Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Worship in Sincerity

In all of the contemporary musical expression that I have heard in the church, I have found that praise music that tells of our great God while encouraging sincerity is that which goes beyond tantalizing the desires of men. It is intimate music that proclaims who God is and what He does while uttering expressions of celebration, joy, tender quietness and peace. What is going on with biblical contemporary praise today is music that serves a specific purpose. It can be likened to ancient motets that were written to depict the awe and wonder of God. It speaks of holy communion – honoring and spending time with our Creator. It can be likened to the sincere prayer of every believer who seeks after God with all of his being. “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’” (Luke 10:27b)

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11) Sincere worship in spirit and truth is what God desires of His followers. (Jn 4:24) And sincerity expressed as true worship is the most important message that we can find in biblical worship and praise music.

When I was first getting my feet wet in contemporary Christian music the band that I was playing in had the opportunity to perform in one of the very popular Saturday night concerts that were held at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. My parents, who were not saved at the time, came to support me. Now I have to tell you that my mom never did like rock music, so this was a stretch for her. But she caught me off guard when she noticed something that I had not been aware of up to that point. During these concerts there would be a time of singing praise songs to the Lord and the attendees got very involved while closing their eyes and lifting their hands. Her comment was very simple and to the point. She merely said, “They were so sincere.” This observation ultimately played a role in her salvation.

It has been said that sincerity is not enough. For there are many who will perish who sincerely believed in the wrong things. But we do need to be sincere in what we do nonetheless. Just going through the motions will not do.

This is the lesson to be found in contemporary biblical worship and praise music. It is something those who hold hymns dear to their heart should grasp. For it is not about the necessity singing hymns in a particular stanch format. It is not about getting our way or singing out of habit. There is a lot to be gained from the youth who have learned to put their entire being into the admirable goal of praising God in song. For they have found that worship in song is all about singing to the God who is there with honesty while pouring out their hearts to Him in a very personal way. If the hymn that you love finds itself in a new and more contemporary format that moves the heart of people, then it is a glory to God.

Matt Redman had it right when he said in his praise song The Heart of Worship that it is all about Jesus. And it is not all about us. It is not about pleasing man, but honoring God. Given that the music we sing is scriptural and utilized in a biblical fashion, it’s not about what style we use or what songs we sing. It’s about magnifying our Lord in everything we do.

Therefore, when we gather in church we are not there to market and entertain but to worship. And as we do, we exalt our Father who receives our praises that usher from thankful hearts in joyous song. This is what church music is all about.

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor10:31MKJV)

 

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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“I Must Decrease”

 

There is a specific reason why people have adopted musical simplicity in worship and praise music. I remember back in the ’70s watching a Calvary Chapel band called The Road Home, headed by a piano player named Bill Sprouse. I loved to hear the band play because Bill had such a wonderful voice and the band really knew how to minister to the inner needs of people. However I didn’t think much of Bill as a piano player. At the time I was involved in a musician’s fellowship at Calvary Chapel and one evening they separated all the instrumentalists into mini seminars led by someone who played their particular instrument. I ended out in Bill’s group. During the seminar he sat down to the piano and absolutely “cut out the jams.” It was at that point that I figured out what was going on with these folk. They could play all right. They just chose not to do so because they saw their musical function as drawing people to God rather than themselves.

In that same vein Jack Hayford in Manifest Presence viewed the display of artistry as a deterrent to worship when he wrote that “the ‘concert’ tradition of extended musical interludes within a piece – e.g., giving eight bars to the drummer, the guitarist and a wind instrument to ‘get in their licks,’ much to the delight of the audience and manifest in applause for each artist – is not, to my view, consistent with a worship service . . . it is simply not productive to the intention of a worship service.” In other words, the display of talent gets in the way of the goal of much of contemporary worship today, which is to take people into the presence of God.

“And for us today,” wrote Temple Bob Sorge in Exploring Worship, “the goal for our worship should be that we come to the point where we do not see anyone or anything around us, but we become totally taken up with God. That is the supreme goal of worship: to see only the Lord.”

This theme of eliminating distractions that get in the way of gaining access into the supernatural world is also held by New Age proponents. In this vein R. J. Stewart wrote in The Spiritual Dimension of Music, “The elemental exercises offered here have a number of effects, one of which is the gradual ability to de-tune (not ignore or merely shut out) the effect of unwanted music. In the case of strong and debilitating rhythms, such as that used in rock music, some of our exercises may even be used in the traditional manner of the focus, prayer or mantrum, where they literally cut across unwanted influences.”

Therefore the mantra of our new age of contemporary worshippers is: “’He must increase, but I must decrease.’” (John3:30MKJV)

Though humility is of essence, Bach’s way of doing things makes better biblical sense. After he wrote his extraordinary musical pieces Bach would put in the manuscript the words: “To God Be the Glory.” Therefore, the musician who believes with all his heart that his job is to glorify God through his talents will be the one who can openly display his talents in a manner that points to the magnificence of the glorious God whom we serve. It is for this reason that Franky Schaeffer’s book Addicted to Mediocrity is so powerful when he talks about the fact that the church ought to be excelling in the arts. The lesson here is that when the Christian musician involves himself in worship and praise ministry he needs never to hold back the artistry. Worship and praise music is not about the latest cliches or hip things to put in the lyrics, writing hooks, making CD sales or dragging people into church. It is not about aiming for Dewey’s lowest common denominator. It is all about glorifying God with excellence.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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The Heart of Music

To many pastors and church attendees today style seems to matter the most. As a result, musical tastes seem to be at the bottom of every discussion about worship forms these days and no one seems to agree on what it should be. “The Bible says,” wrote Frank Pooler, “’Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ (Matt12:34) If the heart is God-centered & God focused, it matters little what the ‘songs’ are. You enter into the Spirit of the music, not the music itself. Therefore, the musicians and the congregation must be taught to express that Spirit; not their own and not that of the music as a style.”

