Church Growth, Seeker Sensitive Movement, Mega Church.
I would like to compare some scriptures with the Seeker Sensitive movement. Can something so widespread in Christianity be unbiblical? So many shepherds have uncritically bought into this phenomenon, let's follow the command of scripture and "Test all things" 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11, 1 John 4:1.
It seems all that we hear today is judging a teacher by how big their church is. What happened to judging a teacher by what he taught rather than the size of his church? How many thousands of faithful pastors have congregations under 100 people. Why is the focus on "growth" instead of faithfulness to God's Word? One Christian leader has well said: "Is a pastors job to fill the pews, or is it to fill the pulpit? Should a pastor be more concerned with how many or more concerned with what kind?"
We do not measure a movement by it's growth, popularity, etc., but by the Word of God. The Mormon Church is one of the fastest growing religions, does this mean that God is blessing it? Some even argue the old Gamaliel reasoning found in Acts 5:38-39. Yet, if we were to follow this to its logical conclusion, we should not speak out against Mormonism, Watchtower, or any other false teaching. To the contrary of popular opinion, the Bible is replete with commands for Christians to test all things with scripture, shall we follow man or God?
Peter's view of God's Word was so high that he set forth the standard that all experiences must be judged by scripture. If these experiences are found to contradict scripture, we can be sure that God had nothing to do with them. Peter recounts the Transfiguration, the blessed event where our Lord's Glory was revealed along with Elijah and Moses at His side. What did Peter say? He said, scripture is more trustworthy than this very experience of seeing Jesus in His Glory (2 Peter 1:16-21). We are commanded over and over again to judge all things by scripture.
During our church service on February 8, 2004 our pastor told us a story about his recent pastors conference in Texas the week before. He was concerned about all the new "techniques" that were being discussed by the pastors on how to make their churches grow. He told them to preach the whole counsel of God and rely upon God and not to trust in man's wisdom and "techniques." After saying this to a auditorium full of pastors our pastor said, "there was an uncomfortable silence."
Can you believe that? Our leaders reacted with indifference to a man telling them to preach the whole counsel of God and fully rely upon Him. This seeker sensitive focus that is so prevalent today is contrary to scripture in so many ways. Many pastors will not mention hell, sin, repentance, or taking up our cross in order to not offend unbelievers that might be in the congregation. Rather that preaching the whole counsel of God they will take all of these essential elements of the gospel out.
These pastors will not preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), they want to be sensitive to unbelievers. They are afraid to offend them with the systematic exposition of God's Holy Word, is not the Cross an offense (Galatians 5:11)? In fact, they will not even call them unsaved, rather the new inoffensive term is "unchurched" or "Non Evangelicals."
I am in no way positing a hyper-fundamentalist legalism that says worship has to be a certain way. My complaint is against the teaching that would relegate God's Holy Word to a subordinate role in the church and place entertainment, salesmanship, drama, psychology, sermonettes, etc, over biblical (expository) preaching.
Many pastors today tailor sermons, worship, and music to suit unbelievers and attract them by appealing to their flesh. Special attention is placed on their "Felt Needs," "Fears," and "hang-Ups" so that they can be as comfortable as possible. They focus on the "felt needs" of unbelievers rather than the true needs of God's family.
They have become experts in using man's techniques and marketing ploys to add to the church rather than preaching the whole counsel of God and letting God add to the church. "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved," (Acts 2:47).
I agree with and I want to follow Rick Warren's advice that he gives on pages 18 and 186 in his book The Purpose Driven Church:
"I've read it over and over, studying it with 'church-growth eyes,' searching for principles, patterns, and procedures. The New Testament is the greatest church-growth book ever written. For the things that really matter, you can't improve on it. It's the owner's manual for the church...The secret of effective evangelism is to not only share Christ's message but to follow his methodology. I believe Jesus gave us not only what to say but also how to share it. He gave us a strategy. He modeled timeless principles of evangelism that still work today if we'll apply them."
So, let's see what Jesus, The New Testament, and the rest of the Bible have to say about preaching and church growth.
Let me start by asking some quick questions: Do we have anything to with a person getting saved besides preaching the Gospel (Romans 10:14)? Does not the Holy Spirit convict the sinner (John 16:8)? Does not the Father give us to Jesus (John 17:11)? Does not God add to the church (Acts 2:47)? Didn't Jesus say that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18)?
