Today’s Christianity seems to work on the basis of not wanting to disrupt a person’s lifestyle. The evangelical church seems to take the approach that everything has to be”comfortable” and “appealing” to the “seeker”. We apply Paul’s axiom of “all things to all people” so enthusiastically that it clouds the banner call to “hold fast to the faithful Word”.Today’s evangelical church seems to want to be accommodating to the culture around it. We want to have “appealing” programs, which translates into needing to have a worship service that has the same coolness as the world does when it puts on a show. Heavy duty sound systems, incredible stage lighting — I mean, let’s put on a show… right? We don’t want to push people away by preaching too hard on sin.
We need to stop and think: Does God expect the church to be characterized by self-indulgent activity (I’ll come to your church if you do things that entertain me or make me feel good)? In order to bring a person to Christ, and then disciple them in God and His Word, do we have cater to the expectations of a godless society and adopt their lifestyle first? I don’t think so, but it’s possible that it’s happening more than we want to admit. It seems that the church is pandering to personal convenience and cultural preference to the extent that it takes precedence over a truly biblical worship.
Where did this significant paradigm shift come from?
In the 60s and 70s, the youth culture overran society – it was the coming of age of the baby boomers as hippies and “flower childs”. I was there – I know. Anti-war emotions were rampant, but that led to an even more pervasive anti-establishment, libertarian mentality that was allowed to indulge itself in every self-centered inclination that came to mind. Rock music exploded with the Beetles, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin. Drugs and sex became a normal part of life for this generation. It was scary to see how determined this youth culture was to have its own way. You may recall that the “me” generation followed close on its heels.
Appeal to the young adult generation became the de facto gold standard by which all marketing was measured. Anything that could possibly hope to be accepted by society in general had to be appealing to this liberal, indulgent generation. This era was just as major a turning point for the evangelical church as it was for society in general. The church was rightly burdened for the desperately needy “flower children” wandering the streets of their neighborhoods. Many dynamic youth ministries, such as Campus Crusade, came to the fore and were reaching these youth for Christ. But something amazing happened — as these youth came to Christ and began attending church, the church decided it didn’t want to “make them uncomfortable”, and this motivation evolved into a full-scale adoption of secular marketing that is committed to youth appeal.
It’s certainly true that we need to welcome the unsaved sinner just as they are, all wrapped up in the world’s mess. But here’s the rub: the church started hesitating at being distinct. And we began letting these liberal new, young believers take the initiative in determining the nature of our churches’ ministries. We started thinking we shouldn’t use hymnals because they haven’t used one before and “it might make them uncomfortable”. And the words of these hymns are so deep and convicting – maybe we need shorter songs with lighter lyrics – enter today’s “worship” songs. Maybe we shouldn’t dress in our “Sunday best” because it makes them uncomfortable. And let’s start accompanying our music with the same accompaniment style they are used to with the rock music they’re listening to.
The idea that accepting Christ should have a dramatic impact on your lifestyle, even on music tastes and clothing styles, was pushed aside for the sake of not wanting to make them uncomfortable. Let’s not preach too hard on specific sinful habits, or on the subject of sin at all, because that might put them on the spot. What’s lost in this evolving story? The Bible is very uncomfortable for the unbeliever – intentionally!
Question: When a precious lost soul walks into a church like this, seeking answers to the desperate issues of life, what is his impression? Is he ‘blown away’ at the awesome band on the stage, or is he struck with a need to bow down before a holy and loving God?
Today, five decades later, the Church is, to put it mildly, different. It may be a challenge to nail down what exactly the difference is, but it is different. And it’s very possible that this is not good news. Bottom line: the church made the decision to let the youth of the 60s and 70s define the new evangelical church experience – we swallowed it all, never hesitated. Never mind the fact that these were new, immature believers, saved out of some really bad stuff. Let’s just go with what they like.
It seems that the mainstream of genuine, Bible-believing churches in America and perhaps around the world are seriously distracted. We know there are thousands of wonderful Christian fellowships throughout our country. There are some absolutely marvelous churches that have high quality ministries and services and true depth in biblical teaching, and have managed to avoid the trap of appealing to the world. But there is a lot of evidence that this is the exception. Sad.
If we could take the pulse of America’s Bible-believing churches today, where would the meter go for passion for biblical Christlikeness, depth in God’s Word, brokenness before God, readiness for sacrifice and ministry? Does today’s church have genuine spiritual passion? Not sure.
Of course, to get away with saying that, we would have to agree on what “genuine spiritual passion” means, and that’s likely not going to happen. Does it include getting my ears blown out by heavy contemporary music, jumping up & down, or singing a worship song with 8 words in it and repeating it 15 times, louder each time in order to build up emotional tension. It seems that the majority of our churches today equate these things with (or substitute for) spiritual passion and depth.
John MacArthur says it right, our culture tends to dull our sharpness. “Our culture obscures legitimate goals and would rob our faith of its fiery power if given the chance. Indeed, some Christians are a cold bath for the fiery heart. ”
When we go to an entertainment venue for a Christian concert, the incredibly talented Christian musicians active today are able to pull out the stops for an enjoyable evening. However, we don’t need to be entertained and appeased in our church worship before our holy God. We need a distrupted church lifestyle. We need to be confronted by the God of heaven in a way that drives us out of our secular hysteria and draws us to Cross and the pursuit of holiness. When an unredeemed sinner walks into our worship service, they should be confronted by the reality of a holy God, and their desperate need to bow down before Him. Our indulgence and drive to be entertained should find no place in this context.