David’s Mighty Men: Godly Discontentment

I was recently speaking and teaching interstate at some churches and Christian groups. A number of these groups, I was informed, had actually broken away from a larger Pentecostal denomination. They had simply grown disillusioned with what their megachurches were on about, and wanted to get back to a more pure and biblical Christianity.

They had many concerns about the big evangelical and Pentecostal churches, and were growing tired of the emphasis on entertainment, marketing techniques, the celebrity-culture, the superficiality, and the rank imitation of the surrounding culture. So they moved on, and set up smaller churches, including home fellowships.

Now of course there is always a danger here. Those who are discontented can be so for the wrong reasons, and can have rather un-Christlike responses. They can be rebellious, un-submissive, disobedient and troublemaking. They can react in bitterness, anger and resentment. That is something we don’t want to encourage or foster.

But there is another sort of discontent which can in fact be a good discontent. There can be a holy desire to simply have the best that God wants for us. There can be a discontent with man-centred religious programs, with trendy, faddish gimmicks, with lifeless and spiritless churches, and with cheap grace and a watered down gospel, especially a gospel that is all about self, instead of Christ and the denial of self.

As I spent time with these people, and heard their stories, a passage from 1 Samuel sprang to mind. In 1 Sam 22:1-2 we find these words: “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.”

It is interesting that David, who at the time was not on the throne, but was being hounded and chased around the country by Saul, found himself to be a magnet for those who were on the fringes of society, those who did not fit in, those who were discontented and in distress.

The really amazing thing about this motley crew of rejects, misfits and outsiders is that they went on to do many mighty things for God and David. We read about these men later in the Old Testament narratives. In 2 Samuel 23, 24 and 1 Chronicles 11, 12 we learn about “David’s mighty men”.

You can read for yourself all the marvellous exploits and mighty deeds these men performed. These men, who were the cream of the crop under King David, were at one time the rejected, the despised and those who did not fit in to the religious and social scene of the day.

Perhaps in the same way today as the mainstream churches (and I include my own evangelical churches here) become more and more worldly and less and less endowed with power from on high, we will see more and more small groups of those who are restless, alienated and discontented moving on, seeking to find those who are like-minded and fully serious about a radical commitment to Jesus Christ.

Now I am not seeking to promote rebellion and anti-church sentiment here, nor am I saying our churches are all going downhill. But surely any serious follower of Jesus Christ can see that much of what passes for biblical Christianity today is a far cry from what it should be.

Indeed, in many ways we are far removed from the vitality, power and influence of the early church. In many ways we have perhaps become more like the Scribes and the Pharisees than we might care to admit. We might even be addicted to mere traditions of men and human programs, instead of reliant on the Spirit of God in all that we do.

The traditions of men

Evangelicals and Pentecostals take great delight in passages such as Mark 7:8-9 in which Jesus rebukes those religious folk who promote the “traditions of men”. We rightly look down on the Scribes and Pharisees, and know how bad the religious establishment can become. But perhaps we need to look much more closely in our own backyards.

I actually think us evangelicals, Pentecostals, and other “cutting edge” Christian groups have just as much religious baggage as those mainline denominations that we so quickly denigrate. Indeed, we have plenty of our own traditions of men which we slavishly adhere to.

Let me provide just one example. Because I travel a lot and speak at many different churches, I have come to notice various trends and fads which evangelical and charismatic churches are plugging into. One of these is to turn the worship experience and setting into something basically like a disco.

Time and time again I find churches which have all their walls painted black, and their auditoriums looking just like discos. They have strobe lights flashing away and smoke machines working overtime during their times of worship. They apparently think this is hip and contemporary, and will help make their churches “relevant” and appealing to young people.

Of course there is not one passage in the entire Bible which instructs us to get the disco look in order to attract crowds or properly worship. There is not one text anywhere which even remotely suggests that we should copy the ways of the world in order to reach people and appeal to outsiders.

What we have, in other words, is simply another tradition of men. We, who pride ourselves in doing things by the Book, and not conforming to the world, are doing exactly the opposite: we are setting aside Scripture and foolishly imitating the world, its music, and its methods.

Never mind that when it comes to worship, there should be only one focus: the living God. Everything else is peripheral and secondary. Indeed, real worship, according to the Bible, has nothing to do with emotional highs and disco-like attractions. It is all about ascribing glory to a holy, pure and majestic God. It is not about us at all; it is all about Him.

