I might just ruffle some feathers here. I recognize that I’m going against the tide. I feel almost like Micaiah going against Ahab and the 400 prophets in 1 Kings 22. So read on with your peril!
I was reading the other day about the Populist Party which was begun in the U.S. around the 1890s. It was established because they felt that the political parties of the day, called the “elites,” were overlooking the “needs” of the common man.
I can’t help but wondering if we’ve arrived at this same place in U.S. church history. Has the post-modern church planter of today become the “elitist” establishment? With every pastor dressing alike—every foyer offering coffee, donuts and more—every auditorium outfitted with black ceilings, flashing colored lights, offering a concert-like atmosphere—and I almost forgot, no Bibles. Aren’t they all the same?
I realize that this is the accepted wisdom of the day, but isn’t it time for some fresh thinking? What are we doing, how are we doing it and what do we hope to accomplish in our church services? Are we truly equipping the people of God to face eternity or, rather, to just have a “happy life” and live for now? Has our focus been “lost in earthly culture?” Is this the new syncretism—merging the secular with the spiritual? Thousands may come, but to what end? Has the time of the post-modernists passed?
I saw an article about a pastor whose head was half-shaved, covered with tattoos, scruffy-bearded and wearing a cuffed shirt; thousands are coming to his services. Now before you jump all over me, I think that for him, if this is what God has called him to do, so be it. There certainly is biblical precedence in 2 Kings 1:8: “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” But is this now going to be the new normal? Our adequacy must come from God and not the outward accoutrements that are prevalent today.
A while ago, having a Sunday off, we decided to visit another church in a nearby city. The service began with two songs that really said nothing about God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Then there was a short clip from the movie Scrooged followed by a five-minute message on “How to have friends.” We were then told to go back to the foyer and get some hot chocolate or whatever, a donut, and bring it back into the auditorium. Then there were two more nebbish songs, another clip from the same movie, followed by a wrap up of the message.
We left feeling completely empty. Why would anyone get up, get dressed and go out for something like this? What needs were met? Who felt challenged to develop any fruit of the Spirit? What seeds of morality, faith, honor or other biblical truths were sown? Are we “feeding their bodies and starving their souls?” Where was the “refreshing of the heart” spoken about by Paul in the book of Philemon? Our country, our churches and our families (what’s left of them) are divided like Israel of old over the direction of the church in America.