Sunday, May 14, 2006

Losing the Gospel in the quest for relevance

Often we hear the charge that the Gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be repackaged to each succeeding generation or else it will become "irrelevant." Usually the argument for this approach includes language or ideas similar to this: "it's the message that is important, not the methods;" or "while the message in non-negotiable, the methods we use to communicate that message are neutral and very much negotiable."
This seems to be the rationale behind "Toon Town" that Dale Hudson helped bring to the children's ministry at FBC of Springdale. He is quoted as saying, "Putting a talking head in front of kids for an hour doesn't work" and going on to argue for the techno-wizardry that characterizes the Toon Town design.
Pragmatism has an element that is very commendable. We ought to desire to do "what works." But when that desire is unhinged from a full-orbed appreciation of what in fact constitutes successful "working," then, in the realm of Christian life and ministry, the Word of God can be sbutely undermined even while we loudly claim to be upholding it.
Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the realm of preaching (or lack of preaching) in evangelical churches today. 1 Corinthians 1:21 and 2 Timothy 4:1-5 leave no doubt about the primacy of preaching in the life and ministry of the church. But when one judges that "putting a talking head in front of kids for an hour doesn't work," the result is that God's Word is ruled irrelevant on pragmatic grounds.
And methods are never neutral. For an entertaining as well as educational treatment of this, read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. For a simple illustration of how untenable that argument is, the next time some one tries to convince you that the medium doesn't matter, that all we need to be concerned with is the message, ask them to communicate Handel's Messiah to you via smoke signals. It can't be done. Something inevitably gets lost in the translation.
That is true with many of the supposedly "relevant" methods that are being employed by churches today for the sake of communicating the Gospel. Too often what gets lost is the Gospel itself. Consider this story from ESPN The Magazine (May 22, 2006, p. 34). It had the title, "Sweat Redemption."
On Easter Sunday a crow-black 1997 Goodwrench stock car sat in the parking lot at Bayside Community Church in Brandenton, Fla., as nearly 1000 people braved a long line to get their picture taken standing next to it. This was quite a gathering: the three-year old church drew twice as many worshipers as for a typical Sunday service.
Easter is the most popolar day to go to church in America, so perhaps all the extra people were called by a higher power, or a guilty conscience. Or maybe some of them worship NASCAR (this is Florida, after all). Whatever the reasons, Bayside achieved its goal: more people in the pews. The show car, of course, was made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr., who drove this particular whip at Richmond, Martinsville, Phoenix and Loudon. Bayside rented the ride from RCR Racing for upward of $3,000. Lead pastor Randy Bezet even wrote a sermon inspired by the car. After listening to The Race of Life ("Sometimes in life we need a pit stop, we need to get our wheels changed, to get refueled, and when you're going around the track, you can't do it alone"), each congregant received a ticket for the once-in-a-lifetime photo op. They were also encouraged to return the next Sunday to pick up their pics. "On Sundays, any church competes against going to the beach or football games or watching NASCAR," says Gregg Ellery, a church volunteer who handed out NASCAR memorabilia to the folks in line. "I think churches today ar more aware of this competition. We just want to stay relevant...." [article by Justin Heckert]
Relevant? Perhaps. But at what cost and to what purpose?

31 comments:

Jeremy Roberts said...

Where do you draw the line with what is too much, Tom? I guess the way a baptistery is painted is too over-the-top in methodology. How about flannel boards? Would Jesus frown upon those? I'm trying to grasp what is copasetic to do in presenting the Gospel to kids, and what is too out-of-the-box for them.

Few forty year old men will sit still for an hour to listen to a man stand up and traditionally preach. Most four year old kids would not be able to do this.

Tim Ellsworth said...

Interesting, Tom. I may have to write a column about this ESPN story. Thanks for pointing it out.

fred said...

Dr. Ascol,
Thanks for staying in the battle.

Preach the Word!

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Ranger said...

Many of you will discredit Jeremy's comment since he was formerly tied to one of the churches being mentioned, but he asks a very important question. Where do we draw the line?

