Summer at the Movies Church Teaching: A Biblical Defense: Why Rambo IV is more Christian than Starwars (Parental Warning)

The True Gospel

If you’ve never heard the Gospel of Jesus, it is this.  God sent his son Jesus to earth to be the substitute for our condemnation.  We were condemned because we rebelled against God and chose our own way.  But Jesus paid for our sin by dying on a cross and if we believe in him, we will have eternal life. John 3:16.  So if you have never followed Jesus, I pray you will and know that God loves you, and so do many faithful believers in Christ.  If you need prayer or would like to chat, feel free to leave a message.

 

A Biblical Defense on why Rambo IV is more Christian than Starwars

I’m a huge fan of the Rambo series. Ok, maybe Rambo 1, IV, and V.  But in all transparency I haven’t watched V since I’m worried about how they might finish the series.   And besides, I already own the box set of 1,2,3 and IV and I’m quite annoyed that he made a 5th movie.  I mean really?  How am I supposed to make that look nice on my shelf.  Ugg. But at least the Rambo franchise ended.  We all have closure. Starwars? My word!  It’s like a black hole story line, designed in modern times just to make money. – Just like Iron Man, that should have stopped with 1, do not do 2 and 3.  Ugg #Disney

But I love the idea of Rambo, he for better or worse exposes how those who are in certain situations in life, such as being in Vietnam were/are treated.  He is the hero, there’s a bad guy/guys, and when conflict arrises, he always has to talk himself into acting.

As for Starwars, I’ll put it this way.  If there was ever a series that should have stopped with its first trilogy, that would be Starwars.   And especially since Disney has the rights to Starwars, none of the new movies have eclipsed the first three, or is that 4,5,6.  You see, that’s another issue, the numbering of the movies. So I guess my favorite movies are 4,5,6.  Ok, the old ones. They should have stopped there. But as we see with Ghostbuster 2016, let it goooo, let it goooooooo.

So why is Rambo IV more Christian than Starwars?

I won’t ruing Rambo IV for you, but the main reason is the story line surrounds a group of Christian missionaries who go to Thailand to minister to those in the villages there.  But they are kidnapped.  And Rambo has to decide what to do. Should he rescue them, leave it alone?

Starwars, well Christians are not mentioned. There are no Christian missionaries.  And don’t get me started on the ‘Force’, that’s just a mystical, well, force that is shared among those special few who choose good over evil akin to Bill Johnson’s mysticism.  But, no, there are no Christian missionaries.  Drum roll…….

Final Score:  Rambo IV – 1  Starwars – 0

RAMBO WINS!

Well, enough of my nonsense.  And that’s what it is.  Not only is my Rambo/Starwars analogy kinda lame, it’s not scriptural either.  Unfortunately many evangelical progressive churches have decided to use this type of bait and switch approach to attracting people into the doors.  Below I will scripture will explain why this is a practice that has no place in Christ’s church.  And while scripture should be enough, sadly it won’t be for many.

 

Key Reasons to avoid mixing movies with God’s holy Scripture

And yes, that is a cable attached to the beam and they are about to lift iron man up.

There are so many examples of this blasphemy across evangelicalism and the NAR movements , but I’ll leave those off this blog post as I don’t want to reward them with social media clicks. The above example is the logical end to any twisting or adding of scripture through movies. Anyone who thinks IronMan is Biblical propitiation for Christ is incorrect has lost their way in Christ.

I’ve been accused of writing my own opinion, so this blog post will be heavy with scripture.   Here we go.

1. It’s Blasphemy

“To blaspheme God’s name is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is verbal or written reproach of God’s name, character, work, or attributes.” To mix human philosophy with God’s nature and character is blasphemy. God doesn’t need any explanation from a godless source.  He doesn’t need to be partnered with anything or anyone. He is Holy.  We are not.  We don’t need to look through the lens of a movie to see God.   He gave us his Holy Scripture and His Holy Spirit for that.

“3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”2 Timothy 4:3-4

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves.” – 2 Peter 2 1

If you’re still reading, let’s look at more reasons that this practice of movie messaging is not biblical.

2. Confuses the Gospel

If we go back to the original sin by Adam and Eve, what was the method used by Satan to deceive Eve?  He used confusion by asking Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Did God really say, yes, Satan got Eve to question what God said.  Given what we know about our nature, how sinful our passions are, how we are born in sin, hostile to our Creator, why would we then confuse people on purpose and increase the risk of their/our own confusion about what God says? Good question.

God does not give us liberty to mix the Gospel with anything.  Imagine God in Heaven, He gave His son for all of humanity, and wrote this Salvation story that is found in the sixty six books of the Bible, and yet, He’s like, “I hope my clay can improve on what I’ve done.” Silly and pompous. Galatians 1:6

A non believer comes to a movie church, having never heard the Gospel prior to walking through the doors.  And instead of hearing the straight Gospel, they hear a mix of pagan philosophy, are ‘entertained’ and somewhere in there they here about Jesus.  Congratulations, you now have exposed this lost soul to confusion.  Do we care so little about the souls of the lost that we risk confusing the Gospel?  Why can’t we just preach Christ and him crucified? Another good question.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

If Scripture is what is needed to make man complete, why confuse it?

See also — 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)” Also Deuteronomy 4:2, Revelation 22:18-19 Colossians 2:8

3. The Gospel is not Enough.

It can’t be can it?  There must be something in the thought process of a ‘pastor’ who feels they have to include entertainment into the mission of the church.  My opinion is that this is the influence of the corporate church movement. After all, if a church has installed a corporate structure for grwoth, then it would be natural for it to have marketing strategies from the business world to achieve that growth.  Happy people give money right?  If a large or wanna-be-large church doesn’t meet its attendance and budget, then the revenue will take a hit. 2 Peter 2

Every book of the New Testament warns against false teaching except for Philemon.  So why do those who practice the movie-gospel method do what they do?  Do they want to confuse the gospel? Do they want false teaching in Christ’s church? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Gospel is enough, the Gospel needs nothing. When ‘movie-pastors’ elevate human philosophy, giving it the same attention and status as Scripture, that’s a different gospel. The Gospel doesn’t need Steven Spielberg to interpret it.  This is just entertainment. It’s syncretism.

” I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Greek”.Romans 1:6

OUTLOUD THINKING: Have those ‘movie pastors’ lost their faith. Maybe they never had any. Maybe they’re in the church for selfish gain. There are many false teachers that are working in the Christian church for the wrong reasons.  Have some lost their faith in a God who created the universe to achieve His goals with or without our help, yes. Why would they feel the Gospel is not enough? If they don’t provide this movie method to the flock, will the flock get disappointed?  Maybe be it’s crowd appeasement.

Man bad – God Good

The solution to addressing movies and comparing it to Scripture is to talk about how glorious God and his Scripture is and that anything man can write or make is evil if it doesn’t align with God and his Word.  That’s a statement, that’s enough.  But it isn’t enough is it? That’s not as entertaining as having your picture taken with Darth Vader on Sunday morning. Think about the likes a ‘movie-pastor’ gets on Facebook.  Yeah buddy.  And that explains why the movie method is used, it’s about vain deceit.

