The older I get, the less impressed I am with flashy successes and enthusiasms that are not truth-based. Everybody knows that with the right personality, the right music, the right location, and the right schedule you can grow a church without anybody really knowing what doctrinal commitments sustain it, if any. Church-planting specialists generally downplay biblical doctrine in the core values of what makes a church “successful.” The long-term effect of this ethos is a weakening of the church that is concealed as long as the crowds are large, the band is loud, the tragedies are few, and persecution is still at the level of preferences.
But more and more this doctrinally-diluted brew of music, drama, life-tips, and marketing seems out of touch with real life in this world—not to mention the next. It tastes like watered-down gruel, not a nourishing meal. It simply isn’t serious enough. It’s too playful and chatty and casual. Its joy just doesn’t feel deep enough or heartbroken or well-rooted. The injustice and persecution and suffering and hellish realities in the world today are so many and so large and so close that I can’t help but think that, deep inside, people are longing for something weighty and massive and rooted and stable and eternal. So it seems to me that the trifling with silly little sketches and breezy welcome-to-the-den styles on Sunday morning are just out of touch with what matters in life.
Of course, it works. Sort of. Because, in the name of felt needs, it resonates with people’s impulse to run from what is most serious and weighty and what makes them most human and what might open the depths of God to their souls. The design is noble. Silliness is a stepping-stone to substance. But it’s an odd path. And evidence is not ample that many are willing to move beyond fun and simplicity. So the price of minimizing truth-based joy and maximizing atmosphere-based comfort is high. More and more, it seems to me, the end might be in view. I doubt that a religious ethos with such a feel of entertainment can really sur-vive as Christian for too many more decades. Crises reveal the cracks.
Counted Righteous in Christ (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2002) p. 22-23.
Books by John Piper
Other Piper Quotes at the Cross Quoter
[The picture of the church in Ephesians] has seemed a beautiful ideal, an obviously desirable goal, and not so difficult to attain. But now Paul brings us down to earth, and to realities harsher than dreams. He reminds us of the opposition. Beneath surface appearances an unseen spiritual battle is raging.
Ephesians – The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL; Intervarsity Press; 1984) Commentary on Eph. 6:10-20
Books by John Stott
“To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:21
God’s glory in the church cannot be separated from his glory in Christ Jesus. This expression of incorporation signifies that believers are able to ascribe glory to God because they are ‘in Christ Jesus’ (see on 1:3 ). Just as ‘every spiritual blessing’ is given to us ‘in Christ’ ( 1:3 ), so our acknowledging the Father’s glory is wholly dependent on Christ Jesus; it is rendered by those who have been incorporated into him. He is the mediator of God’s activity to us, and the mediator of our response of praise to the Father. Just as our thanksgiving to God can only be given in the name of the Lord Jesus ( 5:20 ), so also glory can be ascribed to God only within the realm of Christ Jesus.
The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans Publishing Company; 1999) Commentary on Ephesians 3:21.
Books by Peter O’brien
One of the most urgently needed things today is a careful treatment of how the gospel, biblically and richly understood, ought to shape everything we do in the local church, all of our ethics, all of our priorities.
~D. A. Carson~
For the Fame of God’s Name (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2011) p. 165.
Books by D.A. Carson
The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it—admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism—all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
~D. A. Carson~
The Cross and Christian Ministry (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House Company; 1993) p. 83-84.
HT: Tim Challies
Books by D.A. Carson