Summary: It seems that Satan was neutralizing local churches 300 years ago in the same way he is today...
6 Church Killers
John 10:10 (KJV)
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
It seems that Satan was neutralizing local churches 300 years ago in the same way he is today.
I recently came across a powerful quote from an 18th-century English pastor named Job Orton. Ironically, he wrote to the ministers of his day about doctrinal compromise. The struggles of churches nearly 300 years ago are the struggles of churches today. Read what he says:
“I have long since found (and every year that I live increases my conviction of it), that when ministers entertain their people with lively and pretty things, confine themselves to general harangues, insist principally on moral duties, without enforcing them warmly and affectionately by evangelical motives; while they neglect the peculiars of the gospel, never or seldom display the grace of God, and the love of Christ in our redemption; the necessity of regeneration and sanctification by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit of God for assistance and strength in the duties of the Christian life, their congregations are in a wretched state; some are dwindling to nothing, as is the case with several in this neighbourhood, where there are now not as many scores as there were hundreds in their meeting-places, fifty years ago. ... There is a fatal deadness spread over the congregation. They run in ‘the course of this world,’ follow every fashionable folly, and family and personal godliness seems in general to be lost among them. There is scarcely any appearance of life and zeal.”
It seems that Satan was neutralizing local churches 300 years ago in the same way he is today. Notice the ways churches decline, according to Orton:
1. Create an Entertainment-Driven Ministry—Orton writes “when ministers entertain their people with lively and pretty things.” I’ve seen two extremes in entertainment-driven ministry. Both are simply different manifestations of the same false assumptions and bad values.
The first bad model I saw was a contest-driven, circus-style, promotion-based ministry model. It was a model that bribed people to attend church, entertained them once they came, and attempted to “sneak up” on them with the gospel. It worked to get people to church, but it was weak in producing devoted disciples and rooted believers.
The second bad model I’ve seen is a concert-style, party-atmosphere ministry complete with loud rock music, smoke machines, laser lights and a lot of entertainment. Again, it works to get people to attend, but it lulls them into nonparticipation, nonworship and lethargic, carnal Christianity.
Both models fail because of two false assumptions. The first false assumption is that Jesus and His Word are boring and unattractive. The second false assumption is that people won’t respond to simple, biblical love and grace. These methods attempt to DISGUISE the gospel to “make it attractive.” The false assumption being, it’s not attractive unless we disguise it! This is REALLY BAD theology! Entertainment-driven ministry is a broken road.