I have been posting on and off for six months on the topic of the state of the American church. In July I posted about my experience attending a two-day Beth Moore Living Proof Convention in Charlotte NC. In part two of the series containing my (negative) reaction, I'd written,
"As the lights went down other lights flared up. It was a light show that accompanied the first drum beat. And that percussion was LOUD. I'd estimate they were about 115-120 decibels. Pain begins at 125 decibels. Between the green and red lights sweeping the arena, and the beats that made the floors shake, I was already overwhelmed. And I was only one minute into it. All the women were standing and the captions to the songs were crawling across the jumbo-trons, several of which were stationed adjacent to the stage. The Time Warner Arena doorposts and thresholds shook, and they shook hard. I decided right away that I'd spend Saturday's musical worship time outside the arena in the lobby. The songs were a mixture of contemporary praise and hymns, but the hymns were blended into the contemporary. So as we were singing a modern song it would blend into an old-fashioned one. I don't even remember, now which songs were sung, because I was too overcome by the noise and the lights. The session lasted about 20 minutes and it had a mood all its own. The cadence would begin slow and soft, and rise and rise to a climactic moment when those drum beats would shake the house, and then slowly descend back into soft. This method was repeated several times. Rather than be moved by the music, I had a bad emotional and spiritual reaction."
I know that people may think I'm a fuddy duddy for writing that. People say 'New generations listen to new music', 'it's only music', 'people can be discriminating about the lyrics', etc etc. But it is a bad trajectory. It is becoming more common than not as a method of worship. It is becoming more accepted as worship.
I came across the following video of church worship. They did not take place in a convention hall during a one-time workshop as Beth Moore's event was. These are in church. This is Steven Furtick's Elevation Church: (video HT Do Not Be Surprised)
If you can't watch video, here is a screen shot from one of the moments:
I have not been a church-goer for all that long. I came to faith in Jan 2004 and didn't begin going to church until 18 months later, in Oct 2006 when I moved to GA. I've attended two Baptist churches in that time, five revivals, several Kay Arthur bible studies and two ladies retreats. I've taught children's bible study on Wednesday nights the entire time, I've taught the Good News Club for two years, led the church's Sunday School program, and also taught Vacation Bible School for four years. I've led an adult small home bible study for its 8 month course. It's a lot in five and a half years but not so much that I have the same perspective of a long-term Christian. However, because of the shortness of the time I've been involved in different ministries, I've come to it with no preconceived church cultural view, and I've been dismayed at several things.
As a teacher for my profession, I'm used to over-developed curricular materials. I was dismayed to find the same problem in church curriculum. In all the materials I've been given, there are a host of activities, games, and side-tracking bustle that could not possibly be completed in the half hour or one hour time frame most children's bible study is designed for. Vacation Bible School (VBS) was a surprise for me. The energy and money spent on elaborate decorations, curricular materials, food and crafts was a shock. There are constant songs with elaborate lyrics and dance moves. I& believe the ever increasing complexity and distraction of VBS materials directly mirrors what we see in Youth Ministries and now at last, in regular church for adults. I felt somewhat a rebel when I was asked to teach VBS and I emphasized that all I wanted was an empty room, a bible, and a bunch of kids. No songs, no props, no nothing. It is a beautiful thing when you teach the bible to children, they soak it up and they are a LOT more sophisticated in their questions and their thinking. In every activity or ministry, from small group to church sanctuary, I believe Jesus should be central with minimal distractions. For children and youth especially for the very reason they are bombarded with multimedia all day every day. Quieting things down for them to study the bible should be a no-brainer. Instead, we ramp it up.
Here is something speaking to the issue I'd written about regarding dignity at the pulpit:
"I enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone. I love fun, a good time, and yukking it up. However, I do not believe those things are appropriate for church, for bible study, for ecclesiastical conferences, or for prayer meetings. The call to dignity is both overt and inferred in the scriptures."
So Ed Young brings a bed onto the pulpit.
Ed Young wrote of the event, "Thursday night, we have an opportunity to share God’s BIG TRUTH about BIG SEX with an international audience! I say “we” because this is our chance as a church to join together and pray for God to connect His truth to culture in a unique fashion."
