When I was in school we would be given reading assignments. A paper with questions about the reading material would sometimes be given; usually questions about what the author was trying to convey. “What does the lamp symbolize?” “What is the author saying when…” Questions like that.
The other day I was looking over one of my grandchildren’s reading assignments. He was to read a chapter in a book and answer five questions. Every one of the questions was about how the reader felt. “How do you feel when…” was the beginning of every question.
Evidently the emphasis has changed from what an author is trying to say to how does the reader feel? I find this odd; can any answer be wrong? If something makes someone feel sad, but another person angry can we truly say which is correct? Then what about the message of the author? Yes, an author wants to stir emotions in his readers, but there is a story, or message, that is the purpose to putting pen to paper.
I have discovered this phenomenon occurring in churches as well, with the emphasis in recent decades moving from the message of God to the feelings of the congregation.
The 18th and 19th centuries brought us the greatest revivals Christianity has ever seen. Edwards, Finney, Moody, Spurgeon, Whitfield and others preached and people were saved by the dozens, hundreds and thousands. If you go back and read the writings and sermons of the preachers of the day there is one main topic: Jesus Christ; but within that topic was the matter of our sin. The evils of sin were emphasized along with the fact that Christ died for those sins and that forgiveness was only a repentant filled faith away.
Church services would often last hours, revival meetings were often two, four, six weeks or even longer; with a service every night and twice on Sundays during the span. Those meetings often would last past midnight with people bringing candles for light. A typical four hour service would consist of a half hour of signing followed by three and a half hours of preaching. Church ended when the people believed God was finished speaking to their hearts and it was time to digest all that the Holy Spirit was saying to them. The emphasis was on the message of the scripture and what The Author (God) was trying to say.
Moving forward to today, many churches will have 3-5 minutes for announcements, 40-45 minutes of music and ending with a 10-15 minute sermon, with an apology given if the services runs an hour and five minutes. The evils of sin are seldom, if ever preached about and the atmosphere of the service is more like a High School pep rally. The emphasis is on the feelings of the congregation.
Music is essential in our lives as Christians. There are at least a dozen interments mentioned by name in the Bible used in praise and glory to God. It would be wonderful if every church could have a full orchestra. God even commands us to sing when we are merry, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.” (James 5:13). There are many verses which tell us to sing, Psalm 81:1; Psalm 95:1; Isaiah 30:29; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; and the list goes on. Music and singing are vastly important to God’s plan, but it is the message of His Word and the power of preaching that brings men to salvation.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:13-14.
The preaching of the message has much to do with our growth as Christians after salvation (1 Corinthians 2:4).
Summing this all up; when you leave church at the end of the service do you feel as if you’ve been to a high school pep rally or has your life been changed? Which of those two would God prefer? Is your Christian life wrapped up in how you feel or in what The Author is trying to say?
Preacher Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind., and is considered by many Sas an expert on Biblical prophecy. He and his wife, Julie, have four grown children and 11 grandchildren. All scripture references are from the KJV. Blog: www.preacherjohnson.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.