I am not one for all the glitz and show of modern churches at all. I don't believe in dividing up the family in order to worship. We don't need Junior Church, Children's Church, or any of the other modern gizmo's that these churches toss out there in order to boost attendance. It's all show. There isn't anything of real substance there at all. Just empty hearts filling pews and church coffers. We have a generation of spoiled self-proclaimed Christians sitting there worrying about silly things like buildings, attendance numbers and activities and having no interest in what The Bible really says from God's Point of View. They only want to know what their Pastor thinks about this or that.
He's just a man. He's as full of flesh as you or I.
We left a church back north just like this sort mentioned in the article below. Youth activities were about as uninvolved Biblically as you could get. Very 'me me me' oriented for the teens. I know that's what most of them like these days, but they can get that virtually everywhere - shouldn't the church be different? Isn't it called to be different?
McDonald's inside a church building? Large screen televisions to broadcast all sorts of things? Satellite-fed churches without even a Pastor of their own?
If the only way you can win souls is to stoop into the world's gutter to get them hooked, you are in serious need of another fishing bait. I don't guess my version of the Bible talks about all the times Jesus crawled into the gutters of the world to find folks worthy of Salvation.
Maybe because He didn't. He walked in Truth. He called things just as they were, and didn't join in to show He was one of the good ol' boys in order to win souls. He called a spade and spade and put it out there for you to see it for what it was...sin. The world looks at things in varying shades of gray. God sees things for what they are: black or white. Too many preachers today are trying to add to the gray color scheme so as not to bring offense to anyone.
Jesus was right there, walking in the sins of the world all right, but He wasn't wallowing in them. He didn't roll around in sin to look better, to look more 'appealing' to those He was out to save. It's all right there...well, it is if you aren't reading one of those watered down, dumbed-down Bible translations.
I have selfish children. I hardly need a Preacher and his guru's to help me instill that trait in them. They come fully equipped with that already. Yet that's what most churches promote these days. Let them wallow out there in the activities of the world around them and maybe, one day, some of The Word might rub off the building onto them. Maybe, since faith comes by hearing and all, just maybe they will be in the right place at the right time and bingo...conversion and Salvation. If they minister to each other...with shopping trips, waterpark parties and paint ball games...they might just happen upon the right thing at the right time.
What ideas will the churches of today come up with next? Maybe a waterslide over at the parsonage? How about placing some ATM's in the foyer for ease in tithing? (Yes, I know many large mega-churches already do this...insane.) Why not have a mini mall built in the parking lot so families can shop together after church on Sunday with ease? Why not add a video arcade, filled, of course, with all sorts of roll-playing games...that way the children can learn Bible stories more easily? They can play and be Jonah in the belly of the whale. They can set fire to those stone tablets placed before Moses themselves. Bring them into the story by placing them in the game.
How about just keeping families together in the pews, uphold Biblical guidelines and standards even if some toes are stepped on and just preach The Word of God as it is written and let God and The Holy Spirit do the rest?
Teens Have Fun, but Learn Little in Church By E. L. Bynum
Most churches are trying to figure out how to reach more people. This nearly always includes an active outreach to teens. Everybody recognizes that the churches of tomorrow will be made up of those who are in their youth today. Now churches are hiring youth directors who have a proven track record of attracting teenagers. To most churches any method that works is all right, because it produces results. As long as the head count is good, they figure that everything is coming along fine.
Food, Fun, Games, and Entertainment
Food, fun and entertainment usually attract young people and adults as well. Modern churches gear their services and their activities to accommodate the prevailing drawing card of the day. After all, if you can get free food at church, that beats having to pay for it at McDonalds. If the church has a gym, that beats having to pay a fee at some regular gym or health club. If you can play pool, basketball, pin ball, handball, and other games free, why go pay somewhere else? The modern church must have something that appeals to the whole family. If you can go to a church that has videos, TV, expensive visuals, and plenty of jokes and fun stuff, why go to a church that only offers the teaching and preaching of the Bible?