Now I do not want to be picking on the evangelical world and the Pentecostal churches. They happen to be the ones I most often deal with, but as Peter says, ‘judgment must begin with the household of God’. None of our methods, plans, and activities are sacrosanct, or above criticism. Indeed, everything we do is regularly to be checked out in the light of Scripture.

Bible-believing evangelical Christians should be the very first to question and assess; discerning if we are merely creating our own fleshly traditions, or are in fact doing things as God would have them to be done. We dare not assume that what we are doing is always fully pleasing to our Lord.

Thus it may be the case that we will see more groups of those who long for something better, whose hearts are set on heaven, and who take seriously the commands of our Lord to deny self, take up our cross, and follow him. Some of these folk may be discontented and in distress, as were those who gravitated toward David.

If it is a holy discontent, then can I say we need more of it. Hopefully they can stay in their churches and bring about much needed renewal and revival. But if they must leave and form their own groups, well, that may need to be the way to go. But we all desperately need a holy discontent which will make us restless with the status quo, impatient with the ordinary, and sick of the mediocre.

As A. W. Tozer once said, “We are too comfortable, too rich, too contented. We hold the faith of our fathers, but it does not hold us.” And again, “We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with that irresponsible, amusement-mad, paganized pseudo religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing un-scriptural methods to achieve their ends.”

It seems that William Booth, Salvation Army founder, had it right when he said in the late 1890’s, “The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, and heaven without hell.”

[1398 words]

38 Replies to “David’s Mighty Men: Godly Discontentment”

  1. Thanks, Bill. This is a really spot-on diagnosis.

    I hope this latest post of yours is widely read.

    All Christians should heed and act upon this message.

    John Ballantyne, Melbourne

  2. Yes I totally agree with John. Let’s hope and pray that this article is read far and wide throughout the church as it is a most astute evaluation of where much of the (especially ‘contemporary’) church is at today.

    Ewan McDonald.

  3. Well written Bill. Nailed it. I count myself as one such person who is both distressed and discontented. Not a particularly happy place to be. Perhaps there is hope for me though?!
    Stephen Frost, Melbourne.

  4. Thanks Stephen

    Yes there is always hope. As long as God exists, there will always be hope.

    “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 43:5

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. Good points Bill, you’re right about discontented break away groups having their own issues and traps, just as the megachurches they are leaving do.

    It’s funny what you said about claiming to replace traditions of men, while simply exchanging them for different ones. I have come to realise that many Pentecostals and evangelicals disdain theology, when the knowledge and study of God in the Spirit as opposed to dry, merely academic theology is actually important. They make out that doctrine is negative when the Bible places an extremely high value on having the right doctrine (the Apostle’s doctrine) while warning against the “doctrines of men” and “false doctrine.” They condemn all forms of tradition when again it is manmade tradition that is the problem, because Paul said “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thess 2:15) And of course “religion” is derided as bondage to ritual and traditions, whilst James actually says there is a religion pure and undefiled before God.

    So it seems that we can over-react against the Pharisaical side of things quite easily, by ignoring certain things that are actually described in the Scriptures. I think God knows that humans do need culture and even systematic norms, even with regard to living out their lives as Christians, the challenge is not to eliminate these things, but to make sure they are thoroughly based on the Word and done in the Spirit rather than in mere mechanical ritualism.

    Yarran Johnston

  6. Thanks Yarran

    Yes, that is why knowledge of church history is so important here. There is nothing new under the sun, and church history is so often the story of one pendulum swing to another. One overreaction leads to another overreaction and so on. The same here, with the debate over doctrine verses faith.

    Theology is vitally important, but devoid of the Spirit and a fervent faith it quickly becomes dead, arid, and lifeless.

    The spirit-filled, faith-formed life is also vitally important, but devoid of sound doctrine and teaching it quickly becomes mere emotionalism, unguided zeal, and reckless subjectivism.

