At a time when the American church is undergoing seismic changes, one threat is particularly insidious, argues renowned scholar, professor and radio host Michael Brown.
“It is widespread,” says Brown, whose new book “Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message” has become a sensation among evangelicals. “Primarily the main teachers and preachers associated with this are in Pentecostal and charismatic circles. One major leader told me this is the biggest issue they are dealing with in their churches.”
A hyper-grace approach to ministry typically emphasizes the love and forgiveness of God at the expense of His holiness and justice.
Writing in Charisma magazine, Joseph Mattera agrees with Brown about the unbalanced teaching sweeping American churches.
“Whole churches and movements have oriented themselves to a distorted understanding of the gospel by espousing a ‘hypergrace’ approach that trickles down to not only what they preach but who they allow to minister and teach,” he writes, noting he was told there is even a new television station devoted to “this view of ‘grace.”
Mattera said many churches and preachers “refuse to take a stand against sin and rarely if ever mention the need for repentance or topics like hell and judgment.”
“Many of these same churches,” he says, “allow people to minister in music, as small group leaders and even as ministers with no personal accountability, while looking the other way when they are living sexually immoral lives and regularly engaged in drunkenness!”
Brown, a biblical scholar and founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry, is concerned the spread of the hyper-grace message is not confined to charismatic and Pentecostal communities.
“You’ll have Baptist pastors interested because it leads with their once-saved-always-saved views. Then from Tulsa to the Philippines, people are asking how to deal with this,” Brown told WND. “The balance that must be achieved is, in dealing with the error, we cannot hurt the message of grace.
“I see it as symptomatic – as our society in the whole – in that we often have a narcissistic mentality that the gospel starts with me and is here to please me. That’s not what hyper-grace teaches exactly, but to the extent that God can’t make me uncomfortable, to the extent we embrace that mentality, it contributes greatly to the problem,” he said.
Brown knew he was taking on a controversial subject, given the fact that many evangelical churches are now presenting a “softer” message to encourage “seekers” attend church.
Brown said there has been a lot of opposition as well as support for his book.
“About exactly what I expected,” he said. “I knew that to some people, I was touching their precious little baby, so to speak. But the book is written that grace is exalted; it’s for grace lovers and not grace haters.”
Brown, a Jewish believer, says he was born again as a drug-addicted, “hippy rock drummer.” His concern for the lost is such that he had to address the hyper-grace controversy, which be believes has strong implications for hoped-for revival.
“Absolutely, hyper-grace can be a problem,” he told WND. “On the positive side, those hearing a true message of grace are getting refreshed and revitalized. On the larger level, though, I absolutely see the hyper-grace message as antithetical to genuine revival. When you talk about the need to repent, sin in the camp, seeking God – these are all received negatively in the hyper-grace camp. For many, many reasons it can be antithetical to revival.”
Brown cites ministry leaders Joseph Prince and John Crowder as among the most popular hyper-grace proponents.
In Chapter 9 of “Hyper-Grace,” Brown discusses Crowder, a self-described “advocate of mystical Christianity.”
“Actually this type of teaching resurfaces on a regular basis. Trace it back 50 years, 100 years, and church leaders were dealing with hyper-grace. One of the claims is that it is new revelation, and John Crowder represents a much smaller sphere of influence, but he’s also stated that after you read his books you want to throw out other books and not listen to your preacher. Claims like that need to be examined very carefully.”