Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mega Church Model: 'Em I Blendin', Baby?

The start page for today has a slide show entitled An Anatomy of Megachurches: The new look for places of worship. (posted Oct. 10, 2005; Witold Rybczynski). It is a very interesting discussion of the architecture styles used in building the Mega Churches of today.

The author seems to understand that there is a definite approach to designing the new Mega church buildings as compared to church buildings in the past. The author marvels that there are no overtly religious symbols used on the new Mega church buildings and in fact the new Mega church monoliths more resemble corporate centers or performing arts centers than churches.

The key statement made in this presentation that I find absolutely epitomizes the entire philosophy of the Purpose Driven Church/Schuller/Hybels/Warren mentality is this quote:

"The largest religious assembly space in the country is the recently completed Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in downtown Salt Lake City. It was built to accommodate 21,000 people for the Semiannual General Conference of church members, but it also houses the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and is used for church pageants. The approach of the architects, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca of Portland, Ore., shows the influence megachurches have had on mainstream religions. The ecclesiastical imagery is confined to the giant pipe organ. The arena seating, the mainstream decor, the profusion of lighting and television broadcasting equipment, as well as the surrounding lobbies and vestibules, are distinctly secular. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

The exterior architecture of the Conference Center is more architecturally ambitious than most megachurches. It recalls Depression-era stripped classicism, the sort of thing that Paul Cret did—with much more conviction—in buildings such as the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington, D.C. What is remarkable about the Salt Lake City building, however, is the landscaped roof, which includes stairs, terraces, fountains, and reflecting pools. The design, by the Olin Partnership, is not historical and contains no religious symbols. Yet, like most parks, it has a contemplative, quasi-religious atmosphere. The central features are a three-acre alpine garden, dramatic views of the surrounding mountains, and the spires of the Salt Lake Temple. The landscaping, which steps down the walls of the building, shrouds it in a veil of greenery. And it provides an answer to the question of how to design a megachurch: Make it disappear."

I live in southwest Georgia. The folks here have a very unique and soothing southern drawl and my step-father is no exception. Due to physical limitations he is unable to turn his head any more that fifteen degrees in either direction. When he and my mom are out driving and enter a part of the street or highway where they must merge with oncoming traffic he will turn to my mom and ask:

"'Em I blendin', baybay?"

I think the mega church masters have stolen my step-dad's idea as it seems this is their goal as well with all this Purpose Driven madness: to blend until they disappear!

Whether they are cognizant or not, the mega maniacs, if followed, will accomplish their goal of "making the Church disappear" with their "blendin'" techniques and philosophy. What makes this doubly tragic is they are laughing all the way to bank with the millions they are making on the sales of all of their "Jesus Junk." (i.e. t-shirts, coffee mugs, book markers, Study Bibles, devotionals, fridge magnets, doilies, etc...etc...etc...)

What a marketing marvel the Purpose Driven Church movement is...! I wonder if Peter Drucker is proud?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

On Adapting Worship To the Tastes of Culture

On Adapting Worship to the Tastes of Culture

“Jesus taught his disciples that God wants to be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4: 23). A great deal can be said about the spirit of modern Christian worship, and we shall turn to it later. But here truth is at stake. It ought to be clear that we cannot have both syncretism and truth in worship. The two are mutually exclusive. Syncretism is a part of the twentieth-century mood, but truth is part of the nature of God. If we want our worship, or attempts at worship, to mean anything, we have to strive to conform it to the nature and will of God, and not to the mood or taste of the twentieth-century.

In twentieth-century America, with its millions of well-intentioned but fuzzy-minded “good Christian people,” we rejoice—in certain circles, anyway—when church attendance rises, and are concerned when it declines. This is a mistake. Throughout our fair land, a good many of our churches are in the position of the Philistines’ temple at Ashdod. They are trying to worship two or more deities, which are not mutually compatible. The God of the Bible cannot coexist peacefully in the temple with a Dagon----either Dagon will wind up in pieces, or God will leave, or both….

It is often warned that the doctrinal foundations of Christianity are under severe and prolonged attack, and that we must rally to their protection. That is true. The neglect of doctrine is fatal. But even sound doctrine must be put into practice---that is its whole purpose---and from the nature of Christianity it must be put into practice in the worship of God. Until we recognize and act upon the principle of truth in worship, we are in danger of creating a new Ashdod instead of the New Jerusalem.” (Brown, Harold O. J., The Protest of a Troubled Protestant, Arlington House, 1969, pp. 31, 43.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reformation and Revival a la John Armstrong

Reformation and Revival: What Is It?

