Should sermons be happy? Do happy sermons help hold on to or increase church membership? With many churches, keeping or attaining members has proven to be anything but happy. Others are booming.
In today’s technology-ridden churches, we have the latest video and audio capabilities, stages for Christian-rock bands, wine tastings, social singles. Personally, I think much of this is good if utilized in ways that would make God proud, but do we?
I am not a member of any specific church other than the Christian Church; and as such, I have visited numerous denominations.
In 1989, I started searching for a church. We had adopted a child and felt a strong need for Sunday School. It seemed that being indoctrinated about the hope that Jesus Christ offered was good for children.
The Founding Fathers of the United States thought indoctrination of children to Christian beliefs was natural and warranted. Though the Founders wrote this, the Separation Clause:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
They also put the Bible into the public-school system and said this:
“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.”
John Jay, First Supreme Court Justice (1745-1829)
“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
“In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. … What a Utopia. What a Paradise would this region be. I have examined all (religions)… and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.”
John Adams 1st Vice President, 2nd President
"These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."
Supreme Court of the United States, February 29, 1892
Holy Trinity Church vs. United States
In my ongoing search, I stopped in at a Presbyterian Church and arranged a meeting with the preacher. That used to be a simple thing, but it is not so easy to see the preacher anymore. The next night I did get a phone call from the church; and I asked the preacher what his church taught about the Old Testament, about abortion and homosexuality, about the ancient Jewish prophets and the ten commandments.
“Why don’t you come by Sunday and see for yourself,” was his answer.
None of the concerns were addressed. If I was going to a church, I wanted to know if they thought God was Old Testament or the liberal theology God. The modern church of today is hardly the church of yesteryear, or the first century.
I did go to the church the following Sunday. As luck would have it, I had been to a different church each of the previous four Sundays. It was Christmas season, so maybe that is why the sermon at all four was about the importance of tithing and the blessings that come one’s way when they tithe.
I was disappointed in the small Presbyterian church. The preacher was eloquent and well-spoken. By 11:30, after talk of the new expansion and the new sign out front concluded, the sermon started. It was about the Old Testament custom of tithing.
I went several times; but never did the sacrifice of children for the god of convenience, come up. Never did alternate lifestyles or the push for pedophilia come up. The rise in the Church of Satan and witchcraft never came up.
And of course, the end of the world never came up, or what will lead to it:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare."
2 Peter 3:10 NIV
It was all good news.
Dr. Youssef asked an interesting question: Is your church a church of happiness or a church of holiness?
That is a pertinent question. Is church supposed to be fun or is it to be more like school? Is the church supposed to teach the Word of God or the word of man; because according to the word of man, God has changed, God has become more liberal, all is good, God loves everyone. Tell that to the Jewish people.
Michael Youssef and Charles Stanley have a more conservative message, a message that sometimes is hard to hear. Andy is younger, and his message is far more inclusive. God has changed. The new and improved message is much different than the messages of the 19th and 20th centuries. Which is the truer message?
When a pastor does not teach the flock the story of the last days and what will unfold, it is a disservice. There are plenty of important lessons, but this is the most pertinent of our day. If they would study the prophets, major and minor, they would do themselves and their flocks a favor, as explained in the first paragraph of Revelation.
Revelation, after all, is the final act and will be a result of man’s falling away from the teachings of God. It goes on to describe what the results of that would be.
Happiness is nice, but happiness through holiness is nicer. I fall far short of holiness, but I would rather hear I have fallen than to hear that my sinful behavior is “all right” with God. It is not.
Jesus the Christ gave us a Mulligan, a way out from under the burden of the Law. He did not say the Law was irrelevant, but he also knew the Law condemned us all; because who could follow the Law? Jesus did not give us a Mulligan to sin, only a chance for redemption.
The times have changed; and if rock bands and socials bring folk to the church, that is a great thing. But don’t miss the opportunity to preach what’s coming.
That message is most important.