Golden Calf Christianity in a Town Near You

Jesse Johnson, in his article,  Tozer, Youth Ministry, and a plug nickel  plays the role of a helpful historian as documents a time period which I was a part of a… the rise of youth ministry in America. It was a time where evangelicalism lost its way and is still reeling. Johnson speaks of it as a “dumbing down.”

He notes how Tozer registered his concerns about youth ministry at the beginning of its rise, and the further demise that took place as youth pastors became pastors in America…

Tozer called it, “golden calf christianity.” I would add that Millennials have simply transitioned from this to big multimedia driven light shows, riveting hypnotic music and fog… same old thing in a different package. 

Here is the article:


Tozer, Youth Ministry, and a Plug Nickle

Jesse Johnson

Recently I was reading an Al Mohler book on preaching (He is Not Silent), and came across a series of A. W. Tozer’s laments about the decline of theology in the typical evangelical pulpit. Tozer rings prophetic as he diagnosed this negative trend consistently and for decades.

Tozer (d. 1963) points back to the dumbing down of youth ministry as the moment that the cancer of non-doctrinal preaching entered evangelicalism. When youth pastors began to fancy themselves as professional entertainers, they prepared the students to disassociate theology from church:  

We have the breezy, self confident Christians with little affinity for Christ and his cross. We have the joy-bell boys that can bounce out there and look as much like a game show host as possible. Yet they are doing it for Jesus’ sake?! The hypocrites! They’re not doing it for Jesus’ sake at all; they are doing it in their own carnal flesh and are using the church as a theater because they haven’t yet reached the place where the theater would take them. (Tozer on Worship and Entertainment).

He then watches that cancer work its through the body as those youth pastors became pastors, and those students either left the faith or became comfortable with a faith that didn’t challenge:

It is now [1960’s] common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that hit is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carryings-on of our present golden calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the worlds’ treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course, the answer to all these questions is “no.” (Man, the Dwelling Place of God).

As young people grew up, reared in a church that was even physically structured to entertain, it produced congregations that didn’t have a hunger for theology. The result is a dumbing down of evangelicalism:

We have simplified until Christianity amounts to this: God is love; Jesus died for you; believe, accept, be jolly, have fun and tell others. And away we go—that is the Christianity of our day. I would not give a plug nickel for the whole business of it. Once in a while God has a poor bleeding sheep that manages to live on that kind of thing, and we wonder how. (Rut, Rot…Revival).

So for pastors and youth workers, it is worth reminding ourselves that if people are drawn to church with frivolity, then—assuming they stay—that appetite will follow them as they grow. Youth groups should be fun—even Tozer would grant that!—but if the games edge out doctrinal instruction, that vacuum won’t magically be filled when (if) the students become members.

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Six Things the Lord Does


Sermon Audio Featured Sermon on 1 John 2:12-14

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The Greatest Is Love


In the final clause of 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle makes it plain that the purpose of everything in earth and heaven is love. Nothing matters without love. Nothing lasts without love. Nothing is beautiful without love. And, the whole story of history is summed up in these words in John 15:9, “as the father has loved me so have I loved you.” One theologian has called it a waterfall of love.” Here is how love works: The Father loves the Son; The Son loves His brethren; The husband loves his wife; The Father loves his son; The daughter loves her father; The wife respects her husband. God is the head of Christ and pours out His love. Christ is the head of man and He pours out His love toward man. Man is the head of woman and He pours out His love on his wife. Then the father and the mother pour their love out on their children…

This is the world of Love that God has created for His family on earth, and in heaven. It is the answer to the question of the meaning of life. What does it mean to be involved in an enduring work? What does it mean to do something of value with your life? 1 Cor 13:8-13 answers the question with perfect clarity.