These aforementioned and following scriptures make it abundantly clear that it is God that converts the sinner, not us or our methodology. We simply must proclaim the whole counsel of God and let Him give the increase as He pleases:
"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase," 1 Corinthians 3:5-7.
Let's look to Jesus for an example of what way we should preach to the "unchurched." In the Gospel of Luke there are multitudes of people following Him. What will Jesus say to them? How will Jesus attract these people? Will he preach to their felt needs? This is the crucial time to be sensitive and preach His best sermon so that He will not drive these seekers away:
"And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple,"
What is Jesus doing? Doesn't Jesus know that we will not attract people with a message like that? Where are the church growth leaders so that they can teach Jesus how to do things right? Could somebody please tell God that He has it all wrong. Is the preaching today by seeker sensitive pastors the opposite of the way that Jesus preached?
In Luke chapter 4 Jesus goes to his hometown synagogue in Nazareth to preach. What was the reaction to his message from the people that Jesus grew up with? Did Jesus give them a smooth message? See for yourself:
"But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong,"
Is this the way that the seeker sensitive gurus teach us to reach unchurched Harry and Mary? I believe that Jesus would rebuke the seeker sensitive leaders the same way that he rebuked Peter for focusing on the interests of man rather than God:
"But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men,"
In chapter eleven of the Gospel of Luke a seeker asks Jesus to come and have lunch with him. The custom of this seeker was to wash themselves before they ate a meal. Of course Jesus would not offend this seeker while in his own house by not washing Himself as well--would He? One church growth leader teaches that we must be sensitive to the "Hang-ups" of seekers. Let's see what Jesus did:
"And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?...But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them,"
Luke 11:37-40; 42-44.
Jesus used some harsh language to describe these people. That's not very "Up-beat" or being sensitive to the Pharisee's customs. All Jesus had to do was wash His hands to avoid offending this man's "hang-up." In fact, a lawyer sitting among them asked Jesus if He was reproaching them as well. Jesus responded:
"Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! For ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres," Luke 11:45-48.
What was the greatest revival in recorded history? It was Jonah preaching to Nineveh. The whole city repented at his preaching--let's see what Jonah preached in order to get such a miraculous result. Did Jonah gather everybody and put together a play? Did Jonah see what music the Ninevites liked and incorporate that into his sermon? Did he speak to their felt needs? Was Jonah sensitive to the unchurched's hang-ups and not mention sin and destruction? Did Jonah gather together the experts from Nineveh and get their advice on how to better reach the young people?
A resounding no! Here is what Jonah preached, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them," (Jonah 3:4-5). Jonah did not even want them to repent, he wanted them destroyed because Nineveh was a wicked and cruel nation. That underscores my point further, if you preach the Word, God will honor it. It is not in man's wisdom, power, or might, (Zechariah 4:6). God adds to the church (Acts 2:47).
Another great revival can be found in the book of Nehemiah in chapters 8 and 9. What was done by the leaders that brought this great revival to fruition? Did they ask the unchurched for their opinion on how a church service should be? Did they take a poll of the unchurched and ask them why they were not attending worship services? Let's see what caused this tremendous revival:
"So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshathac , and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law,"
The leaders preached the word and it caused the people to weep! No entertainment, gimmicks, dramas, worldly music, etc. They simply taught God's Holy Word which has been found effectual in the eternal salvation of millions and millions of people. Charles Spurgeon had this to say about the teaching that attempts to please man instead of God. Sadly, this methodology is sweeping Evangelicalism today:
"The idea of a progressive gospel seems to have fascinated many. To us that notion is a sort of cross-breed between nonsense and blasphemy."
In the book of Jeremiah there is a moving quote about how the Nation of Israel exchanged the old paths of worshipping God for the new ways of worshipping idols:
"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein," Jeremiah 6:16.
Let's look at Jesus in the beginning of his ministry in John chapter 6. Jesus had a lot of people following Him. On the surface it appears that He was doing things right according to the seeker sensitive model. What kind of message did Jesus preach to this big group? Was it a felt needs sermon? Did he take a poll to determine what to preach? Did he keep it light? Did he water down the message so that he would not offend unchurched Harry and Marry? Here is what Jesus preached to this big group of people:
"Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it...When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?...From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?"
John 6:60-61, 66-67.