“Art is a demanding taskmaster and on occasion has been known to replace God as the object of worship,” Ronald Allen and Gordon Borror assured in Worship: Rediscovering the Missin Jewel. “. . . The lesson that seems to require constant discovery is the fact that worship is not primarily a state of the art but rather a state of the heart. . . When the heart is set upon God, true worship will not depend upon outward stimulus, it will be in constant progress. . . This means that all life becomes a worship service.” (Duet 6:6; Ps 73:26; Prov4:23; Rom10:10; Heb 10:22)

The Bible does not declare that we should love God with our music. But rather we are commanded to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength. (Duet 6:5) Out of this love dynamic tremendous art expression will flow from the worshipper. For example, consider Bach’s trio sonatas for organ whose artistic excellence has been marveled throughout the centuries. Bach created these trios to depict the trinity as three separate melodies played in the left hand, the right and on the pedals retained their own identity while molding together as one beautiful harmony. “You see,” Allen and Borror contended in that regard, “this great art did not lead Bach to true worship, but true worship gave rise to this tremendous artistic expression. The order is not reversed today.”

Now this does not mean that art is not important. “Heart worship does not defy art worship,” Allen and Borror continued, “for heart worship will give rise to new levels of art which will have tremendous significance. . . Art with the proper attitude can be a great expression; but it must begin with a heart in fellowship with God.”

The fact that people fail to worship in church is not the result of the music on the platform. Rather it is the result of misguided worship values. Hence the writers continue, “The real factor in worship is a heart desire for God; the reason it fails to occur in the pew is because it fails to occur in the daily routine of living.”

“God uses art to reflect his beauty and creativity;” the writers conclude, “so ought His redeemed children to worship Him.”

Therefore, what most people on the inside and outside don’t seem to get is that worship is not about the musical form but the object of worship. In the case of Christianity it is God who is being worshipped and He accepts all biblical worship expressed by His followers regardless of the particular style. All biblically based music expressed unto Him honors Him.

Worship is all about the heart. So if the artist is truly expressing himself from a pure heart that exalts God in a true and biblical way, contrary to what many believe today, it shouldn’t matter what style is being used. It is praiseworthy to sing in a popular commercial style to the beat of drums just as it is a blessing to God to sing a time honored hymn to the sound of an organ. If it is worship of the true and living God, then it’s worship indeed and God receives it all.

With that in mind, it would be beneficial for all of us to understand several things with regard to the use of popular music in the church. The great reformer Martin Luther used melodies that were sung in pubs as the musical base for many of the hymns in the emerging Lutheran Church. Hence it is the motivation behind the singing that counts. If the intent is to water down musical and lyrical content for the sake of entertainment, then the critic has made a valid point. However, if the goal is biblical worship then I have to ask: “What is so unreal or dishonest about playing commercial music that Middle America enjoys? What if honest is exactly what you are doing?” And I cannot think of anything more honest than opening one’s heart to God. This fact ought to stand out as a lesson to those who believe that hymn singing is the only way to worship God just as it should for the contemporary artist who believes new music is the only way to go. It is all about the heart, not the art.

The important thing is honesty and passion within the context of uncompromised truth and biblical literacy. We want to be sure to have something articulate to say in order to lead people to the truths of the Scriptures. We also need to provide music that is well written and original. If that happens to be within the context of popular music, then so be it. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!” (Ps 95:1a MKJV) Let’s be first true to our Christian faith to sing to the Lord with heart.

Worship and praise music does tend to be middle of the road. Also there are times when there is scant musicianship displayed during contemporary song leading. However, the main point is to encourage people to sing with sincerity. Hence, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with middle of the road or simple music. There are three main reasons why:

First of all, middle of the road music tends to be that which is most acceptable to so many congregations who are not used to contemporary styles in church. It is the artist’s responsibility to present himself in a manner that encourages the congregation that he is leading to joyously sing to the Lord. Tearing congregations in half over musical extremes is just not worth it. And usually those who impose their personal delights on others though they are offended by it are the ones who have agendas rather than a heart to minister.

For example a particular praise band, when playing before a mixed congregation of various ages and musical tastes, declared that they didn’t care what anybody thought. They even took pride in the fact that they were not liked by many in the congregation because they believed they were the only ones who really knew how to worship. And true worship to them could only be that which conveyed their musical tastes. To do middle of the road music that would please everyone would have been deplorable to these antagonists. They would rather serve their own desires than meet the needs of the flock, and the church was divided in half as a result. Yet heart worship is about bringing people together rather than tearing them apart.

Secondly, when we discuss contemporary music in the church many times we are talking about large churches, churches packed with excellent musicians. No doubt many of these folks could play a wide variety of musical styles that could impress their critics, but that may not be what they are doing with their music. They are not trying to dazzle their audience.

Instead many sincere musicians in the Modern Church concentrate on the spiritual results of their music ministries rather than flaunting their musicianship before the crowd. They are in the business of resting daily in that special intimate place of blessing that those who choose to praise the Lord inherit. This is a spiritual venue where everyone involved is submitted to the Lord with hearts only set to minister. It is a dwelling place wrapped in tender prayer where the mind of God and man meet. It bathes in worship that ushers from the heart of believers proclaiming who He is and what He does. The goal of heart worship is not to impress men but to honor God.

Thirdly, in the church today worship and praise music is geared towards what people can read from a screen and sing. We are leading people in song – people who cannot read music. There are fewer trained singers in congregations these days, so the melodies have become simpler and more mid-range. In addition these days you need to lower a hymn about a step from the hymnal key when leading a congregation in song.

In their expressions of simplicity many worship and praise leaders are attempting to minister to non-musicians who possess limited musical abilities and simple tastes. [1] Hence, in order to reach their congregations with this new music they are meeting the younger members of their churches exactly where they are. From a practical standpoint John Dewey has left our youthful parishioners more musically uneducated than past generations and we need to ease them into church traditions and the finer points of music such as hymn singing. And it is this ultimate aim of musical maturity, excellence and refinement that heart worshippers in the church must set as their goal.


[1] There’s also nothing out of kilter with easing young musicians into the complexities of finer music in a step-by-step way. Many times in the realm of contemporary music in the Church we are looking at high school and college age kids both developing in their musical abilities and skills in leading people in praise. In the learning process emphasizing things like simplicity can be important. When a band is put together it is best to reduce everything to the bass, drums and piano/rhythm guitar and make the musicians simplify their stuff in order to create a solid bottom for everything else that will be laid over this foundation. Once the musicians get the hang of it, then they can be cut loose to really play. And as they develop in their musical skills more intricate music can be thrown at them as well. And they will be able to play it.

