Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. -- Hebrews 12: 28-29 (ESV)
The lights begin to dim. You hear the beat of far off drums begin. It is a pulsating beat, inviting you to enter in. To feel the rhythm. As the beat starts to rise the smoke machines crank up and soon the entire stage is enveloped in an eerie cloud as the lights start slicing through the man made haze. People all around you start to shake their feet, move their hips and some have even begun dancing right where they were standing. Everyone is starting to get into the fever pitch when the shadows of people appear on the smoke filled stage. You hear the first reverb in the speakers as a voice cries out through the strobe lights -- "how is everyone doing out there!" The crowd roars in approval as the first lyrics begin echoing off the walls:
Your first kiss was a sweet kiss
Second kiss had a twist
Third and your fourth kiss
I don't want to miss
I can see it in your walk
Tell 'em when you talk
See it in everything you do
Even in your thoughts
You got the right stuff, baby
Love the way you turn me on
Is this the long awaited reunion tour from the New Kids on the Block? Perhaps a new cover band bringing back the glory days of 1990's boy bands? No beloved. This is church. Specifically this was Andy Stanley's North Point Community Church just a few weeks ago. For those who may not know, North Point is one of the largest mega churches in the country today. In 2014 they boasted a whopping 36,000 weekly attendees across six campuses. Their fearless leader is the son of renowned preacher Charles Stanley. Simply put, Andy Stanley is a heretic. He is one of the largest proponents of the Purpose Driven Church heresy specifically. Recently he came under fire for chastising people who wanted to attend a small church as being "so stinking selfish." He has openly stated that the word "shepherd" should no longer be used and why not? He refuses to shepherd anyone. He is too busy being a "vision casting leader"; which is found nowhere in the Bible.
As a disciple of Rick Warren, Stanley firmly believes all of the carnal wisdom displayed in the Purpose Driven Church. He believes in having his church become relevant to a dying culture that is consigning millions of people to hell. He is willing to sacrifice reverence for relevance. He is willing to sacrifice awe for shock value. We must understand beloved that when we are seeking the unsaved without the Gospel the only thing that will keep them is entertainment. Singing hymns about a God they do not believe in and are not being taught about will not cut it. There has to be that club atmosphere to entice their flesh. Thus the beats, the light show and the smoke machines. But those are every week staples for purpose driven mega churches. How do you take it to the next level? How about singing Miley Cyrus during worship like Perry Noble did at his church before he was removed as pastor? Or ACDC's "Highway to Hell? Or "I Like to Move It, Move It" as done by Hillsong London. Maybe have the youth pastor dress up like the Naked Cowboy during your woman's conference as Hillsong NYC did recently. As abhorrent as all of these real examples are, Stanley doubled down with the ballad of sexual arousal from the New Kids on the Block listed above. Can there be anything sacred anymore? To go to church and sing about how much you are turned on? Perhaps Stanley has left the Bible altogether but at a minimum he must not take God seriously when it comes to the key verses.
Let us offer to God acceptable worship. Let's start here. If God is saying there is acceptable worship then by default logic there is also unacceptable worship. We see this confirmed in other areas of Scripture as well. God specifically says to not offer Him any worship for example if we know a brother or sister is holding something against us. We are to reconcile then offer sacrifice. That is just one example beloved. I do not think it takes a master theologian to ascertain that singing about being turned on sexually is probably not an acceptable form of worship. It is pure carnality and worldliness. This is indirect opposition to the key verses that clearly teach that acceptable worship must be with reverence and awe. Reverence infers a deep seated respect and awe is reverential respect mixed with fear and or wonder. Last year Victoria Osteen broke the Internet by claiming we do not worship God for God but rather for ourselves. If that is the case, which I am sure it is in many churches, then it is not God being worshipped. The church is supposed to a sanctuary from the world, not an extension of it. The church is supposed to be a shining city on a hill not another dumpster along the discarded highways of life. Our relevance is supposed to be towards God, not towards this world.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. -- James 4: 4 (ESV)
Adulterous! That is how God sees us when we insist on dancing with the devil. Beloved we have made a commitment when we placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. God is not interested in casual dating. This is a real relationship. Jesus taught that merely looking at a woman lustfully is akin to adultery and here is a mega church leading 36,000 people to sing about being sexually turned on -- during church! Dear Lord forgive us. The final part of the key verses should be a sobering wake up call for the heretics in our pulpits like Andy Stanley. Our God is a consuming fire. There is a reason He is due all the reverence and awe and respect. In the Old Testament there is a story about King David returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. It is a joyous story. The people are dancing and celebrating. The problem is David forgot to show the proper respect towards God:
And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets, and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. -- 2Samuel 6: 5-7 (ESV)
When the ark was first introduced to Israel God had very specific instructions regarding it, including how it was to be transported. It was meant to be carried on the shoulders of the Kohathites. Only the Kohathites. Uzzah was not a Kohathite. David was transporting it on a cart. He thought he was worshipping God beloved. He was dancing and leading praises. But underlying it was complete and utter disobedience. Uzzah was just following the orders of his king and trying to ensure the ark did not tumble to the ground when he reacted and reflexively tried to steady the falling ark. No matter. Irreverent. No respect. Our God is a consuming fire. In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira thought they could make themselves look better by saying they were giving all of the proceeds of a property sale while secretly holding back some of it for themselves. God struck them both dead as well. Our God is a consuming fire. Yet Andy Stanley must not fear Him at all. Not when he leads 36,000 people astray every single week. He just smiles, tells a folksy story and instructs the people blindly following him to push the cart containing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The problem for Andy Stanley and his adherents is that our God does not change. He is still a consuming fire.
Switching gears away from Northpoint Community Church we come to another staple of Purpose Driven heresy -- the summer blockbuster movie sermon series. Church growth companies encourage just such a focus for the summer because it is during the summer that attendance and giving are likely to drop. So instead of preaching the Gospel, pastors across this country are in the middle of a summer long series on the most popular secular movies to try and draw people in. I kid you not. Each week is a different movie and the majority of sermon time is the actual viewing of the movie in small chunks that are then "exposited" for the movie goers, I mean congregants. The Bible is mixed in so there is the illusion of something religious but it is used to support the points the preacher has gleaned from the movie. Just this past week at different churches I heard sermons on Star Wars, the Force Awakens and The BFG, which was supposedly about facing giants in our own life. Ugh.
As if this was not bad enough beloved, Christ Fellowship mega church in Florida, comprised of at least nine campuses supporting over 30,000 participants each week has taken this absurdity to new levels. For their sermon on Iron Man, they installed couches and love seats at the front of the sanctuary that they are calling "VIP Seating." These special seats come with a mini-fridge containing drinks to compliment the free hot popcorn and candy that everyone receives at the door. They are also promising "fire smoke special effects." In order to be in the running for these VIP seats you have to take a picture of yourself next to one of the movie sets at any of the campuses and post it on social media. I wish I was making this up beloved but I am not. Here is a Facebook post from Christ Fellowship:
Stark reality: What blows up my life often has my name on it.
We've all had things blow up in our lives. When you own your part, it opens the door for you to change and come out stronger.
"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."- Proverbs 4: 23