4. And fourthly, it is a sin to those around the world dying for their faith.

We give to missions, we talk about how bad other Christians are persecuted for their faith.  We lament publicly and disfigure our faces as we sit in our stadium seating, popcorn in hand to watch a movie at church?  Odd huh.  It’s like that Sesame street game, -one thing is not like the other-. Imagine a Christian church in China that has to meet underground out fear of being put in prison, watching the ‘pastor’ of a church taking selfies with Chewbacca? One thing is not like the other.

Those who add to the Gospel have lost their faith in God and/or misunderstand what their true mission is.  It’s not their job to grow the church.  It’s God’s.  It is God who draws people to Him.  We are to proclaim the Gospel and only the Gospel.  But those in the corporate seeker friendly mega churches have different goals, success for them is counted in numbers. Some even do head counts of ‘decisions’ and use those numbers as success. They want instant results, the ability to say, “Look, our strategy worked!”  We have ‘X’ amount of new people.  Well congratulations, you have them coming for something other than the true Gospel.  What ever you won them with, you’ll need to keep them with that and more.  If you won them with entertaining dopamine trips, you’ll have to raise the bar next time.  or they’ll go find another place that can out entertain you.

The Gospel needs nothing.  It doesn’t need me or you to change it or add to it. Matthew 28

After all, when you add to the Gospel, people are free to accept, reject and even hate your message. And they’d be right, because it’s your false gospel, you’re gospel is false. You can not go to Scripture to defend your message.  Hating your mixed gospel has no eternal consequences for them, but it will for you.  And the next guy or gal who tries to reach that person with the unadulterated Gospel will have to contend with the false seed you planted.

32 You must not make my holy name impure so that I will be treated as holy by the Israelites. I am the Lord—the one who makes you holy” Leviticus 22:32  See also: Colossians 2:8

When you mix the Gospel and other messaging, you have no recourse if someone says they don’t believe in your God. You then can’t say, well my God this, or my God that.  You have to re-present your mixed God and not the true God. See the conundrum?

Jesus command: Teach them all I have commanded.  This doesn’t include movie philosophy. It doesn’t include anything outside of Scripture.  If movie pastors are looking for stories, try the parables by Jesus. We know that Jesus spoke in parables at times to even hide the secrets of Heaven from the listener.  We are not Jesus, we can not equate to His parables. Use what he has provided.

Judgement day, Jesus will separate the sheep and the goats.  Who are we to toy with that moment where people will go to Heaven or Hell.  The answer is, we aren’t the ones. We were given one job, one message.   Our fear and love for God should keep us from changing it. But sadly, it has not. People have and always felt like the Gospel is not enough.  They will add this, subtract that.  As a preacher’s kid, I watched as pastors latch onto this church growth trend, or that trend, this philosophy and anything that they feel is needed to achieve their goals.  Will those ‘movie pastors’ change and stop mixing the messaging? I imagine until a new trend comes this will continue.   And being raised in evangelicalism, there is truth in the statement that denominations/churches are very poor in self-examination.  But that’s another blog post all together.

The Wrap

Coming out of evangelicalism to a more orthodox Christianity, my short journey in apologetics has given me one very quick lesson.  Evangelicals when confronted with the possibility of error, can be very vicious. It is predicted that many will defend the movie gospel practice.  Many may talk about how great these movies are, the great lessons they teach.  And that’s to be expected when movie-pastors  elevate movies to the same level as scripture in front of the flock, and there-by yoking the words of our God with the words of pagans. Words of warning from our Christ Jesus…Matthew 16:5-12

5When they crossed to the other side, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6“Watch out!” Jesus told them. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7They discussed this among themselves and concluded, “It is because we did not bring any bread.”

8Aware of their conversation, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you debating among yourselves about having no bread? 9Do you still not understand? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?11How do you not understand that I was not telling you about bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

12Then they understood that He was not telling them to beware of the leaven used in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Sadly, the newer generations are leaving the church.  With church attendance dropping in America, the writing is on the wall. The seeker friendly methods like mixing the Gospel with movies, are not working. it is failing.  Sure, you can entertain people,  but Disney has a 64 Billion dollar budget, churches should return to the Gospel and leave the world outside.  A Gospel that is perfect, sufficient for God to give His only Son and does not need the worlds crutch.  If these ‘movie pastors’ will repent and go back to the Gospel, then there is hope.  Come out and be separate.  Be salt and light.


Steven Davis is a musician, metal artist, media producer, reforming evangelical, bible school dropout, and preachers kid.

 

#apologetics #saltandlight #starwars #rambo #rambomovie #summerathemovies

Another tragedy of canned music in church is no room for writing fresh music

 

Let’s talk about food first.  To be honest, my soon coming analogy fails a bit because I love canned corn and fresh corn.  So if I was to write a blog article about how bad canned corn is compared to fresh, well, I’d be lying.  Call it weird, but I’m fine with a can of corn.  However, it does not compare with the fresh corn on the cob, with butter, lots of butter.   So that’s my transparent portion of this post.

Analogy

Growing up playing worship music in church was fun.  I come from a very musical family, all of us could play or sing. I started out playing southern gospel and hymns,  4/4, 3/4 and 6/8 at Christmas time.  (many Christmas hymns are 6/8) Fast forward to present day, church music has changed drastically.  Many churches have discarded, or tried to discard hymns for more rock style K-Love Radio music. There are even ‘churches’ now that play secular music as well.

There are many articles written on the transformation of music in church, so this post will not be one of those historical explanations.  What I will opine though is, that among many tragedies of canned music such as Bethel, Elevation, and Hillsong is that it destroys music development in Christ’s church. There is little to no musical discipleship.

The case is simple.  Bethel, Elevation, and Hillsong, or BEH music and the type are mega church styles of music with very simple, almost elementary and repetitive chord progressions.   And it can only be hypothesized as to the reason thousands of local congregations use them.  Maybe people like the music, it tickles their ears, taps into the dopamine, it makes a church service fun, it resembles secular culture and so on.  Maybe local churches are lazy and they don’t feel like putting forth any effort beyond what can be bought and thrown on a screen.  But what I think is really going on is many local church congregations think that BEH and the like are a pathway to grow into a mega-church.  It could be a combination of all three. But BEH music and the like is very popular, but does little to benefit the local church.

In his article in Patheos, Jonathan Aigner describes 7 Reasons Hymns are Better than Contemporary Worship.  I want to pick on his first in his list.

1. We Should Honor Our History of Faith.

“To cut the church off from their sacred lineage can only create a narcissistic and self-referential church that doesn’t really care who it is. Worshiping in a contemporary vacuum is literally suffocating the church in a self-interested, masturbatory pursuit.”

It’s no secret that Narcissism is strong in modern church worship today.  It’s the ‘look at me’ worship. ‘Look how cool I look in this hat’ worship.  After all, it’s cool, I’m cool, you’re cool, let’s be cool together on stage! Out with the old, and in with the new.  Churches progress right?  Sure, but should they?  Does God change?  Many church controllers have adopted a worldly approach to music with all the lights, smoke, dance teams, and so on.  There is a lot of effort put into making people in local church happy. As a friend of mine described it, some churches count heads and not hearts.

