Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ashamed of the Gospel Chapter 3 "Give Me That Showtime Religion"

Every once in a while we wake from a slumber to see things the way that they actually are.  This chapter certainly helped to reawaken me as to how much the entertainment industry has affected the culture, my life, and the church.  

MacArthur quotes Neil Postman who speaks of the end of the "exposition era".  People used to spend much more time in intellectual and philosophical debates.  There was a genuine interest in truth, content and meaning.  Postman says that we are now in the "entertainment era."  This is so true!  What do people want to do with their free time in our day: be entertained:  watch TV; watch a movie; go to a show; listen to music; play games; go online; read light, entertaining books, magazines, etc; play sports; go outdoors; go out to a bar; socialize in many ways; gamble; and on and on it goes.   Many of these things can have their place in measure, but our culture worships these things and lives for these things.  It is never enough.  

In C. H. Spurgeon's day back at the end of the 19th century he say that the church was no longer taking a stand against the god of entertainment. Instead, they invited her in to the church to see if they could increase their numbers.  He was very concerned about were this was leading.  In the middle of the 20th century A.W. Tozer sounded the same alarm as the churches at that time were using films, up tempo music, and humorous speakers as a main way of attracting people in.  Churches in our time have thrown out all the stops when it comes to the use of entertainment to draw people in and keep them in.  MacArthur mentions a church that staged it own full scale wrestling match WWF style.  Many churches look for a pastor who can be a master of organizing entertainment.  Churches research all of the methods of the entertainment industry and employ them even as far as having pyrotechnic shows in the service and hiring 100 clowns to give away gifts!  

MacArthur points out that all of this comes from a Philosophy called pragmatism that says that the end justifies the means.  In other words if we have thousands of people gathered who will hear the gospel then what does it matter how we got them there.  He shows the link between pragmatism and the church growth movement.  Churches and movements are studied and the most effective means are deduced and employed with out any thought of how biblical and Christ honoring they are and who is using them and why.  

MacArthur questions the whole approach of focusing on numerical growth.  he speaks of Jeremiah the prophet who ministered for his whole career without seeing a convert and was a faithful servant of the God.  He quotes 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 which indicates that growth is the work of God and not ours.  

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6, 7, emphasis added).

MacArthur says that it is the pastors job to be concerned with the depth of the ministry and we should let God take care of the breadth.  In other words pastors and church leaders need to seek to help people have a deep understanding of God from a deep understanding of His word and focus on discipleship and spiritual growth and not numbers.  He points out that numbers are not wrong and shares that his own church has 10,000 regular attenders. However, he has always said that all they ever tried to do was to remain faithful to God's word and God has chosen to bring numerical growth.  I have also heard him say recently that a pastor may be faithfully preaching the word and ministering well and yet the church may not grow.  It is entirely up to the Lord.  When God grows a church through His word He grows in deep and wide.  It has been said that the modern church is an inch deep and a mile wide.  

Evangelical churches today pride themselves on being clever and slick in their presentation to the world.  MacArthur explains that this is the opposite of what the apostle Paul did:

On the contrary, the apostle Paul shunned clever methods and gimmicks that might proselyte people to false conversions through fleshly persuasion. Paul himself wrote,

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Cor. 2:1–5).

He reminded the church at Thessalonica,

For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority (1 Thess. 2:3–6).

Biblical correctness is the only framework by which we must evaluate all ministry methods.

One of the most important things that MacArthur points out is that pragmatism is a bankrupt philosophy.  The church has jettisoned the preaching of God's word because it is not "relevant" and has replaced it with entertainment.  But as MacArthur says "What could be more relevant than God's word!"

He draw an interesting parallel between modern churches and a pub mentality.  Many pastors want people to feel just as comfortable sitting in a pew (or chair) at church as they do bellying up to the bar!  The problem is that God's message is not a comfortable message to a sinful heart, and why should it be?  Should people who are on their way to hell feel comfortable about it?  No!  People need to feel uncomfortable about their sin, so that they will realize their need for a Savior and turn to Him!

Acts 17:30–31 (NASB95)
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 
31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

MacArthur also asserts that the problem with the modern church is not that they have bad Theology it is that they have no Theology.  Many churches have fine looking doctrinal statements, but you will never hear these expressed or explained in a service.  Instead you will be entertained to your hearts delight while theology is completely avoided.  

In the down grade controversy in Spurgeon's time Spurgeon equated the entertainment inroads into the church as leprosy.  That leprosy has surely spread and whole pieces of the evangelical landscape have no completely fallen off.  It begs the question:  what's next?  

Will we wake up?  

Posted via email from Caleb's posterous

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