Monday, March 10, 2008

Beware the church of the tares

John MacArthur preached a powerful opening message on church growth at last week's Shepherd's Conference. Below is an excerpt:

The question for us is this: as the Lord builds his church, by what means does he do it? And secondly, has He revealed the means to us? If we undershepherds of Jesus Christ are to be the human instruments to build His church, we need to understand how He does it. We need to get in line with the divine pattern. There are many ways to build the “first church of the tares,” behind which Satan is the real power. It can be done very effectively; it can be big and enduring. The gnostics did it, and it’s still around. The Roman Catholics have done it, the liberals, the cults. They’re all still around.

The church of the tares is actually bigger than the church of the wheat. Even those who call themselves evangelicals today are busy doing it. There are a number of places called “churches,” where tares gather in increasing numbers. The successful assemblies of tares will eagerly market their skills as “tare development.” It can be very seductive to those motivated by pride, numbers, popularity.

If you want to compete with other “tare pastors,” there is ample information, seminars, data on the internet, to work on building your church of the tares with a smattering of wheat. However, if you serve Christ and recognize him as the head and builder of the church, then all you want to know is, “How can I be useful to him in the building of his church?”
May we stay faithful to God's ordained means of growing His church - through prayer, perseverance, purity, and gospel proclamation.

Thanks to
Evers Ding for providing the liveblog for last week's conference. Seminar notes should be posted in the next few weeks, and all general sessions and seminars are available for purchase here.


David said...

mac: "There are many ways to build the “first church of the tares,” behind which Satan is the real power."

I think we should be careful not to accuse something that might be from God as actually being from Satan. To accuse the Bride of being in line with the enemy is a serious charge. I wish he had backed that up more, because it carries serious consequences.

Mark 3:23-29

Stephen Jones said...

David, thanks for your comments. These are strong words to be sure, but I believe they are a fitting reminder. If a church is truly comprised of tares, then the Enemy is the one behind it (Mt 13:25). But as you said, we must be careful of labeling a specific church as a 'church of tares', or a person as a 'tare'. Jesus' whole point was that the wheat and tares are sometimes hard to distinguish on a surface level.

But I think MacArthur's point is that we should not be deliberately filling our churches with unregenerate 'tares' or quick baptisms and thinking that we have somehow succeeded in church growth. MacArthur goes on later to show that 5 out of the 7 churches of Revelation were in seriously bad shape, and were condemned by Christ:

* Ephesus: no love for Christ
* Pergamus: tolerating error/heresy
* Thyatira: comfortable with sin
* Sardis: programs and no life
* Laodicea: the church at room temperature, upsets nobody. Lukewarm. Popular with everyone.

Some of these were dangerously close, if not already guilty, of becoming a 'church of the tares.'