An Insider’s Look at the Coronamadness

Depending on who you talk to, my family and I have exposed ourselves as “socially irresponsible.”  We have contracted COVID-19, the dreaded coronavirus.  I’ll admit it: we weren’t wearing our masks in the car.  We shared air with people – people not in our immediate family.  We accepted handshakes from people, even when no recent use of hand-sanitizer was in evidence.   As a result, we have been banished from society for a period not to exceed six months, given that we follow all protocols to allow for successful reentry into society.  People in our circle of contacts must now face hard realities and reexamine their interactions with our family. They must determine whether they should invite space-suited medical professionals under white canopies to jam a q-tip up their nose and swab vigorously for 15 seconds. 

While our family does penance for this egregious lapse of sound judgment and social consciousness, some assure us that the stigma of having contracted the coronavirus will not be too severe.  Besides the fact that some refuse to attend our church right now, lest we infect them in our absence, they say that the primary fault for this breach falls to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the fact that we live in a red state that “opened too early.”  The shut-down was both prudent and necessary to crushing the curve and stopping the coronavirus, and if we had only stayed the course, we could right now be eating our furniture and scavenging our yards for mealworms like the people in New York.  Employment?  Who needs that?  It would be better to starve to death than to contract COVID-19.

Let this be a lesson to all of you, lest you too contract this vile virus: social distance.  Wear a mask.  Stay home from church.  Work from home.  Unless you work on a road crew.  Or a fast-food restaurant.  Then, make sure you wear gloves when you take my money and pass my food and take the next guy’s money and pass his food. 

And so, from the basement of my shelter-in-place safe-space, let me offer a few observations, only slightly less facetious than this introduction. 

First, it is human nature to look for a scapegoat.  My family and I traveled out of state the week before the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus.  We flew to Baltimore, then two of my kids flew on to Indianapolis while three of us drove up to Pennsylvania.  Our friends in Pennsylvania have solemnly assured us that our secret is safe with them.  They promise not to tell anyone in PA that we have this disease.  They don’t want people who don’t have the virus to know that we do, because those people might blame us when they get it.  Never fear: if someone gets the coronavirus before you get it, they gave it to you. 

Of course, we figure that we picked up the coronavirus either in the airport or on the airplane or in one of the nearly 100 different yard sales we visited in Pennsylvania (yard-selling being PA’s official team sport).  But you can be assured that if anyone we know gets this disease between now and Christmas, it came from us.  That goes for all the states we visited, including but not limited to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, and Wyoming.  And maybe Nevada.  It would be dangerous and irresponsible for people to visit our church at this time since we infected our entire church, and it is now only a matter of time before we all catch it.  We trust that those who have been joining our services via live stream are taking appropriate precautions.  Be sure you take your phone out of the case before applying the hand sanitizer. 

Second, it is great entertainment to see people skid into a complete 180 on the significance of COVID-19 once they know someone who has it.  During the months when our church limited attendance to 10 people, we were treated to a regular barrage of rants against the shut-down.  When we asked everyone to wear masks, people greeted me at the door with mask factoids: the CDC says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; the WHO says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; Dr. Fauci says masks are essentially non-essential.  This virus is silly, a scamdemic, ridiculous, pointless, absurd, just a little virus, you can’t stop it.  Then, Pastor Mallinak contracted the virus, and lo-and-behold, we need to shut down immediately, we shouldn’t be bringing anyone to church, we shouldn’t be having church, we should all be wearing masks, we shouldn’t even look each other in the eye.   Okay, I made that last one up. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Nobody should change their view of COVID-19 because Pastor Mallinak contracted it.  We shouldn’t be saying, “Wow, this must be serious if he caught it.”  I mean, yeah, I do have the special pastor force-shield that would, under normal circumstances, prevent my contracting the garden-variety diseases that afflict the common man.  Unfortunately, I left it home with my mask when I hopped on that airplane. 

Seriously folks, if you thought the disease was nothing before you knew someone who had it, don’t let little-ole-me change your mind.  As in most cases of the coronavirus since the beginning of your life in those ultra-dangerous days when your mother dropped you off at the church nursery, unnecessarily exposing your feebly beating heart to a whole myriad of life-threatening respiratory diseases, COVID-19 is no fun.  It has a high misery-factor.  You won’t be lying in bed, thinking about how fun it is to be sick as you scroll through Facebook.  It acts a lot like the A-strain flu.  Which many, many people have had and passed around to others with whom they don’t share an address. 

Third, we are so glad that our nation decided to “crush the curve” on this one.  That way, we could catch the virus in the summer when things are back to “normal” instead of in the spring when things are shut down already.  Because you know of course that the goal all along has been to “stop” the coronavirus in its tracks.  The best way to fight a virus, as we all know, is to shut down the world around it so that it will only pass to one person at a time.  The virus will magically run out of people to infect if we all live in isolation from each other, as you well know.  Follow the data.  If we just stay home until they develop a vaccine in a year and a half, we can avoid infecting people.  And there won’t be any new virus in a year and a half.  Besides, the government prints the money. Unemployment pays. 

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/504903-hhs-secretary-the-window-is-closing-to-stop-coronavirus-spread

I recognize that the coronavirus affects different people in different ways, and some are especially vulnerable to this disease, especially while attending church.  I certainly wouldn’t want someone to be careless about the lives of those around them.  Please don’t stop by my house and ask me to cough on you.  Please do your part to avoid this disease.  I don’t want to see it spread through my church or anyone else’s church.  And apparently, churches are far more contagious than protest riots or work environments. 

