Early, a week ago, Sunday, I had a rare weekend at home. I was up early doing my morning workout and watching the news. I was bored by a commercial interruption so decided, while caching my breath, to do a little channel surfing. It turns out that above Fox News on our satellite provider there were a series of about a dozen channels of religious TV networks all grouped together. I clicked from on to another, becoming more frustrated with each channel change. I asked to Lord to help me not to have a too-critical reaction. But I’ll be honest. My disgust, and my grief, were unavoidable. Lest I appear to some readers of this blog to be a bit judgmental, I’ll not name the specific ministries that were showcased. I will say this. They mostly ranged from the ludicrous to the laughable. Almost all were an embarrassment to biblical Christianity and bore little resemble to Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding the purposes of a pastor, that is to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2 KJV).
There was the perfectly coiffed preacher exhorting his followers to “think better.” The tattooed and tattered jean hipster full of enthusiasm but short of content. The Christian concert with a mind-numbing laser light show. The every-one-gets-a-prophetic-word-directly-from-God when I pray for them, preacher. The heart-wrenching appeal to help a never-ending stream of emaciated, starving, ill-clothed and impoverished children. The southern, smoothing talking “I’m blessed and you can be too” advocate. It seemed that every ministry had a “winning” this or “miracles abound” that approach to evangelism. When the man of God prayed, everyone had to fall backwards. Everyone, even those needing a little push. Almost no one wore a suit and tie, and the wardrobe malfunctions of strange accoutrements assaulted the good-style senses. One preacher could barely catch his growling breath for the gasps of air between his effusive clauses about sowing a seed NOW; and not just any seed, the exact amount that God had just revealed to him. (Never mind that this video clip had been filmed weeks or months ago, and that the moment of his inspirational offering had long since pasted. Viewers had to send the God-ordained amount NOW.) Networks had names like Hope, Inspiration, Uplift, Impact, all appropriately positive.
I paused for a moment between clicking back and forth between these preacher, all of whom I’m sure are very sincere in their own minds. Where was the reproof, scolding or reprimanding; didn’t any of them rebuke, sternly reprimand; why was there no authentic exhortation, true encouragement that wasn’t self-serving; and where was the doctrine, creeds, dogma, principles of instruction, and dissertations of Scriptural truth? Each presenter’s pitch was filled with clever one-liners, insider jokes, simplistic statements, and emotional melodrama. But where were the references to what God actually says in His Word? Have we made modern American Christianity into a spectacle of verbal, quick-witted ingenuity, long on entertainment but short on theological depth? I may be a bit prejudiced because lately I’ve been reading Thomas Aquinas and Augustine’s “Confessions.” I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but, must Christianity made-in America always have to be dumbed-down to the catchiest byline and the most manipulative mannerisms?
I love ministering in foreign counties, especially Eastern Europe where the genuineness of people’s faith has been tested by despots and dictators. Where what they believe has meant a potential death sentence. Where, until recent years, their faith was expressed underground, in secret settings, not dramatized for masses in HD-TV. I’m not writing this to expunge my distaste, but to get your attention about the urgent need for American-branded Christianity to get back to the “demonstration of the Spirit and the power” of the gospel (1 Cor. 2:4).
Oh, and one more thing. Not one of the preachers or programs mentioned demons or the devil or the need for deliverance. Not one. Maybe there is a connection between such avoidance and such spiritual anemia.
An encouraging word: WHO FEARS GOD?
One of the most classic, and profound, messages of scripture is David’s straightforward proclamation; “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Psalm 45:6). It is hard for humans, who live in a time-space reality, to think of forever. We rejoice in birth and wait warily for death. Such things are absent to God. He sees all things from a forever perspective. He always has been and always will be. That’s why his character is just. He knows all the past and the future. Stop for a moment and consider how your own thoughts are hindered by your hurts of the past and your fears for the future. Remember, God lives on a throne that lasts FOREVER!
Bob Larson has trained healing and deliverance teams all over the world to set the captives free and Do What Jesus Did® (Luke 4:18). You can partner with Bob and support this vision to demonstrate God’s power in action by calling 303-980-1511 or clicking here to donate online.