Josh Shands puts it this way: “When comparing more modern songs used in worship to their forerunner counterparts, you’ll find hymns tend to land more in a category of depth theologically while still holding the marriage of music and text well.  This isn’t to say there aren’t outliers in each style, however.  Respectfully, the motive behind congregational songs typically written today seems as if their primary importance is to cater to the singer(s) when, instead, that should be secondary or tertiary.  To be more specific, most of these songs are treated as a performance to bolster the musician’s abilities while simultaneously aiming their attention at the congregation’s amusement.  This, in turn, shifts the purpose away from a genuine worship of the Lord.  What replaces this worship a vain one of sorts.  Yes, it is worship, but the question has to be asked “who is being worshipped?”  Songs will lend themselves to expansive keys and large vocal ranges.  In essence, it becomes a concert.  It’s not that a concert is inherently sinful, but that it does not belong in the Sunday morning service.  This is a gathering of people who should be able to participate.  If they can’t sing because of a song’s complexity or what have you, then they won’t.  At best, those singing aren’t singing for the purpose of worshipping the Lord, but instead how the music effects them. 

At the end of the day, singing praises to God via thanksgiving, confession to Him of our sins, asking for our needs to be met, or dedicating ourselves to Him in song is still a prayer but with music.  Strip all the bells and whistles from the majority of today’s recently written options and what’s left is likely poor theological truths that are shallow and fall short; at best, it’s a mile wide and an inch deep.  To quote St. Augustine, “when I find the singing itself more moving than the truth which it conveys, I confess that this is a grievous sin, and at those times I would prefer not to hear the singer.”  What he was getting at is that sound can be beautiful, but that experience shouldn’t be the goal.  The truth which the song conveys, the lyrics, are what should be driving the song.  The reason why is because of Who it is directed to.  The Lord wants worship and is clear throughout His word that He alone should get it. 

Again, songs with lackluster lyrics and emotive melodies can be found in both camps.  The likely reason why hymns come across as timeless though is because of that foundation of truth in the words sang.  Those words sang are crucial and need depth, but also need to be approachable by the average singer too as mentioned earlier.  Today’s options of song in the church eerily resemble the problems that led to what we know as the Reformation.  People then weren’t able to participate as much as God’s Word compelled them to.  Christians weren’t given access to the Scriptures except through the one speaking it from the pulpit.  It’s as if plenty songs that are written today are implying “this range and run of notes is for the musician and not you; sit back.”  When looking at hymns, they will usually follow the same template.  The song will have three or more stanzas and include a chorus or refrain.  The melody, for the most part, doesn’t change and there is no bridge.  The focus of the average hymn is to worship the Lord, but with biblical truths.  In some ways, the songs are designed to be addressing the Lord and leave the singer (the congregant) with lyrics they can retain; ones that teach them something about the Lord and the relationship He has with them.  A simple test that can be made between hymns and modern songs is to remove the band likely accompanying them.  If the people can still sing the song without them, then half the battle has been won.

The last caveat to give about the songs, regarding outliers, is the depth of the lyrics.  Depth does not necessarily mean lengthiness; take the Doxology for example.  “Holy, holy, holy” are the words used.  Because God’s Word is life-giving, that’s the standard.  If you utilize theological truths found in the Bible, then they can be simple.  God’s word is capable of piercing the soul of the singer even with the shortest of sentences.  A song can say that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and leave an impact on God’s people when they walk away from the corporate gathering.  It’s the songs that are vague in their lyrics, such as the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ examples, that fall apart.  It should be clear who is being addressed in the songs.  Not that believers can’t address one another or creation or even unbelievers, but that the glory in these songs be given to God.  At the end of it all, people need to be able to participate in the singing, but the One they’re singing to has to be the focus.  To touch back on the concert analogy, God is the star of the event and He’s also the audience.  God’s people are merely the participating actors.  In this lens, both types can lend themselves to that end; those choosing the songs to be sung just need to do their due diligence into what lyrics are being sung, if the people can sing it, and more importantly if it is all for the Glory of the Lord.” 

So back to the corn. Here is my simple analogy.

  1. Fresh corn costs more than canned. You betcha.  And it takes more time, and churches just don’t put the effort into their music, it’s just easier to import it from a source that is attractive.
  2. Fresh corn you can trace the origin, canned, who knows.
  3. Fresh corn you can fix different ways, canned, it’s more limited. Let’s just play the music like Bethel! (I’m not Gordon Ramsey so don’t argue this point with me.)

Three is enough.

BEH music and the like-canned music, comes in one way.  And the effort put into this music is minimal, besides, why play it any different than the mega churches? ‘Let’s just do it how they do it.’  And why do we do it like they do it? It’s easy?  It entertains?

Fresh music, well that is s different story.  There is a movement in Gospel music to start writing again.  But much of it gets over shadowed by BEH music which is pushed on many popular ‘Christian’ radio stations.  Many want what’s popular, what’s hot.  Add that to the narcissistic “ME” generation who are in large part choosing the music selection in today’s church, and what’s popular is what gets played. Butts in the seats, more butts in the seats.

“Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.”

Here is the tragedy.

All across Christ’s church there are people with talent for writing music.  I have friends who have written wonderful Christ centered music.  It was music that fit our band, so we had a passion about it.   Every word, every note, crescendo was special. These songs are timeless to us.

That can of corn, well, it’s a can. It’s pretty much the same every time you buy it. And the canned music from BEH and the like is just that, the same chord progressions, same flow and so on.  And if someone is sitting in church inspired to write music from their heart, what would happen?  They would have to go somewhere else to express that gift.  Why?  Because it’s not canned, it’s not popular.

Another point Jonathan Aigner makes is that hymns aren’t popular or marketable. And in today’s flashy dopamine filled social media worship, I’d agree.  But Christ wasn’t flashy or marketable, He was humble and served. But that’s another post.

Many music programs in the modern church are performance driven and not avenues for discipleship.  Do churches invest time, money and talent into developing musicians in their church?  I don’t see it. So canned it is. And  BEH music is at best, elementary in musical structure and clunky in lyricism and largely devoid of sound scripture.

The popular satirical website Babylongbee.com has a worship song generator.  You can plug in words and come up with a song.

But is that writing to God a Biblical love song?  Of course not.  So to wrap up the analogy, why would anyone in church, especially our youth, want to put in the effort to write songs to God if there isn’t an avenue to express it?  If all a local church is wanting is the same canned corn every Sunday.  If there is no development and discipleship of musicians, then we are really just performers, we are lazy and aren’t giving God our best sacrificial gift.

In other words, if all Christ’s church demands is what is musically popular, despite the questionable theological or edification value, then that’s what we are offering to God is the same can.  And that’s a tragedy of generational and cosmic proportions.

—————————————————

Steven Davis is a musician, media producer, burnt out preacher’s kid, and former youth minister.

 

Mmmm, fresh.

Credits:

Josh Shands, BA ’17, Worship Arts at Missouri Baptist University. Musician who serves in liturgical planning at Mid Cities at Maplewood STL.

John 3:16

If you’ve never heard the Gospel of Jesus, it is this.  God sent his son Jesus to earth to be the substitute for our condemnation.  We were condemned because we rebelled against God and chose our own way.  But Jesus paid for our sin by dying on a cross and if we believe in him, we will have eternal life. John 3:16.  So if you have never followed Jesus, I pray you will and know that God loves you, and so do many faithful believers in Christ.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Please Stop Boasting about a local Church/Pastor.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Please Stop Boasting about a local Church/Pastor.

