Daily Archives: April 23, 2014
EASTER AND CHRISTMAS are those two sentimental occasions of the year where millions of people professing faith ‘spiritually’ come alive. For all of the other three-hundred and sixty-three days remaining, it is quite another scenario; finding that ‘spiritual’ pulse, in true fellowship, may be compared to searching for a lost diamond on a beach in high tourist season.
I asked a young cashier, who attended the recent Easter service at her church, if the people there that morning were spiritually risen from the dead, to which she replied, “I didn’t really enjoy the service; the program wasn’t organised; it really wasn’t together…church should be fun, that’s what it’s all about.” That happened to come from a pastor’s son’s fiancé. “Church should be fun, that’s what it’s all about”
Bearing in mind that a young generation’s understanding of words are somewhat interpreted differently to say twenty or thirty years ago, words like ‘wicked’ now mean ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’; words that used to imply something vulgar and derogatory are now classed as endearments of friendship and affection. So what does ‘fun’ mean nowadays, especially in a church setting? Is it another way of saying that the presence of God was great? To say that society is progressing is oftentimes questionable, especially when it comes to communication. Slang is now considered accepted and even good English. English used to be rich in dignified and regal vocabulary, just like handwriting used to be an art form in correspondence; now it is abysmal to see most of society efficient in computer technology that cannot even hold a pen properly, let alone write in an intelligible way that would make Egyptian hieroglyphics less painstaking to decipher.
In a ‘Christian’ environment, nowadays, fun is no more than mere entertainment. It is no different from an adrenaline rush you feel coursing through your body when attending a U2 concert (as a neighbour of mine once likened it to a revival!!), finals in the football (soccer) World Cup, all-nations Rugby Grand Slam or the final episode in the latest cult TV series that everyone harps on about and treats more serious than the real world we live in.
My wife stumbled upon this article (which I’ve posted below) the other day and from whatever perspective this was written with, it nevertheless accurately depicts and sums up what comprises much of the modern church today:
“Celebrating Easter with Manna Church was more like a sporting event or rock concert than a church service.
Complete with smoke machines, lighting programs, and some serious sound from the church’s praise bands, the show brought together nearly 6,500 church and community members to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus so pivotal to the Christian faith.
Senior Pastor Michael Fletcher told the crowd that church leadership really wanted the approximately 8,000 church members to be able to experience the whole family together.
“It’s like having phone calls with family members and not being at the reunion,” he said after the service.
Stuart Williams, a 15-year-old church member who attends Methodist University campus, said he was glad to have the entire membership be able to celebrate the holiday as one whole family instead of scattered among multiple services at the church’s five campuses.
“It’s always good to have people around you that share the same ideas and beliefs as you,” Stuart Williams said. “You feel more comfortable to express yourself and enjoy it.”
And this Sunday, instead of a couple hundred fellow worshippers, he had several thousand.
The Easter service, which featured NFL Hall of Famer Darrell Green and Arizona Cardinals running back and Manna Church member Jonathan Dwyer, also featured a little pre-game crowd warm-ups. Pastors dressed in NFL jerseys, and some, along with the Easter Bunny, threw miniature footballs into the seats as the crowd cheered.
Dwyer, on stage in a one-on-one conversation with Teaching Pastor Chris Shinnick, said the greatest thing that happened to him was getting let go by the Pittsburgh Steelers last year.
“It made me change,” he said. “It made me grow stronger with God. It made my relationship with my wife grow closer. … It made me tougher mentally, physically, spiritually.”
Green spoke to the audience about the difference between inspiration and revelation.
“We live off inspiration every day of our lives,” he said, noting people get inspired to start businesses, join the military, do a variety of things every day. “But there’s a difference when revelation comes, when something is revealed by God,” he said. “That’s the exciting part of our lives.”
Delving into the theme of the service – “Finished” – Fletcher wrapped up the service with a recounting of Jesus’ final hours through his crucifixion and proclamation that “It is finished.”
That simple statement, Fletcher said, is the basis of the Christian faith, that Jesus died to once and for all pay for the sins of humanity.
An Easter service like Manna’s at the Crown Coliseum is a major production. Setup began in the wee hours of Saturday morning and involved a fair amount of rehearsal on the part of the participants. Fletcher said he and other church members will take a brief break after the event but by next Monday will be reviewing Sunday’s event and begin looking ahead to next Easter.
But this aspect of production, of energetic worship services led by full bands is common at Manna’s weekly services. The average age of the church’s membership is 29, and the methods clearly appeal to the younger members.