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How Children are Left Out in a Family Integrated Church

I am confident that worship and fellowship in a church should be age integrated, following the biblical patterns. There are many benefits… For example, in churches were this is practiced there is a heightened relational depth. The fellowship times last longer than in many churches. People get very connected. In most family integrated churches, the whole congregation eats lunch together after Sunday worship. It’s wonderful! The people stay around. It creates a relational fabric in the church that is a blessing. The pastors can get better connected with the flock. Families end up sharing dozens of meals together each year… It’s great!

But something often happens in the midst of this kind of wonderful setting.  Parents can get so absorbed in their fellowship and their ministry with other adults, two things often happen.

1. Children are left to themselves.
The children are simply left out of the conversations the adults are having. Result: there is a de-facto youth culture running underneath the adult fellowship culture. Parents take little effort to involve the younger ones in their conversations. What do you get: an age segregated family integrated church… You get disinterested uninvolved children because the parents are so focused on their peers… It creates a peer driven church under the guise of family integration.

2.  Children can be neglected.
The children are sometimes just waiting for their parents to finish their conversations. They wait and wait and wait while their parents are engaged in their lively conversations with their peers. I wonder how many children eventually become resentful because their parents are so wrapped up in their fellowship binge. They wait patiently. They have nothing to do. They just wait until their parents are done. Not very exciting – for the children. 

What should we do? 

We ought to be far more caring for our children. We should love them enough to engage them. I realize it takes more work to engage them… it requires fore thought and actual love for parents to be sensitive of their presence.

Here is my advice:

  1. Keep your children with you as much as is practicable and engage them in your conversations with other adults. Be aware of them and bring them into the conversations. Make these conversations valuable and interesting. Make them a joy. 
  2. Don’t neglect your children and allow situations where they are waiting around for you all the time. I realize it may be necessary from time to time, but don’t make them wait… It’s not something that you would do to your friends, and it’s not something that should be done very often to your children.
  3. Adults, seek out the children of your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are brothers and sisters. Seek to minister to the  young people. Pray for them. Engage them in conversation. Prov. 27:9-10 speaks of the way families should operate regarding friendship. Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.10 Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.”  Here, Solomon recognizes a level of friendship and/or familiarity between a young people and the friends of their fathers. 

If we are going to have a family integrated church, we must remember to love the children as well.

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Sin Dies or We Die

Here is a very helpful article by John Piper on waging war with sin Thirteen Practical Steps to Kill Sin. He says, “sin dies or we die.” And, “Don’t make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry. “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).

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What Can Infants Really Get Out of Church?

Let me illustrate how valuable it is for a child to be included in corporate worship in the church. Many years ago, there was a family in our church who needed some help with their children during the church services as a result of a new baby and lots of little ones. My wife Deborah offered to hold their one-year-old in church. She held that child and had her sit with her for about two years. She is now twelve-years-old, and the other day I asked her what she remembered most about that time in her life. Without pausing an instant she said, “The thing I remember the most was when the pastor would say something aunt Deborah loved, or if there was a song she cherished or if a prayer was prayed, she would say, “Mmmmm, amen.” This was what she was able to get out of being in church when she was an infant. She added, “When my aunt Deborah would sigh like that, I did the same thing.”

It must be acknowledged that children get something out of everything they experience. This is the nature of discipleship. It is progressive. So we should abandon the idea that “my child gets nothing out of big church.” This is subterfuge and misinformation. Plus, nobody gets everything out of anything, particularly a sermon. We may say, “Our children don’t get anything out of the services,” but we can’t really believe it. We get goose bumps when we sing to our children while they are in the womb. We believe that the sounds and even the attitudes surrounding them are affecting their development process. Some people play classical music to their children in the womb, and some even contend that just hearing it makes their kids smarter outside the womb. They listen to our conversation, but don’t think for a minute that everything goes over their heads. Children get something out of everything they experience. This is why there is great value, even for a very young child, to experience authentic worship in the church.

Something is being communicated as they watch their fathers give of the family resources during the offering. As they grow up, their understanding will increase.

Something is being transferred, as they watch the adults “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). They don’t get everything, but they can get something as they are observing the fervency and genuineness of the church’s expression of love for God.