At the same time, I hope I can encourage my friends and loved ones to keep things in perspective.  More than once, I have had someone tell me that I am the first person they knew who contracted this virus.  Please don’t let the fact that my family has it change your mind about this disease.  It isn’t the end of the world, nor does it change a few basic facts about viruses – mainly that they will work themselves around at will, and we really can’t stop a virus.  None of us are likely to die from it.  If you happen to catch it, you will miss some work, you will be uncomfortable for a few days (maybe longer), and you won’t want anyone else to get it.  Do your Christian duty – love your neighbor enough to be careful around them.  Stay home if you are in one of those “high risk” categories.  Look for people you can help, encourage, or share the good news of Christ with.  Keep your spirits high.  Stay in the Word.  Be full of joy and gratitude.  Trust the Lord.  All will be well.  God hasn’t lost control of anything. 

Blessings!

Upheld

Two years ago, while our church celebrated our 60th anniversary, a pastor friend commented to me that throughout his ministry, there had only been a couple of years when he didn’t feel like it could all end tomorrow.

Sixty-two years ago, in a small living room on the corner of 29th and Adams, Berean Baptist Church of Ogden was born. From those humble beginnings, God has seen fit to uphold us until this day. Due to the current worldwide situation, we were extremely limited in what we could do to celebrate our anniversary yesterday. But I thought a few comments would be appropriate.

As part of our 60th-anniversary celebration, we recruited a young man to help us create a documentary about our church’s history. Pastor Nate Warren grew up in our church and now pastors a small church in Elwood, Indiana. Among other things, he is very talented in videography. He did an outstanding job helping us to record our story for our posterity.

When we set out to make this documentary, we definitely had our children in mind. We wanted to preserve this history for them so that they would know our story. We tried to get this done while some of our oldest members were still with us. We are so glad we did it when we did. A few short months after completing the documentary, one of the key figures in our church went home to be with the Lord. We are so grateful that we were able to record her testimony before she left us.

But once the documentary was completed, we thought we had something that could bless and encourage every Pastor. Let me explain.

The story of Berean Baptist Church is pretty amazing, all things considered. We aren’t a large church. We aren’t a famous church. We are an average-sized church in an average-sized city in America. Yet, God has seen fit to carry us through some unusually hard Providences through the years. In our first twelve years, we went through six different pastors. The longest any pastor stayed between the year of our founding in 1958 and 1970 was three years. One pastor stayed for three months.

In the late 1980s, we survived a devastating church split that followed, not surprisingly, on the tail of a building project. But again, God saw fit to Providentially preserve our church.

No doubt, the hardest Providence in our history came with 9-11. Two days after terrorists turned airliners into missiles to bring down the World Trade Center, our Pastor, who was visiting Fiji at the time, was swept out to sea and drowned. The story of how God worked through that time still amazes us.

We named our little documentary, “Upheld.” We believe that word captures the gracious way God’s sovereign hand has worked to sustain and preserve our church over these years. “Upheld” comes from one of our church’s favorite hymns: “How Firm a Foundation.”

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

Once we made the documentary, we felt very strongly that it could encourage other pastors. After all, ministry is warfare.  Trials and troubles are not unique to us.  God sustained our church in unique ways, but we are not uncommon in that regard.

We thought that you might enjoy seeing what God has done in our church, that it might encourage you in yours.  Churches have struggles and experience many setbacks.  It can be useful to hear how God has sustained others so that we can look forward to what God will do for us.

You probably won’t know many of the people in our story. And since we don’t have a famous church, you might not be all that interested in our history. But we think that if you take the hour or so to watch this documentary, our story might encourage you that God can uphold you too.

A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God’s notice. A small church might be comparable to a sparrow – unknown, humble, obscure, in some ways the off-scouring of all things. Yet God is big enough to care about the small stuff, to hold the sparrows in His righteous, omnipotent hand.

I hope you will consider viewing this history. We don’t publish it so we can be famous. We like it just fine outside the spotlight. But we want to encourage you with what God can do. Our history is, ultimately, the history of every church. We all face trials and triumphs, crushing disappointments and uplifting victories. Our history is not the story of extraordinary people. It is the story of ordinary Christians with an extraordinary God.

In many ways, we have gone along for the ride. God has carried us through some stormy seas. He has sustained us and upheld us, and we want this documentary to be our expression of gratitude for all he has done. What God has done for us, we are very confident He will do for you too.

Pray Without Ceasing

In I Thessalonians 5:16-22, the sometimes wordy Apostle Paul strings together a list of very clipped, concise instructions for the people of God: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks… and so forth. I don’t intend to deal with the passage here, but just to urge Christians to be praying during this time. I hope I can encourage faithful prayer for two particular things.
First, pray for our elected leaders, especially the Governor of your state. Pray for your county officials as well – your county commissioners, your county sheriff, your local health department, and so forth.  These men and women are especially burdened right now with decisions that go beyond the norm.  I cannot imagine the pressure they feel and the responsibility they carry. No doubt some of our nation’s Governors have handled this coronavirus pandemic better than others. I appreciate the way Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert has dealt with this so far, especially as he has avoided some of the heavy-handed tactics other Governors have used. No doubt any one of our nation’s Governors can be criticized for one thing or another. But I wouldn’t trade places with any of them. I am glad that I am not in their shoes. I cannot imagine the weight of responsibility they must feel at this time.
In our dealings with elected leaders, I hope we will all remember that they are in many ways a lot like us. They second guess themselves, they have doubts and fears and misgivings, and, apart from a few exceptions, they want to do what is good and right and best for the people. Most of what we know of politicians come from 10-second clips on the news. Personally, I wouldn’t want my life to be judged by a 10-second sound-bite.  I have had the privilege of getting to know quite a few politicians and elected leaders in our area.  I can’t speak for every politician in the country, but it seems to me that our local politicians get into this business so they can better our community.  They would be the first to tell you that they don’t always get it right.  They get frustrated like the rest of us.  They wish they had a crystal ball to foresee the future so they could make the perfect decision.  They feel our outrage and our disappointment with them very deeply and personally.
I am not asking you to stop holding them accountable.  We should be watching what our elected leaders do.  I am not asking you to give them a pass when they make the wrong decision.  I am not asking you to leave them alone or to avoid any sort of confrontation.  Most of them value the feedback they get from citizens, even if they disagree with it or decide to go a different direction.
people holding mask over a sculpture