    As always we need both, and as always we need to find that elusive biblical balance.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  7. I agree with you Bill. I have always said that the greatest enemy of the church today is complacency and you have summed it up nicely. If we are “comfortable” Christians we are hardly living the Christ filled life. Jesus rarely enjoyed a “comfortable” moment during His ministry and neither should we! We serve, we share His life changing pain and His amazing grace. God bless you Bill.
    Lynn Nerdal, Canberra

  8. Bill,
    Today pastors and leaders have forgotten the last words of Jesus to Peter in John 21: 15-17. Feed or tend MY sheep was commanded 3 times to Peter. Pastors especially those in the mega churches easily forget that they are just undershepherd and their key role is to care for His flock, and of even more concern, these are not their sheep but Jesus’ sheep. Jesus the good shepherd, had entrusted His sheep to their care giving them specific instructions.That will mean to pay attention to the flock, their welfare and ensure they are properly fed and nourished with the pure unadulterated Word and built up as true disciples. That should be the end role of pastors.

    But today the mega churches are not focussed on the flock but on the church as an organisation.The organisation has become an end in itself and the Great Commission relegated to become the means. As such consultants are engaged to market the church and the pastor changes his role to that of the CEO. The spiritual CEO runs the organisation like a corporation building the right kind of corporate image for the organisation and becomes immersed in crafting and implementing the vision, plans and strategies in true corporate style inorder to grow even bigger. The gospel is repackaged and made to suit what the market (the world) wants.The ‘way we do church’ sounds like the way we run our corporation. Some smaller churches are caught up with this trend and dream, and soon this little church goes to market too. But the good news is that the brethen cannot be fooled forever and they will soon realise that Jesus is concern with His flock and not the mega organisation. And soon they will dump “the all about me gospel” and return to the true gospel and sound doctrines that the apostles taught.

    Barry Koh

  9. I agree with Yarran that doctrine is a key to being an effective church: each congregation has a responsibility (& opportunity) to be doctrinally/theologically correct.

    The other major aspect is seldom focussed upon except Anabaptists/Mennonites: community. They’ve read Matthew 25:31-46 & taken it seriously.

    We should always do that, else we will be left plaintively asking “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or isolated, or unclothed, or ill, or imprisoned, yet not minister to You?”

    The Gospels record that Christ’s approach has often amounted to “Your actions are drowning out your words! I hear what you’re saying, but what are you doing?”

    Leon Brooks

  10. Bill,
    I commend you for using blogs and for using Twitter.
    I also commend churches for using other moder mediums for reaching a new generation in their culture.
    If you use strobe lights that is a culture. If you don’t use strobe lights that is a culture. It doesn’t change the message, but contributes to the atmosphere of celebration. The church where my husband and sons are on the media team strictly monitors that the media not detract from the message, but enhances the celebration of Jesus and all He has done for us.
    The Jews were good at their week-long celebrations. We’ve become rather dour in “celebration” of mass and hymns. That’s why some groups use banners and flags in dance during worship time. It helps to worship with our spirit, mind, emotions and body, not just our minds, as the dour folks are wont to do. I know it can be quite distracting for people who only want to worship with their minds. But it can be quite attractive for people who realise that the “world” has nothing to celebrate and Jesus has everything to celebrate. So let’s not go to the disco, let’s go to church!
    I thought you had learned about enculturation of the Message, without changing the Message.
    I agree with your whole argument of godly discontent, but you’ve chosen a culture example, not a doctrinal one, it seems to me.
    I think if one would choose to change churches based on this kind of discontent, one is searching for an expression of worship that matches ones personality. The Message is being preached with faithfulness, one just gets too distracted by the lights to be able to hear the Message. For others, the lights enhance the Message, or else they might get bored, as my son did with the message tonight.

    Rebecca Field

  11. May it not be!

    Bill,

    I often think Protestant church history is a repetition of the same old story of God starting something new and working around the old institutions that no longer care to serve him. That’s my take, although I haven’t rigorously tested the hypothesis.

    As a disciple of Jesus and a member of a fairly mainstream church my hope is that the church repents and be reformed before it is too late and that God might be able to work through us instead of around us or against us.

    God Bless,
    Michael Hutton, Ariah Park

  12. One of the roles of a leader is take people from point A to point B; from where they were to where they should be. If Christ is our leader and we wish to be like him this will mean that we will suffer, but in the process we will become more purified and transformed into his likeness. Do our church leaders draw us into comfort, complacency and the feel good factor or do they discipline us into becoming a formidable fighting force that will turn the world upside down?