Children progressively understand what a parent and the wider church members love and appreciate. Year after year, their understanding builds. Year after year, the well is filling up.

What effect does the teaching of the Word have on a child? Only God knows what a child gets from the teaching or the praying or the singing. Only God knows what a child gets out of seeing men standing up and speaking of the things of God. Only God knows what a child gets out of experiencing Christian community.

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Top Ten Bad Fruits Of Youth Culture

Jesus makes it clear that he who does anything to “cause the least of these” to stumble “it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2). By gratifying the natural desire of youth to be with other youth and giving them what they want, even though it is destructive, we are depriving them of the mentors they need. For some, this will mean delayed maturity. For others, it may mean they will never put away childish things their whole life long. When we put children into environments that cause them to stumble, we become guilty. Jesus maintains such a high view of youth that He issues a terrifying warning to all who would cause them to stumble.

Ask yourself and honestly answer, “Do age-segregated environments cause youth to stumble? Do they cause them to be sober-minded as Scripture commands? Do they cause them to mature? Do they protect them from immorality? Do they prepare them for marriage? Do they promote taking captive every thought to Christ?” After more than three decades of participating in and observing modern youth ministry, I can easily answer yes to the first and no to the rest of these questions. In fact, the Scripture clearly warns that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” (Pro. 22:15), and that “the companion of fools suffers harm” (Pro. 13:20). In this sense, Scripture has already informed us that gathering foolish youth together will corrupt them. This is not an argument against godly friendships among youth. It is, however, a stinging condemnation of the unprincipled youthful relationships which develop in an age-segregated youth ministry environment.

Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!” (Luke 17:1).*

For the past fifty years, we have lived in a culture where churches freely facilitate youth culture. Has it produced good fruit or bad fruit?  Here is my list of the top ten bad fruits that result from the cultivation of youth culture:

  1. Foolishness is cultivated and multiplied, Prov. 13:20
  2. Christian parental nurture is replaced by youth influence, Eph. 6:1-4
  3. Peer dependence is acquired, 1 Kings 12:8
  4. Immaturity is made socially acceptable, Prov. 22:15
  5. Dishonor of parents is provoked, Prov. 10:1; 15:20
  6. Wasted time through “hanging out” is praised, Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5
  7. Unprofitable conversations are multiplied, Ps. 141:3; Matt. 12:36
  8. Irresponsibility is modeled, Prov. 22:7; Gal. 6:7-8
  9. Multiple guy/girl romances and breakups create patterns of mini-divorces, Prov. 24:27
  10. Consciences are defiled through virtual and real fornication, Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 6:18

*from A Weed in the Church, 3rd printing, 129-130.

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Fear of God Conference Audio Available on USB

This week only – free shipping and 20% off ($60 discounted from $75).

At this conference, we discussed the doctrine of the fear of God, as well as the applications of this doctrine for our own hearts, homes, churches, and government.

You may be thinking, “Oh, I already know about the fear of God. Why do I need to hear these messages?” Let’s take a moment and think about the condition of our own hearts, churches, families, and nations in regards to the fear of God: There has never been another point in history where our nation has demonstrated less fear and honor toward God than it does now in our present time. We need to recapture this crucial doctrine.

After hearing these messages, you will have experienced a thorough study of the fear of God from Genesis to Revelation. I hope that you will be able to join us!

 

Purchase the USB Audio

Optionally you can choose to purchase a digital copy of the audio and video (video will be available in the coming weeks). 

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What Love Looks Like, Part 2


What are the signs of love? In the context, Paul gives us 15 distinguishing marks love that manifest the presence of Jesus Christ in our homes and churches. We have already covered the first five marks of love in Part 1. Now, we will turn our attention to the rest of them:

7. Love does not seek its own.
8. Love is not provoked.
9. Love thinks no evil.
10. Does not rejoice in iniquity.
11. Rejoices in the truth.
12. Bears all things.
13. Believes all things.
14. Hopes all things
15. Endures all things

With each point remember how this relates to Christ’s love, for this also explains how He loved redeemed sinners. In this way, we are taught not lean on morality but on Christ.