I am asking you to pray for our elected leaders.  Pray that principle will determine their decisions and that their policies will align faithfully with God’s Word and our Constitutional principles.  Pray that they will guide their affairs with discretion.  Pray that they will make wise decisions that will allow us to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness.  Pray that God will uphold them and sustain them at this time.

In all this turmoil, it would be worth its weight in gold for your elected leaders to hear a word of encouragement from you.  They could retire early if all the criticisms they receive were turned to coin.  A word of encouragement goes a long way for them.

Ricky Hatch is our Weber County Clerk/Auditor, and one of the top Clerk/Auditors in the nation – no exaggeration.  He is a rock-solid conservative, devoted to the Constitution, and a great friend.  Ricky put together this little spin on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood (click the link to watch it) to give some guidance to those who work with Legislators.  He offers some great advice.  You can accomplish much by shaking your fist and glowering, no doubt.  You will at least gain a reputation.  But if you can respect your elected officials and try to work with them, you will find them much easier to deal with.

Second, pray for your pastor.  I have had countless conversations with pastors over the past few weeks.  In every one of those conversations, I hear a common thread.  A pastor’s first concern is for the spiritual health and well-being of his people; a close second is for the spiritual needs of his community.  Right now, a pastor’s ability to serve his people and his area has been limited.  He feels like a hobbled racehorse running the derby.  He navigates uncharted waters right now — the turbulence doesn’t make navigation any simpler.
Every pastor I know is deeply concerned about making the right decision in this situation.  Pastors are very aware of the impression they are giving in whatever decision they make.  Some will say that they are cowing or caving in.  Some will say that they don’t care about the people of their community.  Some will charge them with recklessness.  Some will accuse them of cowardice.  They want to glorify God and please Him.  They desperately want to shepherd their people through these trying times.
Please, pray for your pastor.  Every pastor in America has been faced with a gut-wrenching decision over the past few weeks.  In a time of crisis, a faithful shepherd wants to gather his sheep around him so he can support and protect them.  Yet, our current situation has made that very difficult. 
Yesterday, I was told of a pastor who, to protect his flock from COVID-19, announced that they would be moving to online services.  No sooner had he finished making the announcement than a family in the church met him at the front to say that they were resigning their membership immediately because of his decision. 
Believer, I hope you will uphold your pastor in prayer.  You might not like his decision, but do your best to support him in it.  Understand what he is faced with right now.  The people of God never need spiritual guidance more than in times like these.  But because of the nature of this pandemic, Pastors find themselves hindered, prevented from giving the personal care and spiritual guidance Christians need.  I hope you will take some time to think through what this must be like for your pastor.
We should all be praying fervently during this time.  There is a great reunion day coming when those churches who have had to limit their services will be able to gather again in full strength.  I imagine that day will be a little like that “Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’.”  What a day that will be!  We should all pray for it fervently. 
Until then, every Christian should pray that God will accomplish His purpose in all of this, that we will surrender to Him and seek Him, that this disease will not claim too many lives, that unbelievers will come to repentance and that our nation will seek the Lord.  We should all be upholding each other in prayer.  Remember the sick and elderly in your church family, especially.  And again, please pray that our reunion day will not be long delayed.
We can rejoice at this time because God’s will is being done.  We are in God’s hands!  Praise the Lord!

Dear Christian Friend

I’m not trying to add to all the angst I see on the Internet. I get it that everyone is frustrated. We really aren’t used to these sorts of disruptions to our lives, and judging by all the whining and complaining and outrage I have witnessed, we really aren’t in shape for it. So, you might see this as some form of virtue-signaling or pious something-or-other, but I want to risk alienating a few friends so I can use my gift of slaps for those who need one right now.
 
First, I have seen the first amendment posted on Facebook a lot lately. I am happy that you love the first amendment. I love it too. But if you think all the travel bans and stay in location orders and gathering restrictions violate the first amendment, let me remind you that we have a court system for that very reason, to protect our constitutional rights.
 
But before you rush out to hire an attorney and fight this in court, let me save you a little money. States rushed to declare a “state of emergency” before this pandemic really even got going because, by law, emergency powers give the states the ability to put all kinds of restrictions in place – unconstitutional limits included. Most states have laws in place that provide them with this power. I don’t like it, and you shouldn’t like it. But that is the reality of this situation. Before you hire a lawyer and take it to court, understand that our courts would most likely uphold the emergency powers that our states have claimed. In other words, these laws probably will withstand a constitutional challenge.
 
If you don’t like the power that a “state of emergency” gives your Governor or local authorities, I would recommend that you do something to change the law. Over the years, I have heard many excuses Christians make for not being involved in politics. You are too busy, politics isn’t a place for Christians, and so on. I understand if you don’t like to be involved. But, this sort of thing is the result of Christians withdrawing from the public arena and then demonstrating their ignorance of these things when they happen.
 
My suggestion? Sometime after this is over, you might consider contacting your legislator (I hope you at least know his or her name) and let them know what you would like to see done in the future. I believe there ought to be more restraint. You might be interested to know that some states have moved to protect second amendment rights in a time of emergency. Why not try to ensure that first amendment rights receive equal protection? Consider writing some letters or helping craft some legislation that addresses your frustrations. As Americans, we really do have a great system, but it only works if we get involved.
 
