Experiencing the Truth
- Saturday, August 16, 2008
I am angered by the preacher I know, and his wife and co-pastor, who exacted a per diem and drove luxury vehicles, their modest salaries boosted by tithes and offerings from poor folks in a struggling congregation of families, a number of them headed by single women. This at a time when the church didn’t own a single chair and was renting a building to hold worship services.7
Yet every Sunday large churches and small ones are filled with men and women seeking to drive luxury vehicles and boost their financial worth because the preacher told them that Jesus was rich and they should be rich too. Too many of these places are filled with men and women who know too little of the truth contained in Scripture and too little of the truth about the God of Scripture, because they spend too much of their time ingesting the error dispensed by preachers and teachers who fancy themselves apostles, prophets, bishops, and pastors.
In the growing black mega-church movement, there is an overwhelming emphasis upon the sensational, excitable, and experiential. there is an unbiblical infatuation with the miraculous and the fanciful. This produces a vacuum where objective biblical truth is sucked up and finds little place in the life of the church or the Christian. Again, Fountain’s disillusionment is due in large part to this experience-driven type of Christianity, which he experienced. According to Fountain:
I am the grandson of a pastor and am myself a licensed minister. I love God and I love the church. I know church-speak and feel as comfortable shouting hallelujahs and amens and lifting my hands in the sanctuary as I do putting on my socks. I have danced in the spirit, spoken in tongues, and proclaimed Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. I once arrived faithfully at the door of every prayer meeting and went to nearly every Bible study and month-long revival. I attended umpteen services, even the midnight musicals and my church’s annual national meetings, like the one held two weeks ago in Kansas City. Yet I now feel disconnected. I am disconnected. Not necessarily from God, but from the church.8
Unfortunately for Fountain and many with similar testimonies, church has become nothing but a heavy dose of emotional stimulation. And when the emotional high has worn off, he begins looking for meetings to attend to find that energy. He begins looking for work to do to make him once again feel significant. Here is a glaring and sad illustration of a man who thinks he experienced God, when perhaps all he experienced was religious experience itself.
So, what is needed in this malaise of Christianity that is commonly experienced on Sunday mornings? What should our answer be to this celebrity-driven, glitter and glory brand of Christianity? What is the answer to John Fountain and many more who find popular Christianity in the predominantly black church shallow and uninspired? Fountain could use a Christianity that does not simply accentuate the novel and promote the excitable, but seeks to articulate and demonstrate a faith grounded in historical theology and proclaimed with contemporary relevance. Such Christianity is not popular in our day, yet it is most needed. Such has been the Christianity articulated in the historic Reformed tradition.
In speaking at a pastor conference in Miami in 2005, Ken Jones said that a reformation is needed, but not like those reformations in the past.9 In Josiah’s day (2 Kings 23) the people needed a reformation because the Word of God was lost. Josiah led the people of God in finding and restoring the Word in their midst. the Second Reformation was under Martin Luther (1483–1546). this Reformation was not needed because the Word of God was lost, but because the Word of God was closed. Luther led the people of God in the rediscovery of the truth by opening the Bible to all people. In our day, the Word of God is not lost nor is it closed. We have open Bibles every Sunday all over the country. We need a reformation today because the Word of God is misinterpreted and misappropriated. In other words, we need an open-Bible Reformation!
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