Jesus spoke the unadulterated word of God and it offended people. Jesus placed some hard demands upon them and their beliefs. Are we somehow more sophisticated that Jesus? Will we instruct Jehovah? Are we now Gods counselor? Are we ashamed of the Gospel that is presented in the Bible?
In Mark chapter 10 we have the perfect example of how Jesus talked to an honest seeker. The rich young ruler asked Him, "And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
What was the reply of Jesus to this honest question? It does not even come close to what the seeker sensitive gurus teach:
"Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me,"
Jesus told him some hard things and he also confronted his covetousness. He also told him that being one of his followers is not easy. He pointed out this man's sin and the reality of being a Christian. How else is a sinner going know that they need a savior unless you point this out to them with scripture? The rich young ruler left sad, and Jesus let him Go. I guess Jesus failed, right? Jesus didn't do church right. Will you follow man or God?
Does the message that Jesus taught sound like the one taught at seeker sensitive churches? When is the last time that you have heard them preach this:
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
That message does not sell to well--does it? The experts would say that would be offensive to unchurched Harry and Marry so we must water that down to be sensitive to their hang-ups. We have got to play their music so that they will be comfortable and entertained.
Listen to the words of Charles Spurgeon regarding this method of reaching unbelievers: "Dear friends, we know that souls are not won by music, if they were it would be time for preachers to give way to opera singers."
What is our mission? What is a pastors duty? Is it to play music that would interest the unchurched? Is it to cater to the felt needs and hang-ups of unbelievers at the expense of feeding the sheep? Let's see what the Bible says church is for:
"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers...Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,"
Acts 2:42, 47.
Acts 2 tells us what the early church did when believers gathered together. Church is supposed to be a place for believers to have fellowship and be instructed in the Word so that when they depart they can be equipped to be salt and light and evangelize the world. It is not a place to cater to the felt needs of the unchurched. The sheep are to be fed, is that not one of the primary responsibilities of a shepherd? Isn't a shepherd supposed to feed the sheep?
When Jesus first sent out his disciples, what did they do? Did they gather the people to the local amphitheater and play the popular songs of the day? No, scripture says that, "And they went out, and preached that men should repent," Mark 6:12. Can you believe that? They actually told men that they needed to repent--how offensive can they be? That is no way to attract the unchurched, is it?
On the day of Pentecost there was a huge crowd of unbelievers amazed that the followers of Jesus were speaking to them in their own language, some even mocked them thinking that they were drunk. Peter rises up to speak to this vast crowd of unbelievers. What will Peter say to them?
"ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain...Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ,"
Acts 2:23, 36.
What was the reaction of this vast crowd to this preaching?
"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?...Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls,"
Acts 2:37, 41.
Three thousand of them repented and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Peter preached the simple Gospel, no gimmicks, showmanship, or man's wisdom. He simply was faithful to the Word and let God convict those that were chosen for salvation before the world began (Ephesians 1:4-5).
In Acts chapter three after Peter had healed a lame man at the temple gate called Beautiful a big crowd of people gathered around them at Solomon's Porch wondering what had happened. What will Peter say to them? Will he preach to their felt needs? Will he tell them that God wants to make them have a bigger business, hit more home runs, and have a better golf swing? See for yourself:
"The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses...Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord...And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people,"
Acts 3:13-13, 19, 23.
Peter actually told them that they would be destroyed if they did not believe in Jesus. He told them that they delivered up Jesus to death. Has not every Christian and unchurched Harry and Mary done the same to Jesus? Was it not for all of our sins that Jesus died (1 Timothy 2:1-6, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 John 2:2)? Should we tell them no less that the great Apostle Peter? What was the result of this brutish, unsophisticated, uneducated, and insensitive preaching? See how God blessed this foolish preaching of the cross:
"And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand,"
Let's look at what happened to Peter and John in the book of Acts. We read that the non-believing Jewish leaders were greatly disturbed with such insensitive preaching:
"They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day,"
Peter and John were not trying to please the unbelieving Jewish leaders. They preached the very thing that offended them the most. When they were warned by the leaders to stop preaching such offensive things, Peter and John said:
"But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye,"
After these threats and warnings from the leaders, what did Peter and John do? Did they tone down their message so that it would not be so offensive? Did they strive to be sensitive to the unbelieving leaders to the point of changing their message? Did they stop preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified? Did they stop preaching about the Resurrection since this was the very thing that was so offensive to the unchurched? See for yourself:
"And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word...And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all,"
Acts 4:29, 33.
