Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

What follows was written in the 1800s by a man named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. You may know of him. Oh dear brother Charles, if only you knew how timely, relevant, and accurate an indictment your words to the Church are more than 100 years after your slumber. Would that we would repent of our offerings of strange fire and incline our ear to the sound teaching of the Word which gives life and peace. Would that we would see that to continue in the way of our perverse and adulterous generation is to tread the path to death and Hell.

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted 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.’ 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, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry.’ 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,’ not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’ 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 the 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 for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. ‘They turned the world upside down’. 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 half-way, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their 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.


8 Responses to Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

  1. Brian Kincaid says:

    For God so loved the world… I understand where you might find issue with some “new” ministry techniques. I’m just not sure how new they are. I only assume that when Jesus hung out with the sinners and tax collectors that he moved into their territory, their personal space. And I assume that He did that, in part ,to be able to earn the right to speak truth into their lives. I mean unless the people of His day were alot different than the people I’m around each day to go in and hammer them with how wretched they are would get me thrown out the door in a second. I guess I have a different impression of salt too. The people I see use salt on their food want to continue to use salt because without salt the food just seems bland. So when I talk with people about Jesus I try to make it salty so they will want more. And when I spend time with people who don’t know Jesus I try to meet them on their terms without compomising my heart. It seems to be effective for me and I have led several people to Jesus doing what you classify as entertainment. I have to admit that I do see people as my equal, another person that needs to be rescued. I see the need as people who love Jesus loving other people anyway they can for absolutely no reason other than that’s what Jesus asked us to do.

  2. Chad says:

    I agree with you, Brian. Paul said he would “become all things to all people” so that they might come to know Christ. Jesus’ first stab into the “ministry” was at a big party where he made some more wine for the guests – if that is not entertainment, what is? A skim through the OT and Acts shows a “church” that finds its center in a liturgical calender that is dictated by Festivals – we might call them parties. The Great Awakening was championed by people who held huge camp meetings on the fronteir that were the social event of the year for most people – and many, many were saved.

    If we truly believe that it is the Spirit that works in the heart of the unbeliever and not us or all of our persuasion than perhaps we can give some space to the various methods that are employed to reach different types of demographics with the message of Christ. God’s word will not return void. It is ironic that those who stress the sovereignty of God to such a great degree would think themselves so powerful as to be able to thrawt the mission of God because they dared to play music or have entertainment at a worship service.


  3. Bill says:

    The importance of community and of relationships does not negate the call to holiness.

    You make a false dichotomy. One can have social gatherings and camp meetings and still honor God and make worship services a sacred and reverent time. One can enter sit down at the dinner table with “sinners and tax collectors” and eat and not become a participant in their sins.

    Being all things to all people does not mean we toss holiness to the back of the room in order to win friends and influence people. It means that to the orphan we become a father or mother and show as well as share verbally the love of Christ. It means that to the hurting we become comforters and share the hope, healing, and overarching joy that truly knowing Christ brings.

    It does not mean that to the drunkard, we become a fellow barfly. Nor does it mean that to the angry and violent man that we become sheepish, remaining silent concerning his unchecked rage.

    While Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, while He saved a woman in adultery from being stoned, never once did He not call them to repentance and holiness. The command was the same for all: “Go and sin no more.”

    Jesus came for the sick, yes. But He didn’t tiptoe around and pretend like the sinners He came into contact with weren’t desperately sick. God is merciful and full of compassion, but His hatred of sin is also very real. Jesus grieved for sinners who would not repent, but He never compromised His holiness and gave tacit approval to their sins. He always always always commanded them to repent and follow. If we never get to the part where we command ones such as these to repent and believe, then all our efforts will have been in vain.

    Don’t just snatch that one verse out of the context of what Paul was saying, either. It’s important to understand that he was still under the law of Christ when He became “all things” to all, as you can see from a larger context here:

    19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

    24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:19-26)

    My concern is not that we use the Word to reach people in various ways. It’s that we don’t use it and we give it a back seat in order to cater to what pleases men rather than what pleases God.

  4. Chad says:

    I guess the question that lingers is: what is your point? The false dichotomy, as I see it, is that you pit entertainment against holiness, as though “holiness” is nothing more than trying to be as bland, boring and uninteresting as possible.

