Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mushy church

Charles Colson wrote a very insightful article for his BreakPoint program called Musical Mush: Are We Impairing Our Capacity to Think?

"When church music directors lead the congregation in singing some praise music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We had been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called, “Draw Me Close to You.” The song has zero theological content and could be sung in a nightclub, for that matter. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed at us and said in a cheerful voice, “Let’s sing that again, shall we?” “No!” I shouted loudly. Heads all around me spun while my wife cringed."

I sometimes feel the same when songs are being sung that could as well be
sung to a human person. Many of the songs in the modern church--note: I didn't say all!--are quite meaningless and are sung with such repetition that in the end, if it had any meaning, lost all meaning while being sung straight into the doldrums of boredom.

It seems to me, as it does to many others, that the church has slipped down that slimy slope called entertainment (or "worshitainment"). Many of our songs have very little theological content and as such do not have any meaning at all. A while ago I was standing in church (not a Reformed church BTW!) when the next song to be sung was obviously a very Reformed song. The people sang through that as if nothing was wrong! These people, actually being very anti-Calvinistic, should have seen that this song contained theology that goes against their own theology. However, since the worship had been degraded into "worshitainment", it did not matter that this song opposed their own theological system, as long as it sounded good and conjured up the right feelings! Experience is king, of course!

Now, the amazing thing about this is that this same type of "preachetainment" has crept into the modern, especially charismatic, church. At church on Sunday, the first verse of Scripture was mentioned almost 20 minutes into the sermon! I am sorry, but this to me is not a sermon, and the pastor did not preach! He simply was giving a motivational speech with a few verses here and there! This is 45 minutes of wasted time. Speaking a lot but saying nothing!

Preaching has degraded into a bless me type of motivational rhetoric that never actually lets Scripture speak for itself. There are so few pastors today that can actually expound on what the Bible says. Rather, they have ideas in their heads and will dig out any kind of verse to back up what they say, even if the verse is out of context or does not say what the pastor wants it to say! Just the other day this same pastor said that "God has ordained that He will do nothing but in partnership with the Bride. She is in training for reigning. This means that God has submitted Himself to the principle that His people must pray before He will rise and work." What a load of drivel! The Bible says nothing this emphatic about how God works in and through His people. Does the Bible say that we must pray and that He even works through us? Yes! Does the Bible say that God "will do nothing but in partnership with the Bride?" No! God is quite Sovereign and can work on His own. And, indeed He has! Amazingly enough, the verse the pastor used to back up this idea of his is Mt 7:7, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (ESV) I just can't see how he makes that connection! He also used one other verse here to show that God does nothing but in partnership with the church. "You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:2 ESV)

It is in the interest of the global church that pastors everywhere start realizing that the topical sermons that they pump out every week is to expositional preaching as milk is to steak! Topical sermons, especially those such as this pastor preaches, do not educate the church in the Bible at all. It merely educates the church as to the inadequacies of those who preach like that! On the other hand, expositional preaching will in the end teach the church the Bible in the very context it finds itself in. This will force pastors to actually spend time studying the Bible in order to feed the church. Thinking will be necessary here!

It is so sad that because of this "worshitainment" and "preachetainment" attitude in the church, that the people no longer "think" that thinking about our faith is good. It has become all about feelings and being entertained. A thoughtless church is a brainless church. It has absolutely nothing to say to the world. The world is also about feelings and being entertained. Why must they join us if we are simply supplying the same merchandise they already have?

The problem with this attitude of entertainment is that the people are not feeding at the table of the Lord and hence atrophy and starvation are setting in.

It would be worth your while to read Charles Spurgeon's short tract called Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats and also the foreword to Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Just thinking...

1 comment:

Dan McGowan said...

So, if you were leading worship, and felt the Lord was honestly leading that time, and someone like Chuck Colsen shouted "No!" and totally interrupted the honest flow of worship - you'd be okay with that?

I wouldn't. I would proably say, from the platform, that he was out of line and to please either join us in worship or leave the assembly.

That sort of arrogance and pride is NOT part of the mix for true worship.

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