The Watchman Report









 

Overture, Curtain, Lights

Loony Tunes in the Church

 

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Rev. 3:17-22

 

Overture, curtain, lights, this is it, the night of nights; no more rehearsing and nursing a part, we know every part by heart. Overture, curtain, lights; this is it you'll hit the heights, and oh what heights we'll hit; on with the show this is it." 

It's a popular tune, one we're all familiar with, bringing back memories of sillier days - and now we have the pictures to go with it... 

 

No longer is the modern church about careful and studious exposition of the Scriptures. No longer is it about the discipleship of the saints. No longer is it about standing apart from the world, its cultures, fashions and trends. No longer is it about obedience to the Great Commission. For the modern church it's all about the numbers, it's all about the wealth, it's all about the comfort, entertainment, musak, lights, ambiance and warm fuzzies. For the modern church it's all about the show. 1

And you are nothing but show-offs! Isaiah the prophet was right when he wrote that God had said, "All of you praise me with your words, but you never really think about me. It is useless for you to worship me, when you teach rules made up by humans."   Matt. 15: 7-9 CEV

 

Waxing creative in the quest for 'more bums in comfy pews' has become a literal obsession for church growth guru's the world over with one trite gimmick after another being employed in order to lure the lost into Laodicea. From the Tampa Tribune, Tampa, Florida (Jan. 21, 2004) entitled, "Church Offers Lure of Almighty Dollar" comes this not so predictable piece of 'evangelistic' spin...

 

"Churches are always asking for money. But we are going to turn it around," said Rev. Tim Dyson of Church Alive in Tampa, FL.  The church plans on giving away checks and gift certificates to newcomers--the most, a check of $2004.00.  Friday evening's event will include clowns, a light show, and music from rock musician Clint Brown.  Dyson says, "It takes creativity to reach out to new members."  This from a minister who roars into services on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  He has delivered sermons from a boat hauled into the sanctuary, and set up a boxing ring to fight demons of drugs and divorce."

Appealing to the flesh to win the spirit... go figure the logic. And this from The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2004:

"For the first time in 10 years, Mary Wilkinson went to church one Sunday in January. She sat in a back pew at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford, Conn., flipping through a prayer book and listening intently to the priest's sermon.

What drew Ms. Wilkinson back into the fold was a new monthly program the church introduced -- Holy Communion for pets. As part of the service, the 59-year-old retired portfolio manager carried her 17-year-old tiger cat to the altar, waited in line behind three panting dogs to receive the host and had a special benediction performed for her cat, Purr Box Jr.

"I like that the other parishioners are animal people," Ms. Wilkinson says. With pews hard to fill, a small number of otherwise-traditional clergy are welcoming animals into the flock. Some are creating pet-friendly worship services, while others have started making house calls for sick animals.

Some are starting to accompany pet owners to the vet when they euthanize a beloved pet. Occasionally, clergy are even officiating at pet funerals and group "bark mitzvahs..."

All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has doubled attendance at its Sunday evening service since it began last summer to invite pets once a month...

Last summer, a member of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford began bringing her King Charles Spaniel on Sunday mornings; soon, several other attendees were regularly bringing their dogs. "They felt that they would be welcomed, because we have long had a blessing of the animals," says Frank Baker, the church's former treasurer".

 

And such like stupidity follows the horse of human wisdom irrespective of the denominational paddock within which it happens to graze. Humanistic, shallow and cheap is an apt description of the church growth ethos as these inane statements from professing 'Christian' architects Tim Blonkvist and Larry Cook clearly demonstrate. Speaking of church building architecture to the Associated Baptist Press, Blonkvist rambles...

 

"It’s God’s calling card - it’s all he has,” said Texas architect Tim Blonkvist. “People are going to make an evaluation based on what they can see before they hear anything. Whether they speak with bold clarity or subdued elegance, church buildings are often the most prominent and persistent gospel message their non-Christian neighbors encounter".

Church buildings are all God has? Excuse me? Notice also that the Gospel according to Blonkvist is not in the Word but in the buildings.

Interested readers may read the entire ABP article HERE

 

As both A.W Tozer and Doctor John MacArthur lucidly articulate in the following two articles, church is nothing like it use to be and as you will see, that is nothing to be proud of.

 

In His Everlasting Embrace

 

Tony Dean

Moriah Ministries Australia

© 2008 


The Great God Entertainment

by A.W.Tozer

A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart, the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.

If this is true (and I believe it is) then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.