In the spirit of transparency whenever anyone states that they are for Reformation and Revival, I always manage to ask that uncomfortable question:

What do you mean?

In my experience it is best to determine definitions in any dialogue. Sad but true, what we know is not so much what hurts us; it’s what we think we know that isn’t so is the real problem.

I did inquire of John Armstrong of Reformation and Revival Ministries fame what he meant by stating he was “for Reformation and Revival.” The question was precipitated by an article he wrote and published on his web site which states that Judge Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, is a law breaker by taking the actions he did in protesting the federal government’s invasion of the Alabama Supreme Court building.

I simply asked Armstrong to provide for me the Biblical basis for his assertion. I did send him the speech by Sam Adams which appears on this blog and asked if his position was in sync with Adams’ position.

The interchange that ensued was disturbing. I could not get a straight answer and as my nature is when I detect evasion I pursued it.

Finally I did get somewhat of an answer. Armstrong’s answer, in my opinion, is yet another example of the historical disjunction which is the mark of evangelicalism and fundamentalism these days.

With regard to unlimited submission to government Armstrong stated he disagrees with Samuel Rutherford in his book “Lex Rex,” and therefore disagrees with the position of our Founding Fathers and the entire basis for the War of Independence.

I asked of what does his Reformation and Revival amount to? In other words, reform the present to what? What is the goal?

His response?:

“My view of the place for law in society recognizes nuances in this discussion that embrace both Jeffersonian "walls" (with certain limitations) and Kuyperian cultural impact (or a limited sphere sovereignty ideal) by Christians. If you follow Rutherfoird's (sic) view then the only Law a government can legally enforce is the Ten Commandments. I do not, obviously, agree. Law has a foundation in God, yes, but English Common Law is a tradition broader than the Ten Commandments and includes the role of the courts to make orders for restraint, etc.”

Armstrong’s only rationale for NOT resisting unlawful court orders is that “you will end up in jail.”

So, John Armstrong’s Reformation means much more, and much less, than Reformation to historical, biblical Christian creed, faith and practice. His Reformation, what he is working for tirelessly, is an innovation of accommodation.

When was it that the God of the Bible gave him or anyone else the discretion to create law which is in disagreement with and contradiction to the Law Giver?

“Jeffersonian Walls,” “Kuyperian Cultural Impact…” I am very familiar with both of these men and their actual writings. I am at a loss to see how anything they have written comes close to giving government unlimited jurisdiction and invasion power.

John Armstrong’s Revival and Reformation will be the death of us. Caveat Emptor!

John needs to listen to Sam Adams:

“Our glorious reformers when they broke through the fetters of superstition effected more than could be expected from an age so darkened. But they left much to be done by their posterity. They lopped off, indeed, some of the branches of Popery, but they left the root and stock when they left us under the domination of human systems and decisions, usurping the infallibility which can be attributed to Revelation alone. They dethroned one usurper only to raise up another; they refused allegiance to the Pope only to place the civil magistrate in the throne of Christ, vested with authority to enact laws and inflict penalties in his kingdom. And if we now cast our eyes over the nations of the earth, we shall find that, instead of possessing the pure religion of the Gospel, they may be divided either into infidels, who deny the truth; or politicians who make religion a stalking horse for their ambition; or professors, who walk in the trammels of orthodoxy, and are more attentive to traditions and ordinances of men than to the oracles of truth.”


“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, - go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen! ”

Beware those who use religion as a stalking horse for their ambition!

True Worship

What Is True Worship?
A. W. Pink

Arthur W. Pink addressed the issue of worship in his three volume commentary on John published in 1945. As I read his words, I was amazed at how timely his commentary is for our day.

"We must worship ‘in spirit,’ and not merely with the physical senses. We cannot worship by admiring grand architecture, by listening to the peals of a costly organ or the anthems of a highly trained choir. We cannot worship by gazing at pictures, smelling incense, counting of beads. We cannot worship with our eyes or ears, noses or hands for they are all ‘flesh,’ and not ‘spirit.’ Moreover, spiritual worship must be distinguished sharply from social worship, though there are few today who discriminate between them. Much, very much, of our modern so-called worship is soulical, that is, emotional. Music which makes one ‘feel good,’ touching anecdotes which draw tears, the magic oratory of a speaker which thrills his hearers, the cleaver showmanship of professional evangelists and singers who aim to ‘produce an atmosphere’ of worship(?) and which are designed to move the varied emotions of those in attendance, are so many examples of what is soulical and not spiritual at all. True worship, spiritual worship, is decorous, quiet, reverential, occupying the worshipper with God Himself; and the effect is to leave him not with a nervous headache (the inevitable reaction from the high tension produced by soulical activities) but with a peaceful heart and a rejoicing spirit."