Now, let me turn to something a little more spiritual, for the sake of those who think me too pious. I get it that everyone is frustrated, irritated, perhaps even outraged. Some are worried, some afraid. But I would love to see a more Scriptural response to this. Much of the angst and outrage I have seen on Facebook has come from my Christian friends. But Christians, God did not leave us without instruction when times like these come along. Let me remind you, God calls for two things from his people: consider yourself and turn to the Lord.
 
Yes, in times of calamity, the first thing God wants from His people is repentance. I shouldn’t need to give Scripture references for this one, because the Bible reminds us of this repeatedly.   
…if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Consider yourself, Christian.  Have you grown cold towards the Lord or the things of God?  Have you grown worldly in your outlook?  Are your loyalties divided?  What has your attitude been in this calamity? Have you been thankful? Joyful? Full of peace and hope and encouragement? Consider your ways.
Then, turn to the Lord.  There are about five ways that I would urge you to do this – no doubt there could be more – but these make a good starting point.
Turn to the Lord in worship.  Turn your heart, your focus, your adoration back to God.  Humble yourself before Him.  Be amazed by Him.  Could I point something out to you?  Not more than two months ago, our President stood before a joint session of Congress in the presence of the American people and proclaimed that our economy was the greatest in history. How’s that looking now?  What happened?  Regardless of who you might blame for our troubles, hasn’t God shown Himself to be mighty?
We have no assurance that our economy will recover from this.  We certainly hope it will, but we cannot be sure.  In a matter of a couple of weeks, God brought it all to a screeching halt. Isn’t God awesome?  I do not use that word frivolously either. “Awesome” is the best word to describe the magnificence of Almighty God.
Turn to the Lord in thanksgiving.  The Bible teaches us,
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
I haven’t seen much in the way of thanksgiving on Facebook.  I have seen much in the form of whining, complaining, and outrage.  But Christian, let me ask you: what are you thankful for in this inconvenience?  What are you grateful for amid this coronavirus?  It would be a sad thing if, in any situation, we could find nothing to thank God for.  It is His will that you give thanks in everything, and this coronapanic is part of that everything.
Turn to the Lord in rejoicing.  The joy of the Lord is your strength, believer.  Can you rejoice in hard times?  I struggle to hear you praise God in good times if you can’t praise Him in the bad.  Rejoice evermore.  Rejoice in the Lord alway!
Turn to the Lord in giving.  Let your joy in your affliction overflow into generosity.  Be sure to maintain your support for local church missions, your local church, those who lose their jobs in this crisis, and those who struggle and suffer at this time. This is what the Apostle Paul referred to when he said,
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
Turn to the Lord in prayer.  Pray for your elected leaders during this time.  Times like these call for special prayer for our elected leaders.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; (I Timothy 2:1-3)
Pray for your pastor.  Pray for your fellow Christians, your fellow church members.  Pray for your unsaved friends.  Pray fervently.  Pray without ceasing.

The coronavirus has made it difficult for us to lead that quiet and peaceable life in all godliness.  For the first time in my life, our government has branded church services as non-essential, restricting the size of our meetings.  In many places, liquor stores and abortion clinics remain open, while churches cannot gather.  This is not a good thing. But this explains why we must pray at all times for our rulers and those who are in authority.  I won’t ask for a show of hands (or a thumbs up) of how many have been praying for our elected leaders.  I will only remind you that this is a Christian duty.

In times like these, we must return to those things that God has called us to do.  Judging by what I have seen and heard recently, on Facebook and other places, we are not in the right mind for sharing the good news with the lost.  Admittedly, Facebook might not be the best gauge of these things. Still, I would remind everyone that the things we post in this medium are the things that the world sees about us.  And they reveal what is going on in our hearts. I hope that everyone will let their joy abound in this time, and their light shine.  And may many who are lost and desperate for hope find grace and help in this time.

May you all be blessed in these trying hours.

 

The Contemporary Worship Papers, 1st Place

And here it is, the 1st place paper from our little presentation of essays from the students at Fairhaven Baptist College. Students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Our first three posts offered the “honorable mentionsand the top ten.  Over the last two days, we have offered the number three and number two entries.  Today, we give you first place.

Lydia Johnson

Contemporary worship proponents focus a great deal on lighting. They spend thousands of dollars on laser lights and hazing equipment. The lights are their emphasis. They do this to “create an atmosphere to encounter God.” This idea purely is pantheistic.

With so many churches turning to contemporary worship, Independent Fundamental Baptists may ask themselves, “What’s the big deal?” These churches are bringing in people by the hundreds, some even thousands on Sunday morning. Contemporary worship is flawed because it creates a false atmosphere, and it makes no demands on the sinner.

The first issue with contemporary worship is that it creates a false atmosphere. During a contemporary worship service, the house lights go down and all eyes are on the stage. This is not an atmosphere of worship, this is a concert atmosphere. Contemporary worship proponents focus a great deal on lighting. They spend thousands of dollars on laser lights and hazing equipment. The lights are their emphasis. They do this to “create an atmosphere to encounter God.” This idea purely is pantheistic. A brief study of Eastern religion presents the idea of “encountering” god through nature. God does not make us “encounter” Him, He seeks for His own and desires His children to seek Him. God promises in Jeremiah 29:13, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” This is not an aimless wandering, but a deliberate search. God promises to show Himself when His children seek for Him with their whole heart.

group of people inside disco house
Photo by Thibault Trillet on Pexels.com

Finally, contemporary worship is flawed because it makes no demands on the sinner. The philosophy of contemporary worship is “come as you are.” This mentality never allows for any growth. It cheapens God’s grace to say that God accepts everyone just the way they are. God accepts sinners in spite of what they are! He sent Jesus because He could not accept sin. The sinner does not come to God pleading his merits but pleading for mercy. The “come as you are” mentality would rather have believers remain worldly than to scare away any newcomers by their conformity to Christ. Romans 12:2 is a command, not an option. The contemporary worship movement would rather gain popularity than follow the direct order of their Master.