 

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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The Ministry of Music

And so we have discovered that our liberal critic, Jeff Sharlet from my first blog, seems to have gotten it right regarding the negative impact that Church Growth “relate to society” marketing schemes has had on the church. However, because he merely addressed church music from a surface level and superficial perspective, it also appears that he has to a large degree missed the mark in his critique of Christian praise music. In limiting his analysis to items such as musical style, emotion and clothing, he demonstrated that he has very little understanding of the ministry aspects of the music that he was witnessing along with the real purpose of music in the church. Like the Church Growth advocate, Sharlet doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of Christian music. Rather he appears to see it all through the lens of Madison Avenue. But what he perceives as marketing ploys is in reality, as it is played out among sincere worshipers, all about people pouring out their hearts to God with an attitude of gratitude. It goes a lot deeper than what he is thinking. And it is not about musical style as he contends.

Unfortunately this misunderstanding is not limited to the opinions of liberal outsiders. Because of modern Church Growth marketing schemes, the ministry impact of music is likewise being overlooked by a multitude of pastors today. Hence, like the world that surrounds them, many clergymen in the name of becoming bigger have turned to focus their attention on the same surface level musical issues rather than the impact that music can have on the human soul. For that reason we now turn to the Bible to uncover what the ministry of music is all about.

The Apostle Paul, the Roman who turned that world around for Christ, had a lot to say about the ministry of music in the church. He indicated to the Ephesians that the sole function of music in the church ought to be primarily for ministry to God and then for ministry to each other. Therefore Paul wrote, “. . . be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. . .” (Eph 5:18b-19 NASB).

Hence, the Bible reveals a strong admonition regarding the use of music among believers that has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with ministry. When thinking of using music for the purpose of ministry in praise we are taken back to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa during the early ’70s. The vast majority of the music from that era was very simplistic both musically and lyrically with a focus of bringing people into communion with God. Many of these songs were very memorable with beautiful mystical melodies and moving texts that many times quoted a Scripture. It was very sincere and emotional. This movement basically provided the seed for the entire worship and praise idea and Maranatha! Music was the vehicle used to spread Calvary Chapel’s innovative worship and praise music throughout the country.

The qualm that many have with the resultant worship and praise genre is that it many times lacks theology and sometimes what little theology that it has is not even right. Others are concerned about the simplicity of the musical and lyrical form contained in these songs. There is also fear regarding the use of mantras – constant repetition of phrases like the Beatles did after they came back from India- in order to create a state of mind detached from reason, etc. This practice supposedly allows the worshipper to ascend into heaven or the “holy of holies” to experience the so-called “manifest presence” of God. And then there are others who are concerned about substituting this New Worship style for traditional music forms, such as hymn singing, which can be equally emotional, spiritually uplifting and expressive with regard to worship and praise. Lastly, many have objected to the notion that worship is totally embodied in the experience of singing these songs to God as an escape rather than seeing worship as a lifestyle. Indeed this so-called Christian music that actually is seeded in the mystic cults should be avoided in church worship.

However, over the past years there has been change in some sectors of worship and praise music that have addressed these concerns to produce biblical songs expressed from sincere hearts. It is this music that reflects orthodox Christian worship models that we should seek.

The work of Frank Pooler provides a profound example of musical excellence that has provided a great deal of direction with regard to my music endeavors. He conducted the celebrated Cal State Long Beach Choir for decades while playing an integral role in the rise of pop stars Karen and Richard Carpenter. He also co-authored Merry Christmas Darling with Richard. As well as touring in various worldwide venues the choir performed with the pop dual on many occasions. I had the unique opportunity of not only studying under Pooler, but also being a part of several of these first class performances. Regarding this modern form of church music Pooler, who served for years in the church as a music minister, once commented to me, “It sends me to another place where I live for a few moments in calm & gentle spirit.”

Dr. John Lavender was a renowned evangelist who eventually settled down to pastor a vibrant church during a time of renewal. While celebrating the old with the new, the congregation that he led grew by leaps and bounds during his tenure. I worked under this discerning shepherd for about 6 years as his praise leader until he retired. He used to say that for him it was all about “intimacy with God.” These are very accurate descriptions of modern worship and praise music.

Intimate feelings will always result as God’s people sing about Him with passion and sincerity. And singing both praise songs and hymns can and should evoke the emotions of those who seek God. And Christians ought to be encouraged to draw close to God in biblical ways. For the Scriptures declare: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (Jas 4:8a MKJV)

Worship and praise music, therefore, is a spiritual matter. It is not about marketing. Its purpose is not to attract people into the church but honoring our God who is always near. It is about praising Him for who He is and what He has done. It’s not at all like the music that so many in the Church Growth field today propose. For they see it all as a surface level phenomena that appeals to the senses rather than the human soul. But worship and praise music goes much deeper than the place the Church Growth advocate wants to take us. And it is timeless.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
Click to Purchase

As the Romans Do

“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (II Tim3:13MKJV)

Many growth advocates will deny the biblical admonishments regarding growth to tell you that what was good enough for the Early Church isn’t adequate for us today. They will claim that we live in a very advanced society and that’s why we need to rely on new-sophisticated methodologies. We need to keep up with the times. That is why you must listen to their call if you want to survive in this new age.

Though Church Growth proponents promote speculative theories and projections, they ignore the simple biblical facts. In promoting everything new they fail to acknowledge the veracity of Scripture that assures us that there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc 1:9) And many of those who depend on your money continue to propagate their dogma rather than the Scriptures that would put them out of business. And with each year that passes more churches take the bait of instant success.

In spite of the call to become “contemporary” in order to meet “contemporary” needs, in some of the most important ways “contemporary” American culture is very similar to the ancient Roman society that the first Christians ministered in. Indeed we live in a modern Roman society. [1]

And you know what they say about those who live in Rome: “Do as the Romans do.”

And when you do, remember that those Christians who lived in Rome saw the church grow daily, not through manipulative strategies and marketing techniques. They witnessed the church grow because they ministered to God and one another. Music, therefore, should be utilized for ministry rather than marketing.


