Today’s Church faces a massive problem because the entertainment age has brought with it the cult of personality. One has only to listen to the radio or watch TV to be confronted with the interest in celebrities, this sadly has infected the church. I want to look briefly at some of the problems this poses for church life in the three specific areas of Worship,Preaching and Ministry.
Worship: Our times of worship can be times when we experience the presence of God as we sing his praises. Indeed very often the time of worship sets the tone for the whole service. The church has been blessed with many good singers and songwriters but even here there can be a tendency to only sing the latest songs at the expense of some of the older songs and hymns. But this is not the greatest problem, the big issue is whether the worship team performs a number or leads us in worship. Sometimes one hears British worship leaders sing songs with an American accent simply because the original was sung by an American worship leader and the song is imitated right down to the accent. When performing the song becomes paramount the time of worship turns into a concert. This need not be the case and indeed in my home church this past Sunday (April 22) we were led in worship very sensitively. This enriched the whole service and prepared us for the proclamation of the Word of God. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading us in worship then we will not slavishly follow even the best of worship leaders, instead we will be open to God to use the gifts that he has given to us a Church in the unique way he intends.
Preaching: If we are to have a healthy vibrant Church we will need the Word of God to be proclaimed in such a way that the believer is built up in his or her faith. It will also mean that we see the preaching of the Word is vital to evangelism.
The Preaching of the Word is also an area where the cult of celebrity can affect us. We go to the latest conference and hear someone preach and wish that our pastor would preach like him. In the earl seventies and eighties it mas often said that their were a lot of Martynettes in British pulpits, these were pastors who tried to imitate Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Other people tried to imitate John Stott or John Wimber. Again the pastor’s calling is to proclaim the Word of God in the way that God has gifted him. My preaching style is very different from my pastor’s, that is because we are very different people, neither of us has a better style than the other rather we try to use our unique gifting to build up the body of Christ.
Preaching will be a vital element of the the churches life wherever it exists but me must avoid the cult of personality because our calling is to bring the word of God to the people of God, in other words good preaching is God centered. Each preacher needs to know the calling they have from God and the unique way they are equipped for ministry. We will also be aware of the needs of our local congregation and the way God is leading us on. If we do this we can rest secure that even when we are compared to others, we are being faithful to our calling.
There is also a need to assert the importance of preaching and teaching in the local church, our culture wants everything to be given in an entertaining way but we must not become slaves of this mentality. How can we preach on the majesty of God in an entertaining way? the answer is obvious, we can not do it and we must not try to entertain that is not our job. Our task is to help the people of God to know him better and to inspire them by his grace.
Ministry: In many Churches there is a ministry time after the sermon, this is a vital part of our church life. But even here we find pressures to conform to the latest models of ministry. When John Wimber first came to Britain, it was said that a lot of churches had been Wimberised, this was a sad but true statement. Churches slavishly copied his ministry style without asking the question is this the model our Church needs? We need to see that as each local church is unique then ministry styles can be unique to a local church. It is true that their certain biblical principles that all churches should maintain but one church should not be a clone of another. In the area of ministry some get taken up with the sensational and want to see everything done in a way that draws attention to the ministry time. Surely the important thing about a ministry time is seeing that the people are blessed and receive God’s healing touch upon their lives. Our entertainment culture leads us to seek the sensational but we must resist this for the good of the local Church.
Conclusion: We are called to remain faithful to God in the midst of a culture which seeks to entertain us rather than to see God’s purposes fulfilled. We need to resist all the pressures that this culture imposes on us. I am convinced that if we are faithful to God and seek the leading of his Holy Spirit so that Jesus Christ is glorified, then our times of worship will not be boring but full of life.