The Contemporary Worship Papers, 2nd Place

Here is the promised 2nd place paper, from my perspective.  As I have mentioned, these papers were written as part of a lecture series on “Earnestly Contending” that I have delivered at Fairhaven Baptist College.  Students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Our first three posts offered the “honorable mentionsand the top ten.  Yesterday, we revealed the third-place entry.  Today, we give you second place.

Jenna Wilson

They put up their stage lighting to “feel the presence of God” when it only takes away from the One that they are supposedly worshipping! It no longer is a service to worship the Lord, but a concert to please the flesh…

The church service used to be one of holiness, righteousness, and fully focused on God. Preachers hid behind God’s Word in the hope of reaching souls. Music was for the sole purpose of honoring the Lord. But contemporary worship has crept in unawares corrupting what once was holy and God-honoring. The people of God do not come to church to worship Him, but to please themselves.  Contemporary worship has taken over the Lord’s people’s view of music, dress, the platform set up, and even the lighting of the church. Is this God’s house or MY house?

The music in these so-called “churches” is less God-honoring and more flesh appealing. He is mentioned very little in these “praise and worship hymns”. The music style is so important; it doesn’t just convey a message, it is the message. Is Christ that message?

Style is not just important in music, but dress as well. In today’s contemporary worship services, the phrase “Come as you are” is used. Unfortunately, “come as you are” means “stay as you are.” No change actually happens. With this slogan, contemporary worshipers have developed a “shabbiness” to them. More self-pleasing than God-honoring.

Not only is the flesh pleased in music and in dress, but the platform adds to the flesh’s appetite. The pulpit is removed and is replaced with a trap set. No serious preaching from the Word of God seems to take place.

artists audience band blue
Photo by Jacob Morch on Pexels.com

Lastly, the lighting in these churches has turned from necessary to excessive. They put up their stage lighting to “feel the presence of God” when it only takes away from the One that they are supposedly worshipping! It no longer is a service to worship the Lord, but a concert to please the flesh, all in the name of serving the Lord.

Contemporary worshipers have lost the whole meaning to life–bringing praise and honor to the Lord. “for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). It is God’s house, not MY house!

The Contemporary Worship Papers, 3rd Place

The final three installments will feature what were, in my opinion, the best three of all the papers I received.  As I have been highlighting, these papers were written for a short course I had the opportunity to teach at Fairhaven Baptist College on “Earnestly Contending for the Faith.”  The students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Our first three posts offered the “honorable mentions” and the top ten.  Over the next three days, we will include the top three, beginning at third place.    

Lily Hall

…it might be time to take a step back from the strobe lights, the beating drums, and the cargo shorts. It might be time to consider that Christ didn’t die so we as Christians could go to a rock concert every Sunday.

photo of electric guitar and drum set
Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

The pride, lust, and overall lack of any moral value that is in our world today seeps through every pore of this generation. Its worship is no exception. Contemporary worship is becoming increasingly popular among today’s “Christian” and there are several reasons why it is an inexcusable way of honoring our Creator. Above any valid reasoning that we as Baptists contending for the faith have for these weak and shallow Christians, towers a question that even the most despicable of these must acknowledge. Is the way we are worshipping causing the lost world to look to a loving Lord? Is it glorifying to the One who saved us?  If the answer is not immediately yes to both of these questions, it might be time to take a step back from the strobe lights, the beating drums, and the cargo shorts. It might be time to consider that Christ didn’t die so we as Christians could go to a rock concert every Sunday. It might be time to contend, and contend more than ever before, for worship that is glorifying to who He is and what He has done.

The Contemporary Worship Papers, Part 3

Over this past year, I have had the privilege of teaching a short course called Earnestly Contending at Fairhaven Baptist College.  During a recent two-day course, we took some time to teach on the issue of contemporary worship.  The students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Our first post included three “honorable mentions.”  In our second post, we began at number ten and worked our way to number seven.  Today, we continue working our way through the top ten, beginning at number six. 

#6 – Kayla Sgrignoli

The belief that the worship “mood” can be controlled by a dimmer switch, rather than prayer and heart preparation, says a lot about the fleshly experience expected.

Satan is constantly attacking the idea of sacred worship in today’s age and has promoted the idea of contemporary worship to modern-day believers. God intended for worship to be our purpose on this earth. But contemporary worship has taken over in four areas – music, dress, platform arrangement, and stage lighting – and turned our focus from worshipping God to promoting self. And when we promote self, we open the door to losing the presence of God in our midst.

Contemporary Christian music appeals to the flesh rather than appealing to God’s glory.  It promotes a fleshly response and drains the proper focus of the service. Music style is important – it conveys the message of the song – is it really about Christ or pleasing the flesh?

Contemporary worship styles have developed a studied shabbiness in the way they dress also. Dress style can both cause and communicate an attitude. The downward trend is to “come as you are,” which is causing more of a careless attitude towards worshipping God. Once again, it appeals to fleshly desire and comfort rather than worshipping Almighty God.

The platform arrangement also conveys a strong message in today’s contemporary circles. Contemporary services eliminate the pulpit, which serves to hide the speaker and emphasize the message in more conservative settings. The trend of promoting the flesh rather than bringing the focus where it ought to be can be seen once again.

