Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sensuality and the Spectacular!

So what's wrong with what the church is doing, as described by the post below?

There's nothing wrong with marital "hanky-panky," to be sure. However, the words of 1 Cor. 7:5 should come to mind, "Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (ESV) There can be good reason to abstain from this, as self-control and abstention is a good thing in general.

The problem with what this church proposes is their assumption that sex solves problems. It doesn't, and any marital counselor would tell you that. It is likely that the absence of intimacy can create problems, and intimacy can help heal some wounds, but the true healing is done through sacrificial love of the spouse. The cure for problems is love--the kind of love God gives us in serving others as more important than yourself. The pastor is correct that divorce is epidemic in culture, and sadly in the churches as well. But wallowing in pleasure is not the solution, even if it is appropriate and good pleasure.

The reason I called it the "further sexualization" of the church is that this appeal to frequent intimacy is completely consistent with the message many receive in contemporary Christian congregations: your pleasure, your satisfaction, your needs and aesthetics come before submission and self-denial. Instead of submitting to the church, the church submits to my demands. My entertainment needs must be met by the congregation's worship, and their music appeal to me. It's seduction. We can see this even without the sensuality of liturgical dance.

Driving across town today, I saw a church with a marquee that advertised some new program they were starting about "kids" and "unmasked heroes" or something. A church down the block just changed their name to Crossroad Church (it used to be Cornerstone Baptist). A church downtown is bringing in the "Strong Men" to do some kind of spectacular1) show involving feats of strength and skill, presumably to also speak about Jesus. It seems every church has some kind of program, the Latest Thing to entice and attract people. They say it is "being all things to all men" (1 Cor. 9:22). But is becoming like Madison Avenue really what St. Paul has in mind?

Not when it comes to gratifying the itching ears. Not when it comes to neglecting the ministry of the Word. Not when it comes to forgetting "that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Phil 2:15 NKJV). Not to mention the words of Romans 12:1-2, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (ESV)

Chasing after the latest thing that will attract and draw all people to Church is quite different than the Cross, by which He "draws all men to Himself." (John 12:32 NIV). It is quite different than allowing our holiness to shine forth to light the way to our Savior. It certainly gives churches the patina of busy-ness, of work and production, of creativity and effort. Not pursuing the Latest Thing, the Big Plan, the latest effort and program has opened me up for criticism: "Just what are you doing, Pastor? Just what is this church doing? We need a plan!"

But I try to live a holy life. Unsuccessfully. I pray for and preach that the members here may begin to love one another and their neighbors. I know that gimmicks and glossies may appeal to the eyes, to the passions of people who don't come or used to come, but this program, of increasing holiness and transformation by the Gospel is the most productive of the fruits of repentance. It is also much, much harder than putting on a concert or anything else.

1. Fans of Moulin Rouge and Harry Potter movies must click on this mash-up.


  1. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    A few things:

    1 - This Sunday I'm preaching about a strong man and a Stronger Man -- I hope they aren't inviting the same strong man to the church downtown.

    2 - That which I have noticed is that "hanky-panky" might make people overlook or breeze by problems (the best scene in a movie about this is from Gone With the Wind where Rhett carries the grousing Scarlett up the stairs and then it cuts to her smiling in bed the next day talking about what a lovely morning it is) -- but it doesn't fix those problems. It's a quick-fix that doesn't hit the problem. Of course, come to think of it, isn't that what most church programs that come down the pike do?

    3 - I wouldn't mind if Redeemer changed its name to "Pastor Chris' Jesus tent o' Fun" if only because I could make fun of you relentlessly.

  2. Liturgy said...

    Thanks for this.
    I came here from a comment you placed on another site.
    Very helpful.
    My site is: www.liturgy.co.nz

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Liturgy, Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Eric, you mock but the "Tent o' Fun" will be the next biggest thing in Enid, mark my words.