The Philippines had its equivalent of the Super Bowl yesterday, the Lord’s Day. Every time Manny Pacquiao fights, the whole country grinds to a haltâ€”no traffic congestion (yes, even on Sundays) and practically deserted streets and malls (usually packed on Sundays). Sadly, church attendance also decreases dramatically.
In view of this, someone who was concerned about this phenomenon posted in an evangelical forum, saying, Manny “will probably win but ultimately Satan will win as many Christians will not be in church this morning worshipping our Saviour but rather absent because of a highly profile fight via pay per view from Texas. What kind of testimony does this send to the world…” Then another forumer replied:
Does Church save a man? Or are we saved through faith in Jesus Christ? Can we only worship our creator on Sunday Morning? If we can and should worship at other times, do we “Have” to worship on our “traditional” Sunday Morning? … I wonder, wouldn’t it have been more productive to set up a projector and play the Pacquiao fight and then follow that up with an already excited crowd and share with them how every one of us can be winners in Christ and how God has already ordained us to salvation… As Christian leaders we really need to find ways of encouraging people into fellowship…not driving them away by being judgmental.
These comments are a sad commentary to the state of evangelicalism, not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. They reek of the individualistic, anti-ecclesiastical, anti-doctrinal and anti-historical culture of our day. Tell anyone about creeds and confessions, and what is the response? “My only creed is Christ and the Bible” and “Aren’t we saved through faith in Christ, and not by church?” How noble! How edifying! What can be wrong about these statements? What’s wrong with these statements is Biblical illiteracy and outright disobedience to God’s Word masquerading as deep spirituality.
Today’s Christian spirituality is all about feelings and experience. It doesn’t matter that God commands us not to neglect the assembly of the saints (Heb 10:24-25) on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2)â€”the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10)â€”as long as we have individual worship. What about listening to the preaching of the Word, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, sharing all gifts and things with fellow believers, and corporate prayers (Acts 2:42)? What about submitting to the elders of the church and being accountable to them (Heb 13:17; cf 1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17)? Are these not commanded in Scriptures, and if they are, then can we do them individually, anytime, anyhow and anywhere?
The sadder part is that most evangelicals would answer yes to these questions. Then when we criticize these new innovations as unbiblical, we are judged as judgmental. Whenever we exegete Biblical texts to expose errors, we are rebuked and told to be nice to our brethren. We are being judgmental, yes, except that our basis is not how we feel or what we think, but what God’s Word says and commands. Was Jesus nice? In his conversations with the Jews, he drove them away, most of them in rage, with a Gospel that is maddeningly offensive to them (1 Cor 1:23). Was Paul nice? He called the Judaizing Galatians “accursed,” “fools,” “bewitched,” and wished that they would “emasculate” themselves (Gal 1:8,9; 3:1; 5:12)!
Remember Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”? Evangelical leaders hailed it as the greatest evangelistic opportunity since the Cross. Where are all those hordes of people today who were evangelized by showing this movie at church “revival” meetings? D. G. Hart, in “Evangelicals on the Durham Trail,” has this to say about the evangelical craze to join the trivializing world:
As R. Laurence Moore argues in Selling God, since the arrival of Boy George in the American colonies, George Whitefield that is, evangelicals have been unusually adept at packaging and marketing Christianity in the forms of popular culture. The intention of Protestant revivalism was “to save souls, but in a brassy way that threw religion into a free-for-all competition for people’s attention.” Revivalism, in fact, according to Moore, “shoved American religion into the marketplace of culture” and became “entangled in controversies over commercial entertainments which they both imitated and influenced.”
What then do the saints receive from this trite, revivalistic show? Hart quotes Hughes Oliphant Old:
In our evangelistic zeal, we are looking for programs that will attract people. We think we have to put honey on the lip of the bitter cup of salvation. It is the story of the wedding of Cana all over again but with this difference. At the crucial moment when the wine failed, we took matters into our own hands and used those five stone jars to mix up a batch of Kool-Aid instead.
In the early church, the worship service was in two main parts: Service of the Word and Service of the Lord’s Supper. Today, church meetings also have two major portions: Praise & Worship, then Altar Call. So instead of preaching God’s Word, partaking of the sacraments, and singing and praying with the saints, the above forumer suggests a “worship service” of two parts:
1. Service of the P&W, Pacquiao & Worship, that is: Excitement! Screaming! Hooting! Clapping! And dancing to praise Pacquiao (and of course the God who’s with him so he can beat someone to a pulp)!
2. Service of the Altar Call: “You can be winners in Christ because you”re already ordained to salvation” (But do we know the mind of the Holy Spirit so that we know that the whole crowd was ordained to salvation?).
This Kool-Aid service would surely reap a harvest of many souls. What about the saints in the church? Will this service edify and sanctify them? No, the saints are already saved. They don’t need to hear the Gospel (Of course, they need to hear that they can have their “best life now.”). They have no other role except to give testimonies to the unsaved and unchurched crowd. The church is only for gathering unbelievers so they can walk up the aisle to pray the sinners’ prayer and thereby become children of God.