Was Paul wrong in Athens to be relevant? Should he have quoted the OT prophets instead of using cultural icons? Of course not, and we all agree on that. Without compromising the gospel, we must seek to be relevant with the message. Most of the time we are not compromising the gospel anyways...just the traditions associated with it.

In my understanding, there is a difference between Toon Town, where the heart of the message seems to be Jesus, and the taking of your picture with Earnhardt's car, where the gospel is secondary to the celebrity of the car.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

The "talking head" comment had also bothered me. I hate to think that a person teaching children from the Bible would be considered a "talking head."

Dr. Fasol at SWBTS said that the Bible, with the Spirit moving in the hearts of those listening, does not have to be made relevant, or made to come alive by the presentation of the preacher. It already is relevant, and it already is alive!

Love in Christ,

Jeff

eric opsahl said...

I have a missionary friend overseas whose church doesn’t separate the kids (all ages less new born) from the Worship / Teaching / and Preaching. To be fair, they are a small fellowship (30 adults plus 6 kids) so perhaps that makes a difference. That said, the young children have been trained from birth to sit thru the 1 – 1 ½ hour preaching without misbehaving. My question may be a bit off topic, Are we sure that kids are not capable of sitting thru a 1 hour sermon? Perhaps this is true in the American church because we don’t train our kids to do so. I don’t have kids, so I may not have credibility.
Eric

SavedandSure said...

Your recent article will be fully understood and appreciated by most while others will be disturbed and perhaps even offended.

Neil Postman's probing little book (along with John MacArthur's ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL) will cause many to think and realize how they have bowed at the altar of entertainment in their endless quest of seeking to become
more interesting and relevant.

Let's not hesitate to use modern methods of conveying the TRUTH who (John 14:6) sets sinners free to love and worship Him but let's be very careful not to lose the TRUTH in the process.

It is to be feared that many already have ~ all in the name of numbers!

They have more "members" to report to "denominational headquarters"
but fewer "disciples" of the Lord who will pay any price to honor and serve Him.

The wonderful, powerful Word of God continues to produce the results He intends.

Billy Belk said...

I wish to echo the comment by Eric and add a principle that I learned from Dr. David Nelson at Southeastern Seminary. In Dr. Nelson’s “Ministry of Worship” class, we were encouraged to allow children to learn how to worship from their parents. Small children may not understand everything taking place in a 1 hour worship service, but they will learn that what takes place during that hour must be important if they see both mom and dad there Sunday after Sunday.

Russ Reaves said...

I would add to the bookpile that has been recommended here Os Guinness' "Prophetic Untimeliness" which argues that in spite of unparalleled attempts to BE relevant, the church has never been more irrelevant than it is now. Therefore, Guinness's call is to abandon the pursuit of relevance in exchange for faithfulness to the gospel.

On children's worship, as a parent, I prefer to have my child with me in worship. We have an infant who will not endure a service, but a toddler who comprehends more of my sermons than most adults in the church.

Here is an idea for your toolbox - not original with me, my wife found it in a book somewhere. We started our son out in worship with "listening sheets." I would go through my sermon and pick out about five words or ideas that were repeated. I would draw a picture (now that he can read I am able to write the words), and ask him to make a mark beside the picture every time I said those words, and to try to remember what I said about them. This led to some great lunch coversations.

Darel said...

I strive daily for the gospel. That God sent his son to become the payment for our transgressions. That this is the only way to be reconciled to God.

I agree that NASCAR does not communicate this message.

My largest complaint is that as we talk in negative terms about what doesn't work, inevitably there come those who will paint their preferences with the same brush. "Well, I don't like rock music, so it must also be evil and incapable of communicating the gospel." "I am uncomfortable with video screens, so therefore is must also be incapable of communicating the gospel." and on and on.

I think I agree with your assessment: Let's make sure we define what we mean by "it works". And that as long as "it works" then it's a valid method. ( "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." )

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

I pastor a church in Florida that suffered the effects of a hurricane. We completely lost our sanctuary building. Due to space contraints, we had the kids (all ages minus babies) sit in service with us.

