Let me say first, that I believe in paying taxes, voting, volunteering for community needs, and serving in all forms of government jobs. This is not a call to disengage from civic responsibilities.
(6) Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (7) He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:6-8 (NIV)
The church has struggled with the tension between soul-saving and worldly power grabbing. If any section of scripture settles this debate, this section in the first section of Acts settles it. The apostles had raised these questions before to our Lord. James and John had even tried to position themselves into a better power position in the new political order. However, the entire New Testament is a movement away from worldly politics and toward individual salvation. The Gospel works on one person at a time.
So, the Gospel is to be preached to people. People are reborn, not governments transformed. A individual person’s life is changed, not a survey stat improved. Society is only impacted because individual people are changed. Christianity makes a difference at the kitchen table and only makes it to the public square because redeemed people act differently. The Gospel is not legislation. Jesus did not die on a Cross for an agenda, a party, a platform, or a candidate. His blood was shed for individual souls. His blood made a way for personal salvation, not a grab for money and power.
Preaching that blood-bought, life-changing, hope-filled Gospel is the true church’s mission. Everything else the worldly church does is a satanic distraction. The closer that ‘church’ gets to politics and prosperity preaching, the closer it finishes its ultimate transformation into the Great Whore of Babylon.
I have seen such a great falling away from the personal salvation I heard preached in the early 70s to what passes for Christianity today. The apostate church partners now with religious groups that deny the sonship of Jesus Christ, salvation by grace, and odd eastern cults for political expediency. We heard great men of God preach about the one-world apostate church supporting and cooperating with political rulers. I have lived long enough to see, at least the edge, of that day. I am heartbroken for what I see in the evangelical church.
There are some that will not hear what I am saying. Some are not fallen away but never knew Christ. You can wrestle with a wolf all day, but he will never be a sheep. I can’t force those into the light. However, there are some that started the race well, but now border on this satanic deception. Please stop and remember the blood-bought soul-saving Gospel. Remember the joy of the new birth. To those of you that are lost sheep, I beg you to hear God call you to repentance. You cannot serve God and Mammon!
This ministry is a missionary outreach to the present-day church of Laodicea. The forces of the enemy have deluded many to think they are in good shape. Nothing is farther from the truth. Much of the church is in a complete state of apostasy. Many so-called professional “ministers” turned the church into anyone’s whore for a dollar. The Holy Ghost has placed in my heart the burden of the word of the Lord to proclaim, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me,” (Rev 3:20).
I will preach the 3S Message — Salvation, Sanctification, and Service
Salvation – Preach salvation first, foremost, and forever
The church has one main function in this world. Preach the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. It is a ploy of the devil to move our attention to things like style, arts, causes, or politics. ALL functions of the church are only in support of saved souls. We are a failed and apostate church if we lose our single-minded drive to see people saved.
1Co 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Act 17:2-3 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, (3) Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
Sanctification – Preach salvation is more than words. Actions matter.
Christianity is more than words. We must be visibly different than the world around us. Many ministries have turned their back on godliness and righteous living. Churches have endorsed and accepted drinking, gambling, pornography, adultery, fornication, lying, hatred, bigotry, and unseemliness for political expediency. Many have destroyed their testimony in the eyes of our children and the world around us. That was the devil’s plan all along. Bitter tears will be wept at the judgement seat when souls that were needlessly lost are cast into Hell because we looked no different than the world. Our words have no weight if we do not the truth.
2Co 6:14-18 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (18) And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Service – Preach and personally demonstrate love is an action.
We are the only Jesus that the world can see. We must be an expression of His love in the world. The goal is to win them to the Lord. We are not ushering in the kingdom of God by changing the world one piece at a time. Jesus is coming back to setup the kingdom. The mission of the church is not to change the earthly politics or culture to realize an incremental second coming. The bible is plain that there will be an instantaneous second coming. We are only demonstrating the love of God so that we may win some to Christ and our compassion compels us to act.
