Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?


I stumbled upon this and thought it worth sharing. It is also worth noting that this was penned over 100 years ago. If Spurgeon had this to say of the church back then I can imagine his opinion of the church today. I am sure he would not think that the situation is any better by far!

This is actual a pretty harsh look at the methods of the modern day church. I would be inclined to dismiss it as 'not for today' but considering the source and the state of the church and it's witness to the world I think it would be a good idea to listen closely to what a proven fruitful preacher from day passed has to say.


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Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon(1834-1892)

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.

Then again, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers .., for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt" (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy---something the world will spit out not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, "Let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22) He was in awful earnestness.

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, "Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow." Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.

In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, "Come out, keep out, keep clean out!" Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, "Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are." If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

source: http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/amusement.htm

9 comments:

Socialist Christian Hippie said...

fascinating. I approve, with but one or two exceptions.

One: Bach's B-minor mass and the aggreagate of "Art" music which was done in service to Christ (mainly, sometimes, religious music was for the patron, but during the times it was written, a patron was next to God)

Two: Folk music. Or simple music offered from people to God. Amateur music, mainly.

It is the "professionalism" of the music that bothers me. More than any individual song or content. The slavery to "excellence" as opposed to "honest" worship.

As a choir director, I accpet all who desire to join if they come to it honestly. The sound is not as important as the connection the singer has with God and their desire to share that with the congregation despite whatever level of talent they have.

So...there you go.

God bless!

Sean McKee said...

I think Spurgeon's complaint is that the worship service has become a thing to entertain the people in the pews instead of a vehicle to bring them to the cross.

The aim has become to entertain the people so that they will come back instead of giving God glory and asking His Spirit to indwell the service.

Socialist Christian Hippie said...

Well, when he makes the analogy with the puritans...they outlawed Christmas, Music, Drama...etc.

Almost all services today would offend them.

The Puritans, to a great extent, operated in opposition to the catholics. They thought that the catholics practiced idolatry, and that the overwhelming pomp, music and massive churches were leading people away from the cross.

As it is so put.

I believe that most Christian rock, megachurches, movies, etc are a bane. Yet, my two exceptions stand.

I don't believe that the author would defend even my two exceptions.

God Bless, Peace

kq said...

Sorry, can't just leave this one alone.

Have you read Jesus' parables? These stories surely entertained as well as educated the hearers. Read any of Paul's sermons recorded in Acts? Lots of pop culture references of the day!

The point is not how the Gospel and the word of God are presented (or where, megachurch or house church), but that they aren't watered down or twisted to please the audience.

I now attend the most non-traditional and pop-culture oriented church I've ever attended. And I meet previously unchurched people who are seeking God every week. Non of my Spurgeon-friendly churches of the past could claim that kind of community impact.

Sean McKee said...

kq,

If your "non-traditional and pop-culture oriented church" is not, as you put it, "watering down or twisting to please the audience" the Gospel then Praise God! I think it would be a Spurgeon friendly church.

On the other hand if they count their success by the numbers that they "entertain" every week then there is a problem.

The purpose of the church is to bring sinners to the cross and create disciples, not to entertain people and make them feel good about themselves.

kq said...

No, LifePoint Church (lifepointonline.com) doesn't count its success by how many it entertains each week. Frankly, we aren't concerned with entertaining anyone. We want to engage them with Truth and Love. However, in the process of engaging people we often entertain them. We really haven't been concerned with numbers, but we have been concerned with people. Week after week I meet people who tell me about how they found love and acceptance at our church and only then realized what Christians' meant about the love of God and a family of believers. Sadly, I often hear the stories of how their other experiences in churches or with Christians were about everything but love and acceptance.

But, no, I don't think we are a Spurgeon-friendly church, at least not in our worship style. I don't desire to tear down a man of God, but like all of us saved sinners we are limited in our ability to see the hand of God as it moves around us. To qoute Spurgeon, "Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of the conversion, stand up!"

In heaven, Spurgeon will get to meet the member of our band who found Jesus through Christian rock before he ever attended a church or opened a Bible. The woman who gave up years of bitterness as the words of a song of God's grace broke her heart. The father who hadn't spoken to God in years but re-found his faith when he went to see his daughter in a drama. He'll meet the couple who were living together when they first wandered into church, found love and belonging, gave their lives to Jesus and then realized that they needed marriage to make their relationship pure (sounds like meeting them halfway).

One more thing. You state, "The purpose of the church is to bring sinners to the cross and create disciples, not to entertain people and make them feel good about themselves." Certainly the Church is charged with presenting the Gospel and making disciples. I'm always concerned when I hear or read a statement like yours, though. Too often, I've known those whose meaning was "Tell them they are worthless sinners going to hell!" I don't want to imply that is what you mean. I can't know exactly what you mean because I don't know you and the phrase has too much baggage for me. But I do know that the Jesus of the Gospels hung out with sinners and they liked Him. They invited him to their parties and he went. Most Christians would rather march outside the parties in a picket line than love the people inside. Frankly, I do want unbelievers leaving my church feeling good. Feeling good because they have hope that the Almighty God loves them. Feeling good that there is the hope of forgiveness with their name written on it. It may take a few doses of hope before they are willing to surrender to that love and turn their lives over to Jesus. Apparently Jesus and His Father are patient enough to let the Holy Spirit do His job. I try really hard to be patient along with them.

It doesn't take a "non-traditional pop-culture oriented church" to reach everyone. But some will never be reached without some churches that are really uncomfortable for most lifetime believers. I'm one of those lifetime believers. I pin my salvation experience to age 5. My parents are believers, I married a woman who is both the daughter and granddaughter of Baptist preachers. When she married me I was on staff at a church. Now I teach at a Christian university. Traditional church has been very good to me. But I know see what some others needed so that they could come to Jesus.

May the Father of lights grant you good and amazing gifts!!

Sean McKee said...

kq,

All of what you said is good.

I am not a person that is going to "Tell them they are worthless sinners going to hell!" On the other hand it's the churches and Christians that are so afraid to offend or make someone "feel bad" that this post is about.

If at some point a person does not "feel bad" about their life without God how can they come to repentance?

If a person leaves a church feeling good because they have been made right with God that is great but if a person leaves a church feeling good because the music was good and the preacher sugar coated the Gospel, gave them the grace of God without the call to repentance, then that is a travesty.

The joy of eternal life is what they should leave with, not a buzz from a good show.

kq said...

Agreed.

By the way, LifePoint used that Team Hoyt video during a series on love last year. We pointed out that the father's sacrificial love is beautiful, but the Heavenly Father's love for us goes well beyond that.

Joel said...

Noah preacher for 100 years with out a convert. Noah did as God said and God saved him. The measage was repeant and believe. God is the only one who can change the heart and he does this through the preaching of the gospel. Satan uses lures and entices men to they demise. Trust in Gods ways not worldly methods.