***Insert cute cartoon so you’ll start breathing regularly.***

As many read this, it is already possible to see the smoke coming out of many ear canals spelling “How Dare You!” “You’re harming the church!” “You have a spirit of criticism!” and so on. Speaking of spirits, recently I had someone cast the spirit of criticism out of me on Facebook. Not sure if it took.

So before my reader’s head explodes, lets look at the Biblical reasons we as God’s Collective Church should not boast about a local church or pastor.  If you believe we have something to boast about regarding ourselves according to Scripture and separate from Christ, then feel free to leave your comments below.

Ready?  Here we goooooooo.

Reasons we should not boast about a local church/pastor.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A.

 

There have been many Biblical critiques of Hillsong over the years; here here and most recently here. There are many many more.  Needless to say, Hillsong has been a train on the way to a wreck for a long time.  Many who boasted about Hillsong, used their songs, let Hillsong take over their churches, now are abandoning the brand, why?  Because of the latest video by Discovery.  Why didn’t they abandon Hillsong over the many years of scandals and false teachings?

There will probably be years of post mortem done on Hillsong. Hillsong, being what it is, a cultural movement that doesn’t preach the true gospel of Jesus, will continue to present the ugly truth about itself. The more they peel the onion, the more tears.  Hillsong’s implosion will harm the faith of many because it is far from what a church should be and operated outside of Biblical teaching in both government and goal, to make disciples of Jesus.  Hillsong has always been more of a religious pyramid scam based on false promises God did not make- send in money for a blessing-. Those who idolize(d) Hillsong will be lost as to what to do next. Their god is fallen and rightfully so.

So that’s exhibit A.

REASON PRE-UNO: JESUS

As it is written in Phillipians 2:5-11

The Mind of Christ
(Isaiah 52:13–15)

5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,a 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled Himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross. 9Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If Jesus humbled himself, and he is who we should imitate, then we really should be able to stop there as a really really good reason not to boast about anyone but Christ. But many will want to include many ‘buts.’  So we continue…

Reason UNO: Idolatry  

Really? Absolutely.

Can a local church become an idol?  Of course.  Anything that we replace God with, is our god.  It could be our sin, it could be a relationship, it could be a job, and yes, it can be a local church.   So how does a local church become an idol?

    1. Loving the local church instead of the God who gives us the local church is one way. 1 Corinthians 12:12-21  Today’s buzzword is community. And that is absolutely one of the biblical tenets of what the local church should be, it must be community welcoming all in Christ’s love. Shepherds don’t get to pick their sheep.  It’s not the case that a pastor cares for those who meet certain qualifications.  If this sounds like fiction, it is not.  See our post “Get on the Church bus, or get run over.”  Church idolatry leads to abuse.
    2. Exodus 20:3 is clear, we are to have no other god before Yahweh.

Squirrel moment: Many progressive churches have become more cults than a place that creates disciples. See the statement put out by Steven Furtick at Elevation where he says, his church is not for people after they become Christians, his church is only for non-believers. His church has become his own idol because he has strayed away from what God wants his church to be. Matthew 28:19-20

If the local church moves away from God’s biblical calling, we have made the local church our God. aka A unique vision for a local church is not Biblical and is instead a man made doctrine, an idol.  God told us what we should be doing, another mission is an idol before God.  It’s that s-i-m-p-l-e.

Personal Story: We visited a church once and asked some staff what they liked about the church. I heard how great the pastor was. I didn’t hear anything about the Gospel or how it is practiced inside the church. Did they mean well, yep.  Did I care about how great the pastor was, nope. I don’t worship pastors, I worship God.

REASON DOS: Pride

One of the main criticisms of the Christian church is it’s full of hypocrites, because we say one thing, and do another.   And to be honest, after all my years in church, we own that reputation in some way or another. Mostly because we forget who we are in Christ AND who we would be without Christ.  You see, the one and only difference between us and an unbeliever is God’s saving grace.  1 Corinthians 6:11 We have nothing to boast about in ourselves. As Carmen said in his song, we need to keep our eyes on the Creator, and not on the creation, including ourselves.

Romans 3: 10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The venom of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16ruin and misery lie in their wake,
17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Trigger Question: When is the last time your pastor or church leader apologized for a church decision that had a negative impact on the sheep?  It doesn’t happen often. When is the last time we apologized to someone in the body of Christ?  It’s just a question?

The BAD: Historic Downward Church Trends:

So, for the past couple of decades, the effort by the Emerging Church was and now the New Apostolic Reformation Church movement is to make church attractive as possible by avoiding the true Gospel of Sin and Repentance. There’s even a term for it, “Attractional Church.”  Many in this movement discard Biblical liturgy for an ‘experience.’ Take Andy Stanley, he recently discarded the Ten Commandments.  Instead of the Gospel, which convicts us of our sin, attractional churches have invested in professional musicians, lights, smoke, dancing, massive themed sets that look more like Disney wanna-be efforts.   Some don’t resemble Christianity at all, the Gospel of Jesus makes a last minute appearance if at all.  Like most man-made efforts, this fails as well.  These churches provide plenty of dopamine trips, but lack the understanding, willingness to preach or lack faith in the one and only Gospel.  It is in error and prideful to make the local church themed around man made efforts to ‘reach the lost’ and not the saints because it is contrary to scripture. For example in these ‘churches’, euphemisms are used for Biblical principles; Sin become mistakes, Repentance becomes finding a new purpose, and serving Christ has become ‘getting plugged in.’  Those in the church growth movement have surveyed the culture and decided that preaching on sin and repentance won’t draw large crowds, so just don’t do it. The Gospel has left the building. Some how these folks know better than God, and have come up with their own gospel.  Pride.

If this sounds like idolatry and pride, you’d be correct.  Without pride, we can’t have idolatry. In Exodus 32, the children of Israel made a golden calf in part because it was what they were used to, culturally relevant and attractive. And in their pride, they thought they could actually replace Yahweh by their hands. And today, the same is the trend, to replace the Gospel with man made philosophies, methods, ‘visions’ and ideologies.  Is it, that these ‘shepherds’ are stupid as Jeremiah 10:21, or is it a sign of the times, the great apostasy?  Only God knows, but there is a big move away from the preaching of the true Gospel in many many churches. It scares people away right?

So boasting about anything other than Christ is not worshiping him, and that pride is a sin.

Every local church should routinely exam itself for sin, error, pride, wolves (even small ones), efficacy of church services as well as if the pastor’s head is getting too big. When people are beginning to worship staff instead of Christ, that’s pride with a flavor of idolatry. A pastor who presents as being perfect might be having a pride complex.  On the other hand, self-deprecation by a pastor is not Biblical either.  A pastor should decrease as Christ increases.  If he doesn’t talk about Christ, that’s difficult to achieve.

It was Pride that changed angels into devils;

it is humility that makes men as angels. – St. Augustine

REASON TRES: Competition

For the record, I don’t own this recipe book.  The book has taken it on the chin in the ratings and is too low in ratings for me to spend even $4.99 on it. And when we boast about a local church, we present a similar rating system to the community related to local churches.  We start using words like, awesome, the best, amazing, and so forth about a local church.   However, only God is awesome, He’s the best, He is amazing.  These words mean something and should be reserved for Him.