Contrary to popular belief and practice, worship is neither a function of the flesh nor humanly generated emotions. It is of the spirit! Philippians 3:3 says, For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. In fact, Christ denounced those who presumed to worship by fleshly means. Christ says in Matthew 15:8-9 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

God directs how we are to worship Him "…they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.." Therefore as believers we must carefully examine our worship. If we see that our "worship" is mindless, shallow, and/or of the flesh and not the spirit…repent! Consider this verse in closing, God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. Psalms 89: 7

Signs of Pleasing God

"Signs of Pleasing God"
by Richard Baxter

See therefore that you live upon God's approval as that which you chiefly seek, and will suffice you: which you may discover by these signs.

1. You will be most careful to understand the Scripture, to know what doth please and displease God.
2. You will be more careful in the doing of every duty, to fit it to the pleasing of God than men.
3. You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your ends, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.
4. You will look to secret duties as well as public and to that which men see not, as well as unto that which they see.
5. You will reverence your consciences, and have much to do with them, and will not slight them: when they tell you of God's displeasure, it will disquiet you; when they tell you of his approval, it will comfort you.
6. Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious in order to the pleasing of God, and not proud and ambitious for your honour with them, nor impious against the pleasing of God.
7. Whether men be pleased or displeased, or how they judge of you, or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interest, in comparison to God's judgment. You live not on them. You can bear their displeasure, censures, and reproaches, if God be but pleased. These will be your evidences.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Marks of True Biblical Leadership

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierc├Ęd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?



Sunday, October 09, 2005

...And Another Voice

“Rock and Roll aims for liberation and transcendence, eroticizing the spiritual and spiritualizing the erotic, because that is its ecumenical birthright.”(Robert Palmer, Rock and Roll—An Unruly History, p. 72) “Nevertheless, I do continue to believe in the transformative power of rock and roll---a power that can only be accessed by the individual listener. It is my contention that this transformative power inheres not so much in the words of songs or the stances of the stars, but in the music itself---in the sound, and above all, in the beat.” (Robert Palmer, Rock and Roll—An Unruly History, p. 12)

“The idea that certain rhythm patterns or sequences serve as conduits for spiritual energies, linking individual human consciousness with the gods, is basic to traditional African religions and African-derived religions throughout the Americas. And whether we’re speaking historically or musicologically, THE FUNDAMENTAL RIFFS, LICKS, BASS FIGURES, AND DRUM RHYTHMS THAT MAKE ROCK AND ROLL ROCK CAN ULTIMATELY BE TRACED BACK TO AFRICAN MUSIC OF A PRIMARILY SPIRITUAL OR RITUAL NATURE. In a sense, rock and roll is a kind of ‘voodoo,’ rooted in a vigorous tradition of celebrating nature and spirit that’s far removed from the sober patriarchal values espoused by the self-appointed guardians of western culture.” (Robert Palmer, Rock and Roll: An Unruly History, p. 53)

Voice From The Present

Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, has studied the connection between rock music and African paganism extensively. He says that rock and roll is "the latest extension of the African backbeat", Mickey Hart, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, p. 64). He also says that the "mother rhythms from West Africa mutated into rock and roll" (p. 91). He traces a direct connection between rock & roll and the rhythms of witch doctors and voodoo practitioners. “When the slave ships began plying the waters between the New World and West Africa, everyone thought they carried just strong, expendable bodies. But they were also carrying the Counter player culture--maybe even the mother goddess culture—preserved in the form of drum rhythms that could call down the Orisha from their time to ours.

In the Caribbean and South America, slaves were allowed to keep their drums and thus preserved their vital connection with the Orisha, though sudden mingling of so many different tribes produced new variations like candomble, santeria, and vodun, AND OUT OF THIS SEVERING CAME JAZZ, THE BLUES, THE BACKBEAT, RHYTHM AND BLUES, AND ROCK AND ROLL--SOME OF THE MOST POWERFUL RHYTHMS ON THE PLANET. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I awoke to the fact that my tradition--rock and roll--did have a spirit side, that there was a branch of the family that had maintained the ancient connection between the drum and the gods.” (Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, pp. 209,210,212; emphasis added).

“…[you ] can’t find a Shaman without finding a drum…” (Mickey Hart, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, p. 46)

“For the shaman, the drum is not so much a musical instrument as a vehicle for transportation…[to the spirit world]”(Mickey Hart, Ibid., p.171)

The shaman’s drum is essential in the voodoo based religions as it is the means of bringing about the trance state and “driving the god into the body of the devotee.”(Mickey Hart, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, p. 46)