“…he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father… Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me…” (Matthew 25:32b-34a , 41a).
I recently read a quote by a pastor whom I highly respect and I was not expecting this quote from him. Because I do not want to attack him nor draw others away from his influence, I am not mentioning his name nor quoting him word for word. Basically, what he said was that many churches are stuck because they are not changing with newer songs and forms of worship. As a result, they are not reaching the “non-churched” and not speaking their language. He went on to say how their attention has turned inward to meet the needs of the flock instead of the community.
Allow me to bluntly translate what he said: “The unchurched, or the world, do not understand us, so our worship needs to be familiar to them. Let’s make it more worldly. They don’t understand our language, let’s make it more worldly. And what are we doing focusing so much on the church instead of the world?”
Sounds noble, but herein lies a crucial philosophical problem with many churches of today. They somehow think it is their job to cater to the “unchurched.” Nowhere in the Bible is this the mission of Christ’s church. We are to reach the lost, but the church itself is for the saved. This philosophy is why so many churches, and subsequently Christians, are becoming so worldly. When people get saved, they are NEW creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). God puts a NEW song in our mouth (Psalm 40:3). The idea is that the old life is done, the old man is dead, the old fleshly desires, habits, and passions are to be replaced with the new nature that is in Christ. We do not bring the world’s music and language to them, but we take them after they have been saved, and teach them new songs and language. Church is not for the lost; it is for the saved. There, we equip the saved for the work of the ministry – to go out and win the lost so they may enter into this fellowship (Ephesians 4:12; 1 John 1:3). Pastors are not called to feed the world; they are called to feed the flock (1 Peter 5:2), which is the local church, made up of saved people. By all means, the church must reach the lost, but for the church to the lost is a significant error. This pragmatic approach sets aside the holiness of God and the call to holiness of His people for the sake of “reaching people.” Such a mindset will inevitably lead to compromise after compromise. One great example of this is Billy Graham. Once a fiery gospel preacher, he now cannot give a clear gospel presentation. He started making small (and some not so small) compromises to the point that today he denies the doctrine of hell, claims the Catholic gospel is the same gospel he preaches, and that people can be saved apart from the name of Jesus Christ. A very slippery slope indeed.
I came from the this kind of mindset. I grew up in churches where anything goes. Everyone follows God as is right in their own eyes. The only thing that unites is the name, Jesus. “It really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you love Jesus.” This philosophy will begin watering down doctrine to the point where no one really knows what they believe; which is the case in many churches. Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” When we focus on filling our churches with the unchurched or the lost, we will soon have a church of tares (Matthew 13:25-30). By the way, this is why many are being swept up by the cults. At least the cults know what they believe, which is more than the average church member in the average church.
Consider the following excerpt from C. H. Spurgeon from the late 1800s entitled “Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?” He so clearly illustrates that God has never called the church to amusement or entertainment, appealing to the lost. One would think we was speaking to us today! (Please excuse the lengthiness of the quote. I think it powerfully explains the dilemma)
“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.”
God has never called us to appeal to the lost. He hasn’t even called us to “reach” the lost. He has called us to preach the gospel. Once saved, they are to be baptized and added to a local church. There, the church of God (made up of the saved) is to be fed, encouraged, edified, and equipped for ministry as they head out into the world to preach to the lost. That is the pattern!
Many have lost sight of the purpose of the church, as laid out in scripture. Years ago I had to make a tough transition. I came to the realization that church as I knew it, the churches I grew up in, we’re not the church as Christ established it. This began my journey to find that which resembled the New Testament church the closest. I’m glad to report that, since the beginning of my journey in 2003, I have found many! (For more information on what constitutes a biblical church, please contact me)