If we learn anything from the disciples in Ephesus and Sardis, it is the fact that dead churches—those who have lost their first love—organize to find purpose through their local programs of involvement that are focused on themselves. Or, as we have witnessed in these modern times, the production of Sunday morning experiences appeal to narcissistic attendees who are made to think that they are alive.
Christianity is not defined by assemblies, but by the gospel working in the hearts of those who seek to preach the grace of God to a lost world. It is not the purpose of the gospel to produce an exciting assembly, but to celebrate the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan would have us become concerned about theatrical performances on Sunday morning that appeal to ourselves, and thus distract us from the lost souls of men who are destined to hell. Instead of opportunities to come together for reproving, rebuking and exhortation “with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tm 4:2), we come together to ignore our loss of love for the lost by celebrating ourselves. When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell?
We see a worldwide rise of connective disconnection among those of this generation of the world. The rise of the celebration assembly that focuses exclusively on the narcissistic individual is evidence of this disconnectivity. In fact, the self-centered celebration of the Sunday assembly among churches may be the last effort of many churches to call their members together in assembly. Bringing this generation and the next generations together in assembly is a problem that will face the church of the future.
We live in an Internet world of “connective disconnectivity.” Social online networks as Facebook, Whatsapp and whatever connect people with one another outside any personal encounter in a face-to-face relationship. There is thus little need for a personal face-to-face relationship when our smartphones will satisfy our desire to have “electronic friends.” In these days electronic connections have replaced personal connections. If we discover that one of our “electronic friends” disagrees with us on a particular point, we can simply “unfriend” the friend.
In the area of “Christianity,” add to this the opportunity of individuals online to access video preachers from around the world who preach every sort of feel-good doctrine that is sterile of the gospel. Sermons that make us psychologically feel good in a harsh world have replaced expository lessons of the word of God in an assembly. The most downloaded sermons from the Internet are those that are presented by dynamic speakers who know little or nothing about “preaching the word,” but a great deal in how to tickle ears in order to encourage the listener to download the next message (See 2 Tm 4:1,2).
The ease by which a preached lesson can be accessed through the Internet is quite phenomenal. Therefore, if someone concludes in their personal disconnectivity with others that they can access all the “spiritual” information that they need by streaming some “psychology preacher” on the other side of the world, then why would one take the initiative or trouble themselves with going to some “church assembly”? Why would one take the risk of showing up at an assembly where he or she might hear something that is negative from a preacher of the word of God? Why would an “Internet attendee” listen to a speaker with whom he or she may disagree on a particular point, but is not able to immediately post a negative “comment” on the speaker’s timeline?
Our disconnection with one another has often evolved to the point that if an assembly does not incorporate the participation of as many as possible of those who attend, or offer the most exciting and dynamic speaker that is surrounded by a “worshipful experience,” then it is not worth attending. If the “smartphone generation” would attend, they will simply gravitate to an assembly that offers the most fulfilling experience that they desire from an assembly event. If no such assembly can be found, then the Facebook generation would just as well stay at home and download a positive speech that is sterile of the word of God.
[Next in series: June 9]