Sponsored in Sun Valley
by the Mormon Church
Mario Murrillo, a well-known and very effective evangelist, had no idea the local newspaper advertisement of his recent visit to Sun Valley, Idaho listed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a sponsor of the event. The ad listed The Church of Jesus Chist of Latter -day Saints along with six Evangelical Churches and two Catholic churches.
Coincidentally (smile) Ed Decker was in Sun Valley that weekend for a wedding. When he picked up the locat newspaper and saw the ad, he became unglued. He called me, related the story and said, "This is insane! This is a slap in the face to every Mormon who ever found their way out of Mormonism into the Body of Christ. It says to them they really didn't need to leave since Mormonism apparently is accepted by all of the Evangelical Churches in Sun Valley."
Ed is right. It was a terrible example of the fuzzy thinking that is infecting the church. It plays into the hands of the Mormon Church which is desperately seeking to find acceptability among the "other" Christian Churches so we will leave them alone to proselytize Christians without opposition. See Why Christians Cannot Afford to Validate Mormonism. I was particularly confused by the ad (which I had Ed FAX to me) because the pastor who set up the meetings (who is one of my friends) called me a few months before the event and left a message on my answering machine saying he was bringing Mario on for "an outreach to Mormons." I in turn got his machine and left a message that I would help in any way I could. Then I didn't hear any more on the subject until my friend Ed called me.
I called a pastor in Sun Valley to ask him about the matter. He said, "I would not have run the ad if it had been up to me. I didn't know about it until after it appeared." However, he did not seem to understand why I was so upset by it. "What would Jesus have done?" he asked. I said Jesus would have welcomed Mormons to the meeting, but He would not have listed them as a sponsor, since they would be his primary targets for conversion.
When I reached the pastor who was in charge of the meeting. He told me the ad had gone in by mistake and that he was "infuriated" that it had run the way it did. That helped me. But it begged a question"How did it happen?" Apparently there was a "miscommunication" between the pastor and his secretary. She ran the ad and evidently modified it to include the Mormons.
Hmmm? Another question"How, in such a sensitive situation, could she have felt free to proceed as she did?" Either she is very bold indeed, or the pastor had not sufficiently apprised her of the sensitive nature of such an act.
As it turns out, the pastor has had lots of contact with Mormon Church leaders leading up to the event. He has taken his congregation, "en masse," to a local Mormon Sunday Service. And he has invited to missionaries and other leaders to his church. The theory in all this is that it is a "Building Bridges of Love" (the tile of the Murillo meeting). It certainly is well-intentioned. As one pastor told me, "If we can get Mormons into a Christian worship service they will see the difference and be won." Well, maybe. But even if that is true, don't we have to examine our methods, as well as our intentions. As one of my mentors used to say to men, "Jesus is as interested in arithmatic as He is in the answer." In other words, he is interested in how we get results.
I see two problems in the methodology of this meeting. First off, if Mormons really were at the heart of the evangelistic effore, it is less than honest to ask them to co-sponsor the meeting. Now, my friend the organizer of the meeting assured me they were never intended to be co-sponsors. But they certainly would not have come out in force, along with prominent leaders, had they been told winning them to Christ was the intent of the meeting. So even if they were not invited as co-sponsors, they must have been invited in such a way as to lead them to believe they were participating in a community event. This is more subtle than Christians ought to be. We do not need to resort to such tacticsin fact such tactics are unChristian and, eventually, counter-productive.
The trumpet we sound must be clear. It is a call to repent and not to so blur the lines that somehow people just "wind up" in the Church. People who come in that way are still not in.
I despair that such fogginess pervades the Church. If we go to the biblical record to observe how Jesus encountered the Pharisees, it was not with subtlety, but with directness. He was transparent. What he was on the inside, He was on the outside.
I know the brothers in Sun Valley love Latter-day Saints and want to reach them. Speaking as one who has led hundreds, if not thousands, of Latter-day saints to Christ, this is not the way to do it.
When I come into a town and do a seminar on Mormonism, Latter-day Saints always show up. Some come in anger, some with questions. But when the come, they hear our clear differences articulated in a loving way.
I fear it is impossible for such a meeting to occur now in Sun Valleyat least in the forseeable future. How can we now run an ad in the paper inviting Mormons to come hear a distinctive Gospel message when we have just declared that they are welcome as co-sponsors of our Evangelical services. We can't. And the Mormon leadership is greatly relieved that the pressure is off.
Mormonism will make hay out of this. Mormon missionaries will carry a copy of the ad in their Books of Mormon to haul out and show unsuspecting "contacts" who say, "But don't the Christian churches in this town see Mormonism a something other than fully within the Christian fold?"
There is something very undiscerning in all this. There is a "dumbing down" of the Evangelical church on many fronts. That dumbing down is no more evident than in our response to the cults in matters like this.