CTT | Don’t Narcigete Your Church, Either

CTTToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post should be fairly short. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, I trust you are familiar with exegesis and eisegesis. If you are not familiar with narcigesis, it is the conflation of narcissism and eisegesis.  There is a great definition of Narcisgesis available at Apprising.org, the work of the late Ken Silva.

NARCIGESIS [nahr- si -jee’ -sis]

[(From: narcissus; 1540–50; < Latin < Greek nárkissos plant name, traditionally connected, by virtue of plant’s narcotic effects, with nárkç numbness, torpor; probably from a pre-Gk. Aegean word, but associated with Gk. narke “numbness” (see narcotic) because of the plant’s sedative effect.) (From: eisegesis; 1890–95; < Greek eisḗgesis, equivalent to eis- into + ( h ) çge- (stem of hçgeîsthai to lead) + -sis -sis {C19: from Greek eisinto, in + -egesis, as in exegesis}.)]

Common Examples of Narcigesis

furtickWe’ll start out simply with Steven Furtick. If you want a case-study on how NOT to exegete a passage of scripture but instead narcigete it, go to any book written by Furtick, or sermon preached by him. The dude wrote an entire book (and sold lots of church bible-study paraphernalia) and preached several sermons based on the narcigesis of Joshua 10:12. One. Verse.

Joshua 10:12 (ESV) At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”

Furtick then encouraged Christians that they should all pray “Sun stand still” prayers. It wasn’t a prayer, we are never taught to pray that way, God had already promised Joshua that battle, and the text itself in (verse 14) clearly states this was a unique and isolated event.

But even if you haven’t heard of Steven Furtick, I’m sure you’ve heard Hillsong’s “Oceans (where feet may fail)”, right? That song narcigetes the story of Jesus walking on the water, suggesting that God is asking each of us to walk on water. He isn’t. Many times the Story of God defeating Goliath is told in such a way that the listener plays the role of David and needs to find his 5 smooth stones, or master a skill in his “down time” doing menial tasks of watching sheep until “such a time” as the LORD would call them to use their skill (sling) to defeat the Goliath in their lives…. see where this is going? Narcegisis points to people… the Scriptures point to Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

The heroes of the Old Testament point us to the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, Jesus Christ. While we should seek to emulate their faith (Hebrews 11), their actions are not always commendable, nor are they a prescription for getting the same results they got. Because their actions didn’t make them chosen, their actions didn’t curry the favor of God, it was their faith. And faith doesn’t come by copying the actions of one of the heroes in the Bible, faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). We’ve said it many times, don’t read yourself into the heroes of the Old Testament. Read yourself into the sinner that needs the Savior, sure… but not at the expense of missing the Truth of Scripture when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by telling them, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:30-47)

Corporate Narcigesis

It happens with churches, too. The most common area where I see this happen, is whenever a church does “a series in Acts”. This isn’t always the case, but it happens a lot more than you’d think. Even in churches claiming to engage in expository preaching. Yes, it is possible to work through a text verse by verse and still engage in Narcigesis… by having a preacher chase rabbit trails and share personal or even corporate anecdotes throughout a sermon. Even if a passage is read aloud in-context at the beginning, a preacher looking to “deepen the congregation’s understanding of the passage” can engage in narcigesis by skipping around proof-texting verses to emphasis a point that isn’t even being made by the text. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, many a small church preacher will read in Acts 2 how 3,000 men were added to the church and how more were being added every day and think that the key to being a blessed church is to grow in numbers. Others will look at the miracles God performed for the lame beggar in Acts 3 and think that the reason the church isn’t seeing such miracles is that we don’t have men of great faith (dare I say audacious) like Peter and John, or that we aren’t all of one heart and soul (ch 4:32) so as a church we need to focus on being more Unified and then the church will be blessed. These are all false-readings. Let’s look at how Luke introduced his work.

Acts 1:1-8 (ESV) | The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Yes, we call the book the Acts of the Apostles… but their acts, clearly defined by Jesus, were to be witnesses of Him. When the Apostles cast lots to select a replacement for Judas Iscariot, they narrowed the field to only those who were fellow witnesses from the beginning. The Apostle Paul was an undisputed witness of Jesus, since his encounter with Jesus produced immediate repentance. Jesus began the work, and He continued the work through His Apostles who were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Promise of the Holy Spirit wasn’t limited to them:

Acts 2:38-41 (ESV)

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying,“Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Had Peter done anything special to earn his calling? No. Was Peter the head of the church? No. Christ is the Head of His Church, and He gave us His Apostles, the last of whom was the Apostle Paul. Don’t read your church into these texts hoping to discover some formula for building a successful church… men do not build Christ’s Church. Peter rejected these notions even as he addressed the men of Jerusalem after God miraculously healed a 40-yr old lame beggar

Acts 3:1-16 (ESV) | The Lame Beggar Healed

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Conclusion

We need to start scrutinizing the rabbit trails and personal anecdotes that have overrun our sermons and bible studies. The occasional anecdote can be helpful in as much as it points to the Scriptures. Too often, however, these anecdotes merely engage the audience in a bit of humor, or tend to highlight the creation rather than the Creator. This needs to stop. It is my sincere belief that the vast majority of those who are guilty of this form of narcigesis do so honestly; meaning they are so caught up in poor methodology and worldly ecclesiology that they’ve bought into the lie that it is up to them to make the Word of God relevant for their hearers. Men, if you start to recognize these trends in your pastor’s sermons… remain humble and gracious, and grant him the benefit of the doubt and ask to speak with him. Women, first speak with your husband and ask him to speak to the Pastor. If you are an unwed woman, ask to speak with the pastor’s wife or the wife of an elder. To everyone, walk in grace and humility, and engage the text, the Word of God. Trust in God the Holy Spirit to open the eyes and ears of His servants. They are your overseers, after all, and they will have to give account for their stewardship.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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