The only problem with this kind of thinking is that the Bible has nothing to say about this kind of program at all. It is true that the Bible teaches us that we should be open and aggressive about winning people to the Lord. It was done by witnessing, teaching and preaching, and not by entertainment. Three thousand souls were saved and added to the Church at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It does not say one thing about how many teens if any were in that number. It says nothing about any food, entertainment or fun on that glorious day. It does give us that wonderful sermon preached by Peter that was filled with truth and substance that really count. The truth spread like a flame, and God continued to save souls and add people to the church.
Today we show little of that zeal and fire of God, but instead we have turned to easier methods that require no real commitment, no holy living, no prayer, and very little Bible study. It is easier to use the cheap methods of the world than to pay the price of going back to the Bible and just following what it teaches.
Are Teens Learning the Truth in Churches?
Baptist Press recently published information that was gathered by pollster and researcher George Barna. Here are some of the results of this survey.
*56 percent attended church-related activities an average of at least twice a month when younger, but few of them received Christ or developed a biblical world view while there.
*Of all those teens who did attend, only 53 percent said they understood "the Bible so that every decision you make is based on biblical principles."
*Barna said, "the result of [teens'] involvement at a church is that they can recite some religious facts, they made some friends, and they had fun... For most teenagers who have spent years attending church activities their faith is not integrated into who they are and how they live."
*Eight out of 10 teens who attended church activities said they gained an important "insight" from their attendance.
*Twenty-six percent said they received general information about God such as the teachings of Christ.
*Seventeen percent said they had gained core religious beliefs from the Bible.
*Twenty-one percent said they learned nothing of value.
*"Unfortunately . . . most of the young people who claim they developed an understanding of the Bible that enables them to make decisions based on biblical principles show no evidence of using that understanding in relation to the core beliefs and lifestyle choices that we studied," Barna said.
Why This Problem Exists
Most of these young people do not attend churches that believe and preach the Bible. They hear a lot that is false rather than the truth. They are entertained and brain washed instead of being indoctrinated in the truth. Doubt about the truthfulness of the Bible is being implanted in their mind. Liberalism, modernism and ecumenicalism are the teaching given, and they receive so little truth that they have no foundation.
Sad to say, many independent and fundamental churches are not doing much better. There is very little adherence to biblical standards. The emphasis is on sports, fun, frolic, foolishness and outright worldliness. This may produce a larger head count, but it will never produce a larger soul count. I am sorely afraid that what we count as important in the churches here on earth will count for nothing in heaven.
What is the Answer?
It is much easier to see the problem than to arrive at the solution. There are a lot of things I do not know, but I do know some of the things taught in the Bible. Paul wrote to a young preacher who was probably about the right age to be a youth minister. "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." (2 Timothy 4:2-5)
You will notice that he did not instruct Timothy to entertain, or have fun with them, but rather he said, "Preach the word." Since Paul wrote by inspiration of God, it would seem that God would not have forgotten to tell him what was important to give to young and old alike.
Paul gave a testimony of what he had done, and he gave a sober charge to the elders of the church at Ephesus. "For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:27-28). Please notice that Paul had declared "all the counsel of God," and he said nothing about a program of entertainment or any worldly program that would appeal to the flesh. He instructed the elders to "feed the church of God," but he is talking about spiritual food from the word of God. He tells them nothing about amusing or entertaining the flock at Ephesus. There are many other Scriptures that could be used and applied in the same way.
I have often received offers from "Christian" entertainers, comedians and magicians who wanted to come and perform for our Church or the Young People. Frequently I receive telephone calls, letters and emails wanting to sell or rent some movie production or video to entertain or educate our Young People or the whole Church. They are shocked when they learn that we do not use such things at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Evidently they are finding a ready market with many churches.
A Big Mac in Church
Some months ago we learned of a church in Houston that now has a McDonalds restaurant inside the building. If you will read on you will see that this is a perfect example of what I am talking about.