James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
I will stand against the 3P Message — Politics, Prosperity, and Performance
Politics – No place for politics in the Church
Christians have a responsibility to vote, voice opinions, volunteer, donate, pay taxes, and intelligently investigate important civic matters. We should live up to all our civic responsibilities unless those responsibilities directly contradict an obligation to God. However, all of that must be outside the church doors and must be far removed from the pulpit. God would have all of us to know that we must follow the example left by Jesus and the Apostles if we claim a New Testament biblical ministry. We see no debate between the Publican and Zealot. There are no examples in the New Testament of Jesus or the Apostles trying to affect any political change in their many dealings with political officials of their day. They lived in a world of abortions, social injustice, and unnecessary wars. Their world had more gross social injustice than our modern world. Slaves were raped and killed on a whim. Late-term abortions? Their world allowed exposing live unwanted babies to the elements. Yet, not one example of political activity in the New Testament (Note: any reference to the Old Testament would require us to live under the divine right of kings for it to be exegetically sound).
We must understand our calling. The “Religion of the Yellow Stick” only lasts while you are monitoring and it does not change where folks spend eternity (The Religion of the Yellow Stick was named when native Scots were being driven to church by beatings with the priest’s yellow walking stick). Souls go to hell if we alienate them to force certain behavior. Our job is to preach the gospel and see folks born again. The new birth is the thing that changes them. Not our domination of the political arena.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Prosperity – Calvary is not a cash machine
The evangelical church, especially some broadcast ministries, have completely twisted Christianity. Rice Christians and bread-and-loaf disciples are only faithful while they have a physical need. They church should minister when it can to needs of its members and the community. However, the correct goal is always to win the soul for God. Also, God does supply needs sometimes miraculously. However, the folks in the New Testament usually only had one coat, no indoor plumbing, no personal transportation other than foot, no refrigerator, and no 401-k. The bible is clear that most in the early church were poorer than their neighbors.
Not one instance of Jesus, or the apostles, selling a thousand-dollar seed-faith for some debt reversal. No flying into town on a personal jet. No one selling magic holy oil or righteous rain water to the gullible in the Bible. The message and goal was simple – you are lost, Jesus came to save you, accept Him and believe for a newness of life.
God has not called me to preach against professional ministers or giving to the church or compassion ministries. There are places that require ministers to be paid because their job is a full-time job. These folks should make what the average person makes in their congregation. They should not starve or do without health insurance to serve God nor should they live like kings. Moreover, churches and ministries have bills and should also have the resources to minister to the needs of their clients. However, God would have us to know that there is a place in His work for an Amos or a Paul. Someone that will work a secular job and fund their ministry without ever asking or accepting a dime. Crooks have poisoned public opinion so much that an Amos or Paul may be the only one that can get the Gospel message to some folks.
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
John 6:26-27 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. (27) Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
James 2:5-6 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (6) But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
Performance – A good floor show is no substitute for the Gospel
Churches have watered down their services. Motivational talks replace preaching. Handshakes and card signings replace alter calls. Danish rolls replace Holy Ghost conviction. Slick homogeneous music replaces organic music sung from the heart with some local flair. Churches in all the denominations are creating a homogeneous seeker-friendly experience modeled from a few mega-churches. God did not call us to change the music tastes of the world. Churches should have their own local flair. The word “virture” in Philippians 4:8 is the Greek word areste. It carries the concept of fulfilling a function instead of being a particular flavor. It is specifically not tied to style nor is it tied to precision of execution. It is tied to function. Yet, there is a drive for churches to be a cookie cutter of some mega-church. There should be enough variety that everyone should find a church that fits their tastes.
1Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
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Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
How should a ministry or church model its activity? Follow the example of Jesus Christ! It is impossible to claim a biblical ministry that does not follow the example left by Jesus. Jesus and His disciples displayed how we should interact in civil society. The Bible contains numerous examples of Christ and the disciples interacting with the civil authorities. Every example was either them ministering to the individual authority figure or responding to a charge for ministering the Gospel. I have found NOT ONE example of a political movement or some political action committee. I am attempting to post a comprehensive list to demonstrate this point. It is a distraction of the devil to engage the church or a ministry in achieving a political agenda. I strongly encourage everyone to look at the examples below and seek any that I missed. Let God be true and every man a liar.