Micah 6:8 ESV
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?

Think about it this way.  You go to ‘A’ church, your friend goes to ‘B’ church.  If you’re on social media bragging that your church is the best, what are you saying to your friend?  Words matter.

I realize in our American captialist system, one way we choose almost anything is to see what other’s have chosen.  Confession: I do that with Amazon. If 31,324 people gave something a 5 start review, I want to buy it even if I don’t need it.  After all, everyone else likes it.  But we know from scripture that the gate is small and the road is narrow, and only a few will find it. Matthew 7:14  I’m always leary of large crowds following this trend and that trend, especially in church. Hopefully the dopamine tricks are a trend, but I fear it is a long one.

We as a local body can get in a comfort groove and ignore real deficiencies in how we as humans put together a local church.  We are comfortable to boast about the things we like, after all, the pot lucks dinners make us fat and happy.  Why should we examine what we do in a local church? The saying goes there is no perfect church, and that’s true.  But we can aim for being a Biblical church.  But that will require adherence to the sacred Scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Before we end this; let’s honestly, for real-real examine a local body from a Biblical perspective. Because the local church is full of humans, the same sin that is outside the church walls is the same sin inside the walls.  There are cases of bullying, sexual sins, lying, emotional and spiritual abuse, greed and so on in the local church.  We would be foolish to think different.

So why boast?

In evangelicalism we like to boast.  So IF we are to boast, what do we boast about? Consider how we may boast.

Steps to Boasting from the Apostle Paul

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

Words matter so consider…

    • If a local church body centers around the Gospel of Christ, then we can boast about Christ’s truth being proclaimed in that local body. If not, we have nothing to boast about and resemble a moose lodge with Christian sprinkles….Mmmm sprinkles.
    • If a local church loves more than demands of the sheep, then we can boast about Christ’s love in that local body. If not, we have nothing to boast about. We labor in vain. 1 Corinthians 13:1
    • If a local church boasts about Christ instead of the sheep, then we can say Christ is teaching  humility. If not, we have nothing to boast about and should repent of our pride.
    • If a local pastor presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ as dying for our sins and our need for daily repentance in word and action, then we can boast about God’s truth being proclaimed. But if his sermons are full of self-help are more Christianeeze and Oprah in a blender, then he needs to repent and do as he’s been told in 2 Timothy 4:2.

And finally,

    • If the local church is seeing the fruit of the Spirit through discipleship, then we can say we are following Jesus’ commands.   But if it’s all experience, dopamine trips, perfect this and perfect that without true spiritual fruit, then we are entertaining ourselves and might as well go to Dollywood instead.

This list could go on forever because we as humans have a sinful nature and we consistently fail presenting Christ in our lives and even the local church. If you think differently, then I’ll pray for you and your pride. You unlike the rest of us have arrived at perfection.

The Wrap:

So let’s practice humility in understanding that but for God’s Grace, we are damned to hell.  It is for Him we boast. God is awesome, He’s the best, He is amazing.  Let’s reserve the highest rating for HIm.

————————————————–
Steven Davis is a burnt preacher’s kid, media producer, musician and reforming evangelical.

A Progressive Paraphrase of the meeting in Matthew 10

A Progressive Paraphrase of the meeting in Matthew 10

As usual, Jesus would sit down and teach his disciples about the mission and vision he had for them.  So on a bright sunny day, Jesus sat down to teach.

However, the process for each meeting was becoming pretty complicated because, after every survey, his disciples came up with more ideas on how to improve their experience.  For example, logs were very hard to sit on, so during the last meeting, Jesus snapped his fingers and POOF, stadium seating appeared, with cup holders even.

As Jesus hurriedly made preparations for the meeting today, He noticed the sun was shining, so he snapped his fingers and POOF, the clouds came and dimmed the bright light.   Realizing that most of his disciples didn’t like the heat, except James of course, Jesus decided to cause a cool breeze to come.  After all, majority opinion rules ya know.  But after all that, something was still bothering Jesus, and then he noticed it.  The place was just a tad dull.  So just like last time, Jesus snapped his fingers, and POOF, he colored the rocks.   But, to increase the pleasing look of this setting, he made each rock change color.  Jesus knew his disciples would appreciate his effort in sheperding their comfort.

It was time for the meeting.  This was going to be a tough meeting.  Typically Jesus would teach from an annual list of subjects from the survey, but today, God the father had directed Jesus to give the disciples a specific message.  And Jesus was pretty nervous about it because it wasn’t something that would make them happy and he didn’t know if any of the disciples would leave him.

Each disciple sat down in their usual seats.  Jesus was ready to start the meeting but noticed a few of his disciples were still getting coffee.  And yes, Jesus had provided that two years ago for the meetings due to popular demand.

Just as Jesus was about to speak, he realized Judas Matthew and Philip were giving him unhappy looks.  And then Jesus remembered that he forgot the music.  So Jesus snapped his fingers and POOF, four angels dressed in the latest robe styles, started singing their seven random Jesus-like words.  They sang this over and over and over.  But the disciples were happy because it was a catchy tune.

Well, now was the time.  Jesus had an important message from God the Father he needed to tell the disciples.  Jesus looked at the disciples then he looked at the piece of paper his father had given him. Beginning to sweat even more, he wondered how could he tell his disciples this terrible news?  Pausing for what seemed like hours, he looked at the paper in his hand and back at the disciples.  Back and forth he struggled to say the words written.

Just then, Jesus came up with a great idea.  As long as it looked like he was reading his father’s words, the disciples would not know the difference. After all, it was a direct revelation and his disciples didn’t have a bible to reference.

Jesus then said to his disciples; “When you go out into the communities, make sure you help everyone you can.  I’m going to give you all the power to do anything you can think of.   Remember it’s important to fit in, so don’t do anything to upset the people you are with.  Remember, love is all you need.

And with that, Jesus put the paper in his pocket, and ended the meeting.  As each disciple left, he gave them a neckless with a wooden cross on it as a gift for coming.  Because Jesus told them, that they would have to bear the cross. He knew the gift would help them have good vibes from the service.

#satire #progressivechristianity #progressives

 

What the Bible actually says:

The Twelve Apostles

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[a] Simon the Zealot,[b] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’[c] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,[d] cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics[e] or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Persecution Will Come

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant[f] above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign[g] those of his household.

Have No Fear

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[h] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?[i] And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Not Peace, but a Sword

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Rewards

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

About the author:  Steven Davis is an over cooked preacher’s kid, musician, former social worker and media producer.

 

Get on the Church bus, or get run over.

church bus

Too many progressive and seeker friendly churches put the emphasis on the wrong things.  All the while running over people who Christ called us to love. As you will see below, if you don’t fit the mission, look out!  The church bus is coming for you.

