Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on May 14, 2010 at 5:39 pm

An evil resides in the professed camp of the Lord so gross in its imprudence that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate evil for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a more clever 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 has 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 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 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 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 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 affect 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 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.

Charles H. Spurgeon

  1. Well said, Mr. Spurgeon. Thank you. We desperatly need more of this kind of biblical thinking and clarity in our day.

  2. There’s so much of the “churches meeting the careless and scoffers halfway,” instead of letting God’s law and gospel meet unbelievers all the way to their marrow! And it’s worse in the professing church today than in Spurgeon’s time. He was right; it’s a slippery slope of false doctrine and unbelief.

    Churches which cater to the worldly tastes of the ungodly in order to “encourage them to give Jesus a try” in the hope they will “make a decision to allow Jesus to save them” do so because those churches do not believe God’s sovereignty in salvation (whether they call themselves “neo-Calvinist” or not). And on some level, they also don’t agree with God that God is correct about every little thing and that we’re the wrong ones; that is, they have not repented and come out from the world over to God’s side.

    However, regardless of what unbelievers or confused believers think, there is only one way to make converts…the way God says converts are made–by faithfully, humbly, boldly preaching law and gospel (God’s word)–which all people naturally hate until they are converted–and then the Holy Spirit will work where He will. (Ps. 1:1, Jn. 3:8, Rom. 8:7, Rom. 10:17, James 4:4)

  3. I don’t understand why to mention the term “neo-Calvinist” in Karla’s commentary. There are churches call only “calvinist” that we can include in this description and neo-calvinist that would say “amen” to this article. We have to be carefully with generalitation about a terminology.

    Sorry for my english.

  4. Like Rafael, I’m not certain who Karla has in view when she employs the term “neo-Calvinist.” Most of the so-called “new Calvinists” I’m familiar with would agree with the general thrust of Spurgeon’s argument. They believe our aim is not fundamentally to amuse our audience but to tell our audience what they need to hear according to God’s Word. Consider, for example, Timothy Keller’s definition of “contextualization”:

    “Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend (FSI Lecture Series).

    So we should be careful not to confuse a concern for intelligibility and edification with a desire to amuse or entertain.

    Thanks, Rafael.

  5. Thanks for asking for clarification…I agree that neo-Calvinists believe in God’s sovereignty; in fact, I admire the neo-Calvinists greatly. However, some call themselves “neo-Calvinist,” but their orthopraxy is not consistent with a neo-Calvinistic belief in God’s sovereignty and the doctrines of grace, in that they seek to entertain, rather than to preach law and gospel as God commands.

    I did have in mind a specific “pastor”– and I doubt if he knows even the names/faces of even a quarter of the people he “pastors”–of a seeker-oriented, entertainment megachurch, where I visited for three months to watch him on a screen, and who calls himself “neo-Calvinist.”

    I decline to name him here; however, my point was that we shouldn’t look to merely what pastors/elders say they believe, but also what methods they seek to employ in the churches they pastor. Is what they do consistent with what they say? I was just trying to say that the fruit of a pastor’s beliefs (entertainment methodology in his pastoral leadership) shows more about what he actually believes than his words about what he believes (labelling himself “neo-Calvinist”).

    God bless,

  6. Karla,

    It is disappointing to learn that pastors who are committed to God’s sovereignty and majesty (or at least profess to be) would be more committed to amuse God’s people than edify them.

    Of course, I don’t think we should be opposed in principle to large congregations. After all, the church in Jerusalem began with 3,000 members. And if such a ministry has a lead pastor-teacher, it’s unrealistic, I would think, to expect him to know the names or remember the faces of everyone to whom he preaches. For example, it would take the apostle Peter over 8 years to visit every one of those 3,000 initial members of the church of Jerusalem if he averaged one pastoral visitation per day seven days a week. And that’s assuming the membership remained at 3,000. It is estimated that Charles Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people in his lifetime in different places (sometimes up to 10 times a week). It’s possible that Spurgeon couldn’t remember a quarter of the names/faces of the people to whom he ministered.

    I don’t say this to excuse whatever legitimate deficiencies may have characterized the pastor and ministry you have in view. Just think we need to be realistic in our expectations. Most “megachurch” ministries I’ve heard of utilize large elderships and small groups in order to provide more intimate shepherding.

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