Finally, the stage settings and effects can be a distraction, and yet serve as what is deemed a “vital” part of today’s contemporary worship services. Such worship settings have turned into theater-styled experiences rather than meeting with God. The belief that the worship “mood” can be controlled by a dimmer switch, rather than prayer and heart preparation, says a lot about the fleshly experience expected.

In conclusion, modern “worship” services have somehow lost focus of God and have turned to promoting and appealing to the flesh. Instead of bringing the flesh into subjection and humility, worship has slowly become more about fleshly comfort and enjoyment. It’s time to bring the focus back into perspective!

#5 – Brooke Wilson

Contemporary Worship generally has the idea of “come as you are”. This kind of idea puts no demands on the sinner to get right and make changes in his life.

Contemporary worship is something that seems to be sweeping through the country and finding its way into every denomination. This kind of worship is not Biblical and causes some problems. Contemporary Worship generally has the idea of “come as you are.” This kind of idea puts no demands on the sinner to get right and make changes in his life. “Come as you are” basically means to “leave as you are.” Everything is very casual in this kind of worship setting. A lot of money is spent to dress down.

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Pastors pretend that style doesn’t matter, but to them, it matters almost more than anything. The congregation in a contemporary worship service wouldn’t hesitate to judge someone who came in dressed up. This casual setting shapes the view the people have of God. Style causes and communicates an attitude. We shouldn’t have an attitude that God is casual. It makes him seem less important. Contemporary worship is all around today and it’s an easy trap to fall into if your standards aren’t set. Be sure to set your standards and don’t let them slip.

#4 – Sabrina Damron

Since the moment God created Adam and Eve, a spiritual war has been raging for the souls of men. Man has no choice but to be a part of this war. The problem arises when Christians refuse to stand at the very point that is presently being attacked in their culture. In society today, that point of attack is contemporary worship.

Since the moment God created Adam and Eve, a spiritual war has been raging for the souls of men. Man has no choice but to be a part of this war. The problem arises when Christians refuse to stand at the very point that is presently being attacked in their culture. In society today, that point of attack is contemporary worship. A wall of defense is immediately shot up when addressing this issue. But does God really care about the way in which the Christian worships? Of course He does. The Christian’s purpose in life is to give God glory and please Him in every area of his life. Whatever he does is to be done to the glory of God, and this includes the way one worships God as well. The Christian is to offer his life continually to God; his body is to be a living sacrifice. The Christian’s worship style speaks volumes about the way he views the occasion and the way he views God. The style of the service shows whether he is giving his life as a living sacrifice to God. The typical contemporary church has four distinctives which express the people’s view of God. The music itself is contemporary, the dress is casual, the platform no longer includes a pulpit, and the church utilizes, to some degree, stage lighting for effect. Each of these aspects shows the view of God that the church wants to portray. It portrays a God of cheap mercy, one that lets the sinner come as he is and stay that way if he wants. Contemporary worship does not preach a God of justice, but rather an “all accepting” God. Christians cannot fight the scourge of secularism in its churches by conforming to secular ideas. It is here, in the area of Contemporary worship, that the battle is raging today. If the Christian does not fight at this very point of attack in culture today then he is not fighting against the devil as he should.

The Contemporary Worship Papers, Part 2

We continue our series of top papers from our Earnestly Contending Lecture Series at Fairhaven Baptist College.  During a recent two-day course, we assigned students to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. At the beginning of each post, I have highlighted a statement that I thought was excellent. 

In our first post, we included three honorable mentions. We continue today with four of the top ten papers, counting down from number 10. 

#10 – Illiomarc Gachette

Hence, we must avoid all contemporary worship because it is not pleasing in God’s sight. It is a misinterpretation of who God is and what He is all about.

In this day and age where people are careless about their music, we as Christians must be wise with our choice of music. If a song has a Christian title, it does not mean it is a song that pleases God. It appeals to the flesh and it is worldly and sensual (I John 2:15-16). It pulls the believer back to the world. Contemporary worship is trying to worship God with worldliness and selfish desires. Instead, godly worshiping is in spirit and in truth. It tends to make the believer stay stagnant instead of moving forward. It is unholy. It exalts the singer instead of the Savior. It confuses the unbelievers (I Corinthians 14:13). Also, it promotes charismatic and nondenominational doctrines. Most of the songs are repetitive (Matthew 7:7). Most of the songs do not have Jesus’ name. It sounds more like a love song instead of a hymn to honor a Holy and Righteous God (I Peter 1:15-17). It dishonors the Lord (Psalms 33:8). It does not follow the standards and fundamentals of holy music. The beat is louder than the melody. The message is unclear (Psalm 68:25). We must be careful about what we listen to. Most of CCM singers and composers do not believe what we believe in the Bible. They mix their doctrines in their songs. Their attire and lifestyle dishonor God.

The songs we listen to do a great deal with the focus and direction of our life. As children of God, we must obey His Word and honor Him with songs that we listen to and sing. God is a God of order. He loves holiness; hence, we must worship Him in holiness. Contemporary worship promotes unholy lifestyles.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:3)

Hence, we must avoid all contemporary worship because it is not pleasing in God’s sight. It is a misinterpretation of who God is and what He is all about.  Contemporary worship is rebellious toward a Holy and Just God. It is disgusting in His sight. Contemporary is unholy and unscriptural.

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:19)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)

We must worship God the way He wants, not the way we want.