This is a supernatural result of our fellowship with God. Love is not a decision. Love is not a discipline. Love is not a work of the flesh. Love is a fruit. Love comes from something real. Love comes from fellowship with God. All of these fifteen marks of love reflect the way Jesus Christ loves His church, and the individuals in His church. 

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Fear of God Devotional: What Can Modern Christians Learn from the Life of Noah?



Ken Ham explains that Noah was a man of great faith who feared God, as evidenced by the fact that Hebrews 11 lists him in the “Hall of Faith.”

Though the whole world had rebelled against God, Noah feared God and obeyed everything that God told him to. Even when perhaps he did not understand why he was building an ark and even though he and his family suffered from scoffing friends and relatives, he remained faithful to what God commanded him to do.

As fathers and leaders of our own family, we ought to follow Noah’s example and lead our family in the ways of the Lord, no matter how difficult it may be or what people might say. Psalms 18:21 says, “For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.” When we fear truly God, we think less of ourselves and more on pleasing God and remaining obedient to His commands.

Hebrews 13:6 (NKJV) – “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

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Fear of God Conference – Day 3 Recap

Today was the final day of the “Fear of God” conference. Today’s sessions included breakouts, where our speakers sought to further unpack this issue of the fear of God and its many applications to all areas of life. Later in the day, we listened to a few more keynote messages and a Q&A discussion panel, as well as a conclusion of the whole matter of the conference by Scott Brown.

Ken Ham was the first keynote of the day, as he spoke on the topic of Noah, and the lessons on godly fear we can learn from this historical account. Similar to Noah’s day, there are many even today who seek to mock those who obey the Lord. The question is: Are we going to fear God and obey Him, or are we going to fear man?

During the final keynote session, prior to the Q&A and Scott Brown’s conclusion, Kevin Swanson spoke on the relationship between the fear of God and the knowledge of God. Proverbs 1:7 makes it clear that the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” The fear of God should be manifested in every area of our life and academics. Train your children to fear God as the foundation for all knowledge!

The audio for the conference will become available in the NCFIC store soon. We encourage all those who weren’t able to attend to get a copy of the messages. This is a crucial area of life. We cannot experience true godliness if we lack a proper fear of God. Not the dreadful and sinful fear of unbelievers (whether it’s a sinful fear of God or nature), but the child-like, filial fear of unbelievers. The fear that drives us from our sin, and draws us near to God!

So to conclude, what or who do you fear? Do you fear God or man? Examine yourself diligently!

“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways.”

– Psalm 128:1

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The Fear of God and the Impoverished Church by Gary Powers

This morning at the Fear of God conference, Gary Powers gave a message titled The Fear of God and the Impoverished Church.

Gary Powers makes it clear that there is a famine in the land – a famine of preaching the Word of God. Why? He contends that there is a famine in the land because there is no meat in the storehouse. One of the reasons there is no meat in the storehouse is because people are not tithing. The prominent reason a church cannot support a full time pastor is that the people are not prioritizing giving. He makes it clear that the fear of the Lord is the heart of the matter because the tithe was given to help the people learn to fear the Lord. Deut 14:22. Bunyan said, “there was a man, some called him mad, the more he gave, the more he had.”

Order all messages from the Fear of God conference on USB by clicking here.

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Fear of God Conference – Day 2 Recap

Day 2 of the “Fear of God” conference was a beautiful and blessed day. We have included some pictures below of what’s been happening around the conference. We enjoyed more messages by some of our speakers

John Snyder started off the day by going to Isaiah 11, and speaking on the delight of Christ to fear the Lord. He is our ultimate example, thus if it delighted Christ to fear His Father, then shouldn’t we follow His example and delight in fearing Him as well?