Schleiermacher held that the feeling of dependence lies at the root of all religious worship, and that however high the spiritual life might rise, it must always begin with a deep sense of a great need which only God could satisfy.

If this sense of need and a feeling of dependence are at the root of natural religion, it is not hard to see why the great god Entertainment is so ardently worshiped by so many. For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing, however, the all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.

The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.

And the ominous thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men, if they were but worthy to entertain them. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination; and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak. For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was—a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability.

For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.

So, today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God.

Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate "producers" peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day, so much so that not a few persons manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people.

What is natural and beautiful in a child may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion. Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?

"Remember, 0 Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned ! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim."     AMEN. AMEN.

Taken from Root of the Righteous, Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1955, p. 32-33.

 


 

Gimme That Showtime Religion

by
John MacArthur

Can the church fight apathy and materialism by feeding people's appetite for entertainment? Evidently many in the church believe the answer is yes, as church after church jumps on the show-business bandwagon. It is a troubling trend that is luring many otherwise orthodox churches away from biblical priorities.

Church buildings are being constructed like theatres. Instead of a pulpit, the focus is a stage. Some feature massive platforms that revolve or raise and lower, with colored lights and huge sound boards. Shepherds are giving way to media specialists, programming consultants, stage directors, special effects experts, and choreographers.

The idea is to give the audience what they want. Tailor the church service to whatever will draw a crowd. As a result, pastors are more like politicians than shepherds, looking to appeal to the public rather than leading and building the flock God gave them. The congregation is served a slick, professional show, where drama, pop music, and maybe a soft-sell sermon constitute the worship service. But the emphasis isn't on worship, it's on entertainment.

Underlying this trend is the notion that the church must sell the gospel to unbelievers. Churches thus compete for the consumer on the same level as the latest TV reality show or a major motion picture. More and more churches are relying on marketing strategy to sell the church.

That philosophy is the result of bad theology. It assumes that if you package the gospel right, people will get saved. The whole approach is rooted in Arminian theology. It views conversion as fundamentally dependent on an act of the human will. Its goal is an instantaneous, superficial decision rather than a radical change of the heart.

Moreover, this whole Madison-Avenue corruption of Christianity presumes that church services are primarily for recruiting unbelievers. Many have abandoned worship as such. Others have relegated conventional preaching to some small-group setting on a weeknight. But that misses the point of Hebrews 10:24-25: "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together."

Acts 2:42 shows us the pattern the early church followed when they met: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Note that the early church's priorities clearly were to worship God and to edify the brethren. The church came together for worship and edification; it scattered to evangelize the world.

Our Lord commissioned His disciples for evangelism in this way: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:19). Christ makes it clear that the church is not to wait for or invite the world to come to its meetings, but to GO to the world. That is a responsibility for every believer. I fear that an approach emphasizing a palatable gospel presentation within the walls of the church excuses the individual believer from his personal obligation to be a light in the world (Matt. 5:16).

We have a society filled with people who want what they want when they want it. They are into their own lifestyle, recreation, and entertainment. When churches appeal to those selfish desires, they only fuel that fire and hinder true godliness. Some of these churches are growing exponentially while others that don't entertain are struggling. Many church leaders want numerical growth in their churches, so they are buying into the entertainment-first philosophy.

Consider what this philosophy does to the gospel message itself. Some will maintain that if biblical principles are presented, the medium doesn't matter. That is nonsense. Why not have a real carnival? A tattooed knife thrower who juggles chain saws could do his thing while a barker shouts Bible verses. That would draw a crowd. It's a bizarre scenario, but one that illustrates how the medium can cheapen and corrupt the message.

And sadly, it's not terribly different from what is actually being done in some churches. Punk-rockers, ventriloquists' dummies, clowns, magicians, and show-business celebrities have taken the place of the preacher--and they are depreciating the gospel. I do believe we can be innovative and creative in how we present the gospel, but we have to be careful to harmonize our methods with the profound spiritual truth we are trying to convey. It is too easy to trivialize the sacred message.

Don't be quick to embrace the trends of the high-tech super churches. And don't sneer at conventional worship and preaching. We don't need clever approaches to get people saved (1 Cor. 1:21). We simply need to get back to preaching the truth and planting the seed. If we're faithful in that, the soil God has prepared will bear fruit.

© Copyright 2004 by Grace to You. All rights reserved.

 

END NOTES

1. The Paradise Community Church in Adelaide South Australia now refer to their 'services' as 'The Main Event'. We suppose that would make Senior Pastor Ashley Evans either the Ring Master or the Head Clown.

 

HOME