Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church, Entertainment, Worldliness

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon
(1834-1892) [1]

An evil is in the ‘professed’ camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted Christian can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments!

The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. 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 into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.’ That is clear enough and 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, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry.” 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 apostolic Church to the world? “You are the salt of the world“, not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance “Let the dead bury the dead.” He was in awful earnestness.

Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him,” 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!‘ No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them!

In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the ‘gospel of amusement’. Their message is, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them . . . Don’t touch their filthy things . . .” Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.’ No! They did not cease from preaching Christ. If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down; that is the only difference from today’s church. Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the careless and the scoffers, who testify the church met them half way, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their 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 for Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

“Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods!” [2]

____________________
ENDNOTES
[1] Taken from The Sovereign Grace Messenger: A Publication of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship, Issue 37, Winter 2014, Pastor Ron Staley, Editor, Mechanicsville, VA.
[2] I thank my good friend Bob Gifford, pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Dale City, VA, for drawing my attention to this article. It serves as a confirming witness of much of what I have written about and is contained elsewhere on the website, Guarding His Flock Ministries.

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Getting “Higher” on God (A Sequel)

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church, Mysticism

Opiates and the “Experience” of Rave Worship [1]

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 5:18-21

Introduction
Scores of architecturally significant churches dot the landscape of the Australian city of Adelaide, structures that were built to last and perhaps bear testimony to a Christian influence in that part of the world. Upon visiting that city last year (September 24-25, 2011), my initial impression was perhaps like that of the Apostle Paul when he was in Athens and said, “Men of Athens [Adelaide], I observe that you are very religious in all respects” (Acts 17:22).

Under the auspices of Christian Witness Ministries and with Philip Powell the director of CWM, the Lord gave me the opportunity of ministry with The Street Church, a small Bible fellowship of committed Christians in Adelaide. The church is led by the Corneloup brothers, Sam and Caleb, the former who came to the Lord out of a life of crime. In many ways the fellowship encouraged my spirit with the presence of many young people. For the seminars, the church rented The German Club in the downtown area in that city.

With some of the members of The Street Church, I had my first opportunity at “street preaching” at Rundle Mall, an open air shopping area in the heart of Adelaide. [2] As an American with a distinct “Michigander” accent, people passed by, briefly stopped to listen, and then went their way. Because The Street Church regularly engaged in the activity, secular authorities tried to muzzle the preachers by passing laws against them. But in the name of “free speech,” and because of the legal knowledge of Caleb Corneloup, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the street preachers. If other secular groups espousing a radical ideology were allotted the legal right of public assembly to express their views, then why not The Street Church?

The whirlwind weekend of ministry passed by quickly, and before I knew it, the time arrived for me to get to the airport on Saturday evening in order to catch a flight to Melbourne so that I could connect to another flight to Wellington, New Zealand, the next morning. (For a week, I was scheduled to preach in various cities throughout the north island.)

HEAVEN!
My driver, a young man from The Street Church, drove me to the Adelaide airport. During that ride and upon leaving the city proper, we drove by one of the beautiful church structures in that city. From the outside, the church appeared no different from the other church buildings with the exception of a large banner that brazenly hung across the steeple and over the entrance of the historic building. On that banner was painted one word: HEAVEN. I turned to my driver and asked him, “Is the name of that church HEAVEN? He answered, “Yes!” and then proceeded to inform me that the church was the one he used to attend before he became a believer in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I asked him what kind of church it was. He informed me it was a “rave” church. Well, not knowing what a rave church was for not ever having heard of such a church before, I questioned him further about what it was. He told me that in their gatherings the worshippers played loud and raucous music, danced, did drugs and partied (And who knows what else?).

Needs based Worship
After his description of “rave” worship, I thought to myself . . . Is this where adapting worship to fulfill the “thrills and chills” sought by seeker audiences, where tweaking the worship style to fit the mood of the culture and the needs of congregants will lead? Worship that resembles the atmosphere of Israel’s partying before the “Golden Bull” when “the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:1-35; *6); clamorous worship that to Joshua sounded like war was going on in the camp (Exodus 32:17). Is this what results when so-called worship becomes sourced in “the wants” of peoples’ bodies and brains (i.e., the Bible calls them “the lusts of the flesh,” i.e., Greek epithumias sarkos)?
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Getting “High” on God

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church

Inner Opiates and the Genius of the Megachurch “Experience”

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” Jesus, John 3:6-7

Introduction
When looking out upon pan-evangelicalism, a diverse movement primarily consisting of Christians claiming a quasi-commitment to the Gospel, one can be left groping to explain the rise of the megachurch. During this last generation, over 1,600 super congregations, primarily evangelical, have emerged on the American religious scene. [1] Can the megachurch movement be accounted for reason that church-goers want to be part of something “big,” where for reason of the strength and unity of their numbers, they really feel that God is at work? Do parents desire their church to be a “full service” institution that can meet the needs of their entire family? Does superior preaching attract the masses? Is the attraction the choreographed spectacle of modern and upbeat “worship” performed by professional musicians that when combined with the latest technological special effects, can deliver the “worship experience”? Answers to these questions and more may help to explain the phenomenon of the megachurch in America, and account for how these large congregations both attract and keep the folks coming back for more. However, a recent study, coming out of the University of Washington, may provide another answer to the question, why the mega-church?

Euphoria’s Source: Transcendent or Immanent?
That study, “‘God is like a drug’: Explaining Ritual Chains in American Megachurches,” concludes that these churches are exceptional in orchestrating the arousals of strong feelings amongst their congregants; euphoria that might be compared to the feeling a crowd gets when seeing its basketball team win a championship game on a last second shot. [2] Katie Corcoran, a Ph.D. candidate who co-authored the study, suggests that megachurches are “somewhat unique in that these feelings are not just experienced as euphoria but as something transcendent or divine.” [3] As she observed, “You can look up to the balcony and see the Holy Spirit go over the crowd like a wave in a football game.” [4] Yet that same study suggests that the raison d’être for the megachurch may be something more immanent than transcendent.
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David’s New Song

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church, Entertainment, Music

Rick Warren’s Use of Psalm 40:3 to Endorse “Rock” Worship.

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3, KJV

Saddleback Church is known as, “The flock that likes to rock!” On his Pastors.com website Rick Warren addresses the controversial subject of church music as he shares “three thoughts about music in worship,” which are: “Music is powerful”; “You can’t please everyone”; and, “It’s the message, not the music.” [1]

In developing his first thought, Pastor Warren employs Psalm 40:3 to be a biblical endorsement for any type of contemporary Christian music. He writes:

In Psalm 40:3 (NCV) David says, “He put a NEW song in my mouth . . . Many people will see this and worship him. Then they will trust the Lord.” Notice the clear connection between music and evangelism: “Then they will trust the Lord.” [2]

Warren infers that David’s “new song” can refer to rock music and that such a contemporary and culturally relevant music possesses an ability to evangelize people’s hearts in a way that traditional hymns and sermons (i.e., the preached word) cannot. But really, is that the message of Psalm 40? As opposed to singing traditional hymns, did David mean to endorse for the worship of God any “new” musical expression that our culture might invent? Among the many other styles of music in western culture, do rock, reggae, rap, or other cultural varieties equate to David’s “new song”? Let’s look at the Psalm.
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Was Paul a Pragmatist?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church

Would the apostle have employed “any” means to save some?

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22, KJV

These days, pastors and churches will seemingly stoop to anything to build a crowd. Rock-‘n’-roll, the culture’s dominant music, is fast becoming “the” staple of so-called praise and worship. In their attempt to “connect” with their audience, I’ve heard pastors use lewd language in their preaching. One church featured an Elvis impersonator, while another, in a Halloween-themed “sanctuary” with a haunted house, featured a Michael Jackson Thriller dance. Pastors even advertise sex-sermons on billboards in ways that offend non-Christians who are tired of the permissiveness of our sex-crazed culture. American “churchianity” is addicted to the unprincipled principle of, “just do it to just get it.”

All of the aforementioned, and more, seek justification from a statement in the Bible where Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b). Contortedly, contemporaries interpret this verse to provide apostolic endorsement to do anything to reach anyone. Such a ministry motif is pragmatism, a belief that legitimates any practice so long as it achieves the presumed result of saving some. To the pragmatist, the end justifies the means.
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Dance and Worship

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church

Sensual or Spiritual?

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, KJV

“It’s difficult to get people to come to church” said A.W. Tozer, “when the only attraction is God.” So churches now offer enticements. Driven by the “wants” and “needs” of the audience, people come to church for “therapy” rather than expository-biblical preaching. Welcome to “the church of Me.”

Churches call their worship services “celebrations,” and offer a smorgasbord of attractions including rock music, drama, multimedia presentations and now liturgical, or sacred, dance. Recently, a website advertised a book with the title, Dancing into the Anointing: Touching the Heart of God through Dance. Of course, practitioners of all these so-called worship activities attempt to find justification for dancing into the anointing somewhere in the Bible.

At least two psalms invite the Hebrew nation to praise the Lord “with dancing,” to “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing” (Psalms 149:3; 150:4). They did it. Why shouldn’t we? If persons like David danced before God (2 Samuel 6:14), then why shouldn’t churches take cue from the king and do the same? But do these injunctions from Psalms and the example of David provide justification for employing liturgical dance in the church’s worship as advocates of it claim they do?
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Seven-Eleven Songs

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church

Does the ministry of “the four living beings” justify lyrical repeating?