It’s what draws Jenna Hartley, 17, to services at the Cliffdale campus.
“It’s not boring music, and it kind of grabs your attention,” she said. The energy Sunday morning, she said, was amplified with thousands of positive people in one place.
And while the high production value of the Easter show appeals to many members, at the core is the message, said Jason Bilodeau, 42, who attends services at the Cliffdale campus.
“It’s a Bible-based church,” he said. “Some of this flash and dance might appeal to the younger crowd, but whatever it takes to get them in and get their souls saved, that’s the bottom line.”
And on Sunday, the church may have grown even larger. Nearly 600 people responded to the church’s invitation to commit their lives to Jesus, Fletcher said.
“I’d say it was a big win.”
Many of us remember what Leonard Ravenhill said, “Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy in the Holy Ghost.” Notice he said, “joy in the Holy Spirit” Much of the joy encountered in churches today is no different from the joy and thrills attained by those living in sexual immorality, debauchery and robbery. It may be a joy but it is nowhere near the complete joy only to be found in Christ. The world’s kind is a fallen joy; it is marred and spoiled and the world reveals its depravity by being more than content to drink filthy water; society rightly protests when tap water is contaminated, but they’re thrilled to drink it spiritually.
Today’s youth may well be different to those of forty years ago; they are easily bored; nothing much will hold their attention for long periods of time, unless of coarse it involves intensified excitement and the rush of the adrenaline, but that never entails God will change and accommodate the disposition that demands an immediate fix; God will not lower himself to entertain or introduce the latest fad and neither will He appeal to their senses swayed by the world in order to keep them interested. The terms of discipleship are applicable to the young as they are to the middle aged and old. We may well have advanced, but God does not change and His glory will grind any sophisticated age to dust. Our generation has forgotten how infinitely big God is and much of the reason as to why that is the case is because man has relied upon worldly methods to reach society with the Gospel. We have not only allowed but have also heartily endorsed the devilish influence of being culturally relevant in order to be effective in our proclamation of Jesus Christ. It is the lack of encountering the power of the Gospel itself and the disbelief of its sufficiency to turn hearts unto God. Put a leader who knows God – not just the letter of God’s Word – among a lost people to preach the God that he knows and you will see results this world can never manufacture. God’s ways are certainly not our ways. How leaders have foolishly leaned upon their own understanding. How is it that an age that is more biblically educated has become the most apostate? It’s an absolute insult to God to coax the youth into the church by what appeals to them. Any church relying on worldly bait to gain a young generation fails to knows the power of God.
Making church fun is one of the greatest anathemas of the 21st century. Were the people of Israel having fun at the foot of Mount Sinai when God came near? When the glory of the Lord was manifested, did Isaiah have fun when he cried out, “…I’m undone”? When Moses drew near to the burning bush, did he pull out marshmallows to roast for S’mores to ‘hang out’ with God? Did Ezekiel ‘chill’ in the presence of God? Did John on Patmos stand irreverently when the Son of God appeared before him in all of His glory? Read the accounts of such men and I defy you to show me where they treated God with casualness and impropriety. There is something greatly missing in our churches today; we don’t have overfamiliarity; we have thousands upon thousands of people that don’t know God. It is not about having fun when considering the glories concerning the Great I Am and when it comes to the Judgement seat of Christ, it will be no ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (add in your own nation) but an earth-shattering awakening.
What the true Gospel entails is hardly proclaimed or heard among the youth; instead they are betrayed and won over with lies. A.W. Tozer’s words poignantly speaks louder in our day and age: “Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. He calls them to suffer; we call them to enjoy all the bourgeois comforts modern civilization affords, He calls them to self-abnegation and death; we call them to spread themselves like green bay trees or perchance even to become stars in a pitiful fifth-rate religious zodiac. He calls them to holiness; we call them to a cheap and tawdry happiness that would have been rejected with scorn by the least of the Stoic philosophers.”
God does not want any of us bored; He is not a killjoy of fun or enjoyment (so long as it’s not feeding the lusts of our flesh), but when it comes to approaching Him, let it be with reverence and awe; let it be about Him; let it be about a true sacrifice of praise; let the aroma of our worship be pleasing to Him. It is not about us getting a kick or a buzz out of church; it is a people coming together to meet with God. It is about GOD – do we know what such a word means? We would never lounge around or frolic about if a renowned celebrity were to be among us; then why on earth would we be so flippant in the presence of the Eternal One Who has all authority and power and Who made all that is visible out of nothing?