I wonder what the Apostle Paul would think if he visited some churches today. Some are healthy. But I imagine he would have strong words of caution to many. He would flat-out rebuke others. I wonder if Jesus looks down from Heaven, embarrassed. I’m uncertain if my generation truly understands what it means to be the Body of Christ.
You know the churches I’m talking about: man-centered, not God-centered. They seek to be new and sexy, because the way God’s people have worshiped for ages is outdated.
They seek to be relevant, even if it means crossing biblical boundaries to do so. Entertainment, not preaching the Word of God, is the engine that drives the church. Publicity, not relationships, are the focus of ministry.
I often think, “Will they ever run out of rabbits to pull out of the hat?”
Games and gimmicks draw wonderful crowds but make weak disciples. Building your church on hype cannot be sustained long-term. It wears off quickly. The air goes out of the balloon. Someone else is always waiting to pull a bigger rabbit out of the hat, “oohing” and “ahhh-ing” the crowds. It becomes a competition between churches: Who can have the biggest splash? Who can generate the greatest shock value? Who can produce the most emotionally-driven show?
I wonder if the rabbits weary Jesus? I think of Jesus feeding the crowds in the gospels. The crowds were his biggest fans as long as he was giving them food. When he began to teach, especially hard teachings, they walked away (John 6:66-67).
When I hear of churches giving away a new car on high attendance day, I laugh. Maybe I shouldn’t. One church I spoke with wouldn’t refer to it as “worship;” the correct terminology today is “production.”
I hear of churches substituting the proclamation of the Scriptures for a secular movie with spiritual points. It scares me that they will give an account before God for their preaching! I’m told the church over there is literally giving out cash to get people of another skin color to visit their church. That breaks my heart.
I attended church on vacation and they sang one song by Journey and another by John Denver. It’s supposed to make lost people feel more comfortable. I’m asking myself, “Am I in a church or a pub?”
I saw a mega-church pastor preach on sex while lying in his bed on stage. Is he more interested in making a name for himself or in making disciples for Jesus Christ? I’m not certain, but I wonder. I could give more examples but what’s the use?
I know the old proverb says, “If you’re going to go fishing, you’ve got to have some bait.” Being relevant is important. However, when we elevate relevance above the Scripture, we are in danger of losing the true meaning of church. It doesn’t make disciples. It creates weeds that spring up quickly but die as soon as tribulation comes.
I look around the church today and it looks like “VBS-for-adults.” All milk, no meat. Spurgeon once remarked, “One day instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, we will see clowns entertaining the goats.”
Pastors, stop pulling rabbits out of your hat; pull your Bible off the shelf, and feed the sheep.
Andy Waits is associate pastor of worship and students at First Baptist Church in Springville. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.