An Evangelical Side Show? Controversy Again

An Evangelical Side Show? Controversy Again May 12, 2024

An Evangelical Side Show? Controversy Again

Youtube is filled with rage over this.  Should it be? Or does this just illustrate a weakness within American evangelical ranks?

It happened in Springfield, Missouri. A mega church put on a Christian men’s conference. The church was packed with men and maybe a woman or two. The conference opened with a very muscular man climbing a high pole with a sword in his mouth, swallowing the sword, and sliding down the pole, stopping just before the platform where the handle of the sword would hit it and supposedly kill him. It was a performance you might expect to see at a circus. Some claim the acrobat performer was a professional male stripper.

To my mind, watching the performance, there was nothing in the least erotic about it. But, then, what would I know about that? Maybe to a gay man it would be? I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be. But what was the intention of the organizers of the conference in opening with this performance?

If what happened next hadn’t been filmed and then put on Youtube, I doubt anyone outside the audience that day would even know about the performance or the conference.

The pastor of the megachurch who invited the performer also invited famous former evangelical megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll to speak to the gathering of men. Driscoll is well-known for being provocative and for appealing especially to young men when he speaks. Part of Driscoll’s “charm” is that he is unpredictable. Christianity Today had an article about him entitled “Pastor Provocateur.”

Mark began is talk on one knee calling out the performance as displaying a “Jezebel spirit.” A few minutes into his talk the church’s pastor called him out from the audience and told him to leave. Mark left quietly without argument or rebuttal. Many in the audience booed, but it was unclear why.

Then the pastor took the platform (or was it a stage?) and harshly criticized Driscoll for failing to observe and comply with Matthew 18–Jesus’s instructions about how to deal with a brother who has offended you.

As a side note, I wonder why the pastor did not just come up after Mark’s talk and say “But I thought Mark would like the performance?” That would have been winsome; it would have brought the crowd to his side with raucous laughter and probably the show (or whatever it was) wouldn’t have made it onto Youtube. Or, if it did, there wouldn’t be the current kerfuffle about the incident on Youtube.

Now, on and on it goes. It seems like every conservative evangelical (male) talking head on Youtube has to take a side and make a mountain out of this sideshow mole hill.

Does this event and its fallout illustrate another weakness in modern American evangelicalism? I think so. We are far too inclined to focus on the minors and miss the majors.

So what is the “major” that most or all of the commentators are missing? I believe it is the whole tendency of American evangelical churches to accommodate to American culture. In this case, to entertainment, bringing it into the churches, and to celebrity fascination. Many large evangelical churches now use secular music to “open” church services. Many now use secular rock concert styles of worship to appeal to young people. Many now neglect the gospel of repentance and grace, the cross, the blood, hell for those who reject Jesus Christ. The “seeker sensitive” style of church has become popular long after the term itself has gone away.

At the same time, many evangelical Christians are caught up in the American obsession with celebrities. Who really cares what Mark Driscoll thinks or says and why? I have watched some of his sermons, when he was lead pastor of a megachurch in the great Northwest. Some of them were very good; some of them were disappointing. But why are so many evangelicals in America obsessed with him? But not only him. I could name a dozen popular pastors, almost all of megachurches, who get far too much attention from evangelicals who have never even visited their churches.

And, third, too many American evangelicals love controversy. Especially of those who have a Youtube channel and either have a large following or want one. They know many American evangelicals are drawn to strong language against evangelical influencers.

Finally, why do people seek out and attend a church with (allegedly) nineteen thousand attenders? What’s the point? What attracts them? I like the Youtube video about the benefit of small churches (Small Churches: The Tip of the Spear). I love small churches. I seriously doubt any of the apostles ever intended there to be Christian congregations that large. And I doubt there should be. Don’t tell me Jesus once spoke to five thousand people. That’s not a church. Read the Apostle Paul’s instructions about participation in worship in 1 Corinthians 14. “Each one” is to have a part. How in an assembly (yes, pun intended) of nineteenth thousand?

*If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*


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