Comprehensive List (duplicate accounts intentionally omitted).
Ruler’s raised daughter. Matt 9:18-26. Ministering.
Ruler of the synagogue raised daughter. Mark 5:35-43. Ministering.
Jarius Daughter. Luke 8:40-56. Ministering.
Ruler with a question. Luke 18:18. Ministering.
Ruler of the feast. John 2:9. Ministering.
Nicodemus. John 3:1. Ministering.
Crispus saved. Acts 18:18. Ministering.
Charges brought before Gallio. Acts 18:12-17. Answering charge.
Paul before the high priest. Acts 23:5. Answering charge.
Healing Servant of Centurion at Capernaum. Matt 8:5-13. Ministering.
The testimony of the centurion at the Cross. Matt 27:54. Charge and Ministering.
The testimony of the centurion at the Cross. Mark 15:39. Charge and Ministering.
The body of Jesus. Mark 15:44-45. Charge.
Sick servant of the centurion. Luke 7:2-6. Ministering.
The testimony of the centurion at the Cross. Luke 23:47. Charge and Ministering.
Cornelius. Acts 10:1-22. Ministering.
Paul before the Roman tribune. Acts 22:22-29. Charge.
Paul before the governor. Acts 23:35. Charge.
Paul before the Council. Acts 22:30. Charge.
Paul before Felix. Acts 24:1-21. Charge.
Paul before Festus. Acts 24:22-27. Charge.
Paul in prison under centurion. Acts 28:16. Charge.
Herod and the baby Jesus. Matt 2:1-15. Charge.
Herod and John the Baptist. Matt 14:1-6. Ministering.
Herod and John the Baptist. Mark 6:14-22. Ministering.
John the Baptist reproving Herod. Luke 3:19. Ministering (it is safe to interpret ‘all these things’ as personal evils because that would be consistent with everything else recorded of John as opposed to thinking this were civil wrongs inconsistent with all of John’s other recorded words).
Joanna giving to the Lord’s ministry. Luke 8:3. Ministering.
Herod wondering about Jesus. Luke 9:7-9. Charge.
Warning that Herod will kill Jesus. Luke 13:31. Charge.
Jesus before Herod and Pilate. Luke 23. Charge.
Herod persecuting the church and being struck down. Acts 12. Charge.
Leaders seeking to catch Jesus in His words. Matt 22:16. Charge.
Leaders seeking to catch Jesus in His words. Mark 3:6. Charge.
Leaders seeking to catch Jesus in His words. Mark 12:13. Charge.
I have left off purely religious leaders because preaching the truth and contending for the faith in spiritual matters is exactly what the church and ministries should be doing. So, Paul rebuking Peter is not included nor Jesus discussing the law with the religious leaders. The leaders trying to build a charge of blasphemy against Jesus is listed.
Old Testament examples do not apply in the New Testament because Israel was a theocratic democracy. In other words, it was both a state and a religion. That is NOT the case in the New Testament. In fact, Jesus specifically said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” John 18:36.
I don’t care what the apostate church says about gradually bringing in the kingdom with political action committees, voters, and donations. Jesus is coming back suddenly. That means no time to repent. No time to contemplate. No time to make that extra warning. If you have turned your back on God, turn back to him. If you have lost your fire, rekindle it. If you have taken your eyes off of Christ, look again to him. He is the God of second chances. His coming is closer now than when we first believed.
We say the Bible is inerrant. What does that mean?
The Bible says that Jesus was in the grave for three days. Does that mean he was in the grave exactly 72 hours? That cannot be the case. He died late on good Friday. The women at the tomb discovered the resurrection early Sunday morning. That is not 72 hours.
You can infer the value of pi from 1Kings 7:23 “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” We know that pi can be calculated by the circumference (30 cubits for the molten sea) divided by the diameter (10 cubits for the molten sea). That gives us a value of pi of 3. Yet pi is 3.14…
Both of these examples illustrate what we mean by inerrant. We mean the Bible is completely accurate as it was understood within the culture and language of the day.
