Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Laodicean Legacy Part III

I began the series "The Laodicean Legacy" with a quote from Mr. Bill Hybels, and then later from Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church, as follows:


Hybels: "There [used to be] a barricade mentality, a let's huddle and separate-ourselves-from-this-terrible-awful-world thing. There's none of that left. Those churches have closed down or have been merged with a church that has a more positive vision."



Parkinson: "...our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church..."


I presented these quotes in order to do two theings: 1. To unveil the truth about the mindset of the seeker sensitive movement and 2. To issue a warning to us all concerning our own natural tendency to want to become ear-ticklers in order to gain the approval of men (2 Timothy 4:3-5). Let me repeat that second point in a more fully expanded way: By exposing the errors of the modern church in this way, I have no desire to foster attitudes of pride or arrogance in anyone - in any way. We must not boast in our hearts and declare "we don't do that at our church - we would never do that in our church." Brethren - pride comes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18), therefore we ought to be humbled and warned by these observations and look to the godliness of a man like Paul whose ministry was truly patterned after that of Christ Himself:


Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

We must all consider our own hearts as we approach the assembly of the saints to engage in corporate worship and ask: "am I seeking the favor of men or of God?" When we actually think that we are exempt from such questioning, we are in great danger. This again is a needful premise to yet another quote harvested from Dan Kimball's book - "The Emerging Church, Vintage Christianity for New Generations."


"...late one night I happened upon the band the Cranberries playing an Unplugged concert on MTV. It was an all-acoustic performance. The stage was draped with a dark, rich fabric and lit by candelabras. It looked more like a grandmother's attic than a rock-concert venue, and I was struck by the simplicity of it. No fancy light shows or drum-set risers. I also noticed how close the audience was seated to the musicians. There wasn't a giant separation between the two groups. Rather, they were sort of all together in a 'community.' I immediately felt that there was something very interesting to this 'unplugged' approach. MTV obviously studies culture and knows their audience, so maybe they were on to something here. Besides, going unplugged would be a heck of a lot easier than gearing up for our usual Wednesday night full production. So a few weeks later, as summer began, we tried an unplugged experiment for our midweek meetings. Instead of all the flash and lights, we set up only candles. I felt that this would add a sort of catacombish feeling to our meetings, reminiscent of the early Roman church in hiding. I played up this catacombs angle to the high schoolers as we launched this new approach...when one of the unplugged nights ended, one teenager waited to speak with me...he smiled and gave a nod of approval. 'I like this,' he said. 'This was really spiritual.'" [Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, Vintage Christianity for New Generations, pp. 34-35]

When I first read this over a year ago, I remember doing a double take on this one. Besides the insensitive reference to the catacombs - a place where dear Christian brethren from the past buried their dead and hid from Roman persecution [i.e., "a catacombs angle"], I was most amazed at Kimball's reference to...MTV. MTV? Did Kimbal really say that he was getting his cues from MTV for his youth services? Absolutely he did - one must remember that if you are seeking to provide what the culture wants and desires, then sure, television would be an important place to start; and if the golden egg to church ministry is to be found in researching the preferences of popular culture, then MTV is the goose for you - I suppose. Kimball then continues to explain how they furthered their research by "gathering several young adults, both believers and nonbelievers, for a series of brainstorming sessions," a revelation that lends itself to the repeated philosphy of importing the world into the church. While there is nothing problematic with acoustic guitars and candles per se, the question is this: What will be fashionable tomorrow? Juice harps and lava lamps? Had Kimball conducted his research in the Bible, he would have found that men are restless creatures who are forever in the pursuit of what they believe is "new" and "novel" (Ecclesiastes 1:8-11). All human beings, by nature, are like those loiterers on Mars Hill, who continually spoke and listened to things that they believed were "new" (Acts 17:21). However, by getting his cues of ministerial direction from the world, Kimball is essentially strapping his followers to a bucking bronco - and where that beast will be tomorrow, nobody knows. But Paul did not ascend Mars Hill dressed as Zeus or Hermes in order to more effectively reach his audience (wait, Barnabas would be Zeus and Paul would be Hermes - Acts 14:11-18). Rather, instead of catering to their desire for something new, Paul preached the ancient truths of creation, redemption and coming judgment, reminding them that even one of their own "novel" poets revealed nothing new about the Creator's universal dominion over all humanity (Acts 17:28). But what he did tell these novelty seekers was this:


Acts 17:29 "Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man."

Paul teaches us that we "ought not" or literally [ouk opheilomen] we are indebted or obligated not to take the liberty to think of God according to the art and thought of man. In other words, the pursuit of our own wisdom and creativity is a dead end when it comes to the pursuit of God and the worship of God. This is how Paul dealt with a culture that continually sought out that which was "novel" and "new."


Should we be pursuaded to do anything different? By God's grace, may it never be.