January 16, 2021

iMonk 101: From January, ’08: “This is the End….”

jim-morrison_small.pngPosted this a little more than a year ago. Relevant to the recent discussions of the future of evangelicalism.

***Music by The Doors: “The End.”***

There was an elf that met the children at the door. Also in this room was a store that had Barbies, action figures, Brats Dolls, and all of the most popular items that you would find in a Toy-R-Us catalog the day after Thanksgiving. In order for kids to get the merchandise, they had to say a memory verse and earn store credits. The first thing my kids said to me when I went to pick them up was ”Daddy, can we start going to this church?” Can you blame them? For kids, this was a dream church.

If you listened to the interview I just did on Steve Brown, Etc., you may recall a moment when Steve and Eric asked me what was wrong with evangelicalism, and I said it was over. Steve gave a more hopeful view and I admitted that there were some hopeful signs out there, well off the media radar and among ordinary people.

Well Steve, it was a moment of weakness. You were being nice and I fell under your influence. But then I read C. Michael Patton’s post “The Entertainment Driven Church,” and I realized I was right: Evangelicalism is over. Long live post-evangelicalism. (Whatever we are/it is.)

The is “the end” of evangelicalism, and it’s not dying with a whimper. Oh no. It’s going out with party hats and noise-makers. And Bratz dolls. And Barbie. And video games. And an elf. And the Word-faith message. And Starbucks.

The end of evangelicalism isn’t the deep vacuum of space. It’s the Borg ship. With pizza, a band and great commercials.

Is this Christianity? If you realize you answer no longer has any basis in reality, consider just being honest: No, it’s not.

Are the living dead in a George Romero movie “people?”

Given the choice between any gnostic cult, Buddhism, atheism or what this church is doing, which do you pick as closer to Christianity? Pray about it and get back to me on that one. You wouldn’t like my answer.

You see, it’s actually much worse than even Michael admits. Patton’s kids have already been infected with the virus. They’re all going to start blinking like Osteen. The pastor of this carnival? He’s already got his sermons in book form, with a picture of him looking very indy-spiritual-sexy on the inside cover. And he’s on the program of ten “pastor’s” conferences somewhere, so he can tell what “God” is doing at their “church.” How many people believe he’s the voice of God? How many want to be him?

Make no mistake about it. This operation isn’t connected to the rest of Christian history or teaching the doctrines of the faith because they LOATH THEM. They’re boring. They’re old. They want nothing to do with them. Aside from borrowing the five letters “Jesus” as the brand image for their message of “here’s how to get what you want in life,” and using Biblical texts to make bizarre points about your own power to create that wonderful salvation called “success in life,” there’s far more connection to Starbucks than to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church.

It might even be better if the kids stayed with the elf, because here’s Michael’s summary of the exposition for the day.

Mark 7:33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; “Jesus took him aside”=Jesus wants to deal with us each individually
“Jesus spit”=Jesus had to form the saliva in his mouth before He spit, therefore, we are to let Him form our words.
“[He] put His fingers into his ears…He touched his tongue…and his ears were opened and his speech impediment was removed” (v. 35)=sometimes we don’t hear people rightly because we already have the wrong words in our mouth. Therefore, we have to have the right words in our mouth.

Michael finds a couple of nice things to say about the overall outcome of this talk, which proves that living near Tulsa is not a good thing. Run, Michael. Run.

And what is the response of the traditional Anglican church Michael visited? I really wish I knew. Do they understand that in some ways they are increasingly one of a very few outposts that are trying to hold onto the treasure that these megachurches are throwing out labeled “trash?” Do they understand how many people are going to wake up in that game show and say either “Is this it?” or “There is no God. I’m done.”? When they do- as thousands one day will- what then?

I wonder if that Anglican congregation has any idea that someone like Michael- who has been through amazing, terrible things in his life- might just be looking as all of this as more than an observer. He might be looking for where, in the worst of the darkness and the storm, will Jesus be found in community, Word, sacrament and worship?

This isn’t about kickin’ worship bands or big screens. Take them, take them. I don’t care. What I want to know is if we recognize that the disease is overtaking the evangelical body, and the time has come to think like people upon whom an evangelical dark age has come? The barbarians aren’t at the gates. They are running the city. We can’t shut the gates. We have to find places to survive. We can debate how big the hole in the side of the ship is all we want. The fact is: this ship is going down.