In Acts chapter 24, this is a time if any to preach a seeker sensitive sermon. Paul is a prisoner and he is speaking to Felix the Roman Governor and his wife Drusilla the Jewess. How will Paul speak to the Governor? Will he tone down the gospel out of respect for the Governor's position and authority? Will Paul keep it light because he is a prisoner and they have the power to release him? Let's see what the Apostle Paul preached to them:
"And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee,"
Paul said some hard things to Felix and his wife--in fact Felix was terrified and he sent Paul away. Scripture is replete with this type of preaching, yet today we are somehow more sophisticated that scripture. We are told that the Bible is antiquated and that we cannot reach people of the 21st century with its archaic message. Sadly, many churches have adopted this model-- replacing God's holy, unchanging, infallible, inerrant Word with man's wisdom and techniques.
We have gone over a few examples in the Bible of men of God witnessing to unbelievers. Now, I want you to compare what we just reviewed to the advice of Rick Warren to unbelievers in the March 2005 Ladies Home Journal article titled "Learn To Love Yourself:"
"Learn To Love Yourself! Self-esteem still wobbly after all these years? These five simple truths will show you that you don't need to be perfect to be priceless....Accept yourself...God accepts us unconditionally (Remember he's talking to unbelievers)...Love yourself...Be true to yourself...Forgive yourself...Believe in yourself...You can believe what others say about you, or you can believe in yourself as does God, who says you are truly acceptable, lovable, valuable and capable," Ladies Home Journal March 2005, page 36.
Jeremiah was faithful to God throughout his ministry and life yet he did not have a single convert. Think about that for a minute my friend, his whole ministry did not produce one conversion. Was his ministry a failure? No, what matters is being faithful to God's Word--not the size of your ministry or the number of converts. Being faithful to God is rarely popular so why do so many shepherds seek to be accepted by unbelievers? See Jeremiah's moving lament over the hatred to him and God's message to a sinful and rebellious people:
"O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him," Jeremiah 20:7-10.
Martin Luther has this to say about a preacher seeking to be relevant and popular:
"Those who are in the teaching office should with the greatest faithfulness and expect no other remuneration than to be killed by the world, trampled under foot, and despised by their own...Teach purely and faithfully, and in all you do expect not glory but dishonor and contempt, not wealth but poverty, violence, prison, death, and every danger."
Let's look as well to the mighty prophet Ezekiel and the words that God gave him at his commission as a prophet. These words still apply to any man that would seek to serve God today. God warned him that to speak His words would not be very popular. Has anything changed today? Should we seek to be popular when God says that we will not be? See God's warning:
"And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee,"
Was John the Baptist seeker sensitive and concerned with the hang-ups with the unchurched? No, his head was chopped off for preaching the Word of God (Matthew 14:1-11). Was Stephen seeker sensitive and concerned with the hang-ups with the unchurched? No, they stoned him for preaching the Word of God (Acts 7:1-60).
What is the history of the true prophets of God when speaking to the nation of Israel? Most of them were murdered, abused, and despised by the unchurched Israelites (Acts 7:52; Matthew 23:31; Jeremiah 2:30; 2 Chronicles 36:16; Hebrews 11:36-40; and Nehemiah 9:26).
Why is what the Bible teaches about the church and evangelism so different from the seeker sensitive movement? Are they seeking to please man rather than God? Are they trusting in man's wisdom? Are they ashamed of the gospel?
Some verses of scripture come to mind after thinking about these unbiblical teachings:
"Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD," Jeremiah 17:5.
"It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man," Psalm 118:8.
"Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!"
What did Jesus say about the way to heaven? Is it easy and clear for all to see? Or is it hard and narrow?
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,"
"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able,"
I pray that people will get back to the true Gospel and not be taken in by the latest fad. Jesus preached on Hell more than He did on heaven. Yet today we are told to not mention Hell--it might offend people. How twisted is that? How contrary to scripture is that? You be the judge.
We are to speak the truth in love and be gracious to unbelievers. The truth must be spoken nonetheless. We also must strive to be loving and kind when presenting the Gospel. But, when we compromise the Word of God in order to not offend unbelievers, we have stopped preaching the gospel. We have become ashamed of the very thing that we profess to love. When we do this our hearts have departed from the LORD.
In the book of Revelation the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) which was rich and wealthy and thought that it had need of nothing. Yet God had this to say about this "rich" church:
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," Revelation 3:16-17.