[1] Ancient Rome where the Early Church witnessed church growth in an unprecedented fashion was one of the most sophisticated societies that has ever been raised up on the face of the earth. In many ways their arts and philosophies were perhaps more developed and prestigious than what we have around us today. The city of Rome itself was an architectural wonder that has yet to be matched by any society. Greco-Roman theater arts excelled. Their visual arts still stand out as a marvel to the modern world. Romans were surrounded by musical culture. As America is,Rome was a free republic. Their system of law and government was very similar to ours mainly because we have derived so much of ours from them. They practiced freedom of religion in the same manner that the United States views it today so that all were free to worship as they desired. That is with the exception of Christians, which sounds very familiar. They were primarily a pagan culture, which our Post-Christian culture is quickly becoming today. Rome’s society was originally founded on a strong family structure and they were a very religious people. Like Americans, Romans were a proud and independent people who were as delighted with their empire and heritage as we are of ours. They were a violent society as we are today and their passion for sports was no less aggressive than ours is. And like us, sports were one of their primary sources of entertainment. Romans were very practical and inventive people and would conquer through their ingenuity as we do today. Their system of commerce was very advanced with roads throughout the empire to carry the Gospel as our advancements do today. As in America today, Rome stood as the undisputed military force of the ancient world with the express purpose of bringing peace to the world. They were a cosmopolitan society that encompassed many nationalities under one roof. The fabric of the empire created an environment that facilitated communication between people of all backgrounds. The empire was a very safe place to dwell as America is today, which brought people together with great freedom to openly express views.

America is not unlike Ancient Rome. With that in mind, the Church today ought to pay close attention to how the Early Church won so much of the ancient Roman World to Christ during the greatest evangelical explosion in world history.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Click to Purchase Holy Wars

Church Growth: To TAT-or-not -TOO

The subject of tattoos seems to be a captivating subject for a whole lot of people in the body of Christ these days. There are lots of opinions floating around, especially from those who are members of the Christian tattoo culture. What I’m hearing in that regard is that the New Testament does not speak out against tattoos and, “My tattoos are Christian tattoos and I use them to minister to the lost.” On the other side of the fence are those Christians, many with kids, who sternly object to this line of thinking.

Some contend that the whole subject is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Personally I think the subject of TAT-or-not-TOO and the issues surrounding it are very important. Likewise, bringing up challenging subjects is a good way to get us into our Bibles, and I loved to be challenged. Truth is important, and so it is incumbent on all of us to seek out truth.

Before delving into the subject I wanted to begin by sharing that our youngest son is currently involved at Crossroads in Corona,CA. It is an incredible and powerful ministry that focuses on reaching out to so-called “undesirables.” When we attend the church we are surrounded by kids who are covered with tats and adorned with weird hair. The churches in our area are pretty conservative, so there were some adjustments for me as my son introduced me to his friends with strange piercings and tats. However, these kids truly love the Lord, worship with passion and can’t wait to share their Savior to the lost. We love the church and if we lived in Corona would attend. Christians are called to love everyone and all too many times our personal prejudices get in the way of God’s work. How can we minister to people, when we are looking down at them? God uses everyone and it is not our place to turn up our noses when confronted with people who make us uncomfortable.

My Uncle, who was in the Navy, came back from WWII with a tattoo of an anchor on his arm. I liked it and no one thought much about this kind of stuff other than “he got drunk and woke up with a tattoo.” But these days, tattoos have become a movement or a fad if you will. And with it comes a lot of passion on both sides of the isle. Where does the Bible stand in that regard? What should Christians do and think about this new wave that has hit Western Culture?

I will demonstrate below that there is a solid foundation in the Bible that leads to the conclusion that we need to take care of or bodies and refrain from practices of self mutilation. However, I want to emphasize at this point that I don’t believe God thinks more or less of a person because he or she has tattoos. We should follow God’s example.

Therefore, as Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery: ”As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen 50:20) I’m not saying that Christians who wear religious tattoos are doing so for evil reasons. What I am saying is that God uses everything for good. Though we ought to follow God’s precepts, many times we don’t. Nonetheless, God uses everything for His glory. This does not mean that we can do what we want and that God condones the behavior. It means that God is sovereign. And so, for those of us who see Christian behavior that seems unacceptable our response should like Paul who declared: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. . .” (Phil 1:18)

That being said, the thing that I have noticed with regard to the Christian tattoo culture is the apparent militancy that is involved in defending tats. I have been accused of judging and casting stones when actually, though theology is very important to me, I’m a pretty understanding guy when it comes to individual people. But as people become adults, it seems to me that we should graduate from milk to meat. (I Cor 3:2)

Whenever I hear anyone from the Christian tattoo culture discuss the subject, I am hearing that they can do what they like and the burden is on the rest of us to accept it. I’m not certain the Bible agrees with that stance. In a moment I’ll discuss the pagan roots of tattoos, what they mean in pagan religions and how the resurrection of paganism in the West has been paralleled with the rise of pagan worship practices among Christians. As far as biblical instruction regarding to Christians involving themselves in stuff that the pagans do in their worship the only text that I know about is the discussion of meat sacrificed to idols. (I Cor 10) In this instance Christians were going to a pagan temple to buy meat. This temple was a den of prostitution. But many Christians were saying, “What’s the harm in eating meat? I don’t worship those gods. Besides, idols don’t even exist! It’s all about the heart, the motivation behind the thing.” Paul’s answer was, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify” and later “But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake.” (v 23; 28) Paul did not condemn the eating of meat sacrificed to idols, but he clearly states that the responsibility is not on the one who objects to the behavior, but rather the one who was eating the meat. When you think about it, Paul was actually saying “no” because all of us have a responsibility to the larger body of Christ in everything we do.

Preceding the reign of King David in Israel we find that the true and living God had not been worshipped by the nation for perhaps centuries. God dwelled among the Israelis in Ark of the Covenant. The Philistines had stolen the Ark of the Covenant and though they kept it for just seven months, according to my Ryrie Bible, it had been lost within the boundaries of Israel for 200 years. When the Philistines returned the Ark toI srael, they carried it to Beth Shemesh in a “new cart.” (I Sam 6:1-12) Eventually it ended out in the house of Abinadab. (V 21-22)

When King David got the Israelis together to return the Arkto Jerusalem, They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. . . When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. (II Sam 6: 3-5, 6-7)

What had gone wrong here? Weren’t they doing a good thing by taking the Ark to Jerusalem? The problem was that Israelites had fashioned a “new “cart” to model the way the Philistines had moved the Ark. But God had specified in his law that the Ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites only. The first lesson here is that we are not welcome to worship God anyway we please. God has specified in His word, both in the Old and New Testaments, how He is to be worshipped. But David did not know the Word, made an error of judgment and Uzzah, though well-intended was slain by God because of his irreverence.

So, the second lesson here is if we want to be true worshippers of God, we must know what He has to say in His Word! And when we delve into God’s word we see His precepts. Following God’s precepts is not legalism as many surmise. Legalism is adding works to salvation.

