the use of arms for centuries.”

Well-known historian H.G. Wells was asked what person had the greatest influence on history. He answered that if one were to judge the greatness of a man according to historical aspects, Jesus would be at the top of the list.

Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, “The more time that passes, the more apparent it becomes that Jesus, measured by His influence on history, led the most momentous life that was ever lived on this planet. And His influence seems to increase.”

Ernest Renan made the following observation, “Jesus is the most genial figure that ever lived in the historical field. His brilliance is eternal and His government will never cease. He is unique in every way and comparable with nothing and nobody. Without Christ history cannot be understood.”

Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer who suffered for us in order to attain and guarantee our entrance into heaven. Only those who believe in Jesus and surrender their lives to Him and lay their guilt and sins at His feet will gain entrance into the kingdom of God.

“What it means to accept Christ” by A. W. Tozer (1963)

A few things, fortunately only a few, are matters of life and death, such as a compass for a sea voyage or a guide for a journey across the desert. To ignore these vital things is not to gamble or take a chance; it is to commit suicide. Here it is either be right or be dead.

Our relation to Christ is such a matter of life or death, and on a much higher plane. The Bible instructed man knows that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and that men are saved by Christ alone altogether apart from any works of merit.

That much is true and known, but obviously, the death and resurrection of Christ do not automatically save everyone. How does the individual man come into saving relation to Christ? That some do we know, but that others do not is evident. How is the gulf bridged between redemption objectively provided and salvation subjectively received? How does that which Christ did for me become operative within me? To the question “What must I do to be saved?” we must learn the correct answer. To fail here is not to gamble with our souls: it is to guarantee eternal banishment from the face of God. Here we must be right or be finally lost.

To this anxious question evangelical Christians provide three answers, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” “Receive Christ as your personal saviour,” and “Accept Christ.” Two of the answers are drawn verbatim from the Scriptures (Acts 16:31, John 1:12), while the third is a kind of paraphrase meant to sum up the other two. They are therefore not three but one.

Being spiritually lazy we naturally tend to gravitate toward the easiest way of settling our religious questions for ourselves and others hence the formula “Accept Christ” has become a panacea of universal application, and I believe it has been fatal to many. Though undoubtedly an occasional serious-minded penitent may find in it all the instruction he needs to bring him into living contact with Christ, I fear that too many seekers use it as a short cut to the Promised Land, only to find that it has led them instead to “a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.”

The trouble is that the whole “Accept Christ” attitude is likely to be wrong. It shows Christ applying to us rather than us to Him. It makes Him stand hat-in-hand awaiting our verdict on Him, instead of our kneeling with troubled hearts awaiting His verdict on us. It may even permit us to accept Christ by an impulse of mind or emotions, painlessly, at no loss to our ego and no inconvenience to our usual way of life.

For this ineffectual manner of dealing with a vital matter we might imagine some parallels; as if, for instance, Israel in Egypt had “accepted” the blood of the Passover but continued to live in bondage, or the prodigal son had “accepted” his father’s forgiveness and stayed among the swine in the far country. Is it not plain that if accepting Christ is to mean anything there must be moral action that accords with it?

Allowing the expression “Accept Christ” to stand as an honest effort to say in short what could not be so well said any other way, let us see what we mean or should mean when we use it.

To accept Christ is to form an attachment to the Person of our Lord Jesus altogether unique in human experience. The attachment is intellectual, volitional and emotional. The believer is intellectually convinced that Jesus is both Lord and Christ; he has set his will to follow Him at any cost and soon his heart is enjoying the exquisite sweetness of His fellowship.

This attachment is all-inclusive in that it joyfully accepts Christ for all that He is. There is no craven division of offices whereby we may acknowledge His Saviourhood today and withhold decision on His Lordship till tomorrow. The true believer owns Christ as his All in All without reservation. He also includes all of himself, leaving no part of his being unaffected by the revolutionary transaction.

Further, his attachment to Christ is all-exclusive. The Lord becomes to him not one of several rival interests, but the one exclusive attraction forever. He orbits around Christ as the earth around the sun, held in thrall by the magnetism of His love, drawing all his life and light and warmth from Him. In this happy state he is given other interests, it is true, but these are all determined by his relation to his Lord.

That we accept Christ in this all-inclusive, all-exclusive way is a divine imperative. Here faith makes its leap into God through the Person and work of Christ, but it never divides the work from the Person. It never tries to believe on the blood apart from Christ Himself, or the cross or the “finished work.” It believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole Christ without modification or reservation, and thus it receives and enjoys all that He did in His work of redemption, all that He is now doing in heaven for all His own and all that He does in and through them.

To accept Christ is to know the meaning of the words “as he is, so are we in this world” (I John 4:17). We accept His friends as our friends, His enemies as our enemies, His ways as our ways, His rejection as our rejection, His cross as our cross, His life as our life and His future as our future.

If this is what we mean when we advise others to accept Christ we had better explain it to him. He may get into deep spiritual trouble unless we do.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Through the distance ...

I have not given up hope that it will still be you and me in marriage and ministry.“And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” (Gen 31:49)

“Is the Lord going to use in a great way? Quite probably. Is He going to prepare you as you expect? Probably not. And if you’re not careful, you will look at the trials, the tests, the sudden interruptions, the disappointments, the sadness, the lost jobs, the failed opportunities, the broken moments, and you will think, He’s through with me, He’s finished with me, when in fact, He is equipping you.” (The Mystery of God’s Will, by Chuck Swindoll)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Prayers of A.W. Tozer (YouTube video)

A. W. Tozer (sometimes called the “prophet of evangelicalism”) is my favorite writer. The first time I read his work was in the late 1970’s when I got hold of “Gems from Tozer” in the nursery room of Mandaluyong Bible Baptist Church (my childhood church in Nueve de Febrero St. founded by the late BBF missionaries Fred and Lorene Null). I was simply blown away by his insights and writing style. In 1983-84 while teaching at Quezon City Science High School, I bought his books “That Incredible Christian” and “The Root of the Righteous” at twenty pesos each. Years later, my mother gave me a two-volume set of Tozer’s sermons.

This low-res video is from a new 45-minute DVD by Ken Boa and Bill Ibsen with contemplative music by Stanton Lanier. Of the over 40 books written by Tozer (1897-1963), two of his works are regarded as Christian classics: “The Pursuit of God” and “The knowledge of the Holy”. Both books help the reader to cultivate a deeper relationship with the living God, and to view Him in His true majesty and supreme greatness. Tozer’s beautiful yet practical prayers recorded in these two books are presented in this DVD as yet another way to help viewers pray along as they pursue and grow in their personal knowledge of the Holy One.

Tozer was a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and so some of his teachings do not coincide with the Biblical distinctives of Baptists. Keeping this in mind, you will profit from reading Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy” in PDF format or listening to his more than four hundred mp3 sermons. You can also read articles and excerpts from Tozer’s sermons:

What Happened To The Fire On Carmel?

The Dictatorship Of The Routine

Some Things Are Not Negotiable

To All Who Received Him

Better Christians

The Gift Of Prophetic Insight

The Old Cross And The New

How Christ is Revealed

The Divine Conquest

What’s Wrong With The Gospel? (Note: This article might have been written by Keith Green and mistakenly attributed to Tozer)

The Knowledge of The Holy

Prayer of a Minor Prophet

Instant Christianity