The gospel writers were speaking within the context of Jewish syntax and culture. The culture and language called any part of a day a day when counting days. So, Jesus was in the grave late Friday night, all day Saturday, and part of Sunday morning. That is three days using the diction of the time.
Ancient writers usually used approximations for measurements with the exception of a few ancient mathematical texts. A calculated value of 3 for pi is completely reasonable when you understand the unit of measurement. A cubit was the length from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. That can range from 15 to 21 inches. That is a very rough approximation.
This is completely consistent with how we use language today. How old are you? I am 58 years old. Wait, I am 58 years and 6 months old. Wait I am 58 years, 6 months, and 5 days old.
Am I wrong when I say I am 58 years old? Of course not. Neither is the Bible wrong when it says Jesus was in the grave for three days or the bowl had a circumference of 30 cubits and a diameter of 10 cubits.
I went to work with a team that danced in honor of the King. My first partner was a fellow named Mr. Thrill, who was a very good dancer, so my job was extremely enjoyable to me.
One day Mr. Thrill did not show up for work, and I had to dance with a fellow named Mr. Drill. After several days of this, I complained to the supervisor, who said, “Oh, no, no. We fired Mr. Drill. He should not even be here. But Mr. Thrill only works part time. When he isn’t here, you’ll have another partner.”
I went back to work, and was assigned a partner named Mr. Will who, in my opinion, wasn’t much better than Mr. Drill. When I grumbled, Mr. Will said to me, “Think about it. You like the wages, and Mr. Thrill is not dependable. You never know when he’s going to show up. So either dance or quit.”
It was true. I did like the wages. Day after day, as I danced with Mr. Will, I discovered that he was such a good dancer, I could quit focusing on my work so much and spend more time watching the King and enjoying dancing for Him.
I seldom come into work and find Mr. Thrill waiting for me, but sometimes I think that if Mr. Will shaved his mustache and took off his glasses, he would look a lot like Mr. Thrill. Sometimes I wonder.
— Jane Freuler
The opening 7/4 meter says it all — boom-DA boom-DA boom-DA-DA. A 7/4 meter is a very confused meter — stuck between duple and triple time. The beautiful girls behind him with no emotion and a total lack of interest. At a great distance they seem to play instruments that are a lie in their hand when you look closer. This a perfect artistic statement about a state of being appearing one way but actually totally different. Palmer himself says the song describes the hell of addictive personalty — the dichotomy of addiction. It is the rebellion that leads to servitude. The joy that leads to destruction. It is the march to freedom that leads to a waltz with the devil — bum-DA bum-DA bum-DA-DA.
There are always discussions of the ‘spirituality’ of abstract musical devices or style in Christians circles. Some say a sound or rhythmic beat has the anointing of God or smells of hell. I disagree. Abstract music is amoral. No instrument, chord, cadence, pulse, or device is good or evil. It is the message conveyed that is good or evil.
However, we must understand that we communicate with music on many levels. There is the verbal level of sung lyrics. There is the pulse of the beat and, more importantly, the variation in the pulse. Increasing the tempo gives one emotional cue and slowing it down gives another cue. A raspy jazz singer conjures different mental images than an operatic soprano. Cadential elision can give the listener the feeling longing.
The most significant way abstract music communicates, however, is with the context that we place on the sound from our own story line. Here is an example from my own life.
In late 1999 Heather, my oldest daughter, developed a significant deep-vein thrombosis. The clot was half the length of her leg. Although she recovered, it was very serious. I looked down at my little girl in the hospital room and I was terrified beyond words. Suddenly, I started hearing this melodic riff in my head that was almost loud enough to hurt. I knew it was from the Romantic period but I could not remember its original source. All I could remember at the time is that it the melody you often hear when the villain is tying the girl to the train tracks. It was only later that I remembered it was Erlkonig by Goethe and set to music Schubert that I heard once during undergrad school. My subconscious had conjured up that melody to express the horror I was feeling looking down at my daughter who I expected to die.
Read this translation of the Goethe’ words and listen to the musical link below it.
Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He has the boy well in his arm
He holds him safely, he keeps him warm.
“My son, why do you hide your face so anxiously?”
“Father, do you not see the Elfking?
The Elfking with crown and tail?”
“My son, it’s a wisp of fog.”
“You dear child, come, go with me!
Very lovely games I’ll play with you;
Some colourful flowers are on the beach,
My mother has some golden robes.”
“My father, my father, and don’t you hear
What the Elfking quietly promises me?”
“Be calm, stay calm, my child;
The wind is rustling through withered leaves.”
“Do you want to come with me, pretty boy?
My daughters shall wait on you finely;
My daughters will lead the nightly dance,
And rock and dance and sing you to sleep.”
“My father, my father, and don’t you see there
The Elfking’s daughters in the gloomy place?”
“My son, my son, I see it clearly:
There shimmer the old willows so grey.”
“I love you, your beautiful form entices me;
And if you’re not willing, then I will use force.”
“My father, my father, he’s grabbing me now!
The Elfking has done me harm!”
It horrifies the father; he swiftly rides on,
He holds the moaning child in his arms,
Reaches the farm with trouble and hardship;
In his arms, the child was dead.
All of this was being churned non-verbally in me. Weeks later I pondered the strange experience and mediated on how it was vaguely similar to the groaning we send up to the Lord in our times of need. It starts with a painful groan and often morph into priase. So, as a musical experiment, I took the painful melodic motif and weaved it into my musical prayer below for piano and trumpet.
I am going to avoid discussing what I believe theologically for a moment. If you wonder what I believe theologically, you can go to http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Statement_of_Fundamental_Truths/sft_short.cfm. Additionally, I believe homosexuality is a sin. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe it is a life choice. I have thought about it, and I would go to jail before I performed a same-sex ‘marriage’ in the name of God. I think whatever they have needs to be defined in purely civic terms. In all fairness, I think adults in a free society should be able to define their relationships to their own specifications. Just don’t expect me to call it a marriage and certainly don’t expect me to try to stamp the name of God on it. However, I don’t make a big deal out of what I believe about gay relationships. My commission was not, “go into all the world and make heterosexuals out of all.” My commission is to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe only the absence of Jesus sends people to hell. So, the main thrust of my preaching is Christ.
However, I want to discuss a related civic matter in general terms using elements common to Christians, Jews, atheists, Muslims, and others. Let’s contemplate free speech. It is the cornerstone freedom. Societies are only as free as they are free from the thought-police.
It seems some folks want to label, or libel, social conservative evangelical Christians for committing some type of hate crime when we say homosexuality is a sin or, as almost all societies throughout recorded history, that marriage is an institution between a man and woman ordained by God.
Morality is Defined within each Group
How each group defines sexual morality, at least between consenting adults, is completely a matter of freedom of thought. It is an exercise of our rights to say homosexuality is a sin. It is an exercise of the same right when GLADD says it is not a sin. I shouldn’t be allowed to prevent them from saying it isn’t a sin. They shouldn’t be allowed to prevent me from saying it is a sin. Allowing one group to define morality for the other group makes as much sense as giving editorial control of the democratic national convention to the replications. Our moral compass is intricately entwined with our personal inner self.
A Free-hand to the thought-police will get us all, eventually
The group that I am most amazed at trying to use thought policing tactics is secular homosexuals. Their party line is that homosexuality is genetic and not a matter of choice. As secularist, they also believe in evolution via natural selection. The main dynamic, according to evolution doctrine, of species morphing is the ability of members holding one trait to replicate more than the other group. Homosexuality, if you are indeed born that way, with natural selection guarantees a dwindling minority. Thought-police are the sword that best fit in the hand of the majority. The secular homosexual’s own axioms should trigger a very healthy fear of the thought-police.