  5. Bill says:

    The point is that Peter didn’t get up on the day of Pentecost and say “Hey ya’ll, let’s have a rock concert.” He said “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

    Luke describes the result in the verse following: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.‘”

    Truth, no matter how you dress it up, is going to be “bland, boring, and uninteresting” to those who hate it. Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek. But to those who are called, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

  6. brian says:

    So if I understand this Peter is preaching to the house of Israel. Would this be a group of people who knew God’s word? How would I set up a venue like this for a group of people that don’t know God’s word. Is a church building the only venue. If people don’t come by choice as obviously this group at pentecost did can I stand before Jesus some day and say the church open times were published and they made a choice, they didn’t come. And if they do come, knowing little if any thing about the word can I expect that they have a single opportunity to be “cut to the heart”. From my experience people aren’t cut to the heart in a single service. My point is this. I’ve been in church for forty years. I was saved 33 years ago when I was nine. A high percentage of the people showing up for church are the same people year after year. I’ve even been around church long enough to see those peoples children and grand children come to church. I would even guess that a high percentage of the new people that show up are folks that recently moved into the area. This isn’t good enough for me. This screams to me that something is broken. So my twin brother & I buy this building. We have some kids come over on Monday and Friday evenings. On Thursday we have them over to our house for Bible study. Friday the kids just come and are entertained. There are usually 35 – 55 teenagers. Of that group I would say 25% or less are Christians. The Monday group is about 15-20. We entertain for the 1st hour, sing some songs, then about 15-30 minutes of this is who God is, a mini sermon. Thursdays started with a half dozen kids mostly Christian. We have 12-14 now, a mixed crowd, and they do know why they’re coming-they know it’s all about Jesus. So it’s three different nights, three different groups, three different approaches. We are trying to earn the right to share love of Jesus. We are trying to prove to these kids that we love them period-so they might be willing to see and hear what Jesus is all about. My brother & I do go to church with our familys albeit different churchs. I don’t believe ours is the only approach. Sometimes I do wonder-what if church was more like this? But I’m also willing to listen and learn. I’m willing to listen to you or Chad or Rob Bell or anyone else who can tell me how to be more like Jesus-I’m willing to be all things to all people. I’m willing to die to myself and my selfishness and ignorance so someone else can live.

  7. Chad says:

    awesome post, Brian. And may God continue to bless you and your ministry! It sounds like you are reaching a niche that needs reached.

    I have always been intrigued with Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples. He said to them, “Go and make disciples.” What is so intriguing to me are all the things left unsaid that we moderns/post-enlightenment people feel we MUST have said. Jesus doesn’t give them a 9 or 12 step program for how to do this. He doesn’t tell them the “best” way over the “so-so” way. He doesn’t tell them that in order for disciples to be made you have to have 2 songs from a denominational hymnal, say a prayer, have a 20-30 minute sermon from behind a pulpit and then offer an alter call where you play “Just As I Am.” No, Jesus says none of this. Just – go, make disciples. And he also promises the Holy Spirit who will lead people into truth. This is where Bell is so dead on. We are empowered and given authority moreso than the “church” has wanted to let us believe. Brian, if you feel led to do what you are doing and it is proclaiming Jesus, praise God! The Holy Spirit blows where it will, and comes from where it will and leads us where it will. That may be different from where Bill is being blown, or myself, or Rob Bell – but the common denominator is that Christ is proclaimed as Lord.

    Augustine once said, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then go, do as you please.” Amen.

  8. brian says:

    I appreciate your encouragement Chad. My brother and I, our wives, and our children are all part of this ministry which started in November 2007. We have been led in this direction by the Holy Spirit. We are willing to amuse goats until either they become sheep by the blood of Jesus or they decide they are not interested. Our prayer for those who become sheep and our encouragement to them is this-we want them to become part of the body, we want them locked into a local church. And this has already happened. Our ministry isn’t part of a local church. As for the kids that only want to come on Friday night that is their choice. These goats are people. They have a name. They have a face. They have a spirit,soul,and body. I consider them my equal. I will love them regardless of what they do,say,or think of me. I will love them even if they don’t love me. They don’t realize yet but I’m dying for them. If they ever do realize this then they’ll ask why? I’ll be sure to let them know-His name is Jesus!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: