Why Churches Are Forsaking the Gospel for Pragmatism

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

More and more churches are forsaking the gospel to appeal to people’s senses and draw them to the church for the wrong reasons, and it’s called, pragmatism.


More and more churches are watering down or forsaking the gospel to appeal to people’s senses and draw them to the church for the wrong reasons. It’s called pragmatism. Pragmatism is a lot like democracy. If most of the people approve of it, then it must be right. Whatever works best is what’s best for the people, but we know that the ways of a man seem right in their own eyes, but we all know that this way ends in destruction (Prov 21:2). Pragmatism basically teaches that truth is negotiable or popularity wins. Whatever the majority thinks is what must be right. The last thing pragmatists in the church want to hear is preaching about hell or repentance because the majority of people don’t like that. That’s just the way the Word of God acts though as it comforts the afflicted, but it will afflicts the comfortable. The Word of God examines us and drives us to make our election and calling sure and make sure we’re not just “playing church.”

Sweetness or a Stench

The vast majority of people first exposed to the gospel are repulsed by it as first. Very few people respond favorably to the true gospel of Christ. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 2:15 that “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” This won’t work for the pragmatic church, but it is a biblical fact that “to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things” (2 Cor 2:16)? We can perfume the gospel and obscure hell. Half a gospel just won’t work. A half-truth is a whole lie! I’ve never seen a bumper sticker that says, “Repent or Perish.” People are not saved by what they think is best for them but by what God’s Word says. Jesus Himself declared that we must repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15) or face God’s wrath (John 3:18, 36b). That’s not what most people want to hear, but God’s grace will never be important until the wrath of God is revealed (Rev 20:12-15). Without preaching the whole counsel of God, like God’s holy, righteous wrath on unbelievers, the grace of God will seem useless to them. And the church will fill with tares.

Seeker Sensitive

Leading Worship Music at Church Service

I remember going to one church and they were handing out ear plugs to everyone that came in. That meant, I assumed, the music was going to be cranked way, way up! And I was right, but I did not like it. There was 90% music and skits, but only 10 minutes of reading of the Word. And even that was text taken out of context. We are to be seeking the lost, not making sure they’re entertained…and their children are entertained. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy regarding services and it wasn’t about music or skits! Paul commanded the young pastor Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). He didn’t say he was to “entertain, give great music presentations,” or “put on some great skits!” But that’s what the pragmatically focused church is doing. These churches sole purpose is to fill the pews…to fill the parking lot…but not to fill heaven.

Things Jesus Never Said

Some of the ways we present the gospel are not biblical at all. For example, we might say, “Just let Jesus into your heart” or “You need to be baptized and be saved, Accept Jesus” or even “Fill out this decision card and then walk the isle…” Jesus never said such things of course and neither can we. He told all who had ears to hear, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15) or face God’s wrath (John 3:18, 36b). Jesus gave the law to the proud, like the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-27), but gave grace to the lowly and humble, like the woman who was sick (Matt 14:36; Mark 9:20). Jesus never, ever forced Himself on anyone but always said, “Come to Me” whoever is tired and heavily burdened (Matt 11:28-30). Never did He says, “Whatever you think best” or “Whatever works best for you or the people.” No, there is only one way and He is that way (John 14:6), regardless of how people feel about it. Feelings and truth can often be at opposite ends of the spectrum. I find it interesting that almost every time in the Old Testament, the majority was wrong!

Church as a Social Club

If churches only focus on making people happy, they’ve simply became another YMCA; a social club; a place with lots of activities, and these activities are not bad in themselves, but these things are not the reason God draws people to Christ (John 6:44). They cannot change lives. They cannot birth new children of God. We dare not ignore the doctrine of hell, the need to repent (although God grants this [2 Tim 2:24-26] just to build church membership. Jesus taught more on hell than anyone else in Scripture, but scant few preach on that today.


Regardless of what works best for most people, we must first proclaim the bad news of God’s judgment on sinners so that they might run to the cross for forgiveness and put their trust in the Savior. The grace of God is even more beautiful when we see placed over the judgment of God. It’s like a sparkling diamond against the backdrop of black velvet. The contrast makes the diamond even more beautiful, so even though the wrath of God may not be very pragmatic to the hearers, it is the truth. And it makes the mercy of God more relevant; so relevant perhaps that they fall before the Lord and seek His forgiveness and place their full trust in Jesus Christ to save them and grant them eternal life. The outcome may not be a full parking lot but it could be filling heaven.

Here is some related reading for you: What is the Emergent Church? What Do They Believe?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: