Temporary disappointment

The anticipation of Sunday mornings is getting ridiculous.

It messes with my sleep among other things — makes me have crazy dreams. It causes my stomach to have the sensation of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” — where the birds are doing their all-out, kamikazie attack on the town. The anticipation of the supernatural is wild; but, that’s ok because when it fires up on Sunday morning at Lifepoint, it’s one mean ride that you don’t want to miss!

3-d-lifepoint-web.jpgLike today. 3-D video, wacky 3-D glasses and all. Where else could you go and have your pastor throwing limes at you in 3-D? It looked like one of those 3-D movies back in the 50’s with everybody wearing white paper, blue and red plastic lens, all looking at the screen. Crazy? Stupid? You bet! Entertaining? Absolutely! Evangelistic? To the max!

The only downside? My couple didn’t make it. Heartbreaking, but a temporary setback. All stops pulled out for geting them to the Easter service (which, by the way, promises to be a humdinger!).


15 responses to “Temporary disappointment

  1. I’m reading this and failing to understand why it’s necessary.
    Why would we feel the need to have anything in church but God’s word? Preached, expounded upon, discussed, cherished…

    Why has church become entertainment instead of worship?

    I’m sure that whoever reads my comments will say something to the effect of “Hey! don’t knock it…it attracts people!”…
    Well, then hire some strippers, they’ll do the job also… 🙂

    The ends don’t justify the means…just because something brings people into church and brings them back, doesn’t make it right.

    And just as an aside…instead of trying desparately to get “your couple” to church so they can be entertained and “maybe” hear something along the lines of the gospel message…what about you preaching the word to them? It’s not as hard as you would think, there are a lot of good resources out there; http://www.wayofthemaster.com is one of them…

    God bless,

  2. I should start by saying that although I generally agree with them, I do not agree with 100% of what is written on some of the sites criticizing your methods and those of your friends. I also really appreciate your zeal for reaching the lost. I am sure that you pray for them and do everything you can to reach them – and I have said as much on some of those sites.

    Having said that, I am with Bob in not understanding why church services need to be replaced by entertainment. Isn’t the word of God enough to convert people? I have listened to a number of “seeker” services, and I just don’t get it. How are peoples’ hearts converted by occasional and fleeting references to some Bible verse, surrounded by plays, jokes, 3D movies, and videos of people whining about their churchy upbringing and ill-treatment by others?

    I know, there are follow-on classes where the gospel is presented. (I have friends who teach one of these courses in a local church, and I admire them for it.) However, besides striking me as a bait-and-switch, I wonder how many of the regular attendees ever attend one of these courses, and how faithful even most of those classes are in preaching the full gospel?

    Finally, I should relate a story my pastor likes to tell. One Sunday a couple in the church had been talking to some unsaved neighbors and finally got them to come to church. My pastor preaches straight through the Bible, and so the couple cringed when they realized that the week’s teaching was from Leviticus on the treatment of various diseases. During the service, they looked over at their friends, and tears were streaming down their faces. They said that was exactly what they needed to hear, and how they saw themselves in there and their need for the Savior.

    God’s word is powerful. It alone is the instrument through which the Holy Spirit converts people.

  3. I absolutely love how we try to play religion police and show each other how we are all wrong about things. Makes me want to vomit…

  4. Ryan – would you consider somebody a “religion policeman” who dares to call Mormons to task for saying they are Christians? After all, they are very evangelistic, “win” a lot of souls, and bring a lot of people to Jesus Christ, right?

    Frankly, your response is a bit tiring. I ask a respectful, honest question – and get in response a tirade against religion police. I knew, of course, how some people would respond, since I’ve heard it so many times before. But it seems to me that honest questioning is Biblical; name-calling is not. Paul called Peter as well as the Judaizers to task in Galatians; James and Peter called some in the church to task in Acts. I can’t imagine Peter calling Paul a “religion policeman” for his rebuke.

    If you have something of substance to rebuke me with, by all means, do it. I can stand correction in so many areas – yet one more won’t hurt my ego.

  5. Robert,
    Just because I may sound naive and without experience doesn’t mean that I am.

    I do have a tad of experience with presenting the Word to the lost. There are times when you pull out the sword and charge; and, there are times when you remain silent and let your example do the teaching. The likelihood is that I am quite adept at knowing when to choose the appropriate “method” on the right battlefield.

    I am curious as to why there is an exclusion that exists between worship and entertainment? Additionally, just because something done “in church” drives people away and keeps them from returning doesn’t make it right. Do the ends justify the means?

    The Word is to be attractive and appealing. Church is the people who have been called from the slimepit of sin into a redeemed relationship with the Creator of the Universe. If the Word is presented in a manner that drives one away and if the church acts superior to those still in the slimepit, why would we imagine that we could still call ourselves “church?” We are to go to where the lost are, not the other way around.

    Thanks for your comments and taking the time to respond!

  6. Hi Gary,

    “Bait and switch” might be a bit rough of a charge to lay on me and the church I am a part of. I’m sure that there are those to whom the tag might apply. I, we, are very forthright from the getgo — we openly state “we follow Jesus, he has changed our lives, he can change yours regardless of where you might be. Do you find this interesting? Then come back for more.”

    No one would walk away from our worship of the Almighty thinking we were peddling anything but pure Word. We are rabid about our dedication to the Jesus Lord and will go to extremes to show the hell-bound that there is indeed another, more viable option.

    Having been one “from the other side of the fence,” I can tell you that “traditional” church held no attraction for me — in fact, it drove me further into the morass of sin. When I most needed what it offered, I was condemned, belittled and minimized by the very ones who wanted only “to preach the gospel” to me.

    Perhaps, before we knock what we do not understand we should walk the proverbial mile in their shoes. After all, if they are preaching and casting out demons in His name we are told to let them be, are we not?

    Thank you for your insight!

  7. Ryan,

    You’ve got to remember that everyone is entitled to their point of view. We are all on the same team — even if we don’t always act like it. It sure makes you wish we were able to focus all of our attention on the Kingdom of the Prince of this world and take it completely for the Ruler of the world to come. But, realistically and historically speaking, that will never happen. My desire is to build bridges, even when I don’t want to, simply because I want to imitate Him.

  8. Gentlemen,

    Play nicely or I’ll have to close the sandbox!

    We all make the claim of being followers of the One, correct? That makes us all brothers. No one gets along with their siblings all the time, but we do have to love them because we are family.

  9. Joe, I appreciate your response. I have to admit, I do not know your church personally. Please take “bait and switch” as referring what I have seen in several seeker-type churches I have investigated. You have to admit that many are pretty bad. In the one I am most familiar with, there are little or no Biblical references – perhaps one or two verses quoted out of context – in the midst of a storm of videos, jokes, stories, and a feel-good self-help sermon.

    Now, is that sermon about how “God” changed their lives? Yes, usually. But it’s a fairly generic God, and I have not seen what I would consider to be faithful preaching of the Word. I call it “bait and switch” because they hope people will get close enough to Christ to later on attend some classes where they really give them the Gospel.

    Now, I understand your turn-offs with “traditional” churches – I myself was an agnostic, atheist, and wanna-be Buddhist before Jesus Christ saved me at the age of 35. But I think the question is, first, what is it that turns people off, and, second, whether that is a good reason to stop doing it.

    Overly formal services will turn people off in many places. I myself attend a Calvary Chapel, which is not exactly known for being overly formal. However, another thing that will turn people off is the preaching of the Word of God – not just individual verses here and there but an expository focus on the Word, centering the message around the Word rather than picking out bits and pieces to fit the message.

    Now, it seems to me that the first category is largely a matter of preference and thus I believe leeway is called for. However, just because the second category turns some people off, is not a good reason to neglect it. Does this offend some – perhaps many – non-believers so that they go away?

    Yes, but so what? It seems to me that Jesus clearly indicated there are some that will be saved and some not; and I think the Bible indicates that one reason to preach to the lost is so that they know they are justly condemned by a just God.

    I would still like to know why it is necessary to bring entertainment into a church service. It seems one can only take two tacks. (1) People can be entertained to the point where their will turns to God on their own, where God will then take over (which seems to me to be essentially semi-Pelagian); or (2) it is better to avoid outward offense but let the Word do its work, and leave entertainment for television and the circuses.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s how it seems to me. I’d be glad to be shown the light. I hope you consider this brotherly questioning. 🙂

  10. By the way, Joe, I am not saying that I know either (a) you do not preach the word front and center every service nor (b) you support a semi-Pelagian theology. It just seems to me (based on what I’ve seen elsewhere) that making entertainment a major part and “draw” of one’s church service leads to these problems. And the more time spent in entertainment, the less time focused on the word.

    Furthermore, as I think you would agree, there is no conversion without true repentance, and repentance does not come without being broken by your own sinfulness. The seeker-oriented services I’ve seen tend to play up the victim mentality (I’ve been mistreated by my friends / my boss / the evil church / etc.), and play down the admission of personal guilt and sin. Robert’s previous link to the Way of the Master is an excellent example of using built-in guilt for sin as a bridge to reach the lost.

    Finally, I am not saying that the service should be humorless or not enjoyable. My pastor has a gift for humor and a light touch, so he will use bad puns, tell a joke that fits with the message, say something humorously deprecating about himself or a favorite member of the pastoral staff, etc. However, the total time spent on such things is almost vanishingly small – perhaps one minute maximum compared to 44 minutes of solid Biblical exposition. That seems to me the right mixture.

  11. Gary,

    I refuse to play “church.” There’s no place for it and no time for it. People are dying every single day without knowing who Jesus is. We in the US are without a clue as to the “true” meaning of picking up our cross to follow Him. We are the most blessed country on the face of the earth and the most blessed country in the history of the world. God didn’t bless us in that manner to sit around and makes things comfortable for ourselves. I believe it was given to us to become the stewards of the Kingdom, to make it possible for the masses who do not know the name of Jesus to actually come to know who He is. We don’t have the right to squander it on ourselves.