#9 – Cooper Gressly

I grew up in a massive church that used the wrong type of contemporary music, and I can say that is the kind that is wrong. They would often use electric guitars, trap sets, the women would be dressed immodestly, and this is what I grew up around thinking that it was pleasing to God. After 14 years of being at that church I realized that God is not in that kind of music at all. I started to realize that the music I was hearing in the “church” was no different then what I would listen to with my friends. It sounded the same as the world…

The first and most important thing to realize when on the topic, what is wrong with contemporary worship, is that there is contemporary music that is not wrong. The word contemporary can also mean modern or present time.  In the true definition, there are many different songs and music that are “modern” or that have just been written and are not wrong. We have the idea today that the word contemporary is wrong, but it is the music that is wrong, not the word. For instance, Golden State Baptist College has modern songs that they have written and sung, but they are not wrong and could be considered contemporary. I grew up in a massive church that used the wrong type of contemporary music, and I can say that is the kind that is wrong.  They would often use electric guitars, trap sets, the women would be dressed immodestly, and this is what I grew up around thinking that it was pleasing to God. After 14 years of being at that church, I realized that God is not in that kind of music at all. I started to realize that the music I was hearing in the “church” was no different then what I would listen to with my friends. It sounded the same as the world, and God’s name and salvation were never in the lyrics. Satan has deceived many people today in getting them to believe that all genres of music are okay and there is no kind of music that is wrong. I believe most people would change their listening habits if they only knew the truth, the problem is that many people are ignorant of the scriptures and don’t have a close walk with God. Another problem with people today is that they don’t want to give up what their flesh enjoys. Many people know the “Christian” music they listen to is wrong, they just enjoy it too much and don’t want to get rid of it. While music can be a great tool in reaching the lost it can also be a hindrance to the Gospel being spread. Overall the topic is greatly misunderstood today, and Christians need to do a better job at standing up for the truth.

#8 – Caleb Hallman

True worship is surrender and doing God’s will. Our style of worship shows our attitude towards the things of God to the ungodly world that surrounds us.

True worship is surrender and doing God’s will. Our style of worship shows our attitude towards the things of God to the ungodly world that surrounds us. Contemporary “worship” takes away the pesky rules and commandments of God and encourages a freestyle worship that makes one comfortable. The old hymns and choruses clearly gave glory and praise to God and His Son.  Contemporary worship has changed its music to be more desirable to this generation with rock and country music and lyrics that vaguely mention God or Jesus. The rock and roll beat and easy listening country music conform to this world’s music. Dress is very big to contemporary worship. They do not like the stuffy suits and ties and dresses. They actually spend a lot of time and money looking shabby.  How we dress shows how we reverence the House of God. In the Old Testament, the priest had to be dressed a certain way to enter into the presence of God or they would die. However, that is too hard and strict. The main push of Contemporary worship is to “Come as you are.” Contemporary churches have done away with the pulpit, replaced it with a stool, and have added a drum set and electric guitars, screens, iPads, and other electric devices. All of this is a distraction. With the pulpit gone, it turns into a motivational speech or story time instead of God’s Words teaching us how to live our lives. The lights are turned down low, spotlights, laser lights, and fog machines are added and it no longer even feels like a church service.

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Instead, it’s a Christian concert. With the Christian rock and feel good music blaring throughout the auditorium there is no sense of worship left. The church of God has been transformed into a worldly, feel-good place to rock out with friends and it’s all acceptable because we are to “Come as you are.” Therefore, Contemporary worship is not worship at all, it is a conformity to attract the world. In 2 Corinthians 6:17 Paul told the Corinthians, “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate.” We are to be an example to this world in all these points, and we must take a stand and not let the world take over the House of God.

#7 – Sarah Hallman

A Christian that dresses shabbily or deliberately dresses down is trying to gain the attention of the crowd, not worship God. As Christians we should be telling the world that we want to please God through the way we dress.

God made us to worship and glorify Him. Biblical worship means to fully surrender everything to God. One’s style of worship is a message to the world telling it how we view God. To rob God of what He wants, Satan has distorted the Biblical view of worship. Contemporary “Christian” Worship is Satan’s and the World’s alternative to Biblical Worship. Four distinctives of Contemporary worship are contemporary music, dress, platform arrangement, and stage lighting.

The pace at which contemporary music has replaced the traditional, God-glorifying hymns and songs used to worship God is frightening. “Christian” rock and country music have completely overtaken the song services in modern churches.  However, there is nothing “Christian” about rock or country music. The overwhelming beat in rock music and the excessive syncopation in country music was not put in that music to worship God. The whole point is that it appeals to the flesh and draws in the World. The Bible clearly states that we are to be separate from the World and not yield to the flesh.

Dress is often a controversial subject even in Fundamental Independent Baptist Churches. “God does not look at our outward appearance; He looks at the heart!” Many contemporary Christians use this reasoning when questioned about their casual and shabby dress. If taken in context, one can clearly see that that verse means that God not only sees the outward appearance but the heart as well. One’s dress reflects what is in the heart.  A Christian that dresses shabbily or deliberately dresses down is trying to gain the attention of the crowd, not worship God. As Christians, we should be telling the world that we want to please God through the way we dress.

Platform arrangement is another problem in contemporary churches. The traditional pulpit, piano, and organ have been replaced with a trap set and electric guitars. Notice that they completely remove the pulpit. The pulpit is meant to hide the pastor and emphasize the sermon. By removing the pulpit from the platform contemporary churches are focusing on the man, not the message and certainly not on God.

Lastly, stage lighting has become a serious problem in contemporary churches.  Instead of well-lit auditoriums, these churches tend to turn the lights off, using spotlights, fog machines, laser lights, and hazers to bring attention, not to God, but to the people on the stage. As Christians, our focus should be on God; not the people on the platform.