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Jesus, Matthew 6:7

Some songs, that repeat . . . repeat . . . and repeat . . . the same seven-word lyrics eleven times or more, are called “seven-eleven” songs. As with repetitive praying (Jesus warned about this when He said, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words,” Matthew 6:7.), questions surround the musical mechanism of repetitive praising, singing, or chanting, as a means of inducing consciousness of God.
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Impressions Ineffable . . .

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality, Contemporary Church

The Mysticism “Lite” of Rick Warren [1]

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-13, NASB

Before dealing with the idea that God gives “impressions,” let me confess that I am not per se opposed to them. Like A.J. Gordon (1836-1985), founder of Gordon College, I believe the Holy Spirit of God “may beget within us emotions too deep for expression, as when ‘The Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26).” [2]

Regarding the Spirit restricting Paul and Timothy to preach in Asia and Bithynia, Wayne Grudem writes: “The Holy Spirit must . . . have communicated his direct guidance to them in some specific way, whether through words heard audibly or in the mind, or through strong subjective impressions of a lack of the Holy Spirit’s presence and blessing as they attempted to travel to these different areas.” [3] On the point of the Spirit’s subjective impression upon Paul not to go to Asia and Bithynia (Acts 16:6-7), we can note the impression became objective when in a vision a man appeared unto Paul “and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). A subjective impression, if indeed there was one, was confirmed by an objective word. This incident in Paul’s ministry illustrates that believers are “taught by the Spirit” who combines “spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13, NASB).

So we Christian believers should know the Holy Spirit can speak to us. Therefore, we need to be careful (metaphorically speaking) not to throw the “spiritual baby” out with the mystical bath (By using this figure, I am not suggesting there’s any sense in which mysticism, soft or hard, cleans spirituality up. In fact, the reverse is the case.) But absent the Spirit’s authentication by the Word of Scripture, thoughts can be self-originated, and it becomes vacuous to mystically confess, The Lord told me . . . Well, maybe He did, or maybe He didn’t. Who knows . . . all of which leads me to address Rick Warren’s idea that God speaks to people via impressions. [4]
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The Prophet of “No!”

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church

And the “uniformly favorable” words of false prophets.

And Ahab the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah”. 1 Kings 22:8, NASB
 

In coping with her health issues (she has psoriatic arthritis, an incurable and debilitating disease characterized by fatigue and joint inflammation), my wife has visited several doctors and undergone many tests. In dealing with her physical condition, two doctors in particular have treated her: We’ll call them “Dr. R” and “Dr. P.” On a couple of other occasions, she has met one of her brother’s doctors (he has cancer and is on dialysis), and for reason to be explained later, we’ll call his physician, “Dr. N.”

In spite of some improvement experienced over the last few months, negative symptoms of my wife’s disease have reappeared. Recently, Margie revisited her physicians to understand why her treatments don’t seem to be working at this time. During the course of a conversation between us about the two doctors treating her—“Dr. R” and “Dr. P”—she remarked that she felt “Dr. R” was more realistic in his counsel to her about her disease than “Dr. P,” who tended to be more positive and optimistic. When she told me she felt “Dr. R” (realism) was more straight forward than “Dr. P” (optimism), I said to her: “Stop there Margie and tell me, which doctor’s counsel about your disease do you prefer, would you rather have, “Dr. R’s” or “Dr. P’s”? Because the disease is what it is, she told me she preferred the counsel of “Dr. Realism” to that of “Dr. Positivity.” But then she added, “I prefer both my doctors to my brother’s. ‘Dr. N’ doesn’t tell him anything!”
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Alarm to Evangelicals

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church

The Strange Case of Simon Magus

Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”. Jesus, Matthew 7:22-23, NASB

Samaria was a religious ghetto that devout Jews tried to avoid (John 4:4). Half-breeds, part Jew and part Gentile, lived in the province north of Judah. Ostracized by the Jerusalem community, the Samaritans built their own worship center, and held as their sacred writings the first five Old Testament books known as the Torah. Yet, the risen Lord Jesus Christ announced that one day the Gospel would be preached in that province (Acts 1:8).

After persecution arose, persecution orchestrated by the as yet unconverted Apostle Paul, and forced the Christians to leave the comfort zone of Jerusalem, God used Philip, an ordained layman, to preach the gospel in Samaria. During Philip’s ministry in a Samaritan city, a “power encounter” occurred between the evangelist and a former practitioner of the occult arts named Simon the Great, who, in previous years, had duped Samaritans into believing that he possessed “the Great Power of God” (Acts 8:10). But the “great” met a greater. Simon’s feigned power paled in comparison to that of Philip who, in the power of God, performed extraordinary exorcisms and healings among the Samaritans. Simon was impressed–so much so that he, along with many others, apparently believed “the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). He was even “baptized” into Samaria’s First Baptist Church!
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