I don't know why I keep feeling so drawn to South Mountain Community Church for such frequent checks and investigations, but I do.
Maybe it's the fact that they're the only Christian church I've found so far that actually teaches tithing is a commandment of God for Christians today and that it's taught in the New Testament. And I can't stand it.
Maybe it's because so many people came out when we posted their first Church Check and insisted we were misunderstanding them and not giving them a fair assessment, so we keep going back to re-evaluate just to make sure we're not missing anything.
Maybe I have a special disdain for money serving in the Church, and SMCC just gives me really bad money serving vibes.
Whatever it is, I was drawn in once again by the new sermon series that SMCC started this week, called "Gospel-ish". I saw yet another red flag of money serving within the first sermon itself, and I had to share.
So, here we go!
Speaker: Rick Henderson
Date: September 29, 2019
Series Thesis: “Gospel-ish sounds right, but is always wrong.”
Is the sermon topical or a verse by verse study through the Bible?
Topical. As is usual for SMCC. And as usual for CMC, we don’t care too much for topical sermons, especially with churches that we already have experience with in avoiding any in-depth or meaty Bible study.
Not only do topical sermons like this one avoid real Bible study or discussion, but they also dumb down church and create Christians that can't tolerate any real in-depth Bible study if and when they're ever exposed to it.
Is it Biblical? How frequently is the Bible used? Is it interpreted in context or twisted to fit the narrative of the sermon?
Well, as usual with SMCC’s online sermons, the video begins with Paul Robie asking for your money to support the church. This isn’t a clear preaching of tithing. I just happen to know they do preach tithing as a commandment of God for Christians today, so this only reminds me of that, and how unbiblical it is.
But let’s get to the sermon: An introduction to SMCC’s new sermon series, Gospel-ish.
The premise is actually biblical, which is simply this: we need to understand the Gospel fully and truthfully, not “sort of,” or “kind of,” or “maybe.” We need to know what the Gospel actually is, not something that’s “Gospel-ish”.
I really, truly...love it.
The Bible is used a few times throughout this 30 minute sermon. The passages used are the following:
Jude 1:3-4 (the main Scriptural support for this sermon)
As for whether the Bible verses referenced in this sermon are being read contextually or taken out of context, that’s a different story.
Rick reads Jude 1:3-4 and then summarizes a point that he thinks Jude is making:
“...he’s saying, you are accountable...for what you tolerate. You’re accountable for what you tolerate in church, you’re accountable for what you tolerate in your small group...in your home, in your thinking and in your attitudes. He’s saying don’t be passive…”
He continues, “...Now the reason that this is such a big deal is because Gospel-ish attracts us, it feels good, but it doesn’t save us.”
Amen! I agree with everything said so far. Just as Jude says, we should contend for the faith and defend the true Gospel, not these messages of "gospel-ish" that dilute, twist, and pervert the Gospel.
The problem arises when Rick turns the discussion to money…*sigh*.
He says this: “...There are two major rivals against Jesus for what’s going to be the authority and the leadership of our life. And those two rivals are money and sex…”
He talks about how Christians in the past were stingy sexually and liberal financially. But today, Christians have become liberal sexually and stingy financially.
He says, “...modern Christians who have been subtelly infected by Gospel-ish are liberal sexually and stingy financially. And if you’re wondering, ‘man, do I have a little Gospel-ish in me,’ that might be an area to look to, to see if that’s in you…”
In my opinion, Rick is mentioning money specifically to guilt Christians into believing they’re being “Gospel-ish” so they'll give more money to the church. I don’t know. Just an idea.
Anyway, he continues, “To embrace what the gospel is, you must abandon gospel-ish.”
And let me guess. In order to abandon Gospel-ish, we must abandon all financial stinginess and become a “growing giver” at SMCC?
Well, this is what Rick says. “...any view of life that minimizes your responsibility and your accountability is almost certainly wrong…”
Perhaps we should have started this sermon with an idea of what the Gospel actually IS, because things are getting foggy for me now. This statement sounds right, but may actually be wrong...I think this idea that anything that minimizes our accountability is wrong, is...Gospel-ish!
Why? Because whether the legalists who want to maintain control, authority, and power over their congregations like it or not, the Gospel DOES in fact minimize our responsibility. How? Through Jesus Christ! He took it on for us, remember?
Though we are held accountable to God through Jesus Christ and our own convictions by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are now free in Christ. Free from the Law, free from condemnation, and free from the tyranny that is legalism and organized religion.