Yes, we have our principles and many times they are very good. In the case of the Ark, the principle was bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, which was a good thing. But there was a right and wrong way to get this one, and God had commanded the right way in His Word as a precept – the Levites must carry the Ark on their shoulders. And so, after no doubt consulting God’s Word, David learned to fulfill his principles in God’s way according to precept: When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. (v 13) And when the Ark finally came into Jerusalem there was a great celebration of worship. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (v 14-15)

There will be great rejoicing among people who worship God His way! His precepts have not been given to restrict us, but to give us true freedom. In the ancient world walls were not built around cities to keep people in, but to keep the enemy out. Those who follow God’s ways are the ones who are shielded from the world, the flesh and the Devil. They are the ones who will live peaceful, happy and secure lives. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:31-32)

And so, evangelism is the principle that the church seeks after. But in order to fulfill God’s desires in that regard, we must heed His precepts as divulged in His Holy Word. We can’t act out life like Philistines and consider ourselves true worshippers of God. We are called to worship God His way. And we are called to worship Him in everything we do while presenting our bodies as living sacrifices. (Rom 12:1)

When considering what we do with our bodies in our worship to Him, the scriptures lay out very clear guidelines. The text regarding the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit concludes: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (I Cor6:19-20) Our bodies are not our own and God clearly is saying here that we cannot do as we please with that which belongs to Him.

When I think about this scripture I am reminded that God gives us direction, not to restrict our pleasure, but to increase our joy. He wants us to live an abundant life and gives us admonishments to direct us in that path. Therefore, when considering the use of our bodies we might consider what does harm to God’s purposes, the body of Christ and ourselves. Does it do anyone harm when a woman pierces her ears with a tiny prick? I don’t see how. But when we over-eat we become overweight. Ultimately this leads to bad knees and heart disease. Smoking leads to emphysema, lung cancer and a whole lot of other stuff. Drug use is very destructive both to ourselves and to others. And none of this harmful behavior glorifies the Lord.

So what should we do with our bodies with regard to tattoos? Are there physical and spiritual issues involved?

As far as the physical risks, for all intensive purpose the alteration of the body is permanent. For those who cover their bodies with tattoos in their youth, they may feel differently about them when they are 80 and looking in the mirror as their bodies have faded into a blue mass. That would be a time to thank God that He gives out new bodies in the resurrection of the dead! Also, tattoos limit your career possibilities which, in this economy, could be a concern.  I don’t see how the lack of tattoos could ever limit a person’s ability to reach out to the lost. But visible tattoos will limit these ministry opportunities because of the fact that they are so offensive to so many people. Each of us is called to be all things to all men, not just a select group of people. We should be prepared to minister the gospel to everyone from the elderly lady to the biker. What best accomplishes that goal? I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (I Cor9:19-23) It might also be wise to also consider the celebrities who are out there donning tattoos and decide whether-or-not they should be emulated or identified with. Do they reflect your Christian values?

Regarding spiritual concerns, let’s take a moment to look into larger issues regarding the future of biblical Christianity in the West as it has to do with the resurrection of paganism in our culture. To do so, we must consider history and what the Word of God has to say.

The first thing that we need to wrap our arms around is the roots of paganism. Nimrod (Ninus) was the first Assyrian king around who the entire system of paganism was built. (Gen 10:8) He was “the first mighty warrior on the earth.” (I Chron 1:10) He was the first antichrist of many antichrists who created a false worship system which the bible designates as Babylon. (I Jn 2:18) Now you may notice that in the book of Revelation Babylon is represented as a “She.” This is because of the worship of the wife of Ninus who was named Semiramis. She is the mother goddess also referred to as Babylon in the Bible (see The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop).  In the book of revelation, God calls His people out of Babylon lest they receive His plagues.

One of the primary tenants of paganism, also known as the mystery religions, is dualism. Dualists believe that the supernatural world is inherently good, while the physical world is inherently evil. Therefore the body is despised and, like the priests of Baal at Mt Carmel (I Kings 18),pagan priests would lash their bodies in order to appease their gods. For the same reason that they would persecute their bodies, pagan priests would don tattoos.

Way back in history God called Abraham out of this religious “Babylon” (Chaldea) to father a race of true worshippers and ultimately the true Savior of the world. (Gen 12:1-10) In contrast to the dualism of Babylon, the God of the Bible sees that which He has created as “good.” (Gen 1:31) Likewise, the supernatural world is not inherently “good” because that is where the demons also reside. It’s a whole different mindset that results in entirely different behavior with regard to the world and our bodies. Hence, in the Jewish religious system that grew out of Abraham’s seed, Levitical priests were called to be different than pagan priests. Pagan priests were celibate, Levites were married. Pagan priests shaved their heads which was forbidden for Levitical priests. The Old Testament also forbid tattoos on His priests for the same reasons. Tattoos have always been the mark of pagan religions.

‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” (Lev 19: 28) The context of this chapter in Leviticus concerns abstaining from idolatry. “‘Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 19: 4) We are still called to turn from the worship of idols. Likewise we are still called to refrain from many of the pagan practices mentioned in Leviticus 19 such as consulting mediums (v 31) as well as laying, cheating, (v11) hating (v 17), lying carnally with a woman (v 20), etc. But does that mean that tattoos are also out?

I think it would be a mistake to come to conclusions based solely on one obscure Old Testament scripture. But Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17) Many times we will see precepts that are found in the law that carry over into the New Testament. The concept of separation from the world is one of them.  “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.” (II Cor 6: 17)  It is interesting that this scripture is directly referring to Christians separating themselves from Babylon, for the preceding verses declare: Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (II Cor6:16) Notice here we again see mention of our bodies as being the temples of the living God directly related to abstaining from practices of idolatry. So, it would appear that the New Testament affirms that the people of God separate themselves from the practices of Babylon.

Now the church today looks right past this to assure us that it is more important to relate to the unsaved than to worry about such trivial details as pagan practices. The Roman Church of the Middle Ages thought the same thing and, while in the process of eradicating the religious system of paganism from the Western world, in the name of attracting pagans to the church, folks such as Pope Gregory adopted pagan practices in the church. The so-called salvation of Constantine didn’t help much either in that regard. The notion of adopting “harmless” pagan rites is where the worship of Mary, purgatory, celibate priests, confessionals, candle burning, the sign of the cross, monism, monks and nuns, sequestered self-denial, the slashing of flesh to appease God and a whole lot of other practices came from.