Caveat First

To my reader who may not know Christ as your personal savior.  My hope is that in reading the following post, you’ll know what to look for in a church fellowship.  As Christ followers, we are called to love you. You won’t find perfect people, but you can find a Christ fellowship that shows Christ’s love to each other. And that love starts with a true understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So look for the Gospel being presented, open your Bible and trust Christ to be your savior.  But beware, there are places that call themselves churches that do not show the love of Christ.  They may have a good show, but don’t preach the forgiveness of sins which is the starting point for understanding the Love of Christ. Instead, they concentrate on dopamine experiences entertaining and pleasing the flesh.  This blog post will hopefully provide you with tips on finding a good church family and staying away from the destructive ones.

In the end when our lives are done, we will know that humans will always fail us. But with our faith in Jesus, the real Jesus, you have hope for now and eternity. Trust Christ.

And to my reader who knows Christ, the Bible is clear.  We are to love God and love others.  We are to make disciples. That is it. However, the challenge today is many churches mega or small are not fulfilling the law of God.  Nor are they making disciples instead they are making minions or cult followers maybe; but not Christian Disciples. 

Romans16:17 Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Turn away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

The Catalyst – Ready?  Ok, here we goooooooooo……

“There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill Bus and by God’s Grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done. You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options. But the bus ain’t gonna stop.” – Pastor Mark Driscoll”  A statement he made to a conference room full of pastors. 

Being raised a preacher’s kid, I have witnessed all kinds of disgusting behavior in the name of God.   The above statement is one of those most vile I have heard. Mark Driscoll pastored over 14,000 people in 5 states, and this was his approach to representing Christ?  A former megachurch star, Mark Driscoll left the church he co-founded after allegations he plagiarized his books and bullied people who worked for him. You can learn more from the podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. If only this was an isolated incident.  But it is not.  Many mega church pastors like Mark take on a cult like image; church vision and culture is god because it increase numbers.  And anything goes to get people in the seats, make them happy, and have them give money. Cynical? Yes. True?  Absolutely.

At the root of Driscoll’s and other mega, and mega wannabe pastors’ methodology is something called Vision Casting.  Vision Casting churches have what some consider a cult like structure.  I would call it corporate methodologies.  As you hear from Driscoll in the video above, people were to do as he said or get thrown off the bus and run over.  It is eerily similar to a corporation.  You have someone at the top, the CEO for example, he or she casts the vision for the corporation.  It is expected that everyone will sign on with that vision, and those who do not serve the vision will find themselves moved out of their positions or fired right out.  Either way, it is the corporation’s way or the highway. People are what they are, subjective employees.

With the rise of seeker-friendly and progressive churches, one thing many have in common is a move away from teaching Biblical doctrine.  Instead, they are centered around an experience at church, and the cult like vision casting leader who is responsible for growing the church.  And how is that done? By providing what people want to experience.  Consider Mega Church Pastor Joel Osteen, he would make a good motivational speaker, but his sermons lack significant contextual Biblical foundation.  Sin is called mistakes, and God’s power is replaced with a narcissistic doctrine such as the ‘little god’s’ doctrine.  Many churches have found out that if you feed people’s narcissism and call it Christianity, that will fill the seats for sure.  This method produces many mega churches that are often centered around the vision caster.  I recently read an article about Ron Carpenter leaving his church.  The article described many of his congregants as ‘spiritual orphans.’ I call that the Cult of Church Worship

Mega pastor image

Church vision casting, or the idea that God gives each local church their own vision has no foundation in the Bible and is grandiose narcissism.   Jesus gave us one ‘vision’ if you will, one command that applies to all local churches;

Or this example from Steven Fertick’s church Elevation. Such a nice cartoon to indoctrinate children to follow a man.

 

16 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they [a]worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you [b]always, even unto [c]the end of the world.

There can be only one goal of the church. That’s it, that is the only ‘vision’ or direction that each Christian church has.  To say a local church as a specific vision that another church doesn’t implies that God has spoken to that church something contrary to what Jesus said in Matthew 28.

If ‘Vision Casters’ like Mark Driscoll and others were honest, they would just say what they really mean, ‘this is how I’m going to run the church, all of you work for me paid or free, and I’m going to do what I want, and if you don’t like it, hit the road.’  But it is much more manipulative to say ‘I have a vision for the church that God gave me.’  That implies a direct revelation from God, for a specific group of people.  Something that is not supported in scripture.

Jesus washes feet

Jesus being a micro pastor.

Matthew 20: 24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them.26It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,27and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

So why do many modern churches not love?   Just a theory.

me image

Number 1: In today’s self indulgent culture, we are in it for ourselves. So why would we listen to a church leader who talked about serving, and actually showed us what serving is?  Well, because we don’t want to serve ourselves.  We’d much rather go to church, get what we can out of it, and feel better about ourselves. Jesus tells us in Matthew 20 that he himself came to serve.  This is what we as laity (regular folk) and church leaders should exemplify.  In other words, the laity is not the servants and the church leadership the masters.  We are to serve each other. But that requires us to be aware of our sinful flesh.  We are no good people at birth.  Even Jesus said that only his Father is good.

Number 2: This is related to number 1, but we like our idols. We want to believe in someone tangible.  Someone who feeds our narcissism.  That’s what you see from Mark Driscoll, for him to be so abusive and have such a large following, he was feeding people what they want and was in ministry much longer than he should have been.  But as you see with Mark, when the gods people hold onto fall, there is devastating damage. I’m so glad I don’t put any faith in any human.  They are imperfect just like me. They are sinners like me.  And one day they will die like me.

Number 3. And the final reason church people don’t love is, they have a false sense of who Christ is.  They believe the fairy tails learned growing up and don’t understand that Jesus came with one purpose, to save those who believe, this was his Father’s will.  Luke 22:42.   Even Jesus did his Father’s will.  If we would read our bible, we would see that Christ came to serve, and tells us to do the same.  I once heard someone say, ‘church is not about you.’ While I see what they are trying to say, I would disagree.  Church is about you loving God and others. Saying it’s not about you does nothing but insult people.  Words matter.

Love as Jesus explains it:  In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of the Samaritan helping the man in the ditch who was robbed and beaten.  A man asked Jesus what it took to inherit eternal life?  “27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’c and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d” I think we have that love of self perfect eh?

There is so much we could exposit from this story, but one key point is Jesus said ‘Go and do likewise.’ Go and do what?  Help those in need.

Close your eyes!  Wait.  Then you can’t read.

wolf image

Matthew 7: 15Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.

My mom told me that we are fruit inspectors.  So in church, it’s pretty easy.  Those who do not love, choose to rule, dominate, and disregard the sheep as merely bodies instead of serving and protecting the sheep, they are wolves. Strong?  Yep.   So about that fruit.

rotten fruit

Galations 5:

16So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20idolatry and sorcery; hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage; rivalries, divisions, factions, 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another.

-But we can’t know the fruit of the Spirit if we are not -producing- it ourselves.  If we are selfish, if we misuse people, and are led by our flesh, we are on the wrong side of Jesus. –

God’s Warning

Jeremiah 23:1“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD.

2Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds who tend My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your deeds, declares the LORD.

3Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock from all the lands to which I have banished them, and I will return them to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or dismayed, nor will any go missing, declares the LORD.

For those like Mark Driscoll, save he repent of his sins, God’s judgement will be upon him.  And to the same extent, those in our local churches who sow for greed, how cause the church to scater instead of ‘feeding’ the sheep, this judgement is theirs as well.