In the beginning, it was a challenge. Both the parents and the kids were certainly not used to this. We had to teach these kids how to participate in worship AND we had to teach the adults how to assist their children with worship - what a concept. The effect was tremendously successful!

To encourage the kids to participate during the "talking head" sermon time, we printed out an age-specific papers that they would use to follow along. The younger kids (pre K - 1st) get a coloring page that directly relates to the sermon. The older kids (2nd - 5th) get a "sermon notes" page. They have fill-in-the-blanks on what I will say and places to write down the Scripture references. I also include a special message at the bottom. To give incentive, we award the kids a badge or some kind of small prize for completion of their papers. You should read some of the comments that these kids make - really deep. It moves me to tears to know that they were actually listening. Sure, it takes more work and planning on my part, but he kids are too important.

One year later, we have a new sanctuary, but we still keep the kids with us. We don't have problems with behavior (some exceptions, of course). Our policy is that if we see a visitor with young children, several people will volunteer to take the kids to the children's building for them.

I know that this may seem like a made-up story, but it's true. I hope that you allow this comment, Tom, because people need to hear that it is possible to have kids in the service - we are an example of that. There would have been a time where I would have rejected the notion; however, God sovereignly moved (through a hurricane) to change our minds. I can provide more information if anyone is interested.

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

Sorry for the double post...

I just wanted to add that we did not lose any of our kids because we included them in service. God has actually increased our number of children. His grace and blessing is truly overwhelming.

We've, in fact, included the kids in our services. Sometimes, we have the older kids do some of the Scripture readings. They love it - both parents and kids.

By His grace and for His glory!

Brian

Cary Loughman said...

We attended a church for about three months practicing family worship, which is basically what Brian is describing, except it was by choice rather than necessity. We had a new walker less than a year old and it was very challenging, but our "older" children (3, 5, 5, 6, and 8 at the time) benefitted greatly from the experience.

Those who have surmised perhaps we are not challenging our children to pay attention have hit it on the head, in my opinion. Attention spans are cultivated and it is work, for child and adult, so it is counterproductive to feed short attention spans rather than challenge folks to stretch their attention spans.

And Jeremy, I am 41, and if a man is preaching the word of God for an hour, then Christian men, including myself, should be rejoicing that they are hearing the very words of God speaking to their hearts. While our flesh will attempt to feed itself with excuses of boredom, hunger, busy schedules, etc., the Spirit will produce a hunger for the Word of God that can certainly withstand a whole hour of the foolishness of preaching.

Perhaps these 40 year-old men cannot keep their attention because the preacher is not engaging their hearts and minds with things from above, but is appealing to their flesh with the messages (disclaimer: that is a general comment, I have no knowledge of the type of preaching that Jeremy is speaking of being unable to hold a Christian man's attention).

Andrew said...

Anyone interested in Dr. Ronnie Floyd’s assessment American evangelicalism should listen to the sermon he preached this morning, titled “This Ain't Your Granny's Church Anymore”.

Dr. Floyd preached about REFORMATION! Yes, the reformation that he is calling for is the ambitious pursuit of cultural RELEVANCE.

The text is from Matt 9:17, where Jesus says “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.” Now I always believed that Jesus used the wineskin illustration to teach that the forms of old rituals, such as the ceremonial fastings practiced by the Pharisees, were not fit for the new wine of the New Covenant. However, I learned from Dr. Floyd that we should understand this as Christ’s mandate for cultural relevance in the Church. Dr. Floyd went on to cite many statistics regarding numbers of baptisms, and lifted up relevance and pragmatism as the governing principles in the Church.

“Jesus wants us to win,” he said. The key to success is our methods, how we “do” church. If we can only reach the coveted status of relevance, then we will “receive a touch from God”. All along I’ve been thinking that the gospel of Jesus Christ is relevant to all generations at all times and in all places, but after hearing this sermon I guess I am incorrect about that. Instead, we must understand and cater to the felt needs of young people for the gospel to be effective. Why should they believe in Jesus if we don’t make it cool and fun? You see, every soul won or lost ultimately depends on our creativity and ingenuity. And THEN the Spirit of God will come and… well you know the rest.