So a bed AND television cameras. Talk about inciting the senses.
Ed Young said his approach was in "unique fashion..." Beware the pastors who are proud of using "unorthodox approaches." Like, Jesus needs unorthodox approaches? What happened to the orthodox approaches? Why do pastors feel the need to re-write the orthodox approach that Jesus laid down in the bible, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17) to a man-made UNorthodox approach? I soundly criticize "unorthodox approaches." They are unnecessary. Why?
Because "By mouth you hear the Gospel and then believe." (Acts 15:7). "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" (Galatians 3:2). "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16). That verse, means that the singing is supposed to proffer truth set to music as a kind of teaching. We should be singing with both the spirit and the mind so as to produce understanding. (1 Corinthians 14:15-16).
Introducing salacious thoughts into people's minds by using ALL CAPS to highlight the word 'sex', placing the bible on the podium where a bed is also displayed, are all beyond the pale.
You may be thinking, "MY church would never do that. I attend a solid Southern Baptist Church/Evangelical Methodist/Lutheran...etc church." But are "unorthodox approaches" being introduced even now? Apostasy is a slippery slope. "The ride down this slippery slope can begin very slowly, and with very subtle and seemingly harmless compromises. ... Apostasy often begins by subtly de-emphasizing the fact that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God." (source). THIS is where 'unorthodox approaches' lead to:
Can 'Small' Doctrinal Compromises Lead to Large-Scale Disaster?
"Jesus warned His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” By this, He meant their heretical doctrine (Matthew 16:5-12). Their doctrine, like much that is found in today's Evangelical church, was founded primarily on two false principles: preaching a counterfeit salvation by adding works to faith, and debasing the authority of Scripture by subordinating it to the words of fallible men. Why was it necessary for even these men, the twelve who were closest to Christ, to "beware”? It was because they were men of sinful flesh, as we are. It is easy to be deceived."
In that same article, Dr. Paul Elliott goes on to say,
"The word that perhaps best describes error in the church is one seldom used today: It is pernicious. ... Once error is accepted in one area of foundational doctrine, departure from the truth in other areas becomes probable. ... Compromise may have small beginnings, but it is like the breaching of a great dam. The breach may begin as a fingertip-sized hole allowing only a trickle to pass. But left to itself, the breach opens ever wider. The trickle eventually becomes a flood, and those responsible for the original breach are powerless to stop it. They themselves are often swept away, and others with them. Or, the flood of error may not come until after those who were originally responsible pass from the scene. But the damage will be done to succeeding generations."
"Unorthodox approaches" ...the breaching of a dam that leads to apostasy.
If you notice your church straying from doctrine at the pulpit in small ways, beware. It starts small. It ends with a retina-burning laser light show and a bed on the stage.
But remember, the Lord will not lose any one of His sheep. "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." (2 Timothy 2:19). Paul's statement came on the heels of the previous verses that decried the false teachings of ones like Philetus and Hymenaeus, whose doctrines were like gangrene already infecting the church. He wrote the letter in approximately AD 67, where witnesses to the resurrection were still alive. If the first generation church could fall prey to false teachings and "men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some," (2 Tim 2:18) then imagine the apostasy of our generation 2000 years later and our going away from the faith. Paul was in jail and knew this letter were likely his last words. He was tired, lonely and felt abandoned. Yet his focus was on Timothy and the next generation church, because Paul knew the strength of the Holy Word.
"Paul encourages Timothy to remain passionate for Christ and to remain firm in sound doctrine (2 Timothy 1:1-2, 13-14). Paul reminds Timothy to avoid ungodly beliefs and practices and to flee from anything immoral (2 Timothy 2:14-26). In the end times there will be both intense persecution and apostasy from the Christian faith (2 Timothy 3:1-17). Paul closes with an intense plea for believers to stand firm in the faith and to finish the race strong (2 Timothy 4:1-8)." (source)
"It is easy to get side-tracked in the Christian life. We have to keep our eyes on the prize—being rewarded in heaven by Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 4:8). We must strive to avoid both false doctrine and ungodly practices. This can only be accomplished by being grounded in our knowledge of God’s Word and firm in our refusal to accept anything that is unbiblical." (source)
"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." (2 timothy 2:21-22).
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