"The new Family Life Center at Brentwood Baptist Church is a unique place that everyone in Houston, Texas will want to visit. Now completed, this 74,000 square foot facility will provide the staff and congregation of Brentwood Baptist many innovative ways to minister to the community . . . There is a NBA regulation size basketball court with 6 retractable goals, a volleyball court, full locker room with showers, and retractable bleachers. Besides a full service kitchen, there is also a McDonalds restaurant inside the building. Other features of the new facility include classrooms, a Computer center, library, gift shop and a weight room. There is also a 1,000-seat Fellowship Hall with a portable stage for drama and music productions."
Of course this kind of program works, if we are talking about drawing a crowd.
"Dr. Joe Samuel Ratliff has been the Pastor of Brentwood since 1980. Under his leadership the church has grown to over 10,000 members, a 16-member staff, 41 deacons, seven trustees, eight choirs and a fully staffed nursery. Outreach ministries of the church include a Food Pantry, Aids Ministry, Home Cell Bible Study, and a Substance Abuse Ministry." The pastor said, "We look forward to continuing God's work with the provision He places before us."
Many churches cannot afford to go all out as the Houston church did. However, they will do as much of it as they can afford, or the church will tolerate. Sometimes it just has to be gradual. A little here and a little there, so that in due time the program takes over, the message gets weaker. Soon the program will carry them on to success, even if the Holy Spirit is no longer present.
Churches Turn to Surfing and Skating to Spread Gospel
Charisma News Service reported, "More churches in beach communities are catching the wave of popularity of surfing and skateboarding to reach out to young adults. Trying to make religion relevant to everyday life, congregations and ministries in recent years have been turning to the activities once considered fringe sports, despite their reputation as aggressive, anti-establishment sports. `Churches realize that surfing and skateboarding are fertile grounds for youth outreach,' noted a Florida newspaper. There's even a Christian skateboard-clothing company and a version of the New Testament aimed at surfers. `You need to be culturally relevant and doctrinally sound,' said Eddy Fredryk, who served for eight years as a youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Central Florida. `It's been in the last 10 years that church people started thinking outside of the box. True Christianity is challenging Christians to take their faith to where they live and where they play.' Fredryk, 41, has skate boarded since the 1970s and until recently ran a skateboard ministry called Splinter. Fredryk set up Crosswaves, a surfing ministry that proclaims to be `surfing for the Savior,' that offers free surfing lessons to anyone who stays for about an hour-long Bible study. `It's so powerful in kids' minds to see that [they] can wear skate clothing and be a Christian at the same time,' said Mike Doyle, a pastor at Calvary Chapel in Florida, who started a skateboard ministry."
I hardly see how that any true Bible believer would need any words from me to see the error of a surfing ministry. Can you not see how this would promote holiness and modesty? Well I can't, and if you can, I wonder about your relationship to the Lord.
Entertain the Flesh or Crucify the Flesh?
The trend today in churches is to coddle and entertain the flesh. It is what will please the natural man with all of his fleshly tendencies. Never mind what the Bible teaches, let us get something that will work easier. After all we are living in the age of microwaves, instant foods and immediate entertainment. Surely all of this will work in the area of Christianity.
Paul emphasized that the flesh is to be crucified not entertained or amused. "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Galatians 5:16-17). "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (Galatians 5:24)
The word of God tells us that we are to be crucified (put to death) to the world. It also teaches that the world is to be put to death as far as the Christian is concerned. "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).
The trend today is to make every provision for satisfying the flesh. Instead of abstaining from fleshly lusts, they are encouraged because this will draw the crowd. "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Romans 13:14). "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
This article is a lot longer than I intended, but many things came to my mind that I feel need to be said. I am well aware that some will be offended by what I have written, but that is not what I intended. I would pray that it will "...provoke unto love and to good works" (Hebrews 10:24).
BACK TO: Plains Baptist Challenger - August 2003