Chuck Swindol tells of a big game hunting guide who was so good that one of his clients went back home after a successful hunt, promoting the guide and never mentioning the animals he killed.
This is very much like the title of today’s sermon–MERE MEN” worship. We may elevate our staff and leadership much as the big game hunter, the same as the Corinthians did Paul and Apollos, failing to honor Christ. Evangelicalism has bought into the joys of salesmanship and sensationalism. Our platforms have been transformed into stages. Our congregations have been nurtured and trained into becoming spectators who come and pay to see the show.
The difference of then and now is how Paul and Apollos would not stand for worshippers of God acting like “Mere Men” (non-Christians-outsiders-unredeemed) They each rebuffed all who would attempt to lift them up as anything more than lowly gardeners and water-boys. Today’s glory-seeking preacher won’t sit down until he gets “the worship he deserves”. It’s called vicarious idol worship when we hope to be important through the association, image and support of seemingly powerful, “successful”, wealthy people. There has never been a shortage of this type disciple. For example, we discover Mere Men in I Corinthians 3:1-9—the first century after Jesus is resurrected and the Holy Spirit is given to His followers.
1″And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.
2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,
3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
The take-away from these verses:
—MERE MEN WORSHIP is alive and well today.
—Misplaced devotion assures spiritual immaturity (babies)
which in turn hijacks the true meaning of worship (“we are still fleshly”)
which in turn puts men, gimmicks and gadgets (and music) in charge
which in turn makes us think that we can make worship happen
which in turn creates a stage, production and actors who pretend for the sake of “results”
which in turn creates an audience who worships the actors, their trades and skills
which in turn assures that we engage with personalities and production, not spiritual worship of God. (over and over)
Which leads us to today’s “contemporary” church– A preponderance of spectator-driven meetings we call, “worship services”. In the name of “leading worship”, we seek to impress people to Christ with a B- grade version of popular culture music, slick-production and acting.
Insecure pastors who have “small church syndrome” are afraid of pastoring a small, smaller-than, congregation. They want and need sensational, spectacular, BIG numbers, WOW-ness each week to make up for their lack of faith (preaching ability) and reliance on MERE MEN follow-ship. They eschew the exposition of the Word in preference to an accurate rendition of their souls—story telling, what I believe, and rubber stamping “what works” in some other town. They build their empire at the sacrifice of God’s kingdom. They do well to re-read II Timothy 4:1-5
“When Christ Jesus comes as king, he will be the judge of everyone, whether they are living or dead. So with God and Christ as witnesses, I command you to preach God’s message. Do it willingly, even if it isn’t the popular thing to do. You must correct people and point out their sins. But also cheer them up, and when you instruct them, always be patient. The time is coming when people won’t listen to good teaching. Instead, they will look for teachers who will please them by telling them only what they are itching to hear. They will turn from the truth and eagerly listen to senseless stories. But you must stay calm and be willing to suffer. You must work hard to tell the good news and to do your job well.”
MERE MEN HAVE ITCHY EARS and non-biblical appetites! Do Not Try to Feed Them.
That is the antidote to the disease called “MERE MEN WORSHIP”. Do not feed them. Follow the example of Paul and the humble life of Jesus. This requires the Elder/Pastor to lead the way and it will never happen without his consistent example.
Try the following:
–Get rid of the stage and the music that promotes “Paul and Apollos”.
–Ask the Praise-Me-Band to sit out for a few months (some of them will find another gig where there are lights, camera, more action and $$)
–For three months–have services of worship with nothing more than the Word of God and prayer. (go on a music fast)
Afterwards, it is doubtful that this church will bring back the show sponsored by “mere men” worshippers and led by the same.
The milk of showmanship will be lost in preference to the meat of scripture. “Mere Men Worship” is no more!
It is also possible and likely that many people will leave this church, but not until they fight to keep status quo. The ones who miss the ear-tickling and the cheap, manipulative, unbiblical, entertainment atmosphere will get it back somewhere, somehow. May it never be at your church.
–Work with the musicians and congregants who remained. Get ready to have a smaller congregation until you become the new church filled with people who want the nurture and integrity of biblical worship. (this takes time to become the rule and not the exception)
–Require all leaders to go through and finish a ministers training course that includes rigorous theological benefit BEFORE they are asked to lead. Preach gifts over talent and doctrine before duty.
“Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” I Timothy 5:22
–Rearrange the platform/musicians so that no one is front and center, save the Word. If it looks and feels like a concert, it probably is. Again, nothing wrong with concerts–go to more not less. We may even worship God at a concert, fishing tournament, tennis match, skate park or a bake-off.
None of this justifies what we see as of late; the bloated, secular narcissistic culture of stage performances paraded as corporate worship of the New Testament church. We tolerate it because we desire it. We desire it because we lack leadership who insists that worship be and remain more than music, showmanship and personality. We sustain this because the Word of God and true orthodox, biblical worship is undesirable to the carnal appetite.
–Give worship back to the people who come, not the musicians/”ministers” who need the adulation and financial benefit. The purpose of corporate worship is to meet with God, His Word and His people in such a way that the mind is equipped, the will is committed, and the desire is kindled to the doing of God’s will, more and more. There are ways to measure the results and see the fruits of our discipleship/worship. We must be honest enough to do so.
–Make the Word of God, exhortation, teaching and prayer central to the service, not music, musicians, feelings, emotions and personalities.
“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” I Timothy 4:13-16
Mere Men Worship hasn’t a chance in such a church.