Did you know that 4% of all people age 11-28 have a personal relationship with Jesus? I wondered aloud how anyone could know that. Perhaps someone can show me where to find this kind of definitive information.

Dr. Floyd also introduced me to the writings of a man named Rob Bell, the (emergent) pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Rob has some tremendous insights on how to make church culturally relevant. And not surprisingly, Dr. Floyd preaches the same “we’ve got to do whatever it takes” methodology that is prevalent in the Toon Town promotional video.

The invitation was interesting. Dr. Floyd again cited the “4% of people ages 11-28 know Jesus personally” statistic and then invited people to open their hearts and accept Jesus. No mention of sin, repentance, or counting the cost. The only mention of “forsaking all” was in reference to “forsaking the way you like to do church” (to make the church more relevant to unbelievers). The invitation ended with a contemporary rendition of “Come As You Are”.

Hear Dr. Floyd preach “This Ain't Your Granny's Church Anymore” at http://viewers.316networks.com/viewer/viewerbroadcast_odc.asp?networkid=3000393&setspeed=select&oid=1006649&gid=0

Andrew said...

"I guess the way a baptistery is painted...."

Jeremy, please quit spinning. Some of your comments remind me those political hacks that speak for the national political parties. You know, those pundits who will defend “their candidate” at all costs?

It would be more edifying if you could actually address the concerns of others instead of spinning them to suit your agenda.

Jeremy Roberts said...

Andrew, it would be more edifying if you would quit falsely accusing me as one who is "spinning" and instead allowed me to ask a question that I am honestly seeking an answer to. I do not know where the line should be draw if I were to agree with Tom.

I am not "spinning" anything. I don't want to clog up this blog with another rant about fire trucks or anything else you can somehow find wrong with my comments. I believe my stance on all issues is VERY CLEAR in my blog from yesterday which is a detailed rebuttal to all major reasons why others say Ronnie Floyd shouldn't be SBC President.

In case you're wondering what I'm talking about in my blog referring to "piranhas" your two comments of calling me a spinner is a perfect example.

How dare I voice an opposing opinion to this anti-Floyd trio of blogs.

DOGpreacher said...

aagghh....PRAGMATISM!

There once was a man named Spurgeon. He told us this was coming. The "Church on the Downgrade".

Treat Jeremy fairly by assuming his question is sincere. So...
..listen up, Jeremy...

IF Mr. Spurgeon were to have been present for the sermon by Mr. Floyd yeaterday, I am sure he would have stated that the "Church was at Hyperspeed on the Downgrade." Also, I feel strongly that IF Mr. Floyd was around during Mr. Spurgeon's day, he would have been lobbying for his censure.

That's enough for me.

Andrew said...

Jeremy,
Your question is sincere and much appreciated. Your spin is not.

I did not introduce the subject of the baptistery to this post - you did that. And you took the opportunity to characterize it as an issue of paint preference.

In my estimation, that remark did not lend itself to a high regard for truth.

"'In case you're wondering what I'm talking about in my blog referring to ‘piranhas'... your two comments of calling me a spinner is a perfect example"

I have never called you a "spinner". Name-calling is not consistent with Christian character. My 2nd comment simply asked that you please stop spinning.

"How dare I voice an opposing opinion to this anti-Floyd trio of blogs."

This is unnecessary drama and a case of attacking 2 straw men. Nobody here is "anti-Floyd". Neither is anyone saying that you should not voice your opinion. Those people do not exist (or are extremely hard to find).

My first comment consists of my sermon notes from Dr. Floyd's 5/14 sermon, the SUBJECT of which is "relevance" (the same subject as this post). If you feel that I have misunderstood his sermon, then please feel free to correct me.

As to your excellent question, I believe there are others who read this blog who can answer your question better than myself, and I (like you) am waiting for them to weigh in on "where the line is drawn".

jbuchanan said...