Freedom in Christ (The Gospel) = Accountability/responsibility to God through Jesus alone
Slavery to the Law ("Gospel-ish") = Accountability/responsibility to God through the Law, the Pharisees, the High Priest, and other men of authority.
Christ (Gospel) = Imputed righteousness from Christ Himself and the power of the Holy Spirit within us/God working in us.
Law (Gospel-ish) = Self-righteousness through our own works and obedience to the written Law through our flesh and the effort of our own will
While we remain accountable before God, we are no longer accountable to the authority of men or the Law of the Old Covenant. We are no longer enslaved and trapped by our own unrighteousness, but free in Christ. We are no longer bound to the religious laws, institutions and traditions such as animal sacrifice and the Mosaic Law. We have been set free.
Eventually, Rick gets into what the Gospel is, at least according to SMCC. He says it goes like this:
The sermon ends with this bottom line:
“Gospel-ish says God exists for us. The Gospel says we exist for God.”
Yes, absolutely. And let me elaborate on that. We exist for GOD, not the local church, not our pastor, not our bishop, our priest, or our church elders and deacons. We exist for GOD and we are accountable to GOD.
Your local church is not God. They exist for Him too, and that means they’re accountable to Him too, and that means all this money talk Rick likes to do about how modern Christians shouldn’t be so stingy with their money applies to him and his church too. So how stingy is SMCC with their money?
We don’t know, because they won’t tell us. Where’s the accountability there? Where’s the responsibility SMCC has to be good stewards of God’s money and be transparent with what they’ve been given in His name?
But let’s not lose ourselves. Back to the sermon.
Rick ends the sermon by bringing up sex and money again.
“...maybe just maybe, if we pause long enough, we’d say, ‘when it comes to the area of money and when it comes to the area of sex, I’m kind of resisting accountability. I’m trying to keep some stuff on the low'…”
Again, you’re not accountable to the local church for your financial decisions. You are accountable to God, and what you do with your money is between you and Him, not you and anyone else, including your church.
To get back to the point of this question about the sermon, however, while the premise is biblical, the execution veers into topics that show money-serving in this church and shaming Christians for being too “stingy,” touching on the Gospel message itself about as much as the topic of money and sex.
Additionally, the few Scriptures used are taken out of context and not studied contextually at all.
What’s at the heart of the sermon? The Bible, the gospel, God, Jesus, or something else?
While it seems to be the Gospel is at the heart of this sermon, I don’t like the subtle and multiple mentions of money within the sermon, as if that has anything to do with the Gospel at all. This is only the introduction to the series, so I expect the following weeks will get deeper into the topic of the Gospel itself. This week, however, was a pretty diluted, vague, and light serving of the Gospel, but the heart did indeed seem to be in the right place: with the Gospel.
Were you fed the Word of God, or the words of men?
There were moments of the Word, but as with so many other topical sermons we’ve heard, the Word ended up being diluted and neglected in favor of the ideas, words, and teachings of men, rather than the Word of God itself.
The Word that I did get was very light and milky. That is very typical of SMCC in my experience. Even the explanation of what the Gospel actually is was extremely vague, nor did the pastor use Scripture to support his list of “Gospel features.”
Final Thoughts: SMCC is Gospel-ish
While the premise and point of this sermon series actually seems Biblical to me, with a heart for the Gospel, I would argue that SMCC is guilty of the very thing they’re warning Christians against here: Being Gospel-ish.
To give some examples of how SMCC is actually “Gospel-ish” in its teachings, one only needs to look at the few posts we’ve written on them in the past.
The last Sermon Check-Up we did for SMCC Draper revealed a disturbing exclusion of a very particular verse during a sermon where the pastor quoted Matthew 11:28-29, but left out verse 30. Read more about why this is a big problem by going to the post on this sermon.
SMCC’s claims to believe in and preach the Gospel are clear, and yet they also preach the Law claiming tithing is actually commanded by God of Christians. Tithing is not part of the Gospel. This is a Gospel-ish teaching, and some would argue, even anti-Gospel. Read the discussion I had with SMCC Draper on their Facebook Page on tithing as well as our refutation of their Position Paper on tithing to get a better idea of why this is such a problem.
Aside from the fact that SMCC fails to really feed the Word here, they do have a sermon (an entire sermon series actually) that has a foundation and premise that is biblical and focused on the Gospel. I have to give them credit where credit is due.
The problem is that they don’t practice what they preach. Or rather, they seem to preach against their own preaching. How can a church really proclaim to preach the Gospel while at the same time preaching the Law of tithing?
I don’t know...but let me know what your thoughts are! Is SMCC Gospel-ish, or am I totally misunderstanding their teachings, church checkers?