    Winston Churchill, when trying to alert Parliament to the threat of Nazism, in 1938, said: “I foresee and foretell that the policy of submission will carry with it restrictions upon the freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, on public platforms, and discussions in the Press, for it will be said – indeed, I hear it said sometimes now – that we cannot allow the nazi system of dictatorship to be criticised by ordinary common English politicians. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year, unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

    Then in May 1940 Winston gave this speech: “I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs – Victory in spite of all terrors – Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival. Let that be realized. No survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge, the impulse of the ages, that mankind shall move forward toward his goal. I take up my task in buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. I feel entitled at this juncture, at this time, to claim the aid of all and to say, ‘Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength’.”

    Well Mr Churchill that bitter cup is with us like never before and I fear that Britain has indeed lost the moral health and martial vigour to rise again and take its stand for freedom as in the olden times. The enemy we face is not material, like that of the German War machine but doubly dangerous for it is a spiritual and ideological one that at present is sweeping all before it. In Britain, if we wish to give it a human face it can be named as Stonewall, but this is only one of many of its heads.

    David Skinner, UK

  13. Thanks Rebecca

    But you somewhat miss the point of my article. My topic was not contextualisation, or the need to use differing methods to present the message. My point was simply how evangelical churches can be just as guilty of following the “traditions of men,” and doing things just because it is trendy rather than because it is biblical or right.

    There may be a place for different razzamatazz in worship, but my main concern is we can often have church and worship services filled with all this stuff, but with God nowhere to be found. That is my real concern. Are we so over-reliant on methods and marketing and entertainment that we forget about the role of the Holy Spirit? Are we simply slavishly copying the world and its methods? Is our aim simply to have large numbers, or to please the living God, etc.?

    I would have thought all concerned Christians should constantly be asking these sorts of questions, and not just going along with the status quo and business as usual.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  14. The ‘success’ of a church is often judged by numbers and other things are secondary. When one pastor meets another, they size up one another by the attendance numbers in their church. Some well-known preachers will only preach in the bigger churches and bypass the smaller ones. Methods may changed but the the problem very often is that the message is also changed, adulterated and watered down to suit the culture of the times. The more emotionally charged the worship, the more it is said to be annointed, but the truth is far from it. Similarly the charismatics regard a quiet service as dead and God is not present. Far from the truth too.
    The seeker friendly style and the fast appearance of the teachings of the emergence church is a serious threat to the church. We need to not just pray but confront and speak up against this trend.
    Barry Koh

  15. Thanks for another great article Bill.

    I always enjoy reading what you have to say. Please do not give up this vital ministry as we all need to remain vigilant and watchful in these ever changing times and this site is a constant source of food for thought and encouragement. (If not a kick in the butt to go and do something about it!)

    In relation to this specific article, if one has concerns about the way their local church is being ‘run’ or conducted, it terms of style, culture, or otherwise, what is the best way to address this?

    The reason for this question is, in many cases with larger ‘contemporary’ churches, the leadership / membership structure has been altered constitutionally so that the members of the church (those with voting rights) are now confined to the senior leadership of the church, meaning it is effectively a ‘closed shop’. This means that unless the leaders want to take the feedback on board, they are no longer obliged to do so and those attending the church (adherants to the church without voting rights) can really do little about it.

    Obviously the first point of call would be to schedule some time with those in senior leadership to table any concerns, and hopefully any leadership team worth its salt would be foolish to ignore such genuine concerns (provided that they were delivered in a constructive manner), but beyond this, if the leadership are not interested, the only avenue left as I see it would be to leave (the church).

    A second (and hopefully given) approach is to pray for those in leadership in your church, that they would be spirit-led, filled and directed – and this is something we all should be doing regardless of how good (or badly) our churches are run.

    I know this is a little off topic, but would be interested to hear your thoughts on this matter – that is church governance from a constitutional / legal point of view vs biblical structural point of view and the role we play, as lay people, in such an environment.

    Perhaps this could be the subject of another article?

    Scott Taggar

  16. My point is that my church is doing both: always re-evaluating and making sure the contextualisation isn’t distracting from the Message or usurping the Message with its sound and lights.
    I’m just reassuring you that the sound and lights are run by Spirit-led people, or have been at least so far, who are more concerned about the Message. I just don’t want you to fear that the lights mean the Message is gone or watered down.

    Rebecca Field

  17. It seems that William Booth, Salvation Army founder, had it right when he said in the late 1890’s, “The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, and heaven without hell.”