In the same book the Church of Smyrna was described as poor, facing persecution, and in great tribulation. God had some very different words for this church:
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,"
Over 150 years ago Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching against the seeker sensitive movement of his day. We can learn from the insights of this hero of the faith. Just as the Bible says, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun," Ecclesiasties 1:9.
"The fact is, that many would like to unite church and stage, cards and prayers, dancing, and sacraments. If we are powerless to stem this torment, we can at least warn men of the existence, and entreat them to keep out of it. When the old faith is gone, and enthusiasm for the gospel is extinct, it is no wonder that the people seek something else in the way of delight. Lacking bread, they feed on ashes; rejecting the way of the Lord, they run greedily in the path of folly."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Another Word Concerning the Down Grade, The Sword and the Trowel, 1887)
"Everywhere there is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter the better."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Preface, The Sword and the Trowel, 1888)
"The idea of a progressive gospel seems to have fascinated many. To us that notion is a sort of cross-breed between nonsense and blasphemy. After the gospel has been found effectual in the eternal salvation of untold multitudes, it seems rather late in the day to alter it; and, since it is the revelation of the all-wise and unchanging God, it appears somewhat audacious to attempt its improvement. When we call up before our mind's eye the gentlemen who have set themselves this presumptuous task, we feel half inclined to laugh; the case is so much like the proposal of moles to improve the light of the sun...Do men believe that there is a gospel for each century? Or a religion for each fifty years?"
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Progressive Theology, pg. 157-58, The Sword & Trowel, 1888)
"That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "How Saints May Help The Devil," July 24, 1859)
"Dear friends, we know that souls are not won by music, if they were it would be time for preachers to give way to opera singers."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit," Volume 18, page 239)
"The heaving of the masses under newly invented excitements we are too apt to identify with the power of God. This age of novelties would seem to have discovered spiritual power in brass bands and tambourines...The tendency of the time is towards bigness, parade, and show of power, as if these would surely accomplish what more regular agencies have failed to achieve."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit," Volume 28, page 377, 1882)
"Jesus said, 'Preach the gospel to every creature.' But men are getting tired of the divine plan; they are going to be saved by a priest, going to be saved by the music, going to be saved by theatricals, and nobody knows what! Well, they may try these things as long as ever they like; but nothing can ever come of the whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion, God dishonoured, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by the thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit," Volume 40, page 199, 1888)
"From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.
Then again, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers .., for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.
Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt" (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy---something the world will spit out not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, "Let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22) He was in awful earnestness.
Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, "Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow." Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them...
Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats")
"Another cause of mourning is when we see the holiness of the visible church declouded. I trust I am not given to finding fault where fault there is not. But I cannot open my eyes without seeing things done in our churches which 30 years ago were not so much as dreamed of! In the matter of amusement professors have gone far in the way of laxity. What is worse the churches have now conceived the idea that it's their duty to amuse the people. Dissenters who use to protest against going to the theatre now caused the theatre to come to them."
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Dirge for the Downgrade and A Song of Faith," Isaiah 66:10)
Hear these words of J. Gresham Machen:
"God grant that you may resist the Tempter’s voice; God save you from the sin of paring down the gospel to suit the pride of men; God grant that you may deliver your message straight and full and plain. Only so, whatever else you may sacrifice, will you have one thing — the favour of the Lord Jesus Christ. And only so will you be the instrument in saving souls. Do you think men’s souls are satisfied by the current preaching of the day, with its encouragement of human pride? It might seem so. The churches are crowded where Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah and his associates hold forth; one can sometimes in those churches scarcely obtain a seat; hundreds are turned away at the doors. But let us not be deceived by appearances. Among those crowds — contented though they may seem to a superficial observer to be — there are many hungry hearts. Despite all the apparent satisfaction of the world with this ‘other gospel’ of a non-doctrinal Christianity, this ‘other gospel’ that is dictated by human pride, there is deep down in the human heart a hunger for the Word of God. Despite all the efforts of modern prophets, all that Zedekiah and his far more than four hundred associates can do, despite the hubbub of modern optimism, you will find, here and there at least, in this modern world, listening to these modern preachers, those who say, after listening to it all: ‘Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides that we might enquire of him?’"
A. W. Tozer wrote these words in 1955:
"For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was—a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate "producers" peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it."