a voice from the past on "the best show in town"

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats ?
Charles Haddon 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.


Jeremy said...

Amen!! Preach it brother!!

Way too true, and relevent.

Anonymous said...

so I'm sensing a bit of hostility..... and I like it.

Riana said...

I've starting delving into some "older" Christian books again, and it is amazing what depth there is in these works. Plenty of it is available on the Web - for free.

Anonymous said...

When you get the real meaty message, doesn't it set you on fire and make you all that more hungry for it? I'm tired of satisfaction. I'm tired of people trying to appease me. I want to be discontent with the amount I have. I always want to be hungry for more. When I visited Israel in 2000, the prayer I wrote on the tiny piece of paper that I shoved into the crack at the wailing wall was this: God, may I always hunger and thirst for you. I feel lately that I'm getting watered down milk. This has helped my personal time with God to grow and helped me to not rely on humans to feed me but oh how I miss that steak. Bring on the juicy steak. At the worship conference, listening to Scotty Smith talk was like getting that meat again after forgeting what it tasted like. I was nearly on the edge of my seat consuming the Word.

Nikki said...

I totally agree with ya man! Sometimes this type of behavior can be "masked" by seemingly "real moves of God". Does that remind you of any past experiences in church, Jimmy? I think that sometimes "moves of the Spirit can metamorphis into "Moves of the flesh". A long time ago, in another lifetime it seems, I experienced this first hand. We experienced a real revival in our church in the early nineties and it was sweet for awhile, and then pride and the flesh moved in and people started to manufacture things and it just became like a habit to "get slain in the Spirit or to "speak in tongues". It in of itself became entertainment and people came to church in essence to "entertain themselves". I am so glad that I have seen all of this behavior, because it reminds me to search for what is really true and real in my heart. Acting spiritual will NEVER get you anywhere in life nor in the eyes of God. I used to think it did, and I was always striving to be more spiritual and try to "act" more "holy". Instead, I ignored my real fears, heart issues and just plain being REAL with God!! FYI - He DOES know us and what is in our heart; Oh how dumb to think that I could fool anyone with my christianese and false holier than thou attitude!! I laugh now because I really can't believe that was me!! I am NOT perfect and it's taken me a long time to understand that IT'S OKAY NOT TO BE PERFECT!!!! Any ways, I think I'm done with my tangent. Thanks for the article Jim, it was very blunt, real and honestly refreshing!! I hope you feel better, and your lung butter goes away . . . Nik

Jeff said...

refreshing bro. a genuine sameness of heart exists betwen you and I. but for some reason, when I write of this, they throw rocks. I applaud you.

Roman said...

That was beyond great. Reminds me of CS Lewis saying that he doesn't think God necessarily wants us to be happy, which is probably all too true. There are way too many church-aholics prancing around like they are the happiest people in the world and sell Christ like he is an extasy pill and not anything the bible portrays him as.

Anonymous said...

This article made me think of Jesus and the words recounted to us in:
John 15:22
If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.

The word "cloak" in the Greek is "prophasis" meaning "a pretense".
What a miracle that, by the grace of God, we can put on Christ daily.
Why would we want to wear anyone else's "cloak" ?
That would make me a false "prophasis"