In 1 Corinthians 2:2, the Apostle Paul stated:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
Paul was afraid that if he added his own wisdom or gimmicks to his message, he would detract from the central focus of the gospel, Jesus Christ and His substitutionary atonement. It’s a shame our ministers today don’t have the same passion at heart. I think if Paul were evangelizing today, he wouldn’t be hip enough to draw the young, entertainment loving, concert-going crowd.
In New York City, Hillsong Church’s NYC campus is pastored by Carl Lentz. In an article on Yahoo, the first sentence reads, “Carl Lentz is not your typical pastor.” (Online Source) I knew it would only get worse from there.
The Hillsong campus in NYC is a megachurch, and their uncoventional pastor looks like every other culturally relevant, hip, expressive young upstart on the street. He has his tattoos, and his really cool “half-shaved head and slicked-back mohawk.” (Source: See link in paragraph above.)
When pastors and their sermons mirror the culture, the culture is what you see and hear in their churches.
People squeeze into whatever space they can find and take notes on iPhones as Lentz marches across the stage, peppering his sermon with Bible verses, jokes, pop music lines and street slang.
“If you’re new to our church, we love you,” said the 34-year-old Lentz. “Don’t be alarmed by the craziness you see. One time somebody said, ‘Y’all are crazy in your church,’ and I said, ‘You ever seen you dance drunk? Don’t be judging us up in church.'”
No, don’t judge – just hop aboard the crazy train and feel your way along!
Lentz is targeting the young, concert-going street crowd, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. They need to hear the gospel! Where the train jumps the tracks is where Lentz apes the culture in order to build a culturally relevant church that looks nothing like Christ. How can it look like Christ when it looks JUST LIKE the world? Put plainly, mirroring the culture will not produce godly converts, it will produce worldly, unrepentant sinners.
According to the article, most attribute the success of the church to its “young, unorthodox leader.” In fact, the church claims to attract a crowd of approximately 5,500 to its Sunday services. That is a lot of warm bodies in one place! So, why all the attention? What does this church offer that others don’t? One simple thing:
Lentz has established himself as his own brand. He has more than 67,000 followers on Twitter and 59,000 on Instagram, where you can find pictures of him standing next to Jay-Z and NBA star Kevin Durant. Justin Bieber posted a picture of himself eating lunch with Lentz, “talking ’bout our savior Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis mine.)
Hmmm… how important does one have to be to eat lunch with Justin Bieber! (Not being mean, but unless you’re a 13 year old girl, no one will be much impressed with that.) Should any pastor, who purports to be a minister of the gospel, exalt himself and establish himself as a “brand?” Shouldn’t our desire be to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to Him and Him alone? We can make idols out of anything – even ourselves.
In closing, let’s take a look at one last point from the article that I believe reveals how Lentz holds up against the really relevant cultural question of the hour – gay marriage.
When asked his views on gay marriage, did Lentz take the straight and narrow path and stand on what God’s Word has to say about the issue? No. He declined to discuss the topic because he feels it is a polarizing issue that young evangelicals have said in repeated surveys that they do not want to be a focus of church.
What I read that to mean is that Lentz won’t stand up and be counted as standing for the truth of God’s Word because the issue would be polarizing to the point of repelling the culture he strives so hard to attract. You can’t be a brand with no audience to sell it to.
But, is that really so surprising?
I leave you with this from Charles H. Spurgeon:
“An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.
From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.” No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.
Then again, “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers .., for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.
Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt” (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matt. 8:22) He was in awful earnestness.
Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, “Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow.” Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.
In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, “Come out, keep out, keep clean out!” Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.
After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, “Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.” If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods.
Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God’s link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.”