    I may like “contemporary” and you may like “traditional,” but those are just preferences. We should both be consumed with being hard-core evangelistic, however that might be done. I should be praying for you, rooting for your success because you will reach people I won’t. I should be able to thank God that he is using our individual talents, desires and likes to reach those who are not in the Kingdom. I have no right to condemn, knock, belittle or otherwise marginalize your efforts. I have done that, in reactionary anger, and I sincerely apologize for that.

    Satan hates the Word. The Word will drive people away. That is to be expected. We are expected to make it’s presentation as culturally relevant as possible – not water it down. If we drive people away because of our method, not because of the message, then we are at fault. We do not have the right to be cavalier about someone being driven away; we should be agonizing over every single individual we try to reach. “Go, teach, make disciples…” should be our mantra.

    Forgive me if I seem somewhat anal about this. My heart breaks for the lost. My life has been given over to this. When fellow disciples begin knick-picking at each other I tend to revert back to some old, worldly ways – it’s much like “What are you doing? Don’t you know the world is going to hell? Why are we attacking ourselves?”

    I’ve been picked apart, filleted and burnt at the stake at Old Truth. My motives have been impugned, my faith has been judged, I’ve been ridiculed and even my desire to see the lost saved mocked. I am lumped with the non-Christian, labeled as deranged because I happen to believe Jesus when He said to give up everything for the Kingdom and called to task for trying to carry on a dialogue with you, of all people. These are people who must be fellow Christians, right?

    As I stated, I responded in an unchristian manner to an attack on me, the church I attend and other Christians. For that I am truly sorry.

    With all that being said, I’m done. You may be sincere in wanting to carry on a conversation. If so, I’ll be happy to continue a discussion. I have no desire to trade blows with a brother.

  12. Dear Joe:

    I can tell from the things you’ve said in these comments that you are a man who is sincere in your walk and desire to see the lost saved. I had not intended to post on your blog, but want to do so now as an outstretched hand to you as a brother in the Lord. First of all, I believe that you are one (a brother), that’s something that I never doubted, and I apologize for any comments made by anyone on my blog who has questioned you in that, or if anyone has questioned your motives.

    There has been a fair share of “picking apart and filleting”, going in both directions. But with souls at stake over beliefs and evangelistic methods, I do think that even the type of back and forth that we’ve had is helpful in highlighting the very important differences between our two types of thinking. I actually do not agree that it comes down to merely a matter of style and preference, but is instead a matter of right and wrong, true and false, biblical and not biblical. I know that you will likely not buy that, but that at least should help to explain why folks like me are so willing to debate, question, and point out (what we believe are) dangerous flaws in the teachings of those who are on the same team.

    One thing that we both have in common is that we have a background at each other’s types of churches, and now we are both pointing the finger at the other guy’s church saying “been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and it didn’t work”. But where as you feel this comes down to two acceptable styles, I most firmly believe that the quest for relevance today often ends up modifying the age old message itself. I say this based on my own background as a former Purpose Driven Life small group leader, a past Alpha evangelism facilitator, and as a guy who lives in the distant shadow of Willow Creek, having formerly adopted and studied much of their training.

    So who is right? I don’t think either one of us cares to be right personally. But the better questions for people to ask would seem to be: Are these differences serious? Is either or both of our views harmful to souls? Which type of evangelism and worship lines up more closely with the biblical pattern? Which more directly strives to glorify God as it’s primary objective? Which portrays God’s character and attributes more accurately? These are key questions that relate to honoring God and fulfilling the great commission. Those are the kinds of things that I hope evangelism-oriented Christians (that should be all of us) will ask themselves when weighing both sides of this debate, rather than listen to me, you, Perry, or whoever.

    Without caving on my convictions, I do however, want to acknowledge your well intended evangelistic motives, your missionary work, and tell you how much I appreciate your humility, zeal, and prayerfulness. All of that comes through loud and clear, and I thank you for it. May God bless us both with the truth about these things so that we may honor and serve Him in a way that truly pleases Him. I look forward to the day when we will see things eye to eye, and will stand together in the Lord’s presence.

    –Jim (owner of OldTruth.com)

  13. Jim,

    I am grateful for your words and attitude. May the Kingdom advance because of us being willing to imitate our Master.

    Blessings and peace in the Lord!

  14. Joe, you have mentioned refusing to “play church” several times now. I do not wish to play church either, as I am sure you can tell from my comments. However, I am not quite sure what you mean by the term. Can you describe what playing church is and is not in your view?

    My definition of not playing church would be to hold a church service that is in keeping with Biblical models: one that does keeps the Word front and center and glorifies God in every way. I would maintain that no seeker oriented services I have heard do keep God’s word front and center and glorify God in every way, thus would fall into the “playing” category. Similarly, the Episcopal and Catholic church services I attended when I belonged to those churches similarly lack Biblical basis. “Smells and bells” is typically playing church.

    So, I’d appreciate your thoughts on the subject. As always, this is a sincere and respectful question.

  15. Ryan:

    As someone who works in the health care profession, I can tell you that there are many things that save lives that make one want to vomit.

    So, the question is, do you prefer the cure for error or the disease?

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