This list even includes the dates that we celebrate Christmas and Easter on. Does that mean that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas and Easter on the appointed days?  These dates are rooted deep in Christian culture and bring Glory to the Lord. For many people, it’s the only time they think about Jesus, There’s nothing we can do about those dates now, and if we were going to change them, to what? We don’t know the real dates of Christ’s birth and resurrection anymore. Just because the ancient church made a mistake in setting those dates doesn’t mean that God can’t be honored now in the celebration and recognition of His works. The same thing is true regarding decorating Christmas trees. Though some claim the Bible condemns the practice, (Jer 10: 2-5) it is interesting that Jeremiah indicated regarding these trees: Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. (V 5) In reality, these trees that the prophet was referring to were a non entity – amoral – neither here nor there.  But the modern practice of decorating Christmas trees does not go back to this ancient pagan custom. It started among Christians Germans in Livonia and in Germany in the 16th century to celebrate the birth of Christ. Arguments have been made contending that the practice of honoring God with trees can be found in the celebration of the Passover. (Lev23:30) And Saint Nick comes from Christmas traditions. I fail to see the harm in celebrating generosity during the observance of a holiday that honors God’s gift of His Son to mankind.

So the celebration of these holidays and tattoos are apples and oranges. That is, unless you already have tattoos, which is generally an irreversible decision. If you have them, whether you agree with this article or not, it’s exactly like Christmas and Easter. So glorify the Lord in everything to do and He will rejoice in you as should every believer. On the other side of the coin, when speaking of the body of Christ as a whole, the fact that the church of the Middle Ages became involved in paganism does not provide excuses for us to do the same today. The church of the Middle Ages was the cause of darkness and ignorance.

When he was a monk, Martin Luther, who eventually broke from the Roman church, used to slash his body to appease God as he was sequestered in his tower. But when he found out that “the just shall live my faith” (Rom1: 17) all of that stopped and ultimately the Protestant Church was purged of idolatry. But with the coming of the Asian Invasion (change of immigration policies in America), the Counterculture Revolution and the Beatle’s admiration of Hinduism in the ‘60s, paganism, as a distinct religious system, has once again found a foothold in Western culture. It is no coincidence that the proliferation of tattoos has accompanied this trend. Also, we now see a lot of Eastern Mysticism entering the Church in the form of mantra worship, candles, mystical music and other dualistic practices forwarded by medieval monks regarding the presence of God.  The dualistic system of Gnosticism (that either denies that Jesus was God or that he was fully human) is also making a huge comeback.

So what are we to do as Christians in the midst of this? Are we to become as the Roman Church of the Middle Ages to once again adopt that which we once discarded. Or are we to be as the Early Church in Rome that was likewise surrounded by a pagan culture. According to Gibbons in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire one of the main reasons why early Christians shook the entire Roman Empire is that they refused to have anything to do with anything that had to do with paganism. In light of the fact that Christianity is failing in the West in spite of all of the Church Growth “relate to the world” concepts, Christians might want to consider returning to their roots.

“After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!'” (Revelation 18:1,2).

“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities'” (Revelation 18:4,5).

This woman is called the Whore of Babylon because she causes God’s bride to commit adultery with her. (Revelation 17:5)  Though it is evident that the rise of the tattoo culture in our world today is one of the manifestations of the upsurge of paganism in our midst, this is not to say that believers who have “Christian tattoos” have become one with Babylon. But with insurgence of Babylon in the West as the Mystery Religions take hold of our society, it might be wise to understand what is going on around us and to keep as far away from the prostitute as possible. Nonetheless, you might consider tattoos a harmless way to answer the Devil with God’s truth. But if you are thinking of getting a tattoo, it seems to me that it is a good idea to understand the pitfalls that lay out there in order to avoid Satan’s trap that has been set for all of us. For there will be a day when a tattoo, the last of the pagan tattoos, will be offered that will spell eternal doom for its wearers.

In the days of the last Antichrist of the world, in the spirit of Nimrod, a number will be stamped on foreheads and right hand of a whole lot of people. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Rev 13:16-18)

I used to wonder how people would accept an ugly mark on their foreheads. When I look around at people today with tattoos covering head to foot, I have no trouble believing that this dynamic would be entirely possible. It would be just another tat. A lot of Bible prophecy folk claim that this “mark” is going to be a computer chip planted in their heads to support a cashless society. But this cashless society would be entirely dependent upon the continuance of technology. In light of the disasters that occur in the book of Revelation, such as mountains being leveled, I think it would be a mistake to think that life as we know it will even exist in those latter days. If mountains are brought to their knees, how is it that the electric grid and Internet necessary to feed our technological prowess will even exist? It’s far more likely that God’s judgment will throw the world in chaos and the entire monetary system as we know it will collapse. Look at the current recession to notice that we are already being conditioned to look to government rather than God for solutions for crisis. That leads us back to the mark being a mark, just as the Bible says. What will that be? A tattoo? A Brand? A Sharpee? Burned with a Laser? Anyway you see it, that mark will spell eternal condemnation to the wearer, and we’re all being primed for its acceptance.

“But,” you say, “I won’t be going through any of that stuff, because I’m going to be taken up in the rapture.” Will you?

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” (Matt 24: 36-41)

The Bible indicates that there will be a general apostasy in the Last Days as the Church falls away from the truth even as the Antichrist is revealed. (II Thess 2:3) It also indicates that people will not be able to endure sound doctrine. (II Tim 4:3) If we err, my advise is to err on the side of caution. The consequences of blowing it are too great.

Some in the Christian tattoo culture claim that Christ, the rider of the White Horse, will be wearing a tattoo on His thigh. (Rev 19:16) However, seeing that it definitely will not be the result of Jesus going to a tattoo parlor, it is hard to know what it is. Written by the finger of God?

“. . .they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:4) Jesus one day will put His mark on our foreheads. It’s hard to say what this mark will be. . To me it is interesting that the only time the Bible talks about believers having marks is when Christ puts His mark on them. The danger is not the tattoos themselves. The antichrist’s tattoo will be very easily recognized by the informed. It will be 666. Never accept it! The danger is being sucked into the greater culture of Babylon and the apostate church. All things considered, if there’s any marking on my body to do, I’ll leave it to God.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Wagging the Institution

It is important to understand that biblical truths regarding God growing the church are not intended to exclude various marketing provisions that are designed to get the world out. Every time a church publishes a newspaper ad or hangs a sign out announcing some event, it has become involved in marketing. People will not come to a church event unless they know it is there and advertising is the way to get the word out.