 

Body Parts

My friend reminded me the other day that as Evangelicals, we love 1 Corinthians 12 but will skip right over most of it to talk about what we get out of it; Vs. 27,  “First are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers and so on.”  But in my lifetime of going to church, I can not remember hearing a message about what comes before in verses 12 – 24.

One Body with Many Parts

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
Unity in church?  This is what it takes, it’s not a competition, it’s not a slave master relationship , it’s not about manmade vision where we are all worker bees with jobs in the church fellowship.  It’s about exactly what is described in 1 Corinthians 12, – All – are important to God.  None are more unimportant.  We are all sinners, we all serve the same God (well most of us do). We should never do like Mark Driscoll, pick and choose who sits on the bus.  It’s God’s bus if you will.  We have no right nor should we look at other folk in church as just bodies to be used.  That’s what Mark did.

The Church at Ephesus: Lost Love

Revelation 2:1–29
English Standard Version

To the Church in Ephesus
2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of ehim who holds the seven stars in his right hand, fwho walks among the seven golden lampstands.  2 g“ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but hhave tested those iwho call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up jfor my name’s sake, and you khave not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned lthe love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do mthe works you did at first. If not, nI will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent

When Paul visited the church in Ephesus, he spent time teaching Christ, love for each other and warning the Ephesians to beware of false teachers, idolatry which Ephesus had plenty.   So why does Revelation 2:2-5 criticize the church at Ephesus?  This church while working hard to preserve doctrine had lost their love for one another. Throughout Paul’s teaching, he continues what Jesus taught us, and that was to love other.   If we are to love our enemies and pray for them.  Matthew 5: 43-48

 

Alternative analogy: The Goats

There seems to be a theme eh?  One of my favorite songs from Christian Singer Song writer Keith Green is “the Sheep and the Goats”

He said it best. There isn’t a way for me to improve on it.

The Wrap.

The story of Mark Driscoll is sadly being repeated over and over again in churches today.  Church folk are looked at as employees, things to be used for vision caster’s purpose.  I’ve seen it over and over.

I personally struggle to understand why God would add folks to an unloving church. God is God and he can do what he wants.  Psalm 115:3  But hopefully the wolves show us how much more we need to love each other, support each other, and do as God; count the weakest as the most necessary.  Hopefully we recognize that we are to serve, to love, not to be served. Just as Christ did.

 

A final thought on 1 Corinthians

So if we continue on in Corinthians, we come to the passage more people are familiar with;

1 Corinthians 13:1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, a but have not love, I gain nothing.

 

Or to put it in todays vernacular

If I go to church and don’t have love, I’m a seat warmer.

If I am positioned to shepherd over people in church and don’t have love, I’m just a boss.

If my church serves coffee, but doesn’t have love, then it’s a Starbucks knock off.

If we have great programs at church, but don’t have love, then we are just a Moose Lodge.

And if we have the best entertainment with all the fog, silly light shows, and best music and have not Love, then we really should pay 10 bucks at the door and expect popcorn.

 


About the author:   Steven Davis is a overcooked preacher’s kid, musician, former social worker and media producer.

 

 

References:

The Bible

Chris Rosebrough

Melissa Dougherty

 

Stories from a new father

Hey Son, what is the temperature out side?

“It’s warmish coldish.”

 

“I finished my oatmeal faster than you.”

Me. You did?

“Yes, my mouth is bigger.” — Breakfast with a new father.

 

“Daddy, can I have some dry bacon?”

You mean beef jerky?

“Yes.”  — stories with a new father.  

 

“I’m 45 feet tall.”

You are?  — car rides with a new father

How we use music to segregate within the local church

Diverse picture of hands holding

How we use music to segregate our church meeting.

———————————————————————————————————-

First of all, the rules for this post. (ominous sounding eh?)

Rule: 1  This post is not about racial equality, race issues in general.

Rule: 2 This post is not about singling out any culture or race.

Rule: 3  This post is from an American point of view

So what about Stryper?   Probably one of the most renowned Christian Rock Bands from the 80s till today.

A bit of HX

For me, the music was among other bands that I listened to at a critical time in my Christian journey.  Other bands I liked were Bride, Guardian and Degarmo and Key.   There are many more, but those are the more well-known bands.    So that is a sample of my favorite Christian music from back in the day.  Even though I was playing praise and worship from the likes of Ron Kenoly in church, in my room or car, those were the tapes I played constantly.  I still remember playing Bride for my youth pastor and he just shook his head.  I guess head banging may not have been his thing?  My thing?  Absolutely.

But that’s me.  I can actually swing from Christian metal to Bluegrass in one blog sitting.  What about you?  What Godly music do you like?  So you have a favorite?  Do you like everything?  You do?  Including Stryper?  It can get uncomfortable to think that there is more Christian music out there that others like.  Why don’t they like what we like?  Shouldn’t we all listen to the same Christian music?  Of course not.   We are all created differently and our musical likes and dislikes can vary immensely.

As recent as a few years ago, I visited a church, one where I got a massive migrane from their blue light banks.  Someone asked me how I enjoyed the service.  I mentioned my pain with the stage light. She mentioned that their worship isn’t for everyone, and directed me to packs of ear plugs on a table in the lobby.  I did see the earplugs, but the volume of well-mixed church meeting music has never bothered me.  But certainly those with hearing issues, headache issues or other auditorial issues, yep, loud music can be a hindrance.   Her response however was that the church had mitigated issues like mine by providing earplugs for worship.  Did that make any sense?  Didn’t then, doesn’t now.   The comment however that the worship wasn’t for everybody was the most concerning part of that encounter. That blog post was the whole reason for this and other posts.  We have to examine our corporate worship, what is it, what should it look like?  So what about our corporate worship, is it for everyone?  We need to address questions like this in the modern church, openly.

Can I come to church with you?  I hope you’d say, ‘Absolutely!.’  But will your church band play some metal for me? What about some bluegrass?

 

Probably not, but maybe your church is like this Finnish Heavy Metal Church.  I can only hope.

What does your church play for music?  In the American church, the choices are wide open. There are hymnals and at the other ends of the spectrum is music like the above video, church metal.   “Now wait a minute,” you say? “Church Metal?!” Yes, Church Metal.

But I’d bet your church isn’t into metal.  What they actually play for the church meeting may depend on a large set of factors.

So how do we choose our corporate or congregational worship music?  Here are some ways, but not all for sure.

 

The Latest K-Love top 10

People like their car music.  Remember mine?    But I’m sure other people listen to stuff on K-Love, which may have a tad of issue sliding in “To Hell With the Devil.”  But hey, if the K-Love top 10 is Christ-centered Biblically Theologically sound music, then I’m all for it. But should we choose that for corporate worship?

Worship Leader chooses it

I still remember sitting in church trying to sing the songs that were on the screen.  I didn’t really recognize most of it.  The lyrics were spread along the musical timeline in a way that seemed difficult to sing with.  To me, it was like nails on a chalkboard.  Several songs were more like religious prose dropped on top of rhythms without thought given to flow.  I’d say they were all Christian, but some didn’t make any theological sense.  Either way, it was a chore to try and sing with them.  I never found out if they were personally written by the worship director, or not but someone tried to write that music.