    I was rather dismayed recently when the Salvo’s Christmas Appeal envelope stated that “Sally’s Christmas will be empty.”

    Why? Because her family can’t afford presents? I thought Christmas was about Christ.

    Louise Le Mottee

  18. Thanks Rebecca

    It is good to hear that you think your church is getting it right in this area. Hopefully it is. But the question remains, how many churches may not be getting it right? How many churches might be putting method and technique ahead of the work of the Holy Spirit? Of course the two are not mutually exclusive, and both can be used for the glory of God. But one suspects that far too often the HS takes a secondary role in all of this.

    However, surely just a simple reading of the Bible will indicate that religious folk always have a tendency to do things in a fleshly fashion instead of in a spiritual fashion. Indeed, the more “successful” a church seems to be, the more hard questions it needs to be asking. The best place we can all be in this regard is on our knees.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  19. Wherever I go I would always try to visit some large congregational churches to see what makes them tick – in Perth, Sydney, Singapore, Malaysia & London and talk to some members. What’s distinctly common about these Churches is that they are Charismatic, Pentecostal, vibrant, and highly involved or supportive of mission and relieve work. What struck me most is to hear how God is working in their midst – the number of conversions, the changed lives, the healings, their highly participative involvement in specific missions and relief work in disaster areas. Sure there are many signs of affluence and I praise God for that for out of abundance more can be given. I am 60+ and I also do wonder at times whether some things have gone overboard but invariably I’ll soon find out that they are aberrations or incomplete pictures rather than the norm which really should not surprise me as we are human and we do and say out-of-the-way things at times and then do not have the opportunity to clarify with everyone.

    In other words, I am not too over-bothered with the form of worship or the externals although I do believe action should be taken to correct any known wrong perceptions. Incidentally, the Muslims are great at creating a mountain out of their, what we consider as quite irrelevant external religious forms.

    Richard Chieng, Perth

  20. Thanks Scott

    You in part nicely answer some of your own questions, but yes an article might be worth doing on this at some point in the near future.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  21. I suspect The Holy Spirit isn’t much fussed about our worship style but we do need to be careful we are not homing in on the style rather than content. If the frills distract from the content or cause squabbles amongst the menbers then we are probably better without them. I have been in a formal service (read from the book) where I was electrified by awareness of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been in a Pentecostal service where it was flat because people were squabbling. (I only found this afterwards when the friend who was a member explained the tension in the meeting.) There are also the boring services which follow the book and ones where the unorthodox format doesn’t matter because the whole group loves the Lord and each other.

    If the sheep are being well fed they will stay and if they aren’t fed its unlikely that either formality or excitement will keep them.
    If those teaching the Bible believe it is God’s word to His people then that should be exciting . If they don’t then no additions will make the service exciting.

    Katherine Fishley

  22. Thanks guys

    It is always good to get some different perspectives on these sorts of issues. They can be weighty and complex matters. Much can be said about worship for example. But my point was not to argue whether these new worship methods and styles are either good or bad. That may be a debate worth having, but it was not the main focus of my piece. My point was this: We seem to be doing all sorts of things in our churches which do not have a shred of Scriptural support, yet we are perhaps doing them because everyone else seems to be doing them.

    Thus we must ask ourselves: are we not also guilty of simply peddling the “traditions of men”? That is my concern. Are we doing things because we have spent countless hours praying and fasting to hear God’s voice and discern his will, or are we doing things because others are, and because it seems to “work” and draw crowds? That is my main worry.

    I am sure that many churches are fully seeking to do what is right and pleasing to God. But we all need to be challenged, encouraged and provoked to go further with God, and seek his very best. Those churches or Christians who reject such words of caution may need to hear them the most. Staying humble and on our knees may be far more valuable then attending the latest “how to” conference, or reading the latest ‘grow a successful church’ book. But there can be a place for the latter, if we keep our priorities right.

