Serious Ministry in a World of Amusement

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jan./Feb. 2013.

“Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?” That profound question was posed by one author thirty years ago.1 Do you think such an assessment could still be made three decades later?

We live in an entertainment saturated society. And the danger of living in such a society is to prefer a more fun-filled deity, trivializing the one true God and minimizing His holy standards, happily entertaining ourselves with illusions of Christianity. No sense of awe, little reverence, lots of laughs. The problem is that all of this is so corrupt and unbiblical, soon (and quite predictably) the punch lines start to grow old, smiles are replaced by yawns, and yawns lead to carelessness, heresy and moral defection.

The New Testament warns us to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (ESV, Hebrews 12:28-29). It seems all too often that talk of the consuming fire of the Lord God Almighty gets extinguished by entertaining, happy god-talk.

Gimmicks, fads, and feel-good faith is replacing the real thing in the lives of all too many Christians. Knowing Christ and His Word has been replaced by the notion that ministries must be based on philosophies that are entertaining or therapeutic. The solid foundation of truth has been obscured by the bright lights of the stage and overlooked for style, image and hype. The end result is that we have fallen prey to the insights and mindset of the world of entertainment, swallowing powerful myths such as the desperate need for fun and relevance-at-any-cost.

We need a clear understanding of who we are and where we live and where we’re headed. Read more about Serious Ministry in a World of Amusement

Whatever Happened to Worldliness?

You don’t hear much preaching against worldliness these days. Having grown up hearing negative references to “the world,” “worldly” and “worldliness” on a fairly regular basis, the absence seems odd to me sometimes. On the other hand, where worldliness is still a frequented topic, the term seems unclear, disconnected from biblical intent—or both. Whatever happened to worldliness?

More than one phenomenon is occurring.

First, we have a problem of omission. In some cases, this is due to nothing more than uncertainty by pastors and teachers as to how to handle the subject effectively. But sadly, in many ministries, the neglect is due to philosophies of ministry that embrace worldliness as the number one way to “reach people” and achieve “relevance.” What has happened to worldliness in these cases is that—as a pulpit and classroom topic—it has been shelved.

Second, in some ministries, the terms “worldly” and “worldliness” occur rarely from the pulpit simply because they occur rarely in Scripture. Though references to “world” abound in the Bible, “worldly” occurs only twice in the KJV (Titus 2:12 KJV, Heb. 9:1 KJV). The 1984 NIV uses it ten times (Luke 16:9 NIV; Luke 16:11 NIV; 1 Cor. 3:1 NIV, 1 Cor. 3:3 NIV; 2 Cor. 1:12 NIV, 2 Cor. 1:17 NIV; 2 Cor. 5:16 NIV, 2 Cor. 7:10 NIV; Titus 2:12 NIV). Still, the term “worldliness” does not occur in the Bible at all. So, what has happened to worldliness in these ministries is that it is being handled biblically using different language. Read more about Whatever Happened to Worldliness?

"You... kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it"

“Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture Read more about "You... kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it"


Christians and Mythology (Part 4: More Benefits)

Read the series.

This essay continues the previous post in which I began a list of benefits of studying mythology.

4. Learning to supplant

Not everyone will agree with my argument in Part 2 that redemptive analogies help pagan cultures adjust to the message of the gospel. James Davidson Hunter’s recent book To Change the World is just one example of how Christians have developed allergies to “redeeming culture” terminology. And speaking of Paul at Mars Hill, Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes,

Yes, Paul takes note of the altar to the unknown god, and yes, he quotes pagan poets. But in neither case is he “building a bridge”…. Paul does not find in the [Greek] poets some form of “redemptive analogy” he can use among a people who don’t acknowledge the authority of Scripture. He uses them to demonstrate that Athenian philosophy and culture are self-contradictory…. The poets lead him not to finding “common ground” with his hearers but to calling them to repentance on the basis of a scripturally revealed storyline of humanity.1

But this sounds like an either/or distinction that I think gives an incomplete picture. Yes, Paul preached the resurrection of Jesus. But he also used recognizable cultural mentifacts2 that the Greeks could relate to. This both/and construction is simply acknowledging that Paul called the Greeks to repentance by means of a language with which they were familiar. Read more about Christians and Mythology (Part 4: More Benefits)