During the time that I was on the road ministering in music with a band, a lot of surprising circumstances unfolded that left us completely dumbfounded. In one instance, as we were talking to the pastor before a gig we discovered that he had done nothing to advertise the concert we were going to perform in that night. The pastor simply stated that they were trusting in the Holy Spirit to bring the people in. We played for only the pastor and his family that evening.

In another instance a church fully devoted to the “make everything in the church marketable” creed in reality did the worst job of promotion imaginable. The advertising material that was published in print was horrific and did nothing to attract people to the church. However, great effort was exerted to clothe every ministry and event with a particular “look” as to catch the attention of an audience. The irony of the whole affair was that while zealously focusing all of their attention on marketing they missed the point of what marketing is all about – getting the word out to people. On one weekend the church threw an evangelistic concert and failed to adequately advertise it. Hardly anybody showed. Sometimes the obvious is the thing that is most often missed.

To neglect advertising is nothing more than the same impertinence that the devil tempted Jesus with when he suggested that the Lord jump from the temple pinnacle. To fail to put effort into getting the word out is no different than jumping off a building and expecting God’s angels to catch us. It is nothing other than presumption. But “Jesus said to him (Satan), ‘It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Matt 4:7 MKJV)

The Great Commission is our calling and we do need to get the message of the Gospel out. (Matt 28:19) But what is being suggested by many today goes far beyond evangelism and promotion. It is the proposal of the bulk of our Church Growth specialists today to alter the very worship life of the church to make church itself marketable as if there is nothing about body life that is attractive. So under their scheme, everything that the church does should be designed to sell. As the renowned choir director Frank Pooler once said: “I have discovered that institutions tend to turn to marketing when they feel vulnerable and then the marketer wags the institution.” Wagging the institution is what the Church Growth crowd is after.

My wife, Vanessa, happens to be in charge of marketing for a new homebuilder. The philosophy of this organization is to build a good product and then market it as such. This is not so in many churches today and we see the “marketer wagging the institution” everywhere we look. As the church today delves into new marketing strategies, along with adopting the enlightened “conform to the world” marketing approach presented by growth consultants, pastors will determine that the church itself is not marketable. Yet churches have always had the best imaginable product to market. This is the Gospel set within a rich 2,000-year history that answers all of the questions of life. But more times than not when churches get involved with these new marketing schemes, the message gets watered down and the heritage of the church evaporates as if it is an embarrassment. And rather than marketing music, they suggest that the church makes its music marketable. The idea is to change the very fabric of the church to make it more appealing until nothing is considered for its intrinsic value. If it gets in the way of growth, then throw it out.

This not only is destructive but a work of the flesh. It is impossible to be effective for God when you depend upon the merits of your own strength. The church cannot grow apart from the work of God’s hand through the Holy Spirit. (Rom 8:5) And though we have been called to “go ye therefore,” if the message and the church itself have been watered down in the process, then what is the sense in going? For if the church in history is rejected, then of what value is the message upon which it was built? And if the message itself is discarded, what is left?

So watch out for those who will tell you otherwise. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Eph 5:6-8 MKJV)

True growth is not primarily a marketing issue, but the result of spiritual fruit that ushers from the Holy Spirit . . .People have spiritual needs. And, mainly because of theological and political liberalism, our society is a pretty frightening place to be in these days. It is the church’s job to provide the peace and security that the Christian truth base, tradition and sound doctrine offers. And if it provides this, lost people will come. God will take care of that. It’s just that simple.

Christians are not called to conform to society, but to influence it. This is because they are commanded by God to be different. The Biblical Church has successfully adhered to that principle for 2,000 years and Christianity has fared quite well because of it. Contrary to the contentions of our contemporary Church Growth consultants, there is no reason to believe that things have changed today.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Sola Scriptura – What the Bible Says About Growth

The call of Martin Luther and John Calvin’s Reformation was Scripture and Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). The foundation of this book likewise is Scripture and it is Scripture upon which it rests. If you are looking for graphs and demographics, the Church Growth Movement has plenty of that to go around. However, if you are looking for the guidance of Scripture and Scripture alone, then you have come to the right place. With that in mind, this book contends that the very premise of the Church Growth Movement is wrong because it is founded on ideas that are in direct contradiction with the Bible.

Consequently, “’Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.’” (Matt 7:15-20 MKJV)

God’s Word clearly indicates that it is the pastor’s job to take care of his congregation and that he should allow God to take care of the growth rather than trusting in formulas for success. Jesus’ command to Peter was “’Feed my Lambs’” and “’Take care of my Sheep.’” (Jn 21: 15-18 NIV) Church growth is God’s concern. It is the shepherd’s business to minister to the flock. Therefore the Apostle Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (I Cor 3:6-79 NIV)

The problem here is not that there is biblical silence regarding how churches should grow. The biblical lesson is quite evident. Growth comes as a result of Christians living as Christians while doing the things Christians should do through the power of the Holy Spirit. The prescription for biblical church growth was detailed with exactness by Luke who penned, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47 MKJV)

What made the early church grow? The same things that made the Biblical Church grow for the next 2,000 years. These early Christians were instructed in the Word as they met, they fellowshipped together, they prayed, they witnessed God’s power and depended upon it, they were generous, they met together in their homes, and they praised God. They did the work of ministry.

The Early Church depended upon the filling of the Holy Spirit for power as they served the Lord. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that they found their church growth strategy. Therefore Jesus told the disciples to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit before they set out to share the Gospel to the world. (Acts 1:4b) As a result of this instruction they remained in the upper room and constantly prayed. (Acts1:14) Too many times in the church’s rush to grow it is forgotten that revival begins with prayer. However, because it is God who does the work, it is God who we must first seek before we can hope to see that which only He can produce.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 NIV) It was then that Peter preached that great and inspirational message where 3,000 were saved.

