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You’ve gotta love John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church near Los Angeles. The author of more than a dozen books, he is well known for failing to hold back any punches when addressing matters of faith.
He’s a refreshing contrast to the wishy-washy pastors who command a lot of attention in the press and on social media today. In fact, it’s just that kind of preaching that MacArthur addressed in a column this week at the Daily Wire.
“All the trouble and inconvenience that came with 2020’s string of calamities could actually have one surprising benefit: it might deal a death blow to America’s obsession with flippant, man-centered, self-serving, and fraudulent religion,” he wrote.
And MacArthur was just getting warmed up.
“I’m thinking of trends like so-called ‘seeker-driven Christianity,’ the irreverent brand of entertainment-as-religion that has dominated evangelical megachurches for three decades or longer,” he added. “Some of the best-known seeker churches boast massive congregations, but they haven’t actually met in person for almost a full year.
“Their leaders say they have no plans to resume public meetings until fears about the coronavirus are gone from the talking points of secular society,” MacArthur wrote. “That makes perfect sense — for them. They have followed and imitated the culture for so long, how could they credibly resist the current drift?”
This kind of surface-level Christianity has been getting under my skin for quite a while, too. Whether it is a spectacle of laser lights combined with fog that resembles rock concerts rather than worship services, it just makes my skin crawl to visit those churches. The water-downed messages are delivered to inspire people without convicting them of the need to change any aspect of their lives.
The last church of this type that I attended in Phoenix had the audacity to bring Santa Claus into the church lobby during advent, but wouldn’t dare sing a single Christmas song that month. In fact, when addressing the congregation one Sunday, the lead pastor recalled a frequently asked question, “Why don’t we ever sing any hymns?” To which he replied “Get behind me Satan.”
I bolted from that church a short time later.
Ironically, of the popular preachers who have made headlines in recent years by renouncing Christianity, all of them left the type of churches MacArthur targets in his column.
“It’s also frankly not going to be easy to keep selling the lie of ‘Your Best Life Now’ to people who for the past year have endured various degrees of isolation, deprivation, persecution, job loss, and political strife — with wars and rumors of war in the streets of American cities,” MacArthur wrote.
Frivolous substitutes for legitimate religon
“All such brands of quasi-Christianity are frivolous substitutes for legitimate religion anyway. They lack the solemnity, stability, and sobriety that should characterize authentic devotion to God,” he added.
I don’t think we need to return to the heyday of Christian services attended by our grandparents, where everyone dressed up in their Sunday best to swelter without air-conditioning in rock-hard wooden pews. But, it is fascinating how many Christian churches today consider it uncouth to even display a cross on their stage.
Choirs of joyful voices have been replaced by elements of a typical garage band — four guitars, a drummer and five vocalists — all repeating the same 11 words seven times while gently swaying in unison.
“The church is not a business whose task is to promote a product to consumers. Worship is not a spectator sport where the size of the crowd is a key measure of success. The church is supposed to be a gathering of the faithful to exalt the glory of God,” MacArthur wrote.
Tickling itchy ears
He was spot on when he noted that the Bible warns, in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Perhaps that explains why we don’t have any active or effective programs in 95% of churches to address the scourge of pornography that impacts 65% of men, 30% of women and 25% of pastors in attendance.
“When a worldwide health crisis brought all of society to a screeching halt last year, churches whose driving purpose had been to convene the largest possible crowds were left with no achievable goal, no legitimate function, and no answers for their anxious and apprehensive neighbors,” MacArthur noted.
Let’s hope Pastor MacArthur is correct in his prediction that this type of frivolous religion is quickly falling to the wayside. We do not have much time to waste as the world spirals quickly into immorality and its accompanying hopelessness.
People don’t need to have their ears tickled. They need to have their bells rung.
You can find MacArthur’s column at www.dailywire.com.