Isn't there somthing in the Bible about "Do not be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." I think that the key to everything in the church is to ask "What does the Bible say about this?" Not, "What how will the culture receive this?" I understand the desire to be appealing to the masses but I just don't believe that you can preach the pure gospel of Christ and remain popular with a decadent and wicked society. I totally agree with the statements that have been made concerning the impossibility of separating the method and the message. God has specifically given us the way that He wants the message to be communicated- the Preaching of the Word. He has specifically given us the visual aids needed to communicate the message- the ordinances. When we tamper with God's methods we are treading on very dangerous grounds.

I heard Voddie Bauchum preach a marvelous message a while back about the merits of family ministry and worship. Needless to say it was not a popular message and many left the service visibly upset. But let me ask you, was he being relevant. I think that he was and let me explain why. Statistics indicate that around 80% of the teenagers that grow up in the church leave after they turn 18 and never come back. That is an alarming statistic. It means that the church in America is dying from the inside and that we are not passing the faith on to the next generation. Dr. Bauchum clearly called for us to stop the foolishness that masquerades as youth and children's ministry and to go back to the Bible. First, to get the message of the gospel right and then second, to get the methods for communicating that message right. What could be more relevant than that? He clearly demonstrated outlined the problem and showed us what the Bible had to say.

The truth is that we are facing a crisis in the SBC. We have won the battle over inerrancy but the battle for the sufficiency of the Bible is just begun. A gentleman this battle is going to be even more difficult than the last one. But it must be fought and it will be won one pulpit and one church at a time.

Russ Reaves said...

The "Granny's church" sermon was not from 5/14. I viewed that video last week. Apparently it is featured on the broadcast page because it is a "greatest hit" of sorts. Hmmm.

One statement about the message: I believe that Southern Baptist leaders ought to be committed to biblical exposition. Our seminaries are teaching students that God honors biblical exposition. But then we see a parade of so-called leaders who seldom practice it, and who are lauded as examples of pastoral excellence and placed in offices of power and influence in our denomination. We are certainly reinforcing a negative pattern.

God have mercy on us!

Jeffro said...

Pragmatism...the attitude that I like my way that works better than I like your way that does not. With what canon do you measure "what works." Surely it isn't a numerical canon. For if that were the case, wouldn't the smiling, photogenic, sweet-talking, charismatic coverboy Joel Osteen have the correct method. So unless we want ol' Smiley himself to be our model then maybe we shouldn't judge what works based on the canon of numbers. The numerical canon of what works however seems to be all the rage in SBC circles (i.e. Everyone Can...I'm It, Million Public Baptisms in a Year).

Attempting to be relevant, in order to reach our culture and our children, displays a misunderstanding of the relevance of the Gospel. The Gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Does this not encompass all of culture and our children? We find in the Gospel "the righteousness of God." Is this not the greatest need of the culture and our children? I am convinced that a proper understanding and explanation of the Gospel from all of Scripture and a proper understanding of the World (culture) in light of the Gospel would be plenty relevant. Will it attract Mini van Moms, Business Men and Suburb Families? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will, when accompanied by the sovereign Holy Spirit change lives. And that works.

To speak practically, begin teaching your preschoolers the Bible chronologically. For the first few years just teach them Bible stories in chronological order. Then maybe in first or second grade add in a Catechism alongside of the Chronological Bible study. Begin teaching them who God is from all of Scripture. Define for them sin, grace, faith, holiness, sovereignty. Make your curriculum progressive. Add to it each year. Imagine what a senior in High School would know about the Bible (and culture) if he were discipled like this week in and week out at church. And if you want to be really brave, use Sunday or Wednesday night or possibly even Sunday School to do the same thing year after year with your adults. Encourage them to read the Bible chronologically in a year while you teach a chronological, historical, "Biblical Theology."

My advice is quit trying to be cute, creative, and "culturally relevant." The Gospel is relevant and is nothing to be ashamed of.

Andrew said...

Russ - thanks for the correction. I was searching the FBCS web site to find his latest sermon, and assumed the “Granny” sermon was it (because it's at the top of the list).