The filling of the Holy Spirit for ministry remained consistent for the rest of the story of the Early Church. When Peter defended the faith before the Jewish leaders of the day he was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 4:8b NIV) When Peter and John were released from prison as a result of their testimony the Bible states, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts4:31NIV) When Peter and John saw that the converts in Samaria had not received the Holy Spirit they recognized the deficiency. Therefore “they placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:17b NIV) After Paul was saved Ananias laid his hands on him and said, “’Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17b NIV) Paul himself greatly depended upon the Holy Spirit in his ministry. (Acts 13:9)

As the Book of Acts clearly demonstrates, it is God’s job to grow the church. The main biblical marketing tool of the church, therefore, is evangelism that ushers out of the work of God’s Holy Spirit. It is through living the Christian life while sharing Christ with others that the church grows. (Matt 28:18-20) And that growth is the result of something actually productive – bringing souls to Christ.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
Click to Purchase

Beyond the Box

And so, many of the church growth models that continue to spread around the church do far more harm than good. As the Church Growth crowd advances a host of “new” and “enlightening” methodologies to encourage churches to grow through relating to the culture, much of what the church has been identified with throughout the centuries has been lost in the process. As a result, the proponents of growth encourage pastors to throw out their long-held traditions in favor of promoting the latest of everything from the society around them that is considered to be cutting edge or hip. Dresses and ties are exchanged for Levis, shorts and flip-flops. Hymns are displaced by praise choruses.

Bill Easum and Dave Travis’ book Beyond the Box explains the intent here. These Church Growth sponsors admonished the
body of Christ not to stop at simply climbing out of the box of their traditional thinking. The call was to go much farther than that by promoting the utopian church as that which travels where no one has gone before. Don’t just get out of your box. “Go beyond the box,” the church growth advocate cries.

As one pastor who had taken this book verbatim to apply it with fervor in the church he ministered to explained, “We need to go for it!” To him that meant turning the whole church upside down – replacing all the of old with everything new. In these people’s eyes everything goes as long as the church grows.

In a certain Palm Sunday service the planning committee of a church that had come under the influence of new “Beyond the Box” church growth philosophies attempted to meld with society in an interesting manner. At the end of the service they had planned to have someone call out to our Lord, “Hey Jesus, where is the party going to now.” This trite statement made for the sake of “relating to the culture” not only cheapened the work of Christ who died the next Friday in history but also ushered out of a complete  misunderstanding of worship. These people consistently depicted celebrative praise as being likened to a drunken brawl and the band was known to play secular party music during Sunday morning services. Accordingly the Sunday service that was elevated by
the church staff as being “the greatest of all” was when the band played Cool and the Gang’s “Celebrate Good Times” while the congregation “partied” and jived to the beat. “We Are Family” was the next on the list. In the act of dumbing down their church services for the sake of the masses they fell further down the slippery slope.

The focus of much of our church activity today has been diverted to surface-level activities for the sake of growth rather than the dependence on old time religion that focuses on evangelism. Yet Charles Spurgeon in his book Soul Winner prescribed church growth in a much different tone than we are currently hearing. He was the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington during the mid-19th century while leading a significant evangelical revival. This great English pastor talked about church growth in terms of preaching the truth with power and conviction. He hailed evangelism as the fruit of chaste Christian living. Many were saved as these simple principles were applied in his church.

A host of leaders in our modern Church Growth Movement see it another way. They seek to attract people from a more superficial worldly perspective. In so doing, they find themselves appealing to church hoppers who are only looking for the latest and greatest place to attend. Take for example John Wimber’s efforts to promote of church growth through signs and wonders. In reality this
model of “power evangelism” revolving around “doing the stuff” appeared to be a methodology of building up the early Vineyard denomination by feeding off established churches. As in the example of southern British Columbia, Wimber would convince churches to hold signs and wonders seminars only to set up his own Vineyard church in the vicinity near after. As a result, parishioners from these host churches would move over into this new Vineyard congregation. According to James R. Coggins and Paul G. Heibert in Wonders in the Word, “The interdenominational seminars had seemed a ploy to start a new denomination”.

This is more of a manipulative sheep-steeling strategy than anything else. It concentrates on the external while emphasizing marketing rather than the dynamics of evangelism and ministering to the body. Therefore few are actually saved in a feel-good church environment that is run more by carnality than reliance on the truth.

And so a group of pastors, who thought of nothing other than church growth spent every moment of their day in that pursuit. They read every self-help church growth book that came on the market, hired a Church Growth consultant and even came up with church growth theories of their own. During a particular meeting one attendee encouraged them to become involved with
evangelism as prescribed in the Bible. The pastors responded with nothing but blank stares as these words ushered from the advisor’s mouth. They had never thought of that. Neither did they take the hint. They just continued on with the contrivances that they had learned from their mentors. And the church never grew.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Music that Declares the Gospel

In calling the church to market religion by relating to the world, the Church Growth specialist of today is in fact calling the Body of Christ away from the very belief system that creates true and lasting growth. As a result, the proclamation of the truths of scripture has become a rare commodity in a multitude of Christian circles even as the Church Growth “conform to society” agenda has been embraced with enthusiasm in church after church. The church’s light has been snuffed out. Hence in contemporary worship and praise music you have a difficult time finding the announcement of truth, expression of sincerity and declaration of true devotion that underlies so many hymns.

Take for example the great hymn It Is Well With My Soul. There is not a hymn to be found that better expresses the provision of God in times of overwhelming distress. It came from a period of personal despair that few of us could even imagine. In 1871 Horatio G. Spafford, a forty-three year old businessman, suffered complete financial disaster in the Great Chicago fire. Right before the fire he and his wife lost their son. Yet this was only the beginning of Horatio’s problems.

Filled with grief the family decided to go away on vacation in England to visit with their friend, Dwight Moody, as he conducted evangelistic campaigns. Horatio sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the SS Ville du Havre. In the mean time, he would follow in just a few days.

On its way to England, the ship that carried his family was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank within twelve minutes. Two
hundred and twenty-six lives were lost in the tragedy, including Horatio’s four daughters. When the survivors were brought to shore at Cardif, Wales, Horatio was met only by his wife who declared, “Saved alone.”

Horatio set sail on the next ship to leave port. He then asked the captain to notify him when they had reached the point where the Ville du Havre had gone down. When the ship finally arrived at the place where the tragedy occurred Horatio stood out on the deck looking at that mighty ocean that claimed the life of his daughters. He returned to his cabin that night a man of greater faith than ever before as he penned those memorable lyrics: “When sorrows like sea billows roll. . .it is well, it is well with my soul.”

When you look at the praise liturgy that is coming out of our modern worship and praise song writers you tend to see more pop culture than depth such as this. The lyrical content therefore tends to be the same from song-to-song while focusing on a few common popular themes. A lot of this has to do with the lack of scholarship and depth. But it also flows out from musicians who have been convinced of the Church Growth Movement’s contention that the church has to relate to its culture at all costs if it wants to survive. And this translates into mediocrity as the message of the Gospel is dumbed down for the sake of the masses.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase: http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=267348

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//www.praisesong.net