If you want to see what is wrong with America’s churches, it is encapsulated in what passes for ministry in the Rock Church of St. Louis. We attended the first day that “Rock” took over what was formerly the First Baptist Church of Lemay, a suburb of St. Louis. We’d attended on previous visits and Pat grew up in the neighborhood. It is now Lemay Campus of the Rock Church – and is exactly what the title should forewarn you of: loud, inconsequential music, with a daisy light message. Similar takeovers have occurred across America with disastrous results – unless you enjoy emotionalism and appalling, loud, discordant “music.” Honoring to the Lord? Please, grow up!
Heavily amplified music deafened us. It was loud: very loud. So, no point in trying to sing, if you even wanted to. Why bother singing if you cannot even hear yourself, let alone anyone around you. No point at all in trying to harmonise either. The wall of sound from the platform would drown out any contribution from the congregation. Only the ‘worship team’ with the mikes could be heard at all. So goodbye, worship, hello performance church.
Emotionalism was laced with terrible music, with meaningful lyrics like: “’I’m finding myself at a loss for words (I wish!) And the funny thing is it’s okay.” Deep insight there, folks.
There was one good song, ‘In Christ Alone My Hope Is Found’, but even that was hard to follow due to the very loud and rather odd singing from the platform.
The message, what I could make of it, included a quote from the disgusting, degraded performer “Madonna.” Do we really care what she thinks or says? I don’t.
There were homilies read out. We were told there would be a message from Exodus and turned to it expectantly. True, a few verses were read out, but not really interpreted. Maybe serious Bible teaching is old hat – bring on the rock band!
We hoped the service was coming to an end when the pastor issued invitations to people to come to the front. A few did, but why do this at all? If individual counselling is needed, do it some other time. We all had to sit there patiently while he talked with the people and the band played meaningless chords in the background.
Please could we go then? No, the service dragged on even after that.
I stuck it to near the end, when I declined an offer to link hands and pray. For what, exactly? Some scriptural teaching and music that is reverent and not ear-splitting perhaps?
Since we could wait no longer, due to a lunch commitment, we never got the chance to compare notes with others, including those who have already withdrawn their tithes from the church they have loved, served and attended for decades.
Multiply this across America, where Christianity-lite rules. Rick Warren is the so-called “inspiration” of much of this generation, and doctrine is regarded as a dirty word by many who occupy the pulpits, and so America is fast glugging down the plughole. What a terrible waste of a fine spiritual heritage, a land where godly men once prepared fine and thoughtful sermons and music was reverent and respectful with lyrics which brought out deep doctrinal truths in beautiful poetic ways. Not happening now though, is it? “Yeah”, as they would say (I quote from today’s song sheet.)
This was part of what prompted us to write our two latest books, Goodbye America, Goodbye Britain and Cults and Isms: True or False? (available from this website) to try and point out the errors emasculating the church and neutering the message. Christians today are often so ill-informed and untaught that they seem to accept anything from the pulpit when in fact Paul urged us to be like the noble Bereans and search the scriptures daily. We are also to judge the teachings of preachers according to scripture and that is a Biblical injunction, as we write elsewhere on this website and in our books.
Perhaps we have been spoiled. Though the church we attend in England is small, we regularly host the finest Bible teachers on the planet, and they have taught us so well that we have come to expect high calibre stuff. Who are they? Dave Hunt (now with the Lord), Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Jacob Prasch, Roger Oakland, Tom McMahon, Peter Brandon, Ronnie McCracken and Bill Randles. Everyone can get their CDs and DVDs; no need for anyone to remain ignorant. They are the stars (we say that, not them!) who come to teach us. But most of the time, it is just men from the congregation who prepare their own sermons. No one at our church is paid, though we are very generous to our visiting preachers. We get along just fine without a pastor.
Our worship leader has an acoustic guitar and a small amplifier, just loud enough to start us off on a hymn or chorus, and we can all hear ourselves and others singing. You can even hear harmonies. We don't have altar calls at the end, although no doubt if our leaders heard from the Lord that one was needed, they would do it. But why have altar calls as a regular feature?
So, on our trips to St Louis, we will have to try a different church next time. Unless the Lord comes first...maranatha (Lord, come!).