I am also amazed at my own group when we try to silence our opponents with the same tactics. We are in the minority too. Especially my flavor of Christianity. I am a Pentecostal. That means I speak in tongues, I believe in divine healing, and I believe the Spirit leads me. I am in a very small minority. I certainly do not want the thought-police pressuring me. I have a vested interest in the right of GLADD to make public statements although I strongly disagree with what they are saying. GLADD has a vested interest in my right to preach homosexuality is a sin although they disagree with it. The rabbi down the street has a vested interest in my right to preach that Jesus was the virgin born Messiah and I have a vested interest in his right to preach he is not.
Everyone wins with freedom of speech and everybody loses when it is restricted.
I guess I need to add the obvious: violence, denying fair housing, equal employment, equitable health care (including hospital visitation and insurance) is NOT speech. We have every right to preach that homosexuality is a sin. We do not have the right to discriminate. We also do not have any right to target an individual and bully them.
I cringe every time hear someone use the phrase, “strive for excellence”, when discussing the theatrical components of church services. I don’t know what folks mean when they say it. I don’t even know what I personally understand when I hear it. Excellence can mean so many different things.
One use of ‘excellence’ highlights mechanical sophistication. This use judges a poorly read Shakespearean sonnet to third graders more excellent than a perfectly read rendition of an old “Sally, Dick, and Jane” primer. I doubt the third graders would agree. But, it has some validity. A piece of art can stand on its own without any consideration of a particular audience’s capacity to understand it. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring triggered a riot at its first performance. However, it was, and still is, a great piece of art. Bach’s wife sold some of his manuscripts as scrape paper because she, nor his contemporaries, valued his genius. Their ignorance did not flaw a single fugue. Great art isn’t made great art by popular acclamation.
However, we see a tension between sophistication and target audience in the Bible. For example, the new testament was written in Koine Greek which was the written style of the common masses instead of one of the more academic styles, such as Ionic, used by Homer and Herodotus. Paul even plainly stated that he, “came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
So, although structural sophistication is a form of excellence, we cannot use it as a goal for church theatrics. I am not saying that all theatrics in church should be simple to the point of stupidity. There is a place in the harvest field for men like C. S. Lewis, Victor Hugo, G. K. Chesterton, J. S. Back, Soren Kierkegard, George Herbert, and Frederic Hart. Some need the intellectual stimulation of thoughtful seed but the masses only miss the pearl of great price if it is wrapped in a pretentious package. Go ye unto ALL the world. That is why it is fine that most sermons are on an eighth grade level and wall music is below most pop music standards. Most services should target the lowest common denominator.
So what do we mean by excellence? Many confuse accuracy and excellence. They mean they are striving to sing on pitch, quote scripture correctly, and use proper grammar. That is a good goal and we could build a biblical argument for it. “And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 15:21). However, many good commentaries discuss the relative quality of the greek grammar of books in the new testament. The amanuenses, the scribes taking dictation from the apostles, had varying grammatical skill. Some of the books even contain obvious grammatical errors. Thus, accuracy, while a good goal, is not the mark we need to hit.
Can we say a perfect reading of “Sally, Dick, and Jane” is more excellent than a sonnet reading that has a stumble? Which would you rather hear after elementary school graduation? Substance matters. Being engaged by the material matters.
Have you ever heard a music box? It sounds mechanical because it is 100% accurate. It has no soul. In fact, the only pop music I like is slightly flawed. I like Willy Nelson because he is out-of-step and I like Bob Dylan because he is slightly off-key. I hate the bland perfection of American idol contestants because it is mere mindless perfection. I love Van Gogh because his paintings are not a Polaroid. It is said that, “Art imitates life” but it shouldn’t be a brainless carbon copy.
I like the ancient Greek concept of Arete. Excellence is intimately bound to purpose and function. Using that standard to judge excellence in the house of God, we look at the true goal of the activity. A sermon is excellent if the target audience is engaged and understand. Who cares if the Illuminati thought it was brilliant? Music is excellent if the entire congregation is engaged and participating in worship. Who cares if they are entertained with a ‘professional’ performance? The entire assembly should sing to themselves in spiritual songs. That is not an audience. The apostle Paul spoke of building the church with wood, hay, stubble, and gold. Entertainment is stubble. Facilitating a heart of worship in the house of God is eternal gold.