In my previous blog post, I proposed that pragmatism has infected much of the church and how things are ran in the church.  This article will continue with that thought of how many modern evangelical churches have taken the “whatever works” approach.

Mark Dever has a website called which is based of his book Nine Marks of a Heathy Church.  One article on the website discusses pragmatism in the church, “Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere” written by Andy Johnson.[1]  He gives three “worrisome signs” of a pragmatic philosophy to missions: arguing from results rather than exegesis, emphasizes the number of “conversions” over personal faithfulness, and assuming the Bible is silent about the “how” about evangelism and church planting. Johnson’s first point, based on the popularity of certain mission books, is that the main method of missions today is focused on the results rather than on biblical exegesis.  He gives an example from a couple of evangelical works on how they grow their churches by strategic methods rather than Scripture in order to gain more numbers, which is his second point.  Johnson points out that the Bible’s main focus when it comes to believers is not the number of followers, rather the faithfulness of the current ones.2  He states that people seem to think in numbers and not biblical faithfulness.  The third sign of pragmatism in missions is when missionaries claim that the Bible tells them what to do, but not how to do it; thus leaving the method up to the missionary to do as he pleases.  This is extremely dangerous to the task of global missions.  Andy sums up the philosophy of pragmatism by making the observation that when passionate evangelism is divorced from passionate biblical faithfulness, most of the time it results in the loss of the gospel message.3

Whenever people go overseas and share the gospel, or even the next door of their neighborhood, focusing on the number of people who claim to have gotten saved rather than “teaching them all that [Christ] commanded,” nominal religious persons are created; regenerated followers of Christ are not born.  Often times, one can hear the emphasis of numbers in a conversation with evangelists, pastors, and even laymen.   Many young evangelicals who recently return from a short term mission trip speak about how many people got saved because they prayed a prayer, or they said that they believe in Jesus and understand the gospel.  Just because someone professes the name of Jesus Christ and says they believe does not mean that they are saved.  Jesus made the statement in Matthew 7:21-23 that not everyone who claimed him and showed evidence of effective ministry will enter into the kingdom of heaven because they did not in fact know Christ as the propitiation of their sin.  Those who still practice lawlessness and have not repented of their sins and believe in the gospel will not enter into heaven.  While their ministry might have shown powerful fruit, the men themselves showed no personal fruit of salvation in their lives, revealing that they were never saved in the first place.

Mark Dever said he wrote his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church as “a plan for recovering biblical preaching and church leadership as a time when too many congregations are languishing in a notional and nominal Christianity, with all the resulting pragmatism and pettiness.”4  He states that the focus of too many evangelical churches have exchanged the call of glorifying God above all else with the goal of growing their numbers.  This leads to the church looking like the world, which is something that believers are called not to do.5

David Platt also comments on the modern church, “Oftentimes, with the best of motives, we do whatever it takes to attract as many people as possible to the church. Almost unknowingly, however, we subtly compromise God’s Word in our efforts to supposedly reach the world.  As we draw people into the church, we end up polluting the very church we are drawing them into.”6  He follows by stating this mindset also bleeds into missions and parachurch organizations as they plant churches with an unbiblical understanding of how church is to be run.

“Could it be that, despite our formal commitment to the Bible’s inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency, many in the work of evangelical missions have… actually become evangelical pragmatists?”7 This was one of Andy Johnson’s final closing remarks in his 9Marks journal article.  It seems as if this is happening in the church and missions today.  Church members and missionaries are claiming to hold the idea of sola scriptura, the sufficiency of Scripture alone as the source of their authority, while in practice they are seeking unbiblical methods of evangelism in order to grow the number of decisions made.  However, it is not like missionaries or other believers are doing this on purpose (hopefully at least).  Most likely, the case is that there is “a collection of unchallenged assumptions, with a culture, a disposition, and an unspoken worldview.”8  Many genuine evangelical missionaries are not meaning to substitute extrabiblical means and methods for the Scriptures; nonetheless they certainly do in practice.  It would be wise for all Christians to check themselves to see whether they seek out a pragmatic philosophy or not.  This is a vital issue that is rarely discussed or even noticed because people do not want to admit that their church, or maybe even themselves, might practice a pragmatic philosophy of ministry and missions.  But, this must be addressed and asked of ourselves because pragmatism is in fact infecting our churches and missions.


  1.  Andy Johnson, “Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere,” 9Marks (02/26/2010): 1, accessed November 10, 2014,
  2.  Cf. Deut. 6:4-13; Matthew 19:16-26. 22:22:34-40; 1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 1:14-16; the “overcomer” verses in Revelation 2-3.
  3. Andy Johnson, “Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere,” 9Marks (02/26/2010): 1, accessed November 10, 2014,
  4.  Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, third ed. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 29.
  5.  Cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16 and 1 John 2:15-17.
  6. Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, third ed. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 9-10.
  7.  Andy Johnson, “Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere,” 9Marks (02/26/2010): 1, accessed November 10, 2014,
  8. Ibid.