Jesus Christ was without a doubt the most shattering Person to ever walk the face of this earth.
Through the four Gospels we get a thrilling eyewitness account of His life when He lived in first century Judea.
As God in human form, He raised the dead to life.
He cast terrifying demons out of people.
He restored withered limbs.
He healed diseases.
He calmed ferocious storms with just a word.
He welcomed people from all walks of life to come to Him…from the religious elite of the day, to terrorists, to tax cheats, to prostitutes and adulterers.
He gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.
He gave the paralyzed the power to walk.
He fed 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.
He faced extreme torture and a horrifying criminal’s death on the cross with astonishing bravery, dignity, and supernatural peace.
And on the third day, He triumphed over death itself and burst from the tomb, fully ALIVE forevermore.
To know Jesus is to be totally and completely transformed…to be encompassed in an eternal, divine love story for the ages.
To know this Jesus is to know JOY.
To know this Jesus is the very reason for our existence.
To know this Jesus is to “have and enjoy life, in abundance, to the full, til it overflows.” (John 10:10).
This past Easter weekend, a certain church felt it necessary to feature explosions and armed rapelling commandos during the service, leading one terrified member to frantically text her friend in another state with the following words: “Guys on stage with assault rifles, weird vibe, please pray for us.”
This friend then called the police, who rushed to the church, only to find that the pastor had staged a fake raid for a theatrical lesson on Christ’s resurrection. A statement by the unamused police lieutenant suggested that in the future, the pastor let the attendees know when fake weapons are being used.
You may wonder what in the world such a thing had to do with the glory and power of Christ’s resurrection.
Absolutely nothing at all.
It was simply a cheap, pathetic ploy to generate buzz, to fill seats, to prove how “cool” they are to the unchurched. At one point, the pastor actually said how neat it was to “blow up things in Jesus’ name” and how the creative team at the church “could teach Vegas a lesson.”
Because that is what you want to ask yourself when you attend a church service: “How does my church compare to a show in Las Vegas?”
This entire scenario really got my blood boiling.
Because such ludicrous and idiotic behavior mocks the sheer beauty, simplicity, and power of the Gospel. It is as if the pastor feels that he has to jazz up poor, boring Jesus by staging these ridiculous stunts. This is not the first time this church has done something outrageous in an attempt to prove how “hip” it is to the surrounding community. Case in point: some recent series were entitled: “Dropping F-bombs” and “Sexpectation.”
This is nothing but a perversion of the gospel, pandering to man’s flesh, and playing to the lowest common denominator in our society.
In his excellent book Unfashionable, author and pastor Tullian Tchividjian warns against the church trying to copy the culture: “Christians make a difference in this world by being different from it, not by being the same…we need to remember that God has established His church as an alternative society, NOT to compete with or copy this world, but to offer a refreshing alternative to it. When we forget this, we inadvertently communicate to our culture that we have nothing unique to offer, nothing deeply spiritual or profoundly transforming. Tragically, this leaves many in our world looking elsewhere for the difference they crave…the more we Christians pursue worldly relevance, the more we’ll render ourselves irrelevant to the world around us.” (pp. 22, 15-17).
I realize the tone of this post may sound like I am angry but the truth is, I am heartbroken. I know that there were unbelievers in that church auditorium that Easter. What message does that send to them? That you should come to church to be entertained by explosions and gimmicks, a pale imitation of a Hollywood action movie set?
Jesus does not need special effects!
I would like to ask that pastor a question. If the people who were alive and actually interacted with Jesus when He walked this earth and saw Him do all of the things that I listed at the beginning of this post still turned away and refused to walk with Him…what makes him think that all of this manufactured razzle-dazzle will be successful at reaching a stone-cold heart?
When we have people coming back to church to see how that service will top last week’s extravaganza, those are not people who are truly seeking Jesus. They are not people whose eyes have been open to the fact that they are guilty in the eyes of a holy, righteous, and just God and are desperately running toward the shelter of the Cross, which is their only hope of salvation from His wrath against sin. These are not people who are overwhelmed by the glorious beauty of His grace in taking the punishment that was due them.
They are exactly like the people over 2000 years ago who followed Jesus just because they got a kick out of all the miracles. And when the excitement wore off, when Jesus began to tell them that to follow Him meant dying to self in order to fully and truly live, they faded away because they were too enthralled by all the shiny objects this world has to offer.
And it broke His heart (John 6:57-68).
Followers of the risen Jesus spend a lifetime being totally captivated and enthralled and transformed by the sheer beauty and wonder of the Gospel. He offers fullness of joy and pleasures evermore (John 16:11). The riches He offers are described as: “boundless, fathomless, incalculable, exhaustless” (Ephesians 3:8). He promises to do “superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams” (Ephesians 3:20). His grace is “immeasurable and limitless” (Ephesians 2:7). He has delivered and drawn us out to Himself out of the control and dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of Light (Colossians 1:13). He rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17) and eagerly awaits the coming day when He will “present us unblemished, blameless, faultless, before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation, with unspeakable, ecstatic delight” (Jude 24).
No, this Jesus does not need any “help” from earthly and slick marketing schemes.
This Jesus stands alone in all His transcendent beauty and magnificence.
Now He is the exact likeness of the unseen God (the visible representation of the invisible…For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him…and He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things are held together. —Colossians 1:15-17
6 responses to “A Perversion of the Gospel”
“Making the Gospel relevant” is a fad among churches today, it seems. I agree with you wholeheartedly and have been annoyed by this kind of phenomena before—Jesus doesn’t need us to make Him relevant and He also doesn’t need us to make Him “palatable”. It actually *does* make ME angry. I have a passion for Truth in its purest form but it often makes me look elitist and/or self-righteous—sometimes, I probably AM being self-righteous. I haven’t yet figured out how to be zealous without also being arrogant or holier-than-thou. Anyway, I digress.
All of this to say, I love this post because you say all the things I’ve thought before but you do so with humility and compassion. That is, from my perspective, very commendable.
Thank you, Fae! Your comments gave me a big sigh of relief! I was going for humility and compassion and I am so happy that the post came across that way! Whew! 🙂
It definitely did! 🙂
Well said. I whole heartedly agree. The charades of these churches leave behind the distinct sense that the pastor’s do not have faith in Scripture alone to present the Gospel which transforms the heart. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” Romans 10:17 (ESV)
Excellent point Jackie!
Amen & amen!