Christ’s church will survive and triumph. But in America and the West, the entertainment driven “church” is going to dominate. For those who will not be absorbed, for whom resistance is not futile, there are choices to be made.

Yes Michael, it was entertaining. But be afraid. Be very afraid.

The bus to Rome is leaving now, and it seems that every seat is filled. Oh…what’s that? Seems that a much larger bus to Atheism is pulling into the lot, and there are plenty of seats available.

***Music slowly fades out…..”This is the end…..”***


  1. tijefe,

    Correct. I do not call what I find in the New Testament the “church”. The term “church”, which is often used to translate ekklesia (transliteration of the Greek) is a word used to refer to a religious organization which claimed/claims to be the same as, or to have evolved from, what we find in the New Testament. But in my opinion it was/is not the organism that we find in the New Testament. So in my opinion to use the word and apply it to the New Testament organism is inaccurate. (To most people doing so indicates that the two are one and the same. ) My reading of “church” history suggests that using the word “church” as the translation for ekklesia was done to give an unquestionable air of legitimacy to the “church”. How can one question an organization established by Jesus?

    Acts 2:47, in my Greek Bible, does not say the Lord added to “The Church” daily. A decent translation would be “And the Lord added to their number daily…” In Matt. 16:18, Jesus says “On this rock I will build my church”, but the word translated is ekklesian. Ephesians 1:23 and I Tim 3:15, which you also quote, also use the word ekklesia. When that word is translated “church”, the natural tendency is to equate it with what we find referred to by the term “church” over the next approximately two thousand years.

    I suppose this could be thought of as a matter of semantics. I think we need to use a different word to translate ekklesia and its forms, such as “assembly”. (Luther used the German word “Gemeinde”, which means something similar to the English word “community”. Tyndale used the word “congregacion” in his 1536 translation.) This would hopefully not equate it with the religious organization we find later in the pages of history.

    This is not to say that the ekklesia that Jesus promised to build does not exist. It does. Parts of it exist within that organization we call “church”. But that does not equate the two in my opinion. I have no problem with those who wish to call the current organization “church”. However, I choose not to call what I find in the New Testament by that name. Nor do I choose to call what I am part of by that name. I am a follower of Jesus, part of His body, part of the Bride of Christ, part of the assembly or the community of Jesus.

    I choose not to identify myself as part of the “church”, especially to those who are not followers of Jesus, because they immediately lump me together with all sorts of strange things. The most common impression that those who do not follow Jesus seem to have, at least where I live, is that “church” identifies primarily a religious organization with a certain political persuasion. The “church” builds expensive buildings for themselves, hires people to take care of them and their children, supports certain candidates and political viewpoints and ignores or even hates those who do not. A reading of almost two thousand years of “church” history tells me that this is not just a phenomenon of the past thirty to fifty years.

    That is not who I am. I am a follower of Jesus. I identify with Him and with people like those I find in the pages of the New Testament, imperfect as they may be.

  2. I knew that Lance from TX would respond and that argumentation might ensue. I’ve spent far too many years debating Mormons, having been raised in the heart of Mormon country. I don’t intend to debate much about the topic here (or any other place, for that matter). I only offered my response to indicate to readers who may not know much about Mormonism some very key differences between it and the true Church that did not fail at Nicaea (the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church) and that Christ did not abandon in favor of another group on another continent (Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age).

    The fact that people disagreed with the Church’s teachings before the Nicene Creed does not mean that the Church was “split.” None of the early church fathers understood a split to exist in the Church (see Cyprian of Carthage). It also doesn’t follow that the Church accepted Arian or similar teachings before the Nicene Creed. Seriously, study the writings of Irenaeus, a spiritual grandchild of John the Apostle and a theologian of the first degree, steeped in the Church’s understanding both in Asia and in Rome, whose teachings contain the seeds of everything that was to become conciliar Orthodoxy in the centuries that followed him.

    And Lance in TX, you say your church does not believe in other gods, but only in 1 God, the Almighty creator of all. You say there are none above him. However, your church teaches that God was once a man like you and me. Your church teaches that God had to do exactly what we must do in order for him to reach his divine estate. In other words, he had to be created himself by his god. He had to live a life that was pleasing to his god. This is not characteristic of an almighty being. This sounds like there was a god who is (or at least once was) above the creator of this world. This sounds like the creator of this world is subject to time and necessity.

    How else would God be able to create us in His image? By making us free persons, spiritual, capable of communion with him. We are also in His image because he became one of us in Christ, who brought our humanity out of mere history and into eternity and thus bore this image before creation.

    I’m sure that it would be fruitless to continue this discussion. Like I said, I only hope to alert other readers who might not be aware of the very deep divisions that exist between Mormonism and the biblical teachings found in, say, the writings of John the apostle.

  3. Lance in TX says

    JohnO & others:

    I do not want to offend anyone here. That was not my intent and I do not want to offend iMonk. He has a wonderful service here.

    I will take any futher discussion offline from here.
    If anyone wants to ask me questions about or discuss the LDS Church and what we believe/don’t believe, please email me at flyingbeefhead@yahoo.com.

    I would like to have discussions with anyone that would like to chat. I don’t care what religion you are, but please don’t email me if all you are going to do is bash my religion. I don’t bash other Christian religions. I believe EVERYONE that believes in Jesus Christ is a Christian and every Christian Church has truth to be found. Afterall, Jesus Christ Himself will determine who are “Christians”. It is HIS Church.

    Sorry for any problems I might have caused by trying to take part.


  4. Lance in TX says

    mome: We don’t believe that Christ abandoned anyone in favor of another group on another continent. Sounds like something you read from someone that does not know us. Too bad. Jesus Christ would not abandon ANYONE. If the Jesus Christ you believe in would, I would not want anything to do with him. The Jesus Christ I believe in would never abandon anyone!

  5. No, I don’t believe Jesus abandons anyone. I’m referring to the belief, articulated to me by educated and devout LDS believers, that Jesus went to the people in the Americas and preached to them and the belief that the Church was established and made strong there while it gradually (or rapidly, depending on who you speak with) slipped into apostasy back in the Old World. Joseph Smith was told that all the churches of his time were an abomination to God.

  6. Sam,

    Of course, the Greek speaking church fathers (and modern Greeks) never stopped calling it “ekklesia” but they pretty much meant the visible body of believers on earth who were one body and shared in one Lord, one faith and one baptism. They were a unified assembly. Spanish “eglisia” and French “église” reflect that the same word was handed down (not that this proves anything — it’s just interesting). And Luther and Tyndale had very particular reasons for eschewing the word “church.”

    For my part, though, when I read Acts and the epistles and Revelation, I get a pretty good feeling that the ekklesia that is being referred to is an bona fide organization, and assembly of people who knew they were together and shared in each other’s lives, and when I read the epistles to the Corinthians in particular, I get the feeling that the organization could be a bit whacked out in certain times and places, but it was still called “the Church at Corinth.”

    You say, “I choose not to identify myself as part of the “church”, especially to those who are not followers of Jesus, because they immediately lump me together with all sorts of strange things. ”

    From my limited perspective, I find that people who don’t follow Jesus think that about Christians no matter what they call themselves or identify themselves with. The cross is a stumbling block to the world, foolishness. It doesn’t matter whether you say you’re part of the church or not, if you say Jesus is your Lord or you follow him, you’ll be lumped into the same crowd by most non-Christians, who don’t have much use for the fine distinctions we make amongst ourselves.

    Forgive me, I’m not trying to argue. I’m just nitpicking a bit. I always find it funny when Christians work hard to distance themselves from the word “church.” It’s like all the churches around town that call themselves anything but churches, but everyone knows that they are churches.

  7. Lance in TX:

    My perimeters regarding non-Christian religions- non Apostles’/Nicene affirming- is that description and information are welcome.

    An apologetic that the LDS doesn’t

    -deny the Trinity
    -deny that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity as defined by the Creeds
    -deny that the Bible alone is sufficient for revelation
    -doesn’t claim all Christendom is apostate
    -subscribe to the belief that God was once human
    -claim that the Father and Mary had a physical relation

    is welcome as a matter of explanation.

    At the same time, I won’t allow any attacks on you. But I do want you to be clear, as a friend, that I do not accept the LDS as a church. Same vocabulary. Different dictionary.



  8. Sam,

    You got me on the Acts 2 reference. I realized it a while after I sent my comment, and feel a bit abashed. Thanks for your clarification. I don’t really buy ideas that there is little or no continuity of church over time or notions that the church went sour after the apostles, but I hope Christ blesses your witness to him. Peace.

  9. Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

    Jesus is the one that builds the true church, not toy giveaways or kickin worship bands. He’s the seeker that we need to be sensitive to.

    Too much of American evangelicalism is laboring in vain.

  10. mome,

    Thank you for your comments. I was aware of the Spanish & French words, but think pretty much in terms of the American church.

    I basically know three groups of people: those who are part of a “church”, followers of Jesus who are not part of a local “church” and the biggest group – those who are not followers of Jesus. Of those who are part of a “church”. I know one or two at most who partially understand my thoughts on this. Of those I know who follow Jesus, but are not part of a local group that calls themselves “church” , they all understand my perspective, although they themselves may or may not use the term to refer to themselves or to the NT organism.

    Interestingly, however, the group that best understands this are those who are not followers of Jesus and not part of any church, however you use the term. I do not go around telling people about my relationship with Jesus until they ask. Actually, they ask why I do the acts of service I do, why I am honest (such as the bank teller who honestly wanted to know why I returned when I figured out she had given me an extra $140 – she said the mistake could have cost her job if I hadn’t returned), kind and treat people the way I do. When I reply that I am trying to follow Jesus and His teachings, I always get positive responses.

    Frequently these people ask me what church I “go to”. When I explain that I have friends like me, and that we serve our community, and do sometimes meet together in the neighborhood in the street, the park, a cafe, at the rec center or wherever, the most common response is “cool”. They get it! And sometimes they make remarks along the lines of “That’s what a church should be.” (actual remark from a non-follower of Jesus).

    Most of these non-Christians do not lump me into the same crowd with the “church” folk. They do not see this as a fine distinction, but as the difference between religion and putting Jesus’ teachings into practice.

    Much of yesterday, and all the rest of today my time is occupied with helping a non-Christian friend put together a major event in his life and his spouse’s life. I have a background in that business, although this is the Lord’s business now (I don’t charge.) Tomorrow I plan to spend time with a friend with cancer who is very sick. Sunday we plan to spend the morning picking up trash in the neighborhood.

    Perhaps the most interesting remark came from a non-Christain who is somewhat a student of religions. He asked “Are you sure you’re not a Buddhist? The way you treat people is more like Buddhists do than like Christians do.” That didn’t tell me a lot about Buddhists, but did tell me a lot about his impression of Christians.

  11. Sam,
    If you’re willing, take a listen to this message by Mark Driscoll – 9 Distinctions Between the Gospel and Religion. I’d be interested to know what you think.


  12. Sam,

    Those non-Christians who appreciate the things you do and the words you say in the name of Jesus: I hope they *do* lump you together with the churchgoing Christians, at least a little. I say this because it would be nice if their appreciation of Christians in general, members of churches or not, would be deepened (or sparked) by encountering a Christian who is committed to putting Christ’s teachings into practice. I do think that non-Christians tend to judge Christians in general based on the ones they see, either in person or in popular caricature. Many of the strange ideas people have about Christians and churches are caricatures (exaggerations of genuine foibles or flaws), which will only be erased by the encounter with Christ in his people. I know the organized Church now and in history bears and has borne these foibles and flaws within it because of its human element, but that was certainly true of the Church described in the New Testament as well. Christ be with you.

  13. Matt,

    I know who Mark Driscoll is, and have read a few excerpts from his writing, but had never heard him speak. I listened to the message you referenced twice, and thought it was very good.

    Interesting is it not? – The people who had the most problems with Jesus when He walked this earth were the religious people. They were the ones who wanted Him crucified. Has anything changed?


    Thank you for the kind words. May those whose lives we touch each day catch a glimpse of Jesus as we convey His love, through us, to them.

  14. Sam,
    I’m glad that you enjoyed the message.

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