Congregational Requests

I alluded to this earlier, but some churches sing what everyone likes.  After all, you want to keep people happy right?  Or do you?  Is that what is coined ‘Consumer Christianity?’  We as a worship team/group should do what we can to please the people in corporate worship, right? Probably not, since that is giving the sheep the Shepherds Crook.  Consumer Christianity is rampant in today’s American culture.  Do something someone doesn’t like, boom, they are off to the next restaurant, I mean church. Wrong attitude.

Is there anything sinister or inherently wrong about playing a song in church someone wanted to hear?  Not really.   Is it how we should approach corporate worship in a church meeting?  Does that make the worship band more of a ‘bar band without the tip?’

It’s What We’ve always played

Generations come and go, decades come and go, and we refuse to review and grow in corporate worship, or even our faith for that matter.  After all, the world is going to Hell in a handbasket anyway, why should we change what we do in our local church, we are the chosen few right?  So regarding worship, that church down the road is such and such type because they play ‘x’ type of music.  That’s the way they’ve always been.

 

Worship

A Bible Look

According to Jesus: John 4:23-24  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In Isaiah 12:5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

In Psalms 95:1-6 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens![a]
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

It’s pretty clear just from a few verses, God’s command and our intent when we worship ,should be to worship the one true God, I AM.

 

So what about corporate worship.  Before we answer that question, we have to look at one more Jesus reference.

Matthew 28: 16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

It’s the ‘All Nations’ we want to zero in on.   With the current modern church in America, we have a lot of religious diversity.  We have this church that has this group, this church over here has this group, and that one over there has another group and so on.  And often, historically, our American church has differed in music just as it does in the makeup of the congregations.  Is it the American culture and musical genres that has influenced our local church worship?  Have we taken our corporate worship style lead from the world?

Squirrel Rant —  Allow me to borrow that objection in your mind and yell at myself for a minute.   Here goes.  “Now wait a minute, aren’t congregational makeups largely a matter of location.  We have city churches that have city folk, the suburbs have another congregant makeup, and the country churches, well we all know what they have.  So, that’s the reason for the congregant makeup right? ” And that’s what gives us our corporate worship style, right?  And to some degree, I would agree that by default, across America we have built our local churches based on location.  Because given the choice, I’d be hard-pressed to drive an hour to church if I can find Jesus a little closer.  :}

 

I’m going to revisit Stryper one more time (at least)- Labels

Labels What were/are called who like that type of music, “Headbangers” Which is different than “The Headbangers“, that’s a wrestling team.   We all dreamed of wearing bright spandex, 8-inch plats, and hair flying in the wind long enough to hit the person on the third row.    But those who performed hip-hop, maybe they were called rappers. The labels that were in secular music, we all know them.  What about George Jones, well he was a country music singers. I for one wasn’t a huge rap fan.  It wasn’t my thing, so I leaned more towards rock and metal.  I just liked it.  So when I finally found Christian Rock/Metal, I was set.   But there were a few RUN-DMC songs I liked.  I just didn’t spend any money on their albums.

So what does Stryper have anything to do with corporate or congregational worship.   If it was up to me, a whole lot.  But God in his infinite wisdom chose not to give me a worship leader position in my teen years.  And that is a blessing for all.  But enough self-depreciation, if Stryper showed up to do a show at my church, I suspect there would be 5.8% of people left at noon.

I’ll never forget when our band sang at a gospel sing.  We had a rhythm and blues lead guitarist, blues and rock electric guitarist, a metal bass guitarist, and myself a southern gospel drummer.  Talk about diversity. We were the last people to play.  By the end, most people in the seats had dispersed, but we had three elderly gentlemen sitting on the front row.  I’ll never forget, they tapped their feet the whole time.  I’m sure people left because of the late part of the day. That had to be it. :}

So what does this have to do with corporate church worship?  A question we should ask is, how has the progression and diverse American music impacted both what we play in our churches but the makeup of our churches.  Do we have “hip hop”, rock, country – insert genre – churches?

 

Is there anything wrong with playing music people can connect to?

That is the question.  Music is one of the most powerful expressions in humanity.  Music can be very personal for people.  Music can give us messages of life or death.  Music can give us messages of hope or hopelessness.   Like the ole’ country joke; ‘what do you get when you play a country song backward?  You get your dog, truck, and wife back.’  I know I know, not all country music is hopeless.

When I first found Christian rock music and even today, when I invest in Christian music, I’ll research the band looking, for one thing, a message that points to God either in the band’s bio or the words of the song, hopefully in both. Because there is a lot of music then and today that alleges a Christian message, but is lacking in sound theological doctrine and is sometimes outright secular.  Like when we all thought Evanescense was a Christian band, finding their way into Bible book stores.

 

Should we play songs that everyone can connect with?  That’s a good question;  A better question is should we play songs that enable people to connect to God.   If so, then what is the approach we need?  Here are some thoughts.

We should come to a church meeting to worship.  We need to have an attitude of worship.  We as a corporate congregation need to humble ourselves together before God and say, if we worship, we worship to glorify God.  Worship should not be to edify the body first but to glorify God.  Maybe we sit in quiet waiting on God, maybe we play the same song four times praising God, maybe we just worship first. – Which means, my thoughts about the song choice has nothing to do with my attitude of worshiping God in a collective way that honors Him.-

So then what?  Should we play a diverse set of music that reaches everyone including anyone who walks in the door?  Or should we look across the seats and settle on this type of music because of who sits there?  Still the wrong question.  We as Americans have had a tendency to sit and consume church.  But our thoughts on worship should be to glorify God.  Sunday worship should be the icing on the -weeks- cake, not the entire cake of our -weeks- worship.

A silly proposition.  What if we had five people in our congregation; one a metalhead, one country, one who likes hip hop, one who likes progressive modern seeker-friendly songs and one who really digs hymnals.  How do we choose that song list?   Well there’s the obvious, and then there’s what I propose is the alternative;  Rethink our worship entirely.  Music is powerful, and anointed worship is when we are in a place that becomes about God, and not the song. -Idols even.-   Worship God, let go of ourselves.  Now don’t get me wrong, we can play songs, music in a way that is harsh to the ears, rhythmically deficient, and so on.   I’m not proposing lowering the quality but rethinking the purpose thereby the substance of our corporate worship.

 

Final thoughts.

Is there anything wrong with playing worship songs that people can connect with?  A better question is; shouldn’t we focus on the act of corporate worship with humility, and let the song choice be a distant sixth place?  After all, Jesus tells us to worship God, our attitude of worship should be our first consideration.  And that takes constantly refocusing ourselves beyond ourselves.

Is it possible to segregate a church using music, it sure is.   If I had a church and hired Stryper to do the worship, I’m probably going to lose some folks.  Even if I have Michael Sweet do Amazing Grace, Stryper circa 1980 may be too much spandex and makeup for some.

Do some church folk leave a church because they don’t like the music, they sure do.  Do we all come to church and like a good song, sure.  But shouldn’t we rethink our worship constantly to make sure we are not inhibiting everyone – All Nations if you will- with connecting with God? Absolutely.  But as a good friend of mine told me, that requires working past our humanity.

 


About the Author:  Steven Davis is a drummer, recovering social worker, overcooked preachers kid, bible school dropout.