Contemporary “Christian” worship is not at all glorifying to God. As Christians, we need to build up our defenses against the world and contend for our faith in the area of worship.

The Contemporary Worship Papers, Part 1

This year, I have had the privilege of offering a short lecture series called Earnestly Contending at Fairhaven Baptist College, my alma mater.  During a recent two-day course, we took some time to teach on the issue of contemporary worship.  The students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the papers that I found worthwhile.  I intend to give a day each to what I thought was the top 3 papers.  Prior to that, I will divide the rest of the top ten between two days.

In this installment, I offer you three papers that I believe were worthy of “honorable mention.”  I begin each article with a favorite quote from the paper.

Jennifer Damron

First, we serve a holy God. When we come before our Lord to give Him praise, we should be doing it in humility and respect.

The use of Contemporary Christian music is becoming more and more prevalent in Fundamental Independent Baptist churches. It is seen as simply a modern way of worshiping the Lord instead of sin that is causing many Christians to backslide and churches to be filled with shallow Christianity.

One may ask, what is wrong with Contemporary Christian music? Those who are promoting this type of praise and worship style talk with an air of sincerity that they are truly trying to honor the Lord and worship Him. There are a couple issues though with how they are trying to do this. First, we serve a holy God. When we come before our Lord to give Him praise, we should be doing it in humility and respect. When observing modern contemporary worship bands, from their appearance one does not usually get the sense that they are humble or respecting the Holy Creator in the way they worship. Secondly, the performance is to draw attention to themselves, hence the lights. Their appearance also says they do not respect the King of Kings. Even with our culture changing rapidly, in the 21st century if one were to go before a high ranking official, they would want to look their utmost best. The atmosphere of contemporary music services is “come as you are.” The church service should look and feel like a ceremony honoring a king. We need to be humbled and feel honored that the God of all would allow us to worship Him.

Some may ask if this is something worth standing up for, and the answer is yes! In the 1700s there were many churches that were having problems of weak churches and unsaved members and even pastors being unsaved because of standards lowered. The same will continue if Christians give in to compromising to standards such as our music and how we worship our Lord and Savior.

John Mallinak

Biblical Christianity has always been distinct in nature from the rest of the world.

Contemporary worship is sweeping America. It is not isolated to just one group.  No, it is into every type of Christian church, including the Fundamentalists. The pulpit is replaced by the trap set, suits and ties replaced with jeans and a button-down shirt. All forms of propriety and structure are done away with. All because the church wants to fit in.

Biblical Christianity has always been distinct in nature from the rest of the world. This is necessarily true because of the nature of Biblical Christianity. Down through the ages, any time a nation or a group of people have separated themselves wholly unto God they have been different from the people around them. The Israelites realized this, and this is seen when they asked for a king. Before they had a king in Israel the people were ruled completely through the edicts of God. He gave them the law and they worshipped him. When they asked for a king, they said that they wanted to be like the world around them. This is what the churches of today are doing. This is wrong because it is becoming like the world which is exactly what we are not supposed to do. We are to stand strong and be separate from the world so that we can be the light of the world.

There is, I believe a sub-reason for this as well. This would be that they want to wear what they feel comfortable in, they want to listen to what they like to listen to, and they do not wish to be challenged on any beliefs. They justify this by saying that they are reaching the lost by going to where the lost are. This is wrong because we are to lead the lost from where they are to salvation. Once someone is saved there should be a true change of heart. This change of heart should result in a change in all parts of their lives including how they act.

Contemporary worship has been shown to be just a way that churches are giving in to the world around them.  There is one thing that should never change and that is the reverence that we give to God. We do this by worshipping the right way and not the way of the world.

Jesse Thomas

The United States military requires standards for personal appearance while in public. A member of the armed forces represents the United States of America and its professional military. Their dress indicates a look of readiness and an attitude of professionalism. Christians represent an Almighty God who reigns in heaven and earth. They should dress as sharp as possible, especially when worshipping in the house of God.

Many formerly distinctive independent Baptist churches have fallen to contemporary worship. It starts when the pastor and officers lower their tolerance for sin.  Church leaders want to be accepted in society by following in the footsteps of other popular contemporary worshipers. Pastors who give in to contemporary worship have a weak backbone and are afraid to stand up for truth. The Lord needs pastors who will tend to their flock and warn against any predators.

Contemporary worship begins with the music in the church. The congregation wants music that will make them feel good rather than bring honor and praise to God.  The style in music determines the view of God. If it is upbeat and lax, there is no indication of respect for God’s holiness. Many people want to hear a rhythm that will make them forget about the deeper realities in life. True joy will come when the Christian fully surrenders their music to the Lord.

The dress codes in contemporary churches are sloppy and disgraceful to the Lord. The United States military requires standards for personal appearance while in public. A member of the armed forces represents the United States of America and its professional military. Their dress indicates a look of readiness and an attitude of professionalism.  Christians represent an Almighty God who reigns in heaven and earth. They should dress as sharp as possible, especially when worshipping in the house of God.

Contemporary worshippers have removed the pulpit from the stage, and have replaced it with electric guitars and a trap set. The church service should be centered on the most important thing which is the preaching of the Word of God. Preaching usually occurs behind a pulpit, not a trap set. Contemporary worship leaders direct the attention of the service upon themselves, and the audience is there to cheer them on. Rather, the service is to be centered on the Word of God, and communion is to be amongst Christ and the congregation.

Contemporary Christians have the mindset of “come as you are.” They believe that mercy is a free pass to do what they desire. God is not pleased with the contemporary worship movement spreading through independent Baptist churches. One day, at the judgment seat of Christ, those who turned to contemporary worship will realize how holy and righteous God really is, and how disappointing their worship must have been.