In hindsight, it did seem like an amazing coincidence (rather, providence!) that Dr. Floyd would preach on the very topic under discussion.

J.D. Rector said...

Shazzam.... "This Ain't Your Granny's Church Anymore!" Wow... I wonder what exposition of scripture produced that sermon title?


Prophetically, how true is is that today's church is indeed "NOT Granny's church anymore!" My maternal grandmother was affectionately called "Granny" by her 4 grandchildren. I was the oldest of her grandchildren. When I was a pre-schooler, she was the lone person who took me to church because at that time my father was not a follower of Jesus and my mom was at home with my younger brother.

I long for those years of my "Granny's church" when men would preach the whole counsel of God! I long for those times when biblically-based moral convictions was proclaimed from the pulpit with fervor and passion. I long for "Granny's church" that would sing the old hymns where I learned my doctrine and theology as a young pre-schooler. Oh, how I long for "Granny's church" again!!

However, "Granny's church" was not granny's church. It was the church bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It is not Tom Ascol's church. It is not J.D. Rector's church. It is not Dr. Floyd's church. It IS JESUS' church!

Now that my brothers and sisters and is very Relevant!!

Tom said...

Tim:

I look forward to reading your story. If time permits, I will have another blog this week that will make the NASCAR stunt look mild by comparison.

Jeremy:

Your question is very pertinent even if the same cannot be said for your representation of the the Toon Town baptistry. How far indeed? We are not the first generation of Christians to face this question. That is why and how what we commonly refer to as the Regulative Principle of worship came to be articulated. I will not spell out that principle to you but will simply commend chapter 22 of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Make sure you don't skip the first paragraph.
That concerns what we actually do when we engage in corporate worship. Evangelism, of course, is not limited to those corporate gatherings (though neither should it be completelty divorced from them (1 Cor. 14:24-25). However, evangelism must be governed by the EVANGEL, which, if you have been reading here very long, you know that I am convinced has largely been lost in our day. We live in a context when many--most?--evangelicals assume that everyone knows what we mean by "gospel." But that is a deadly and damning assumption. Because of the micharacterizations of the evangel, evangelism has all-too-often been reduced to getting a person to assent to facts or mouth a prayer (or if your serious, "to sincerely mean it!") thereby asking Jesus into the heart. When that kind of eviscerated definition prevails, then the question, "how far is too far?" becomes almost purely subjective. That is where I see American evangelicalism today. Pragmatism reigns as king and the sufficiency of Scripture is undermined. The real question is this: Do we genuinely believe 2 Timothy 3:16-17 or not? Did Paul really mean that the Holy Scriptures are enough for a man of God to be THOROUGHLY equipped for EVERY good work? If so, then doesn't this include evangelism--including child evangelism? If so, then shouldn't we spend more time ransacking Scripture for guidance in how we are to do the work of ministry than we do appealing to Disneyworld or Hollywood or Madison Avenue?
In Philip 1:27 Paul admonishes us to walk worthy of the Gospel, indicating that certain actions are commensurate with the character of the Gospel and others are not. To ignore these realities, or to act as if God has no opinion or does not care about what efforts we engage in for ministry "as long as it works," is to depart from biblical Christianity.
One final comment: do not misread any of this as a defense of traditional ways of doing things. Our stain glass windows, organization structures and comfortable schedules should be equally scrutinized by the same standards. I have addressed your question more principally. If you want something more practical, let me highly recommend Michael Spencer's comments here.

Mike Miller said...

Ok, I know I'm a little late posting on this, but I wanted to listen to Pastor Randy's sermon before chiming in. You see, the race car doesn't really bother me. What bothers me is dearth of expository preaching in our pulpits today. I listened to the Race sermon, and I can almost say that it was one of the poorest excuses for a sermon that I've ever heard--almost because the reality is that it sounded like most sermons I hear when I visit churches (on vaction or whatever) or go to conventions or conferences (SBC).

Now, please do not get me wrong. I'm not attacking the man personally. I'm simply evaluating his sermon (I do have a doctorate in expository preaching, by the way). Simply, there was no biblical exposition in the text. He did not preach from a specific text, though he quoted some (from "The Message") without any regard to context.