    Jesus had to constantly chide the religious establishment about missing the mark and getting things wrong. It would seem that humility would dictate that we do not too quickly think of others as being Pharisaic, when it just might be ourselves – I included – that Jesus is in fact speaking to.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  23. Bill,
    Agree with you Bill. The wise will certainly learn the best lessons from his greatest critics not from his circle of yes men and apple polishers. The foolish will always give a warning not to judge least you be judged, forgetting that the Bible is full of exhortation and warnings to beware, to discern or evaluate, to be alert and to pray and watch out for one another. That’s what your website is all about. They provide a good check and balance and feedback to the churches, their leaders and the brethen.
    Barry Koh

  24. Many thanks Barry

    Yes we all need to be encouraging one another, exhorting one another, and spurring one another on to love and good works. We all have a role to play in this.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  25. Froth and hype from the pentecostal movement will only last so long. Mundane boringness of main line churches will only last so long.
    There needs to be a middle of the road a place where only a Christ crucified gospel message is preached and a place where worship can be expressed without borders, no hype but no rigid boringness either.
    I think in the next 10 years there will be a huge move towards independent home groups where people are sick and tired of the staleness of main line churches and are sick and tired of the hype and Jesus plus and prosperity rubbish of the pentecostal churches……. oh God forgive us for representing your truth in boring and sensationalised ways.
    Ian Maynard

  26. Scott, you describe exactly the situation in which my wife and I found ourselves. We are no longer a member of any local church, but travel, when possible to a church a good hour’s drive away. This can hardly be called having fellowship or being part of the body, but at least we get solid spiritual food.
    The theme of this thread is what happens when a church becomes comfortable, complacent and yet luke-warm – like the church at Laodicea – when unity (conformity – don’t rock the boat) becomes more important than facing tough, searching questions and its leaders become an inner core who become impervious to discerning questions. What happens when the church you are in identifies itself as merely a therapy centre, a field hospital and not a barracks? What happens when it becomes more concerned about keeping its good name in the locality, than challenging injustice and unrighteousness? What happens when it becomes locked in its comfort zone and indistinguishable from the surrounding culture, when it cost its members nothing to attend except the their time and petrol?

    Returning therefore to our text: “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.” 1 Samuel. 21:1-2

    I can think of another leader who drew a mixed bag of disciples. Some were mere followers but had not been called, and some had been called but not chosen. In John 6:66-71 it says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’ (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.).”

    In the letter to the Corinthian church, Paul also has to remind them of who they were, are who their leader is: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’.” 1Cor. 1:26-31

    In 1 Cor. 6:9-11, he then goes to describe how this bunch of misfits and flunkies should be being transformed one from degree of glory to another so as to be changed into the likeness of Jesus our saviour and Lord. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    So what happens when a church runs on humanism and the flesh? What happens when the Christ it preaches is a billion miles away from the suffering Christ of the Bible? What happens when repentance does not translate into a changed life and what happens when there is no longer a fear of the one who can throw us into hell? It becomes fit for nothing except to be spewed out.

    David Skinner, UK

  27. Katherine,
    Yes, God is not concern with style of worship but a worship that is in spirit and truth. That is a worship that is heart thing, conditioned by our daily walk with Jesus. It is a worship that is Christ driven, and with a heart that is full of thanksgiving for Calvary. That is a worship that is not dependent on the external props and atmosphere, not a worship that is sensuality driven, that centres on the beat and rhythm of the music to create the right emotional atmosphere for an ‘annointed’ worship. God is present when 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name (Mt 18:20). That is His promise and it is not conditional upon us creating a concert like atmosphere for Him to be present. That is the way New Testament Christians worship as they gather in their homes.
    Barry Koh

  28. Thank you Bill, I am one of the “discontented”.
    My wife and I could once have been described as “church junkies” but for various reasons we no longer attend.
    Comments made against us have, I will admit, hurt us but we realise that Jesus is our head and that we will answer to him.
    Your article has helped us greatly.
    jim Sturla

  29. I believe that as a musician once heavily involved with traditional, megachurch-type and ultracharismatic forms of ‘worship’ I can write with some authority here.
    Without wanting to detract from the thrust of Bill’s post (excellent, by the way), or to turn these comments into a debate on a secondary theme, I want to quickly share how the Lord has completely led me away (for now) from involvement in any kind of church music.
    Some time ago I desired to be and was on my way to becoming a ‘worship celebrity,’ a musician/worship leader of skill and passion. But the Lord opened my eyes to see how self-indulgent and how utterly obsessed the church has become with the cultural phenomenon of performance music. He first dealt with my ambition, and then with my desire for fame (within a Christian context), and finally showed me how small and unassuming a role music played in the context of the life of the NT church.
    Music was there, for sure, but it was not the central activity of the church’s worship because it was too exclusive an activity. Everyone can eat, but not everyone can or likes to sing/dance/play music.
    I am yet to encounter another musician such as myself, who understands that music in the modern church era has been wrongly elevated to the level of ‘spiritual-gifting.’ (How many times have I been told ‘you are SO anointed, brother?’) It’s idolatry, plain and simple.
    There is plenty more of this journey that the Lord has me on, and right now He is reeducating me about the proper balance of musical vs nonmusical worship in the church. I have tried to be as brief as possible, and no doubt some here may misunderstand me because of that. But please understand that I am not condemning the use of music per se in church worship; rather, I am condemning the hero-worship, the performance aspects and the capitulation to worldly culture that it has become.

