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A Little Ocean Ambiance
Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
"And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men;
but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men
is abomination in the sight of God." (Luke 16:15)
Never before in the history of the United States has the state of the
churches been as deplorable as it is now! The foundations are crumbling
and the framework is weakening, yet their leaders are unaware that
anything is wrong! Pastors think everything is going very well.
Attendance and income are way up in some churches, and the largest
congregations ever built in American history have grown up in the past
twenty years. But the essentials of Christianity and Christian churches
are fading everywhere, and the future looks bleak to discerning eyes. Not
long ago, a well-respected elder-statesman among evangelicals asked for a
meeting with pastors of several large churches. At that meeting, he urged
them to get together regularly to pray for revival. The disappointing
response he received was that they saw no need to pray for revival. Their
congregations were growing, their buildings were being expanded, and
their offerings were at record levels. Why should they pray for revival
when everything was going so well? Their problem (and the problem of
evangelicalism in general) is that they are mistaking disintegration for
progress! In many ways developments which are seen as healthy and
positive are actually destructive and deadly! May the Spirit of God help
His people see the peril in this delusion!
Mistaking Death for Life.
Years ago the complaint was that the services of the churches were often
"dead." With the exception of the Pentecostal denominations, many seemed
to offer Sunday programs and sermons that were irrelevant and boring.
Something was needed, it was felt, to "liven" the services of most
To meet this perceived need, rock music was introduced to church
platforms and pulpits where it had never been allowed before. Using the
euphemism, "Contemporary Christian Music," the beat and sensuality of
rock 'n' roll became the vehicle of communicating Christian words, and
gradually the new sound spread from youth gatherings to "seeker
services," and finally to Sunday morning church! At first, there were
many protests. The "rock" style had always been associated in the
entertainment world with rebellion against standards, illicit sex, and
wholesale sensuality. The message of the music itself was
anti-traditional and anti-biblical, according to both its creators and
its critics. To use such music in the churches seemed very inappropriate
to many. But eventually the effectiveness of C.C. M. in drawing crowds
overcame the initial reluctance of churches to use it, and now you hear
it everywhere! Church services certainly aren't boring any more. They are
"lively," but are they alive? Life and death are important issues in the
Bible. Revelation 3 speaks to the church at Sardis, and makes this
". . . thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." (verse 1)
Christians can mistake death for life. In the New Testament, death is
associated with the flesh and sinful human nature. Remember what Romans
8:6 says about the fleshly (carnal) mind:
". . . to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is
life and peace."
Rock music is a product of the carnal mind. Nobody in the "music world"
denies its sensuality and sexuality except the Christian performers who
like it and want to use it. Although a service dominated by rock-style
"contemporary" music may be exciting, according to the Bible it is
essentially dead! It's not boring (usually) but it is rife with the smell
and feel of death.
The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Life! Look again at Romans 8.
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but
they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be
carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to
the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh
cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so
be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is
dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But
if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he
that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors,
not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the
flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of
the body, ye shall live." (verses 5-13)
In verse 2, the Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus." Until the churches are purified in both their conduct and their
faith, the Spirit of life will not dominate their gatherings. Only when
He does are the services full of life. The excitement in many churches
today is the excitement of death, and is producing deadly results in
Mistaking Marketing for Evangelism.
Fifty or sixty years ago, evangelicals began noticing out loud that their
evangelistic efforts were violating basic marketing principles. The world
will not be won to Christ, it was said, until we give the world what it
wants. We must stop offending them, and start appealing to them in terms
they understand and appreciate. The attraction of effective marketing
techniques to church leaders has grown to prominence and to dominance
since they were first seriously considered. Without dispute, smart
marketing has "worked" for the mega-churches and for many evangelistic
enterprises. It is the reason behind most of the success churches have
experienced in numerical growth. However, it is evident that nearly all
church-marketing today is based on giving people "what they want."
Instead of conforming people to Christ, churches conform their ways to
the world: the world's interests, the world's issues, the world's values,
the world's entertainment, the world's way of living, and the world's
standards. Certainly changing the church from an organization that calls
for a high degree of commitment to a service agency that demands almost
no sacrifice or commitment has made the church more appealing, but it has
also extracted from it the very things that make it Christ's church! Are
the masses that now enter the huge religious gathering-places of our day
really disciples of Jesus Christ? Remember that He said,
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his
cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If
ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are
not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the
world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is
not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also
persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."
Good marketing may gather a crowd, but if it undermines the message of
Christ, it will not produce converts or make disciples. We must remember
(it should't be hard) that church is not really about entertainment,
psychology, or pop culture. People can get plenty of these things at
places other than church. Church is about Jesus, the Bible, praying,
salvation, and loving the Lord. Those who never get a taste for these
things will not last long in church. True evangelism involves turning
people from sin to God. Without this, a church is an empty shell
(although it may be full), drawing people the same way that rock
concerts, malls, and sports events draw them, but giving them no reason
to stay. When a church gives up its essential elements to attract people,
it is disintegrating, no matter how big it is.
Mistaking Recruitment for Revival.
The Book of Acts in the Bible records how the first Christians were
filled with the Holy Spirit and reached their world in His power with the
Gospel of Christ. When the churches have followed the pattern in Acts and
known the blessing of the Spirit's power, history has called such times
seasons of "revival." Unfortunately, when believers are unwilling to pay
the price for revival, but have wanted the blessings it brings, they have
frequently faked it. True revival comes as Christians repent of their
sins, their carnality, and their worldliness, and seek the Lord for His
control of their lives. However, the "look" of revival can be created on
much easier terms. You don't need prayer meetings to get church members
if you recruit them on their terms. When churches drop their standards to
the level of accepted community morals, they are not winning the world;
the world is winning them. When evangelicals water down their appeals so
that sinners can take them any way they chose, no one is winning anybody!
There is no substitute for the ministry of God's Spirit in the lives of
His people, but many churches have found what they think are substitutes.
When they do, what's happening is not revival. Paul, in Galatians 1:10,
"Do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet
pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."
Revival comes by pleasing God, not by pleasing men. The churches ought to
give up the carnal and worldly methods they have been using for church
growth, and go back to calling on the Lord for revival.
Retreat for Advance.
Is it not time for us to examine and evaluate what is really happening in
Recently on a special report about what religions teach about Heaven, a
famous interviewer had no trouble persuading an incarcerated Islamic
terrorist to claim on television that his faith is the only way to be
saved from Hell. On the same program however she could not get the
president of the National Association of Evangelicals to say the same
thing about Jesus. How can the weakened health of the churches be called
strength and vigor? Christians are deceiving themselves. Should we not be
reminded of what the Lord said to the Pharisees?
- The numbers are up, but commitment is way down.
- The sermons are enjoyable, but they are seldom doctrinal.
- The services are exciting, but the excitement is carnal and not
- The seekers crowding into the churches are not being exposed to undiluted
- The churches look to Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Las Vegas for
guidance instead of the Bible.
- The impact of the churches on society's morals is minimal.
- The understanding of church-goers concerning the issues of personal
salvation has diminished.
- The standards of holy living have been lowered by nearly all churches.
- The crass pragmatism and hypocrisy of evangelicals have brought them into
- The churches continue to fail at experiencing revival as in years gone
". . . that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the
sight of God." (Luke 16:15)
Let,s look at things the way God does, and then seek His face for the
deliverance we need.
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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