By way of example, his first point was that we need to enter the race. His verse was 1 Corinthians 1:30 (remember, "The Message"), and after reading it, he said something like, "What Jesus is saying is that we can have a fresh start" (no comment from me needed, I think).

In his final point, he was talking about how we need not be intimidated by God. His point was that we can approach God with confidence through Jesus, but he suggested saying to God, "Hey, Dad. I'm strugglin', Man."

And finally, his invitation was typical . . . closed eyes, pray this prayer, etc. There was no repentance, and in part of his prayer was, "Jesus, be my Pit Crew Chief."

What a shame that they came, and then they didn't hear the Gospel, nor did they hear God's word. I've been asked, "How do you make the Bible relevant?" My answer, "The Bible is relevant." Sometimes I'm asked, "How do you make the Bible come alive?" My answer, "The Bible is living and active." The sad thing is that week after week people show up to churches and don't hear the living, relevant Word of God even preached poorly, for it is not preached at all.

Yes, I know that a posting like this will open my own preaching up to scrutiny. I welcome it. All I ask is that you evaluate my handling of God's Word and not my personality.

Logan Mauldin said...

Tom, Thanks for your insights into how we can lose the truth of the gospel in this postmodern culture where all ideas are considered on equal footing and while we try to be heard the loudest over this sea of differing opinions. I responded to a comment on this same topic today on my blog.

Michael Spencer said...

I wrote this in response at my blog Tom

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/how-much-is-too-much

Mopheos said...

Our fellowship has about 50 families and assorted non-married people in worship (180 or so any given Sunday), and we have encouraged our families to stay together in worship, even if the children are too young to understand. The effect of years of hearing worship in song, prayer, public reading, testimony and preaching - even as infants - is incalculable, and it provides fine (if not sometimes trying) opportunities for parents to train their children in worship and to model such with them.

The near complete segregation in our society (and churches!) of children from almost all other groups but their peers is at least unfortunate and at worst spiritual abdication and irresponsibility. It is one of the primary reasons (in my opinion) why issues of relevancy have reached a fevered pitch among American Christians (being farther down this road, Europeans are largely past caring), and have decimated our ranks and evacuated evangelical worship of content, weightiness, beauty and evangelistic/apologetic effect.

Both the book Tom mentioned (Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves To Death") as well as Allan Bloom's insightful book, "The Closing of the American Mind" are two frightening tomes to which the American evangelical church had better take heed, even if they are written by non-Christian men (which makes their warnings all the more amazing).

Worship and discipleship are not fun, they are not entertaining, they are not cool, and they are not trendy.

The previous several decades in which the church in America has slavishly and uncritically followed the culture by running after these very objectives has left our ranks thin and vapid. We truly are the proverbial "inch deep and mile wide" in our theological understanding and practice. I served in a SBC church for 23 years and saw the fruit about which I speak first hand, and it was (and is) disturbing and unsettling, particularly as a pastor.

May God grant that we awaken from our stupor and begin again to see the One who dwells in unapproachable light.

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

I know no one is reading this comment; however, I do want something written for the record. This is in regard to teaching children the principles of worship and how to conduct themselves within a service. I find the Truth And Grace Memory Books (Founders Press) to be a great resource to this end.

eklektos said...

Might I suggest the old and discarded Christian virtue; temperance? Perhaps if a four-year-old child must be coaxed into participating in something he does not understand the proper response would be to wait until he can. If he can understand the gospel then the proper response would be to explain it to him in a manner which he can grasp, and not use sideshow techniques to accomplish a false conversion? Or am I to understand that God cannot accomplish his purposes without mans help, that the gospel is of itself insufficient? Is our God so hapless that he can't ensure that such a child will not come to salvation? What was described in this post was an abomination, and if we cannot reach our children in a simple and straightforward manner perhaps we should spend more time aiding church members in educating their children and less on a new building program.

eklektos said...

That should read "ensure such a child will come to salvation". Sorry for the error.