Next, we had Jeff Pollard come and speak to us about the blessings that Paul lays out in 2 Corinthians, and the importance of not being yoked with unbelievers. And he asked a question that we should all ponder: What are you drawn to? You are either drawn towards God, or towards the world. Do you hear the world, and desire it more than Christ? Carefully ponder these questions, and examine yourself.

Next we had Carlton McLeod, who spoke about the importance of trembling upon hearing the Word of God. What is your response when you hear the Word of God preached, especially when it is a passage that speaks against a particular sin in your life? Are we quick to repent and obey God, or do we harden our hearts, and try to twist the Scriptures such that the interpretation is in our favor?

Sam Waldron continued by showing that God had promised that he would implant the fear of God in the hearts of His people at the time of Jeremiah! He took us to Jeremiah 32, where God speaks of the many promises that He said He would bestow on His people. One of these glorious promises was that He would implant in the hearts of His people a perpetual, holy, and filial fear of Him. “[T]hat they may fear me forever” (Jeremiah 32:39).

To end the day, Anthony Mathenia preached from the book of Jonah, speaking about the lessons that we can learn about the fear of the Lord from the life of this prophet. We ought to ask ourselves, “Are we seeking to obey the Lord, or are we looking for every excuse and spending resources to disobey Him?” Jonah’s disobedience had a negative effect on Jonah both physically, and especially spiritually. It is no different with us.   

If you are joining us on the livestream, we will be beginning again tomorrow morning at 8:30am with Joel Beeke, where he will be seeking to show the connection between the fear of God and Bunyan’s view of God.  We hope that you will be able to join us!

Here are some pictures from the day:

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The Fear of God Conference – Day 1 Recap

It was a blessed day here in Asheville, NC as we kicked off the 2016 NCFIC conference titled, “The Fear of God.” It started with the “Burnings in the Soul” men’s luncheon, and continued later on this evening with keynote messages by Scott Brown and Joel Beeke.

As a lead off for the conference, Scott Brown spoke on the eight different kinds of fear that are spoken of as you read through Scripture. Not all fear is sinful fear, though there are many manifestations of sinful fear. There is also a holy fear, a filial fear of God that is found in the hearts of believers. What we fear is what we worship. What or who do you fear?

Scott Brown then did an exposition of Psalm 128. This Psalm makes it absolutely clear that, far from the fear of God being this terrible and scary thing (as the world and the devil would want you to believe), it actually sweetens every area of our lives. Not the sinful, dreadful fear of an unbeliever; but the humble and pleasing fear of a true child of God. It is a fear that propels us away from our sins, and draws us near to God and brings peace to our souls. It is the greatest gift of salvation! What could be sweeter?

For the last session of the night, Joel Beeke took us to the book of Ecclesiastes to speak on the importance of the fear of God. The whole message of this book boils down to this: Do everything in the fear of God. Only those who fear God experience meaningful lives. This is just another example from the pages of Scripture that the fear of God is not just this slavish and terrible fear. There is a child-like and holy fear that should be manifested in the lives of those who name the name of Christ.

If you are listening in to the livestream of the conference, we will be beginning again tomorrow morning at 8:50am as John Snyder will be taking us to Isaiah 11, when he will be speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ’s delight “in the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:3).

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Burnings in the Soul Recap

“But His Word was in my heart
        like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not.”
– Jeremiah 20:9

We kicked off the “Fear of God” conference today with the “Burnings in the Soul” men’s luncheon. It was such a blessing to gather together and listen to various men share what God has set ablaze in their souls as they have wrestled with the Word of God for months in preparation for this conference; not only considering the Fear of God in general, but also many specific areas of our lives that it affects, such as (to name a few): evangelism, the mortification of sin, salvation, and many others.

As we approach the time of the conference, we ought to be asking ourselves, “Has the fear of God affected my own life and thinking?” We will be seeking to explain some of the evidences that the fear of God has taken hold of our hearts on a far deeper level as the conference progresses.

If you were unable to attend the conference this year for any reason, you can tune into the conference livestream and listen to the main sessions.

May God give us people whose hearts have a burning passion to advance His Kingdom!

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