    Danny Polglase

  30. Many thanks Danny

    I think what you have shared is an important word, and one which all worship teams and church leaders should more closely consider. Sure, there can be genuinely spirit-led and selfless musicians involved in worship, but how much of our worship is really man-centred, celebrity-driven, entertainment-orientated and ultimately a product of the flesh and a poor imitation of the surrounding secular culture?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  31. Danny has a balanced view. Music is just an aid for us to express worship in spiritual songs and hymns. It’s likely that in the early church that gathered in homes, these songs unto God were sung without musical accompaniment. That is because their worship is a heart thing. Today ultracharismatic worship in many churches have become a sensual thing, driven by and dependent on the beat and rythmn from the band and worship team. I know where Danny is coming from. I was once there too, though no where close to his talent. Those were young and gullible days. True worship is when the beat and rythmn comes from the heart tuned into Calvary, and not a sensual and emotional creation of the band.
    Barry Koh

  32. Well said, Bill. Alas, it is all too true. My wife and I spent 30 years trying to get churches to work together for the Faith once delivered to the saints. Mainly we don’t obey the commandment to love one another. The number of “lost sheep” is testimony to the lack of love in the body of Christ.
    And the Power of the Gospel in the Name of Christ has been slowly ebbing away. Many are beginning to ask, “Where is the fire?”
    Tom Wise

  33. Well said Ian. A colleague of mine said “we have started to worship worship” That is very evident from the offering of many churches as it is used by the leadership to warm up the fans for their preaching. You might say it is a good way to cover up their poor preaching which has little depth. And some churches are known for their “worship” or more to the point, upbeat hyper music of the man made kind.

    I have said in my blog that singing songs is not worship. We can sing a hundred songs and not worship. In scripture, the word worship means to bow down before the one who has conquered you. If you have been conquered you certainly don’t prance around the room and sing happy songs.

    If you haven’t bowed down before your conqueror, singing songs won’t make a blind bit of difference as all it will be is entertainment to make you feel good. True worship places Jesus at the centre, not us. It is not about us getting a buzz; it is about acknowledging our conquering King.

    I would suggest that if you attend a meeting because of “its worship” you are there for the wrong reason. Some of the most exciting meetings I have been in were those with no music ministry, no song leader, no music, just the presence of the Holy Spirit convicting us of his holiness and majesty to the point where we were on our knees in silence before him or acknowledging that he was Lord of Lords and we are unworthy. An occasional song was sung exalting Jesus, started by anyone and sung without musical accompaniment.

    You don’t get too many of these today because we have to get through the programme so the intervention of the Holy Spirit is not really welcome because he would prevent us from doing things decently and in order.

    Roger Marks

  34. Roger,
    You are right. Many attend certain churches because it has ‘very good worship’. Meaning it has good band of musicians and vocal team, singing the latest worship songs and able to produce the ‘right emotional and worship atmosphere’ to usher in the presence of God. It goes against my understanding of Mt 18: 20 where Jesus promises His disciples that He will be present when 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name, not conditional upon a “good worship”. Jesus never lies. I like the way you said it: ‘that we have started to worship worship’.
    Barry Koh

  35. Wow, these is like the cool drink the David’s men brought to him from his home town well. I dare not drink, but I pour it out to the Lord. I am of a small faction of Christianity that is many time criticized as being radical, fanatical or some other such derogatory title, but all we really are (or at least try to be) is fundamental in our beliefs and earnest in our adherence to the Good Book. So to see someone from the more modern day Church culture start to tug at this heart string is a beautiful and glorious thing. I pray that you keep tugging at this line of thinking and that God pours out a revival of His Spirit and Truth in your life. God bless you brother and your well written article. Hallelujah!

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