When the Church Chooses Friendship with the World Over God.
August 31, 2020
So which movie or rock star did you crush on as a teen? Posters of David Cassidy and The Monkees gazed down on me from my bedroom walls during my teen years. I never missed a TV show or televised performance. I bought all their records. I dreamed of seeing them live, although I never did.
Silliness. What a dupe, to spend my hard-earned babysitting money on their merch. Minimal talent. (the Monkee’s songs were all studio produced by other musicians). Short-lived stardom. They were good looking, sharply dressed and well coached on attracting teen girls to their brand. Certainly, worked on me because I became star struck. Ah well, part of the goofiness of our teen years, right?
Does it bother anyone else when you see this kind of foolish behavior in the church? From pastors and ministry leaders? Why are folks like Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Mariah Carey and other Hollywood stars invited to take the pulpit in evangelical churches? A simple look at their speech, dress, lifestyle, and art makes me think that mature, Christian adults can still be star struck.
Miss Winfrey publicly declared, numerous times, that “there are many ways to God.” Jesus is but one.
Tyler Perry’s movies are laced with crude behavior and language, some rated R.
Do we want young women imitating Miss Carey’s dress and behavior while listening to her songs, for example, “GTFO” from 2018? (You figure it out. Look the song up. Mariah doesn’t mince the words when she sings it)
You can google these folks’ quotes about their relationship with God. They say some lovely things. I guess that’s why they became guest speakers for churches. A star talking about their relationship with God. And star struck church folk who want to hear them.
I don’t presume to know whether any of these three people are in an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. If they are, they are young in their faith and don’t belong in pulpits telling believers how to walk with Christ. And yet, they are. I don’t blame them. I blame us. The body of Christ. We think we can be friends with the world and friends with God.
We want the world to think we’re cool and dialed in to their culture. So as soon as a professional athlete, music industry star or Hollywood star says something pretty about God, we start putting them on stages and in our pulpits. We don’t wait to see if their lives bear true fruit, like Kirk Cameron. (Look him up and see the great things God’s led him to do.)
In James 4:4, the apostle gives a stern warning. “You adulterous people. Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God.” I’m not seeing much gray area here, are you? As I said in my last post, fence sitters better get down off those fences because the devil owns them. My sense is the one-foot-in-each-world days are over. Every Christian will need to stand definitively, clearly to all around them, with one kingdom or the other. Fence riders are in danger of being swept away entirely by the false teachings and teachers that will become more and more prevalent. I’m seeing casualties already.
Think about your current, favorite athlete, movie star, politician, musician. If they suddenly claimed they “found God,” wouldn’t you be intrigued? I would. But I wouldn’t invite them to be a guest writer here. (Assuming I could orbit into their stratosphere) I’d pray for them that their conversion was genuine, that God would strengthen them and send godly mentors to them. I’d pray that they would renounce their old life to walk out in the new.
I’ve prayed for several people this way over the years. The jury is still out on most of them. I hope they can learn to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. I hope Christians around them will stop stargazing and start discipling. Start speaking the truth in love to those who don’t understand the nuances of what it means to be a “set apart” people. (Psalm 4:3)
Meanwhile, I’m not taking the grandchildren to hear them, or others like them, speak or perform. There’s still too much of the world clinging to them. And that’s okay if they are trying to grow. But it’s not okay to hold them up as role models to young, impressionable people.
Honestly, I think hanging out with big names who are dancing around the edges of Christianity is a hazard for mature believers too. It’s easy to forget that we are sons and daughters of The King when we are in the presence of earthly royalty or fame. In recent years, Oprah asked two, different evangelical ministers the same question. “What do you say to the transgender and homosexual community and those who say their lifestyles are sinful?” She was a guest in their churches. The pastors on their home turf. And yet, they both fumbled around with vague comments about the Bible and both concluded with the same statement. “But it’s not really my call.” Really?
A preacher of the Word can’t be clear that the Bible condemns sexual immorality but offers grace, forgiveness, and salvation to the repentant sinner? That the sin is an abomination, but the person is of infinite value to God? That God sacrificed his son so he could offer freedom to those enslaved by sexual sin? It’s hard to say any of that when you’re star struck and don’t want to offend the star.
Jesus was and still is, a friend to sinners. He doesn’t accommodate their sin, though. He doesn’t give lost folk a pass. Often, he confronts them about their sin, like the rich, young ruler, and the adulterous woman at the well. He invites people to walk away from sin. He makes it clear that sinners can’t drag their sin baggage into the new life he offers. This is our model and example. Churches and Christians who follow it will be blessed by God entrusting them with the soon coming harvest of souls. Those who don’t will be swept away by the whims and changing moods of the culture.
As I’ve said before, the harvest of souls coming will be a hot mess who will need fully devoted followers of Christ to show them the way out of bondages and help them untangle the messes of their lives. They will recognize the anointing and power of God on a life and will be attracted to it. Why would they be drawn towards Christians who look and act like them? They already know how to do that kind of life. And it didn’t work out well.
Are you developing relationships with lost people? Do they know where you stand on current issues or are you keeping your conviction under wraps so as not to offend them? One of the most startling statements I read while researching this piece was in a Christianity Today interview with Mariah Carey’s ex-husband, Nick Cannon. He said, “The first time we actually sat down and met it was on some spiritual stuff. We were praying and all that type of stuff and I was like, ‘Woah, I didn’t know Mariah had this side to her,’” He didn’t know she was a Christian.
If people outside of my church were asked whether I was a friend of God or a friend of the world, I wonder what they’d say?